When Night Rider met Coyote Ugly, two tight-bodied bartenders stood atop the bar, just like in the Hollywood movie. Except that one was bent over and the other was slamming her hips into the ass of her co-worker in a manner that can be described only as "banging." (Gotta wonder what constitutes sexual harassment in this workplace.)
Welcome to the South Florida version of the NYC version of a Western saloon.
History lesson, kids: The 1993 GQ magazine story about the Lower East Side original that "inspired" the film included sharply drawn characters of the Coyote's all-female staff and descriptions of the neighborhood bar, all the way down to the Hank Williams music that played on the jukebox. Part of the bar's appeal was that the girls' personalities were as well-known as the shapes of their other assets. On a Saturday night, however, the coyotes at this Himmarshee club were never introduced; with a couple of exceptions, more attention was placed on the sexual antics than the characters that fueled them. To boot, nary a Hank Williams song played all night.
Those inconsistencies in the translation to the Broward club didn't spoil 22-year-old Lauren's good time. She gyrated to the music, which was pumping as hard as the bartenders. Her best friend had flown her in from Detroit just for a few days, and at midnight, she was halfway to alcohol-induced amnesia.
The place was jumping, and soon so was she right up on the bar. The Michigander bounced to the beat. It was more erratic than erotic even when the left side of her pink tube top slid down, revealing, first, the cream-colored crescent of her strapless bra and, with another bounce, the delicate pink of an areola. Turning her back to adjust "privately," she looked up to discover the gaze of the crowd in the bar's mirrors. With a laugh and a shrug, she resumed her dance.
Bystanders lined the back wall, including a couple so wrapped up in each other that they'd missed the nipple peep show. I had to find out what would bring lovebirds like these to a place like this.
The guy was as crisp as his perfectly creased shirt: "We don't want to be in any story." His companion kept her pretty mouth shut.
"Really?" I said with mock surprise. "It'll document your romantic night." Clearly something was afoot.
"I don't want to be in a story. I'm running for office. Talk to them," he said, waving dismissively toward a group of guys.
Turns out, Mr. Candidate was one of a group of Nova Southeastern law students. Jon, 31, came along for the "cute girls and good energy." He wasn't too keen, however, on the drink size, which I estimated to be just slightly larger than the plastic cups used for urine samples.
Classmate Kunal, 24, boasted that he'd been to the bar's New York, Vegas, and Tampa locations. Obviously, he's a fan. And by the looks of things, more of an observer than a participant.
"So would you date a girl who danced on the bar?" I pried.
"Would you marry her?"
He shook his head. Ah, the double standard!
I figured I'd give the future politician one more shot. "Last chance. You're gonna be guilty by association anyway," I said, indicating his friends.
"Yeah, but there's still plausible deniability," he retorted in true officeholder fashion. Slippery fellow. Probably destined for great things.
The other side of the club was packed tight and had few spectators. Everyone jittered, gyrated, wiggled, and jiggled to the music. Even the Stones meditation on mourning, "Paint It Black," elicited undulations from the crowd. Many patrons commanded the room's attention from the bar top, and becoming a star required only that the customer be packing two X chromosomes. Or as the rule written on the mirror puts it: "No cock on the bar."
A group of guys asserted themselves in another way: with the unspoken suggestion that stripes are the new black. Each in a stripe of a different hue, the foursome a mix of locals and visiting college buddies looked like a boy band. In blue, Mike, a 24-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, explained that he likes Ugly because the girls aren't. And he likes the personalities of the girls the place attracts.
"Girls can come here and act 'bad,'" he explained, making air quotes, "and not get groped on by men." And he's right. The abundance of Coyote Ugly bouncers wearing shirts that say BMF ("big mother fuckers"?) puts the kibosh on bad boy behavior.
As Mike and I talked, a bartender was diddling her crotch with her finger as if she were playing air guitar. Another was spraying an arc of water over the bar so that it wet a hair-tossing coyote who was on her knees.
The rest of Menudo Rob, Ihao, and Matt weren't talking much, so Paul, 22, said, "Hey, let me say something quotable. Um, we're here to convert Europe to the metric system."
"None of us do drugs. Really," Mike said with feigned conviction, explaining Paul's behavior.
Enter the parties bridal, birthday, and bachelorette. The wedding party was closed-mouthed. Bride Nicole revealed only that they had just tied the knot at Christ Church. Hubby Billy didn't want to pose for a photo or answer any questions. (Echoes of Fight Club: "First rule of Coyote Ugly is, there is no Coyote Ugly"?).
Bedecked in hot pink leis, the bachelorettes mixed with the birthday party crowd, and the group of 30- and 40-somethings danced and were having fun. With one exception.
"This place sucks. We're here with a bachelorette party, and we would expect some special treatment," Christy said in true South Florida fashion. "It's supposed to be so hot. The drinks are weak. We came here for a show. I'd rather be at a strip club. I'd get a better drink and a better view."
A birthday party attendee agreed. "The movie was better."
Across the room, the dark blade of a Mohawk sliced through the nearly liquid smoke like a shark's fin. My heart quickened as it approached. When the figure emerged in front of me, I chummed the waters with a challenge.
"This place isn't very punk rock. You like it here?"
Using the thumb-o-meter, 24-year-old Leo gave the place a slow, dramatic thumbs down as his dark, intense eyes met mine.
Let the feeding frenzy begin! His denouncement of the place made him über-appealing.
"You should come with me over to the Brick. They've got hotter chicks, better music, better drinks," he enticed. He was drawing me a map when "friend" (his word) Beth arrived and fastened herself to Leo like a remora. I got the message, even if he didn't.
"The ratio's not so good here," he said, indicating the number of women to men. Obviously, Leo was still looking for a number that suited him.
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I went to settle my tab so that I could follow Leo to the Brick, whose bored, Polly Pocket-sized girls were no match for the Coyote's enthusiastic, grown women that is, unless you're into kiddie porn or Hentai.
Before I left, I finally caught a body shot in progress (a big-time $20 happening announced on the microphone at Ugly). They'd gone on all night, but the crowd consistently obscured my view.
A bartender held a lime between her teeth, a shot of tequila in the one hand, and Lauren's arm in the other. With her mouth and hands full, the barkeep had trouble communicating her intentions. Awkwardly, the two maneuvered until Lauren understood that she was to lie on her back so her server could straddle her, simulate sex, and administer the shot, now half-empty from being sloshed. As the women bumped jean-clad uglies with all the sincerity of bad porn, two fresh-faced boys grinned behind their camera phones.
Definitely, my cue to go the parting shot.