Back in Black

Did these people just fail to outgrow a teenaged phase? Or is it about dancing to sexy '80s music?

Somewhere in the pages of my mother's supersecret blackmail photo album, there are pictures of me with fishnet stockings on my arms and creepy black eyeliner on my face. The neatly printed caption beneath reads something like: "Our daughter's brief stint in the puberty-induced purgatory of teen angst and passive-aggressive rebellion."

Let's just say I came out the other side and have since been sighted in pastels, but I still have an awe-inspiring accumulation of black clothes in my closet. And Saint Saturday at Purgatory convinced me it's a damned good thing I never got rid of them.

Basically, Saint Saturday is a big freaky-ass party that goes down at Purgatory — a dance club located on Marina Mile in Fort Lauderdale — the fourth Saturday of every month. A friend told me it was a not-to-miss experience, so I donned a black halter-top and infiltrated this fetish/goth/anything-goes playground. Cover was $10, parking was free, and people-watching possibilities were plentiful.

After my eyes adjusted to the abrupt darkness, though, I realized I'd misjudged the scene. I walked in expecting packs of surly, eye-lined, black-clad brats trying to piss off their parents. But I'd stumbled into the underground world of a strange, sensual, surprisingly happy subculture. Apparently, some pouty adolescents grew up without growing out of their goth phases.

Drinks: Since beer makes busting into alien subcultures easy, I pushed past plastic-wearing patrons to secure a spot at the larger of the two bars, right next to two women in serious liplock. Make no mistake: People show up at this party for the beats and freaks, and alcohol is just the lube that lathers up an already-kinky crowd. Of course, drink prices ain't anything special enough to text your posse over. The bartender told me domestic beers were $4, imports $5, and well drinks $5 to $8.

Before I had a chance to order, I had my first run-in with Paul, a dude who looked surprisingly good in his long, pleated skirt. He was confident, perky, and possibly on drugs. "So, why'd you come to this?" I asked him.

"I'm not married," he said, brandishing his unadorned left ring finger at me. "I just wanna have fun." He also told me that Saint Saturday is one of the "tamer" fetish fests and that there are other parties that are way freakier.

"See that guy?" Paul asked, pointing out the dude in shorts ordering drinks to my left. "He couldn't get into one of the other parties dressed like that."

Bartenders: The chick-and-dude bartending duo popped and poured drinks in record time; the guy bartender, Kitova, brought my Bud Light in seconds. But speaking of tame attire: These two were dark-featured and beautiful, but they wouldn't have been allowed in some of the freakier parties Paul mentioned. Their wholesome good looks seemed off the mark in a place where plastic and pleather, sultry vamps, and mesh-wearing men ruled the night. But honestly, if these two coulda-been-Abercrombie-models traded their jeans for fetish wear, they woulda been smoking-hot.

Ambience: Purgatory is mostly dance floor and bar. After draining my Bud Light, I abandoned the bar and pushed past the black shrouds that divided the party area from the more intimate spots. Sitting areas provided couples with couches on which to make out and smoke cigarettes. Candles glowed from the tops of high tables.

I approached a dark-haired woman with neat eyeliner sitting alone at a candle-lit table. Smoking a cigarette, she wore mesh fingerless gloves and a look of general disenchantment. "I'm here for my boyfriend," she said, gesturing at the man making his way over to us. Plainly dressed but giddy, he introduced himself as George and told me her name was Gloria.

"You guys been dancing?" I asked.

"We just got here five minutes ago," he told me. "We're gonna dance in a bit. Love dancing." Gloria exhaled and peered at George.

"She doesn't look thrilled about that," I said.

"Ohhh, you should see her — she can dance all night," he told me. "She's just in a weird mood today. Aren't you, honey­bunny?" She squinted in response.

Though I didn't see a whip on Gloria, I sensed George had just earned a lashing. I made a beeline for the dance floor.

Out on the floor, '80s rock videos flashed across a big-screen TV. Strobe lights flickered over the dancers, catching on their plastic outfits, rendering them slightly more than shuffling silhouettes. Go-go girls, one in a shiny black corset and the other in a plastic-looking bikini top, swiveled their hips to the throbbing trance. The shorts of the one in the corset weren't doing much to keep her butt cheeks at bay, which might be why she almost immediately collected a pack of male spectators, staying faithfully at her feet like acolytes. After all, she had to come down from her post sooner or later.

Customers: Paul found me back near the bar, mindlessly gazing at Corset Go-Go Girl's ass.

"So why do most people come here?" I asked him.

"Entertainment," he said with a nod at the dancer. "Music, fashion, atmosphere. And, of course, the possibility of interacting with other crazy fuckers."

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