Animal heads and mounted skulls give me chills. Nothing strikes fear in my heart like a room that celebrates Bambi's untimely demise by having his decapitated head bolted to the wall. And like so many of my irrational convictions and strange fears, this started when I was a little girl. I was sent to visit my mother's younger sister and her husband, and, to my horror, I discovered that the guest bedroom of their house doubled as my uncle's trophy room. When you're 7 years old, moonlight shining into the gaping eye sockets of a deer skull is pretty much what nightmares are made of.
Pangaea, a culturally themed nightclub located at the Seminole Hard Rock (5711 Seminole Way, Hollywood), is wall-to-wall with exotic animal skulls. I learned this after perusing pictures on the club's website some time ago and decided I couldn't think of anything more sickening than dozens of cold, empty eye sockets watching me while I drank myself into a coma. But then I heard Pangaea was hosting a Friday-night Pink Taco Porn Star party, an event involving porn stars and free pink alcoholic drinks. I decided to give it a go, because if porn and alcohol can't heal my childhood scars, what will?
Ambience: The décor consists mostly of bamboo walls and animal skulls, though the packs of scantily clad college-aged kids who frequent the place seem oblivious to all the polished safari memorabilia. Apparently no one else sees the creepiness in paying a $20 cover to be watched by decapitated animals.
The club also has exclusive reserved tables, an open area for dancing, and an outside back patio with roped-off seating and places to congregate. Go-go dancers in high boots and lingerie strike poses on elevated platforms while hordes of single men gather at their feet like island natives worshiping a fertility goddess. Canoes hang over the bar, and the subtle lighting casts eerie shadows on the antelope and gazelle skulls — like you've been captured and taken to a cave where cannibals wearing designer T-shirts and too much cologne are about to eat you. Or worse: They'll try and get you to accompany them to the nearest Motel 6.
The décor indicates that Pangaea wants to be the hip, happening embodiment of different cultures coming together to get drunk and take pictures for their MySpaces, but for a girl in a cold sweat from trophy-room flashback, it doesn't quite get past being some odd combination of a tiki hut and a hunting lodge. Just in case you do forget that you're not in an African alcohol oasis, throbbing mainstream pop — Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West — will quickly remind you.
But stick with it. Longtime Pangaeagoers attest to the place's unpretentiousness and its mellow world-beat atmosphere. And liquor helps.
Bartenders: The bartenders are a collection of sexy young girls with flat tummies and perky cleavage.
"OK, I read there is supposed to be a Pink Taco Porn Star party tonight," I said to a blond bartender named Katy, who wore an off-white push-up bra under her shirt's scant amount of fabric. "Where are the porn stars?"
"I don't know anything about porn stars, but we had pink drinks that were free until midnight," she said in a chipper tone.
I checked the time on my cell phone. It was mere minutes past midnight.
"And," she said, leaning toward me as if revealing a secret, "if you wait long enough, some bachelorettes might get drunk and take their clothes off."
Drinks: I ordered a stiff Seagrams 7, which cost me $9. I didn't feel like facing my gazelle-skull fears without the aid of porn stars, so I took my not-free drink and ventured outside to the jam-packed patio area.
Customers: I watched a very pregnant girl wearing a yellow tunic stretched tight over her full-moon stomach totter past in unbelievably high heels. Girls paraded around in expensive dresses, displaying their assets for sale like salami at the Publix deli. And if the United States burned all the hair gel resting in the spiky locks of Pangaea's male population, we'd no longer have to depend on the Middle East for oil. Honestly, everyone looked pretty happy to be partying at Pangaea. Happiness without porn stars, in a club full of animal skulls? Were these people stupid? As I asked myself this question, I almost ran into a tall, dark-haired guy in glasses who was laughing with a girl in a tight black zipper dress.
"You guys seem to be having a good time," I observed.
"I just broke up with my boyfriend," the girl, Sakina, informed me, giggling wildly. "And all my friends are mad at me for bringing a new guy — already!"
She then noticed six of her friends posing nearby for a picture, so she dashed off, leaving me standing with her friend, M.J. After a slightly sad admission that he wasn't her new guy, I asked him what brought him out to the club.
"We're here for our friend's birthday," he said. "We're all in dental school together." He gestured to a large mob of hairspray-perfect girls in dresses and guys neatly attired in dress shirts and jeans.
"Dental school?" I couldn't help but be incredulous. "What the hell are you guys doing here?"
"We love this place; we come here a lot," he said, taking a swig from his gin and tonic.
He pushed the shoulder of a short guy standing near us. "You're a third year, right?"
Ancore was tiny, with smooth, attractive features and a high voice. "Soon to be fourth!" They cheered and toasted.
"What kind of dental work will you be doing?" I asked Ancore.
"I'm doing it already," he corrected. "And, all kinds. Everything from scraping to filling cavities."
"Sooo... you guys must be... pretty smart."
"Nah, we're not smart," M.J. said, smiling to reveal rows of straight, very white teeth, "but dental school isn't easy."
"Smarter than most of the people here, I'd guess," I said. "I certainly can't fill a cavity."
Ancore considered this. "I'd say we're a little bit smart."
The real reason people come: After I extracted myself from the large group of party people smarter than me, I leaned against a wall and was soon approached by a petite woman named Tatiana. She wore jeans and had curly, ash-blond hair.
"You having fun?" I asked her.
"Yeah, I come here all the time," she said, taking a drag on her cigarette. "It's dark and full of people who don't give a fuck. Good place to lose a boyfriend."
"Do you do that often?" I asked.
"Yeah," she said. "My boyfriend's here right now, and he's crazy jealous."
"Why's he so jealous?"
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"Who knows?" she exhaled. "I just come here to ditch him and sneak off with someone else."
"Maybe he's jealous because you ditch him so much," I said. "Won't he be mad?"
"Yeah, but maybe he'd be turned on if he found us making out," she said, leaning directly into my bubble of personal space.
No, I didn't make out with Tatiana. But even if Pangaea is full of creepy animal skulls and expensive drinks, it is a good place to ditch your beau, meet some cool people, and maybe even have an OK time. Plus, even if the porn stars don't show, there are enough grinding girls with T and A on display that you might even forget about all those animal skulls.