Who knew that the hand of fate was the kind of extremity that no hygienic person would want to touch? The crusty knuckled force had its way with me one recent Monday night about 9 p.m. when the Night Court mobile sputtered to a stop outside of Jiggles II strip club (2829 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale). One moment, I'm an upright citizen scoffing at the titillating title of the titty bar; the next, I'm standing at the table outside the entryway talking to two bouncers as I wonder why providence is such a lech. Perhaps it's some kind of universal propagative imperative and existence is not a heinous accident after all.
My thoughts were interrupted when the petite fast-talking manager, Trevor, emerged from the club. He was dressed in Miami Dolphins gear, minus the shoulder pads, from head to toe. He looked me over -- in my long black cardigan with hair pulled back into a ponytail, I must have looked like an intellectual working girl ripe for the plucking. So he asked if I was looking for a night job. I said not really and flashed the old red-and-blue New Times business card. Then he changed his tune; no longer trying to exploit my body for profit, he apparently wanted to exploit my, um, fame for a little publicity. And I was game.
While he was divulging the 4-1-1 on Jiggles -- fun, fascinating, not too tawdry -- a thin, strong, black stripper toting a Wendy's bag walked up to the entrance. She started complaining to the manager about one of the girls. "Jiggles is like America," she said sarcastically. "We let everybody in. That girl is butt-ugly."
I felt less flattered about Trevor's employment offer, so I turned my attention toward more pressing matters, like phoning my middle-aged aunt, rousing her from sleep, and persuading her to bring my AAA card, which would take about 45 minutes.
When Trevor heard I would be around for a little while, he said I was welcome to wait inside. He informed me, though, that unaccompanied women, potential wives, and lesbians are not allowed inside of many strip clubs. "One time," he said, "we had a woman come in with her taxi cab driver and watch her husband with strippers all night."
Despite my status as an undesirable, I entered the club. The dark entryway opened into a small room, purple with black lights. Black curtains secluded VIP lounges where private dances no doubt go down. On the raised stage in the middle of the club, a woman with long blond hair was crouching crab-like in front of a couple of men, grinding her underbelly to the rhythm of Madonna's "Music." Behind the stage, lap dance booths lined a wall lit up by small white lights.
I moseyed to the bar in the back, where I ordered a Diet Coke. Then I sipped the suspiciously sweet fluid with a ministraw as I avoided the extended glances of scattered slope-shouldered men.
Half an hour later, I went back outside and began talking to the tall blond bouncer who didn't quite know what to make of me. Soon, my aunt pulled up in a luxury car and sat there with the lights on. Looking frightened, she gestured for me to come closer, so I went and sat in the passenger seat next to her. With the introduction of my aunt's priggish pair of eyes, the bouncer and manager became a little more self-aware and a little more amused by our predicament. We called AAA from her cell and were informed by a pleasant voice that the tow truck would arrive sometime within the next two hours and that I should be waiting next to my car with the keys.
Sitting in the Jiggles back lot was not an option, nor could we leave the premises. We could have sat in my aunt's car for two hours, running the engine like paranoid prudes, or, as the manager again offered to take us into the warm bosom (tee hee) of his establishment, we could, if we dared, pass the interim inside this den of lust.
My aunt reluctantly -- but slightly intrigued, I sensed -- agreed and threw a sweater around her shoulders as she got out of her car and double-checked the locks. We went inside and returned to the bar, where she ordered a vodka cranberry. Somewhere between eight and ten topless women were walking around the bar, sidling up to mangy older men and the white button-down crowd.
Each girl took a spin on the stage for three songs appropriate to her type: an attractive white girl with long blond hair was spinning on the pole to Puddle of Mudd's constipated-sounding "Control;" a tall, pretty, black girl was spinning on the pole to hip-hop. The Dolphins-clad manager was doubling as an animated DJ, announcing each girl as she took the stage and directing her to the VIP lounge afterward.
My aunt, whose mantra is "all men are assholes," looked on, projecting all of the disdain she could muster. The announcer called all the girls up to display themselves on the stage for Jiggles' special two-for-one lap dance: two songs for 20 bucks. It was a return to the humiliation of picking kickball teams in elementary school: Some were chosen first, some last, and some not at all. Oh the Darwinian verity of the human ladder! Instead of survival, however, the fit few got pawed in the VIP booths. A girl walked up to my aunt and me with a self-amused smile and asked, "Two for one, ladies?" We declined.
After the dances were over, the manager returned to the DJ booth and, to my great surprise, announced into the microphone, "The next time you feel like reading, don't pick up City Link. Pick up New Times." Then he pointed toward me and continued, "Courtney is going to write a column about Jiggles." The white collars with their hands on girls' backs glanced at me nervously. The baseball-hatted frat boy at the end of the bar got up and walked into the bathroom. Two young black men in basketball jerseys who were seated near the stage stared at me for the rest of the night.
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Instantly, I went from being a minor libido impediment to an out-and-out interloper. I could read the fear in their eyes: "Does she have a photographic memory?" they wondered. "And if so, was there some means of developing the images stored in my skull and sending them to loyal wives and girlfriends?"
The crowd at Jiggles was sparse that night; the manager asserted that NFL Monday Night Football detracted from business. Men -- it seems the rock band Bush was right -- want no sex in their violence.
The clock was rounding 11:30 p.m., and my aunt and I kept checking the parking lot for the tow truck -- apparently it was a busy night. While we were standing in the doorway, Trevor approached and invited me to come back on a Friday or Saturday night, when the voyeurs would be out and in fine form. I pocketed my Jiggles get-in-free card and, feeling initiated into the depths of nightclub seediness, promised to return. From her impatient sighs, it seemed certain Auntie wouldn't be coming along next time.
A bouncer suggested that I try turning the key in my ignition one more time, and poof: The car roared to life. Mission accomplished, I guess. If the hoary arbiter of my destiny had seen fit to get his jollies at a roadside titty bar in the 'burbs of Lauderdale, who was I to get in his way?