Rolling, writhing lesbians aren't exactly a dime a dozen where I come from.
My mama raised me deep in the heart of Texas (that red, cattle-ropin', lethal-injection-givin' stretch of pancake-flat land where everything is fucking bigger). And in my holier-than-thou hometown, good luck finding a decent drink special, let alone a pack of partying lesbians.
Now, I hadn't exactly seen butch b-girls growing on trees around here either — but a few weeks ago, I'd heard whisperings of an event at lesbian hot spot Cloud 9 Lounge, on Stirling Road in Hollywood. A Saturday-night break-dancing contest promised me rolling, spinning, hand-standing lesbos aplenty. I also heard faint rumors of a two-for-one drink deal. Since it doesn't take a particularly special drink special to slide me through a club's doors, I decided to spend a Saturday night inside Cloud 9.
I paid my $5 cover, had my purse searched at the door, and headed across the unoccupied dance floor in search of alcohol. Under hanging blue Christmas lights, I struck up a conversation with Pam, a doe-eyed bartender who had just moved from Maryland. She told me two things: One, I was several hours too late to catch the two-for-one drink deal, and two, the break-dancing contest had been replaced with a booty-shaking contest. A what? I was bemused and skeptical. How's it even possible to fairly calculate whose tush has the most tremble?
Let's rank this evening as a jolt for out-of-towners but, for the rest of us, a shifty mess o' jam that doesn't quite deliver all that's advertised.
Bartenders: At least three lovely ladies occupied the space behind the bar at all times, all willing to pause from mixing drinks to shootin' the shit with patrons. Pam, all perky cleavage and messy red hair, claimed it was her first week on the job — which was maybe why she couldn't exactly define "booty-shaking contest" for me. Still, she proved pretty handy with the bottle opener she kept peeking out of her tight jeans. And between popping open bottles with delicate agility, she told me about her aspirations to one day work as a bartender at a beachfront club. You go, girl.
Worth mentioning: On my latest return trip to the club, I asked a mesh-shirt-wearing bartender hottie about Pam and was told it was her night off. I must have looked crestfallen, because the unfamiliar bartender quickly took my hand and introduced herself as Hazel. Like Pam, she said she was brand-spankin' new to the job. Where are they finding these girls? Cloud 9 picks up more beautiful babes to tend bar than the slickest Don Juan (or Juanita) could pick up to bed.
Drinks: The bartenders are indeed charming and sexy, but it's Cloud 9's array of weekly specials that packs in the crowds on any given night. Saturday's special is $3 Long Island iced teas from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. In my experience, I'd only have to drink two dollars' worth of that shit to end up flat on my booty.
Also, the two-for-one drink deal I had so highly anticipated runs from noon to 8 p.m. This particular Saturday, I missed it by about three hours, but thankfully, it runs every day of the week — you never know when you'll have a pre- or post-lunch craving for pairs of vodka tonics.
Ambience: Besides the hot bartenders, the club ain't much to look at. The dark, dirty-green walls are graced with flat-screen TVs and generic beer ads. Loud hip-hop music blasts from the speakers, disco balls and CDs shine from the ceiling, and the bar area is divided from the pool tables by a modest-sized dance floor. The environment is not especially conducive to meeting people or finding out specific information (like what a booty-shaking contest is). Brooke, a surly faced girl who sat at the bar to my left and sent text messages all night, got an earful of my spit when I leaned in to introduce myself and to ask her about the contest.
"The DJ plays a song, they'll shake their booties, and there's a $100 prize," she said, like it was just so obvious.
"A hundred dollars? How do you judge who's been booty-shaking the most?" I asked.
She didn't have an answer. Or maybe she just didn't hear me over that throbbing bass.
Customers: By 1 a.m., the place was packed with a rowdy crowd of both genders, diverse in size, shape, color, and age. For a lesbian bar, I couldn't help but feel ripped off by the abundance of straight men. A scruffy, lanky guy named Larry (he couldn't give me his last name because he claimed to be "good friends" with the club's owner) lamented to me that he'd been dodging a grabby gay guy all night. "What does he say to you?" I asked. "It's not just what he says; it's where his hands go," Larry said. "Well, just tell him to be a gentleman," I suggested. "No, that would turn him on more," Larry said, scanning the bar. "Besides, I don't go that way. I'm straight. Oh, and I don't go black." After pondering why Larry was at a homosexual, racially diverse club and not safely tucked into a booth at Denny's, I asked about the booty-shaking contest. He couldn't tell me much except that Cloud 9 used to have wet T-shirt contests too.
The female clientele ranged from butch to fem. Jerseys mingled with miniskirts. Older women sat solo, sipping their Long Islands. When I asked the guy to my right (a tiny, long-haired dude named Chuck Almyda — or "Chuckie," as the bartender with the lighter pressed between her breasts called him) what he thought of a particular fleet of stiletto-wearing near-jailbait, he laughed. "They could be my kids or grandkids," he said.
"That never stopped anyone," I said. "But hey, I hear there's a dance contest tonight. You gonna get out there and dance?"
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"I've got about as much rhythm as a... a..." He paused, his blue eyes darting. "Well, I don't. But you don't suppose that guy's [the DJ] got any Led Zeppelin?"
Contest: Around 2 a.m., I lamented to Pam that I had come in hours ago, and here I was, still waiting for the booties to shake. (On my recent return trip, Hazel informed me that the booty-shaking contest's "usual time" was about 2 a.m.) But mere minutes after I shoved my debit card into my purse and signed my receipt, the DJ announced that ass-moving was about to commence. "The girls are skurred!" he shouted, and indeed, they must have been — the eventual contestants were three young men and one lone lady.
The contestants were herded onstage and lined up like prisoners about to face the firing squad. They all were black, all looked like they'd been tricked into entering, and all possessed very pleasing posteriors — which the DJ commanded that they turn around and stick out. (Booty-shaking tip number one: A nice booty is half the battle.) The DJ played music for about a minute, and the contestants did their thang. When the music stopped, the crowd cheered loudly to indicate who they thought had the shakingest booty. After the first elimination, the contest picked up: The girl flung herself at the dance pole, and the two guys — one wearing white sunglasses and the other wearing his hair in long braids — started speed-shaking. But though the boys shook their asses with gusto, it wasn't enough to make off with the booty. The only girl, diminutive, barely legal, and sexy as hell, grabbed the $100 prize. After all, how could boys compete with a hot girl at a bar full of girls who prefer girls?
After the contest, I walked away from the bar smelling like smoke and wondering what the Texas church ladies would think if they knew I'd been drinking with lesbians and trying to understand the elusive art of booty-shaking. And though I've been back to the club since, I still don't know whose nipple ring you have to tug in this town to see some lesbian break dance.