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Checking Into Rehab

Tony Gleeson

When Rodman's Rehab opened in mid-September as a bar-within-a-bar in Voodoo Lounge, the Night Rider invited herself to the party. When the general manager wouldn't return her call, she decided to go anyway, flashing her business card at the door, insisting her role as nightlife reporter should warrant her entry into the invitation-only portion of the evening.

Access granted, I winced as I passed the speakers of the state-of-the-art sound system blasting such gems as Joan Jett's "I Love Rock-n-Roll" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama." No wonder the DJs had on headphones.

The former NBA star's decorators deserve props for rehabbing what was once a mere patio bar. The décor of the open-air club is perfectly in keeping with Rodman's "I gave my wife two different STDs" image. Think: bordello meets vampire lair meets bistro.

The only people dancing were paid to do so. Two chicks worked the stripper poles on either end of the red-lit, red-tiled bar. Bouquets of dead red roses dangled from the rafters; chandeliers and baroque patterned drapes added a touch of class to the empty, red-vinyl-upholstered VIP section. The fractured images of the goliath bartenders were reflected in the broken-mirror tiled wall.

People stood around looking bored, sucking down free drinks, and scarfing the occasional appetizer waved at them by the few roving servers.

"We love Dennis Rodman," said a couple of girls visiting from Israel, who claimed they'd never been to a nightclub before.

Though I'm no sports fan, I'd always found the man an intriguing character. I'd come hoping to get some pithy quotes.

In particular, I wanted to know what else Rodman hoped to accomplish with his diminishing fame. I mean, with Finland's wife-carrying race now checked off his "to do" list, what else was left?

After two drinks and a wasted hour-and-a-half, I think I may have sustained permanent hearing damage (I actually checked my right ear to make sure it wasn't bleeding). Spit flew during attempts at conversation. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and left before the Worm showed up.

In days that followed, I referred to the new club as "Rodman's shit-crappy hellhole." I hated it so much that I had to go back a second time.

Just to see what it was like on a regular night, I returned the next Wednesday, and the blond brigade had assembled at the end of Voodoo's bar beneath the flickering glass chandeliers. As the DJs spun techno and other danceable music, iridescent mobiles and giant yellow-and-orange orbs over the dance floor along with the LSD-inspired videos on the far wall created a trippy vibe.

"We heard about it on the radio and figured 'free drinks!'" said Emily, a kitchen designer visiting from Pittsburgh with her three girlfriends. In their three days here, they'd caught a Steelers' game at a sports bar, a Polynesian show at Mai-Kai, and were now here for ladies' night.

They all agreed they liked the place. None realized that Rodman had opened a new joint or that it was part of the club. Leading the troops through the thousands of square feet of dance floor, I showed them the new addition. The music was still excruciatingly loud.

"It's hot," declared the blond in the cheetah-print dress — but she wasn't channeling Paris Hilton; she was just uncomfortably warm.

Her friends agreed, and they about-faced and returned to Voodoo. I followed their lead because even at 11 p.m., the Rehab was empty. Back in the main bar, one of the male bartenders was getting into uniform by getting out of his shirt. Unlike their male counterparts, all the female staff kept themselves covered — though barely. And all, regardless of gender, were frighteningly courteous and gorgeous — like a Stepford bar staff.

The blacklights offered the perfect lighting to check out the imperfect hair extensions on another blond who was shifting uncomfortably in her strappy red heels. They also rendered her French pedicure as ten purple-glowing piggies.

"It's very junior high in here," I commented. "All the guys are on one side and all the girls on the other."

"That's because on ladies' night 'Can I buy you a drink?' won't work and they probably can't think of an opener," the blond remarked.

Her brunet friend introduced herself as Sarah, a finance manager, who told me they were both vacationing here from Palm Springs, California.

"My name's Holly," the blond said extending her hand. "Holly Wood."

I looked at her sidewise with an eyebrow raised.

"Really!" she assured.

"Is that your stripper name?" I asked.

"I wish!"

Seemed like a weird aspiration for a woman who is actually a bank manager, but who am I to judge?

"This is the best music in Miami," a guy in a striped polo shirt interjected and then danced off.

And though I hate to be disagreeable, I almost chased after him to point out that we were in Fort Lauderdale and that Justin Timberlake's "Sexy Back" shouldn't qualify as actual music.

I was headed back toward Rehab when I was waylaid by some dope-ass break dancing in the other bar-within-the-bar, Envy, which bills itself as "ultra-white." (Meaning its décor, not clientele.) I watched the dude on the floor become a whirring rotary of arms and legs.

Soon, he was back on his feet and another dancer took his turn popping and locking while the first guy checked out the eye-rollingly unoriginal but always popular girl-on-girl dancing going on by the bar.

"You Irish?" a cat with a full gold grill asked me.

I nodded for simplicity's sake.

"Yeah, I can tell. The bone structure... the hips and the booty."

Now I was certain it was time to check back into Rehab. As I was leaving, he asked me where I was headed.

"Dennis Rodman?" he asked to make sure he heard me right.

When I nodded, he shook his head: "Not a fan."

Well, who invited him anyway?

Holly and Sarah had found the place without my guidance and were watching the women on the stripper poles.

"That's really hard," Sarah said appreciatively, informing me that her health club had installed such poles for exercise classes.

I was beginning to understand Holly's aspirations and to develop a serious concern for the moral well-being of the people of Palm Springs.

It wasn't long until a guy who reeked of marijuana extended his hand so we could dance. Why the hell not? I liked the way he extended his offer. And he smelled kinda good.

He told me he was an engineer from Seattle in a conversation between twirls. Yup, true rebels, we were doing a bastardized swing dance to hip-hop. I found it preferable to the traditional club moves I like to call "rub, grind, and grope."

Oh, but not to worry: The Night Rider wasn't going home without doing that requisite dance whether she wanted to or not.

Back in Voodoo, I enjoyed more excellent break dancing and the moves of two professional synchronized dancers who were as tight as any topnotch boy band Disney could churn out. There was also some fun live percussion on stage in Voodoo, bolstering the already kicking techno beats.

I was inspired to shake some booty myself and was pulled into a circle of international partiers, one of whom pressed his business card into my hand, inviting me to join them later.

Two guys whose spiked hair made their heads look like dangerous medieval weaponry had some moves that reflected their fashion statement — a real commitment to computer-generated dance music. The track jacket of one announced "I need a girl who can f**k to house music"; the other's decried "I'm a house head. "

I was actually beginning to have a good time. Too bad two all-American boys had to demonstrate their tag-team maneuvers: One began dancing up on me, his pelvis thrust forward as it inched closer to mine. The other began a drunken, clumsy booty shake. The moves of Stud Numero Dos caused Numero Uno to spill his drink down my front.

When I insisted I could wipe off my own breasts, he craned his neck toward the largest spot.

"I'll lick it up," he offered.

Wow! Free drinks, an icy shower, and a tongue bath too?

Ladies' night at Voodoo Lounge was turning out to be a virtual spa treatment! I speculated that the wee hours might include the club version of a whirlpool, and I really didn't want to stick around for that. I'd had enough "pampering."


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