I was at Sea Monster nightclub, trying to make conversation with a guy at the bar while pop remixes throbbed in my ears and strobe lights flashed overhead. He had dirty blond hair, an open shirt, and was slick with perspiration from recent dancing. I simply introduced myself and asked an innocuous question about the dance scene. In response, his electrifying blue eyes locked on me and he pulled in his cheeks.
"If you're from Utah," he said, grabbing my hand, "you have to experience the dance floor for yourself."
"What?! No, not Utah, New Times," I shouted over the throbbing bass. It was too late; he was already assertively dragging me across the jam-packed floor of the nightclub. I knocked along behind him, apologizing every time I accidentally plowed directly into a glossy, washboard abdomen or squarely between two guys locked in a passionate kiss.
Sea Monster, 2 S. New River Dr., Fort Lauderdale, 954-757-6200.
From the billiards area, I could already see the dance floor: It teemed with swarms of shirtless musclemen. Over the crowd, a sexy cowboy in high leather boots gyrated on an elevated box.
"There's no way we're getting in there!" I screamed at my escort, pulling away.
"Oh, yes we are," he said, and, keeping a firm grip on my wrist, he plunged us forward into the mass of sweaty, pulsating men. I think I might have screamed.
But I'll get back to my foray into the realm of tropical rainforest-like dancing conditions later. First, let me tell you about my preliminary adventures in the sweat-drenched, gay man's paradise known as Sea Monster.
Ambiance: Fortunately, Sea Monster is located right near the New River, which means patrons get an eyeful of the gargantuan white yachts that dot the waters, possibly positioned simply to remind us all that recession is relative. My companion and I charged into the dark, muggy hideaway. The club consists of three rooms, connected linearly, each with grayish walls, ceilings, floors, and visible ceiling beams. We grabbed a seat in the entry room at a circular table against a black trellis with tangled, unkempt plants growing along it. Carved and painted above the door that leads to the rest of the club is a hideous green monster with a protruding nose, circular orange eyes, and a tangerine-lipped mouth, which extended around the door. Obviously, it was meant to be a sea monster; unfortunately, it ended up looking like a drag-tastic version of one of those Lord of the Rings tree-creatures. A disco ball and red strobe light, hanging from the ceiling a few feet away, projected vibrant colored spots across the Drag Queen Treebeard's face. Out of curiosity, I ventured through its mouth and into the second level of Sea Monster.
The second room contained another bar area, two pool tables, and a handful of TVs, which were cycling through short clips of sexy musclemen in mid-workout. I took a peek into the third room and found a packed space of shiny, shirtless bodies all pulsating happily to a remix of Celine Dion's "I Drove All Night." Though that itself should have made me run in the opposite direction, I was distracted by a muscular go-go dancer in a miniscule bathing suit. Did I mention that practically everyone was ripped and shirtless? I think it was warm in that room, but it might have just been me.
Bartender: Eliciting nothing short of a guffaw from my male companion when I asked him to dance, I figured I needed to liquor up first anyway. Back in the first room, I pushed up to the bar and ordered a Corona. Bartender Eric wore a ball cap, plain jeans, and seemed easy-going.
"Why's this place called Sea Monster?" I asked.
"Well, we're right on the water," he said. "But also because of that." He pointed to the scary sea monster carving. "I like to say that, at the end of the night, I get to watch the sea monster spit out all the dancers."
Patrons: In the middle of trying to pony up the courage to dance in that sardine can of sweaty flesh and rapidly disappearing articles of clothing, I engaged blond, boyish Josh in conversation. If his in-chair swaying could be trusted, he might have had some liquor in his system.
"What's going on here tonight?" I asked."Tonight was the tea dance," he said. "That means the dancing starts early. I don't know why it's called a tea dance, though — maybe people used to drink tea."
"A poor substitute for alcohol," I observed. "Why do you think this place is called 'Sea Monster'?"
Josh suddenly got serious. "Honey, let me tell you. This is the gay man's sea monster. This is my sea monster, right here." He reached over to his dark-haired friend, who had just walked over, and copped a feel on his naughty bits.
"Oh, you gotta love him," Josh's friend said with an apologetic smile. After an uncomfortably long time, Josh let his fingers drop from his friend's crotch.
After I asked about the club, Josh's friend revealed some parts of Sea Monster's shady past and then requested to be referred to only as "Deep Throat." Silly boy, obviously he can't tell a "drunk who occasionally writes" from an "intrepid reporter."
"I'm not afraid to be identified!" said Josh. "I gave him a BJ in the bathroom at Sea Monster!"
Once and for all proving that I am not an intrepid investigator, I decided not to fact-check this information.
"So, have you guys been dancing?" I asked. "Did you take your shirts off?"
"Yeah, earlier," Josh said, leveling his glazed eyes at me. I'd have been surprised if he could stand, let alone dance.
"Oh, I like this place, but I'd never take my shirt off here," Deep Throat said. "I would at Voodoo Lounge."
"Voodoo Lounge has all the sexy people," he said with a "duh" look.
Latrice: Eventually, Deep Throat summoned Latrice, whose huge, shimmering dress clung to her massive proportions. She had long, spidery eyelashes, pouty lips, overdone eye shadow, and the biggest hands I've ever shaken.
I invited her to have a seat, and asked her about the "shady past" of the place.
"I used to do shows here before Sea Monster closed down," she said, lighting a cigarette. "The owners had some kind of dispute, and the place sat empty for six years. No one touched a thing. There was even a case of beer still here from when it'd been open before. Then, something got resolved, and the owner reopened by herself, like nothing happened."
I asked her about herself.
"I perform," she said. "Suddenly the lights go down, and I just pop up singing and dancing. I do high-kicks, splits, and throw stuff to the audience. It's very gay. It's..." She paused, searching for the right word. "A spectacle." She laughed. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna get my drink on."
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You go, girl.
Final dance: About this time is when I found myself cornered into dancing by a drunk guy named Rob or Rod — have I mentioned that it was loud in there?
After he pulled me into the sweat-drenched utopia, the masses parted for us. He winked at a guy with dreadlocks, and we quickly secured a spot on the elevated part of the dance floor. At first I was overwhelmed by the dozens of disco balls, flashing strobe lights, and dense population of hot boys. But then the song changed, I threw my cares to the wind, my hands to the ceiling, and got a-grindin'. My new friend was an expert at bobbing to the music and didn't mind getting a little close or a little low. We popped and swiveled to a couple of songs, but, like some kind of fag-hag Cinderella, I had to escape before my companion drove off in my carriage. I thanked the dude for the dance, he smiled drunkenly, and I disappeared into the night. And I've wanted to go back ever since.
So let me just say this: Sea Monster is like a very sexy acid trip, and it comes highly recommended from your not-so-intrepid nightlife reporter.