Kitten With a Flip

Sexy Kittys (yes, that’s how they spell it) Modern Burlesque arrived at Kashmir, and the first thing we noticed was that everyone, curiously, seemed to be on his or her best behavior at the gay bar.

For once, people were strictly observing the gender divisions designated on the bathroom doors according to their actual anatomy.

"That never happens!" my straight friend Seren and her gay co-worker Juan said nearly in unison. Gay bar veterans, the two couldn't believe what they were seeing.

"And no one in the guy's bathroom ogled anybody while they were peeing," Juan added.

The prospect of women dancing burlesque had apparently chased off most of the gay guys, who would have preferred their stripteases burlyesque. Instead, the place was full of dudes like Seren's rocker pal Mike, who, she assured me, never would have otherwise set foot in a gay club. At the moment, though, Mike looked pretty comfortable leaning on the bar next to his drummer, both with Heinekens in their hands.

"It's probably 50/50," Seren said, estimating the gay-to-straight ratio in the "rec room," where people were playing pool and watching Seinfeld on the TVs above the bar.

"Really?" I said, looking at the handful of lesbians mixed in with the tight T-shirted hipsters, thrift-store fashionistas, and longhaired, heavy-metal dudes.

The heteros easily outnumbered the homos.

"Maybe 30/70?" Seren reconsidered. "My gaydar is broken. When I first met Juan, I told him that we'd have tall beautiful children."

My gaydar was working just fine. In fact, I was giving an appreciative eye to three unassuming guys emitting the unmistakable "we're not gay" vibe. That there were three of them was a good sign too. Three, after all, was the magic "safety" number — single, they might get hit on; in a twosome, people might think they were partners; and a foursome could mean a double date.

I started to think that maybe I was losing my mojo until Seren shook her pigtails: "They probably assume you're a lesbian."

The lesbians had evidently sniffed me out as straight, and the straight guys, well, I'm guessing they were thrown off by the scent of gay that still lingered in the smoky club.

The only attention I got was from two guys who were clearly not my type. Nor I theirs.

One shaved-headed, chocolate morsel danced his way over to toot his own horn: "I'm 38! Don't I look fabulous?! I'm a Scorpio!"

Then he disappeared as quickly as he came. Typical man.

The other, who also danced over, kicking up his heels as he crossed the dance floor, was Happy Socks, my one-man welcome wagon.

"Dance, honey!" he chirped as I looked up from the puny olives in the bottom of my too-dirty martini with a sour puss. He shook me playfully by the shoulders. "Have a good time!"

By 1 a.m., I was more than ready for the show to begin.

The Lake Worth anarchist crowd, known as much for its alternative approach to fashion and grooming as for public political demonstrations, snagged much of the space up in front by the stage.

Soon, the room went black. A spotlight shone down through the darkness — right on me! Was I finally getting the attention I deserved?

Sadly, no.

It was for the woman standing next to me in the white bustier and the holographic Christmas bow in her hair. The music to Peaches' "Fuck the Pain Away" began, and on cue, the diva began singing "Sucking on my titties like you wanted me..."

She picked her way through the crowd to the stage as the spotlight followed. She introduced herself as Lisa Marie, our lesbian MC. Juan noted that the pudgy and self-assured hostess had a Roseanne Barr sort of "let it all hang out" vibe that appealed to him.

"I can smell your salivating pussies from here!" she taunted before breaking into a dance to the song "Camel Toe" as she pulled her black ruffled panties into the groove of her crotch.

I think that was when Juan split for Fort Dix, the club-fortress of cock, where no camel had ever dared set its cleft foot.

"Here's how these things work, for the straight people," Lisa Marie said as she put her feet through leather straps and pulled on a peach-plastic schlong and started thrusting her hips to the music.

After the introductory antics, the first kitty, Renee, took the stage and danced to Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" in a Chicago-esque performance. Like many of the cast, her hair and makeup said "1930s" while her outfit was clearly modern. In this case, shiny, red, elbow-length gloves contrasted with her black PVC bustier and hot pants.

The dance was as classy as it was seductive, and when she removed her bustier only to cover her breasts with her gloved hands, the round-bellied guy standing next to me griped to his woman, "She's not gonna show her titties?"

"It's burlesque!" his girlfriend reprimanded with no further explanation.

Closing her routine, Renee opened her arms wide and shook her pasty-covered breasts for the crowd, and Big Belly gazed on, unimpressed.

The performances that followed paired the women's sexual appeal with a winking humor or playful naughtiness.

There was the Amazonian blond whose performance included a drag king and sexual how-to manuals, which she consulted to get the attention of her man. And the Betty Boopish brunet who gave the "Oooo" face as she covered her mouth with her hand every time she spread her legs to the music. And the kooky sprite in a white skirt and fishnet-over-rainbow-striped thigh-highs and black boots who flitted and twirled weightlessly across the stage between shimmies.

Of the dance routines, the skinny blond in the black feathered outfit got the most laughs. And not intentionally. As she undulated spread-legged while seated on a wooden chair, she experienced a wardrobe snafu. One of her pasties popped off and landed a few feet away.

Her Ohmigod I'm naked! facial expression was bested only by her attempt to recover the runaway pastie. After trying to figure out which hand should cover the exposed nipple and which should reach for the disc-sized portion of her costume, she nearly fell out of her chair in her attempt to reclaim her nipple cap.

"She just pulled a Janet Jackson," I laughed to Big Belly, who finally got his wish and a pretty good chortle too.

When the show ended and the dancers took their bows, the audience erupted into a sea of pulsing bodies, many of them women grinding against other women. You know, the sorta stuff you see in every club.

"We gotta get you up there," one of my friends teased me.

"Oh, no," I shook my head.

The thing was, the idea was not entirely unappealing. The show had featured so many different body types, and not all flawless, though all sexy. And it offered so many approaches to performing, all of which accentuated each woman's unique physique and personality. (Auditions are held at Respectables in West Palm on Sundays.)

Unlike dancers at strip clubs, who I'd always felt had to deflect the energy of their audience, these women radiated their energy in a way that felt empowering rather than exploitative.

Which is exactly how I felt when all was said and done, like I'd attended a theatrical event — except that it was 3 a.m. and I was alone in a smoky gay bar, listening to Duran Duran while I paid my bar tab.

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Marya Summers