After shoving reams of notes and articles under the seats of my little black coupe before turning it sheepishly over to the valet, I had more courage to swill champagne with Penthouse muckety-mucks and nudey-girl rubberneckers at the casually elegant, primarily boomer-populated bar.
When I settled in, the waterfall that spilled over a ceiling-high plate of glass nearby helped calm my nerves, as did the martini that soon followed. The cute 22-year-old real estate student on the stool next to me, however, was what finally put me at ease.
"I heard that Adam Sandler ate here once," Paul offered, his blue eyes sparkling. Though he worked for a real estate company just across the street, he was like me a Bova virgin and had come to meet the Penthouse girls.
"What's the allure of meeting a porn star with her clothes on?" I asked.
"For the story. So you can tell people you met a Penthouse Pet," he explained.
"Hold on," I interrupted. "Are they porn stars? I mean, is it porn if you just pose nude for a magazine?"
Paul provided this definition: "Porn is what you watch on your VCR. Pornography is what you see in a magazine."
Having cleared that up, he turned his attention to our slight age difference. I tried to reassure him that he was, in fact, well within my dating age-range. "The last guy I went out with was 23, but we broke up when he turned 24 because he was too old for me," I said, lying through my teeth about the reason for the split.
Paul had gulped down three Guinnesses in the time it'd taken me to sip half a martini, so I guess he deserved to be cut some slack for his next blunder:
"Too old? What did he have, one of those whatdayacallem? precipitating hairlines?"
The image of my ex's hair plummeting from his scalp like raindrops from the heavens is one I'll relish for years to come, especially since (a) the dude was prematurely losing his hair and (b) it was clearly vengeance from the follicle gods for his part in our receded relationship.
With the hour rapidly approaching when the guests of honor were scheduled to arrive, Paul and I took our drinks to the outdoor bar for a better view. Outside, I observed that this spring, black was making a comeback as the new black. Nearly everyone was ebony-clad. Even the (get this!) straws in the complimentary splits of Piper Heidsieck champagne were black!
What next? Seared tuna wrapped in newspaper cones? Caviar on paper plates?
A gentleman in a pin-striped suit puffed on a stogie a couple of feet away and I was waving the noxious smoke from my face when I was stunned by the sight of a bodacious vixen approaching in a red strapless dress.
"Holy boobies!" I blurted, too overwhelmed by her Brobdingnagian bosom to censor myself.
The blond and her brunet entourage whipped around to see who was responsible for such an adolescent ejaculation. Oops. Evidently, big boobs know no gender limits in their ability to reduce a person to blathering idiocy.
As long as I was a girl behaving badly, I figured I'd suck champagne through a straw. Turns out, it's a pretty good party trick. It's tough to spill, which is a boon for the wasted. Or, in my case, the terminally unbalanced. (Hey, I got a legit excuse! My long legs delay the time it takes for the brain to deliver a message to the feet!)
A trio of 40-ish bachelors who occupied a reserved table mistook me for a waitress and tried to place an order. I couldn't resist an opportunity: "Actually, I'm with the Asshole Census Bureau. I'm compiling statistics on the most asinine things people say on a Thursday night."
That earned a laugh and an invitation to join them. All three guys already clutched autographed headshots of both Pets, each personalized with hearts and X's and O's. Big fans, apparently.
After I sat down, one guy swiped my notebook and wrote from my perspective about our encounter: "Met Seth. He made me feel fluttery. Will call me if I prove myself."
I declined the dinner invitation, using my new friend Paul as an excuse.
"Fuck Paul," Seth said.
"No, don't fuck Paul. Fuck Ed," corrected Seth's friend, conveniently named Ed.
And that completed my census at that table.
I rounded out the evening with a pass by the Pets table, where the girls were still signing photos. Ashamed of my earlier remark about Jennifer's gargantuan globes, I only got up enough nerve to speak to the brunet, Krista, whose smaller, natural breasts were slightly less disruptive of my mental processes.
"What color is your dress? Champagne?" was all I could manage before I slithered away. Maybe my experience will help me be more tolerant of guys who say idiotic things when they approach me in the future. Though the Magic 8 ball in my head predicts "Outlook not so good" for such social mercy.
As long as everyone else was indulging in their vices, I would too. I hightailed it over to the three cutest guys in the place. All of them musicians. (Score!)
Jay, 22, a personal trainer originally from Costa Rica, revealed that besides being a bassist, he was in school for international business and trade.
"Is that code for drug dealing?" I asked.
With a laugh, his 26-year old, guitar-playing buddy, Jimi (also a personal trainer), set me straight: "Actually, we're thinking of starting a Costa Rican escort service called Twenty Something Escorts."
So they were here doing research? Were they here for an audience with the CEO of Penthouse (who was curiously below my radar all night) or an interview with the pets?
"We're just here for the free food and booze," Jimi freely admitted. "There's a lot of old people here. The only women I'm attracted to work here, and they're only nice to me because they work here."
Adam, their 24-year-old drummer chum, was so boldly anti-fashion in his red trucker hat and unassuming casual clothes that he had me at "Hey."
When I noticed three young attractive girls, I decided to be selfless and play Yenta to the two seemingly perfectly matched threesomes. I introduced two of the guys (Jimi had left for the restroom) to two of the girls. Nicole, however, informed me my plan was flawed.
"We're married with kids," she confessed.
Denise chimed in, "Yup, we're MILFs."
When Jimi returned from the restroom, he had some news: "Hey, the president of Penthouse was just in the men's room."
"Did he wash his hands?" I asked, digging for the dirt.
Jimi thought for a second, "No, he didn't."
Well, that clinched it. I certainly wasn't going out of my way to introduce myself.
As I was preparing to reclaim the Night Rider mobile from the valet, I noticed that many of the autographed headshots of the pets had been abandoned on the outdoor tables. I picked up one to examine it. It was signed "2 Vincent," and its recipient said I was welcome to it.
But I wanted more that elusive definition I'd wondered about all night: "Is a naked picture of a woman porn?"
Vincent didn't hesitate: "No, it's a picture of a naked girl. Porn is a photo or video of people having sex."
"So if they're not porn stars, then what would you call them?"
"What do you call someone who takes advantage of a situation?"
Since I'd received the invitation, I had thought the combination of nude opportunists and chichi "ristorante" was an odd one until Vincent helped me see that in South Florida, the two were meant for each other. Like straws and champagne.