The steamy, packed dance floor at Capones (300 New River Ct., Fort Lauderdale) is thumping to the 69 Boyz' "Tootsee Roll" at midnight on a Saturday. Sure, the song's almost a decade old -- not exactly a cutting-edge spin -- but still danceable. Belly-baring blonds on the bar top undulate their abdomens in small, controlled movements and flip their hips back and forth unvaryingly for half an hour at a time, then disappear as a white fog descends. Hands on the dance floor start clinging to body parts they hadn't dared to approach in better visibility. When the air clears, I'm towering -- six feet of red-pantsed, high-heeled, heavily painted, transparent-tank-topped hoochie love -- above a three-man sandwich that is trying to make me its meat. In other words, I'm getting a taste of the hoochie mama's daily bread.
The bloom of my persona shift had budded the Wednesday before, when I was sitting at a high-top table outside Capones sucking down free ladies night domestic bottles with a group of girls in beat-up jeans and cardigan sweaters. We were sneering as the mamas passed by swinging their cake asses -- tucked in paper thin, Sawgrass Mills-outlet hip-hugger pants -- with automatonic regularity.
"There go J.Lo clones A, B, and C," one of my friends commented.
Several men's eyes wandered past our table as if it were empty and then went pop! as they landed on the exposed flesh of the more feline femmes. The ogling gender was decked out in its untucked, short-sleeved, plaid-buttoned-down worst, and we made faces as one after another passed by.
You could sit at this bar for hours and sneer at the fact that these pop-culture victims seem to have no consciousness of the following: that they are ego gluttons who show little evidence of having cultivated discerning tastes; that they traffic in the banal social vocabulary of overt but uniform promiscuity; and that it is impossible to regard them with any seriousness.
You could sit there and sneer, but then again, you're the grump... and could it be that... Holy shit: Maybe there is something in the lives of these hip-hugged, clod-hooved, hoop-eared hoochie mamas that you envy? Could it be the attention of these slow-steppin', visor-wearin', dance-floor-cruisin', frat-house rejects? In short: could it be possible that I'm just a playa hata? And if that is the case, the ne'er-asked question arises: Am I hatin' the playa or hatin' the game?
This, I felt, warranted some investigation.
And so it came to pass that I went out Saturday to experience a full-blown, loose-hipped, down-to-the-ground night as a hoochie mama. And my friend Lola, who is fast becoming the only party girl who can maintain a nightlife columnist's schedule, was in tow -- though she was a little less hoochified.
After enduring almost an hour of anonymous but unrelenting thrusting hips at Capones, we headed over to E Bar (215 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale). The gray-walled slip of a joint had a bongo drummer playing rhythm with the DJ's spin of "Get Low" by Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz. The bar was a bit more sophisticated than Capones, the clientele more stylish -- girls' shirts covered enough to leave something to the imagination, and there were even stylish dudes -- one standout sported a blow-dried Sonic hedgehog hairdo accompanied by smooth yellow shades. The intimate, bar-style setting was good for conversation and occasional bustin' out in the aisle when the tune struck a chord.
Some freestyle began to play, and this really friendly sort of hoochie blond girl started to simulate roller-skating up and down the aisle of the club with us. We were cruising in circles to Stevie B past a few leather-jacketed Brooklyn boys who seemed dazed by the plethora of ladies at sex central. There was this middle-aged, dark-haired dude standing at the bar in a blue button down checking out every girl who started dancing in the aisle. And right on cue, when I stopped moving, he started talking to me.
He said his name was Eric.
"That's a very hard-sounding name," I replied, "like mine, Courtney."
"Yes," he said, "like a Viking."
"Yeah, it's true," I said. "Eric rows the boat, and Courtney is the coxswain. That's not Greenland; that's Iceland." I pointed off in a northeasterly direction.
Trying to correct me, Eric pointed due south and replied, "No, Iceland is that way."
"Actually," I corrected him, "I was right. Iceland is that way."
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"Where are you going?" I replied.
"I'm going where you're going."
It was hard for Eric to be wrong twice in one night.
E Bar, though it was good times, was not quite boot nasty enough for our playa-lovin' ambitions. So we moved on.
Porterhouse Grill (201 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale) was stacked with just the skeezy kind of crowd we were trying to blend into. It was like a hoochie-mama sandwich deli. Some dude had a chick backed up against a pole and was flirting with his whole body. The dance floor was packed so tight, you couldn't squeeze through to the bar without grinding with several people.
Wanting to be as conspicuous as possible, we headed straight for the stage and cooked up some drama as we danced like Disney-trained pop stars to some lame-ass diva ballad and then to Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up."
Then came a playa who really didn't know what he was doing; the dude got up on-stage and started dancing behind me. He didn't seem to care that he had the worst singing voice I've ever heard, because he kept belting "Can't Get You Out of My Head" right into my delicate aural cavity.
He was staring at his buddies in the doorway, and then he grabbed my arm and said he had to duck out.
Yo, did that playa just dis me? Naw, booty dancin' don't mean a damn thang!
Or at least, that was the philosophy we went by until we walked over to the bar to hydrate and realized that vertical delectations breed horizontal expectations: The men started to latch on. So, you know how it is, we were dancing with every fella who walked by until this bulky, bald Peruvian man -- "Diego," he whispered -- who must have been about 45 years old grabbed me and started spinning me around. He actually knew how to dance, which was interesting for a while.
But it didn't take long for him to start spewing the spindly web of perviness and obligation so often used to trap women into nightmarish afterparties. He started trying to grab my ass, and I pushed him away. He refrained, and we resumed dancing until... well... an obstacle arose.
I retracted my hips to indicate that I was there to dance for myself, not to be a boner scratch post.
He smiled and said, "What? What?" as if the whole occurrence were perfectly cool, as if the chance that I might not be attracted to him was negligible. I retreated from his pitched tent, but in the customary pickup style, he would not let go of my arm but insisted I accompany him to the bar. Not yet having made a clean break, I attempted to relay verbally the message that I was not interested.
Doing this was a mistake.
As I talked, he lunged forward and tried to plug my mouth with his own. I grabbed onto his ears and pushed his face back away from mine.
The hoochie-mama experiment was going from bad to worse.
My distress was apparently evident. An at-least-six-foot-eight-inch-tall dude stopped kissing on and grinding away at this other girl and started pointing at me and then himself. He was mouthing, "You, me."
Because my experiment had deteriorated into just trying to escape this club without getting slobbered on, I was reluctant to exchange my guy problem for a bigger one. So I shook Diego off and went to find Lola, who was grinding snugly in between two guys, one of whom reportedly asked her midgrind, "Can you feel that?"
We were nearly out the door when I turned around to find the six-foot-eight Pimposaurus Rex towering above me, saying, "I wanna dance with you."
Certainly, it might have been interesting, and I was considering just one dance when the Peruvian dude reemerged and grabbed my arm. Despite rejection and his rather intimidating competition, he started trying to get his groove back under way.
Trying to protect him from getting his ass kicked, I turned and started talking to the giant. I stood on my tippy toes and approached his ear with a whisper, "I'm scared of you."
"I'm a teddy bear," his booming voice replied unconvincingly.
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Diego wasn't letting go of my arm, and Rex and his crew of three were hovering with unfriendly glares.
What I wanted -- to shake my ass without submitting to concubinage -- had clearly been ruled out as an option.
Lola sensed trouble and slipped out of her tight spot. We scuttled out the door and disappeared into the crowded street -- not hatin' the playas but decidedly forfeiting the game.
Alas, there's no free ride on the bump-and-grind go-round in Downtown Loddy Doddy. If you wanna dress the game, drink free, and mingle with playas, you gotta play by their rules. Otherwise, don your cardigan and beat-up jeans, sneer at the passersby, and buy your own damn beer.