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In with the New

It was a scene straight out of an ’80s hair-band video. Stacey — an attractive, sophisticated-looking girl with glasses and tied-back hair — seemed oddly out of place amid the bar full of tattooed arms, loose tongues, and loud mouths. This was a Southern Flaw/Trapped by Mormons show, after all — hardly the subtle, acoustic tuneage made for a coffeehouse-type like Stacey. But she was different — just too hot to be some innocent college girl there to watch a friend’s band. It was like at any minute, her glasses would come flying off, her hair would come down, and she’d be up on the bar doin’ the Double-D twist.

Well, she kept her glasses on, anyway.

And her short, ruffled skirt. But that was all. And Stacey wasn’t alone in her bare-chested exploits; she was one of the half-dozen dancers who shaked and shimmied on Saturday, January 29 — the first night of live music at Gumwrappers Bikini Dance Club (3233 N. Ocean Blvd., Fort Lauderdale).

We know what you’re thinking: either “Bands, booze, and babes — I’m so there!” or “That sounds like some sleazy rock ’n’ roll frat party — forget it.” But you’d be mostly wrong on both counts. First off, Gumwrappers may not be Blue Martini, but it’s classier than many of the run-down dive bars to which local showgoers have grown accustomed. The bands performed roughly 20 feet from the center dance pole, which has its own small, single-dancer stage. Girls typically jiggled two at a time, one on the center stage and the other on the rectangular platform behind the bar. Above the bar stage, a plasma TV screen played videos of nude girls oiling down and doing unnatural things to a stuffed monkey. It was impossible for your eyes to wander too long without focusing on some manner of fleshy fixation.

The show was put on by Fort Lauderdale-based promoters By the Way Inc., which had been booking bands at the Saltbox on Fort Lauderdale Beach until the venue’s liquor license was revoked at the end of January. BTW’s music director Garo Gallo said he wants to make Gumwrappers a regular venue for Saturday nights while continuing to explore other clubs. He believes that by rotating bands among different venues, the audience will grow. “I want to get these bands exposed to as many people as possible,” Gallo said.

But it’s the exposure of other things that makes Gumwrappers rock shows such a novel idea. And here’s the kicker: the night was a boon to the club’s business — quite the opposite of the usual rock-show-as-money-pit scenario. “It’s great — better than I expected,” general manager Dean Garrow said during the show. “The turnout on a normal Saturday night doesn’t even compare.” The bands were equally impressed. Even before the show, Southern Flaw frontman Bobby Johnston was enthused about playing at a topless bar. “This is like in the ’60s, when bands played go-go clubs,” he said.

Granted, some of the dancers were a little more full-figured than our skinny-as-beauty perception allows. But hey — at least they got something to shake, right? Besides, when you’re trying to balance your viewing between the band and the girls, you don’t have time to differentiate between the dancer and the pole. Not when you’re trying to figure out what to stick in your gumwrapper.

Oh, right — just what the hell are gumwrappers? Some kinda kinky oral sex trick? A raunchy euphemism for pasties? A dental damn?

“It’s a slang term for money, cash,” Garrow says. And for once, that’s something a venue can equate with local rock bands. Will it last? We’ll keep our pasties crossed.

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Jason Budjinski

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