The theme song to Pink Panther is playing as a six-foot-tall Latin man creeps around the stage in a suit. Then, Michael Bolton's "When a Man Loves a Woman" blasts through the club. The dancer puts his hand to his heart and serenades the bachelorette party.
Just as the ladies' lunch is about to come up, some bass kicks in and the suit jacket flies off. Shirtless and agile, the hunk starts grinding his nethers and rips off his clasped pants. He grabs a rope overhead and begins swinging himself around the stage. After a few seconds, two women from the front row stand with folded bills in hand, and he gets down on his knees in front of them. They rub his muscular torso and legs as they slip money into his black G-string. They aren't screaming like girlies, just dancing and touching the man as if with -- could it be? -- real desire.
When his set is over, a young, blond birthday girl steps onto the stage and sits in a chair. A tall, extremely handsome white man in a gray suit emerges from behind the black curtain at the back of the stage and leans on the wall with two pink roses in his mouth. He stares at her as he gyrates his hips. Then he walks over to her, shedding his suit, and kneels in front of her chair. He dips his head down toward her groin and slowly moves it up her body till he is looking her in the eyes. Then he puts his nose back down thurr and grips the back of her chair as he pulls her legs over his shoulders. He stands up with her legs wrapped around his neck and starts bouncing her up and down.
This is a taste of what I found last Saturday night when I grabbed three friends and trekked over to La Bare (2750 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale). I hoped to discover whether female sexuality has the power to arouse or whether it is just more of the lame-o, cornhole-doodyfest version of male sexuality that Lifetime made-for-TV-movies feed women. My conclusion: Compared to the dough throwers at female revues, the clientele at Le Bare gets a lot of bang for its buck.
After the Pink Panther is done, a husky, bald black man takes the stage. He's Paul Bunyan-ed out in a pair of jeans and a flannel vest. He has a prop chainsaw in hand and is thrusting it from his groin like the assumedly frightening member concealed behind his fly. I turn my head away for a second, and his clothes melt away -- à la Erica Jong's "zipless fuck" -- and shazam!, there the hulk stands in a delicate, froufrou, pink G-string.
He drops into pushup position and dips his thighs toward the stage as if he were taking a woman to the point of no return again and again and then -- phew! -- a little further. He backs it up a bit toward one side of the stage and wags his ass at a table of two heavy-set women.
Solely in the interest of conveying first-hand experience to my reader, I fold two bucks the long way and excuse myself from my grinning companion. Up-close, the man's face is as rock-hard and flawless as every other visible portion of his body. He thrusts his ridiculous pink panties close to my face and pulls me out of a fit of giggles by grabbing my hands and placing them on his hard, cantaloupe-sized pecs.
"Where do you want to put it?" he asks.
Well, to be frank, this is the first time a man has ever asked me that question, and I get spacey for a second, gazing into the valley between his chest muscles before I realize he is referring to the tip money in my hand.
"Oh, I like that part of the body on a man right here," I say, stepping back and demonstrating on myself, "where the hip juts out as it meets the belly."
He just kind of looks at me and pulls out the string of his tutu at said location.
A voice over a loudspeaker says, "Be careful -- she's a virgin."
After his tip is securely in place, the stripper says "Not anymore" and grabs my hands and pulls them around his body to rest on his beefy buns.
More giggles erupt, and he leans over and kisses me on the cheek, personalizing the seduction aura with a gooey-sweet "Thank you, honey."
Along comes La Bare manager Milton, a tall, fast-talking Puerto Rican man in a beige suit jacket with a gold chain supporting a sizable boxing-glove charm. His other job, he says, is running a boxing gym, where many of his strippers train.
"Hello, ladies. Are you having a good time?"
"Yes, better than we expected."
"Watch all of the dancers, and let me know which one you like, and we can arrange a lap dance. It's $20 right here at your table and $30 back in the VIP room."
"OK," we say, not thinking of taking Milton up on his offer at this juncture.
Then I start talking with the patrons to resolve the burning question of the oft-neglected female libido and to find out if La Bare is doing it for them.
First is Valerie, a blond in her early middle years who has brought her daughter to the strip club to celebrate her 19th birthday -- yes, this is the very same girl who'd received the uplifting striptease.
I asked Valerie why she came to La Bare.
"My daughter's guy friends were talking about going to topless bars to see strippers. So, we said fine, we'll find a strip club of our own. She's a really good girl."
Of course she is.
I ask, "Is this your first time in a male strip club?"
"No, I went when I was 24, but I had a different attitude then. I thought, 'Male strippers? This is bullshit. They're so full of themselves. I'm so hot. What are you doing? You should pay me to watch you. '"
In so saying, Valerie affirms the female reluctance to assume the voyeuristic role, explaining in part the reason why so few clubs cater to their voyeuristic desires.
I continue, "Do you think male strip clubs are the same as female strip clubs?"
"No, it's very different. The men here look like they're having fun. I feel bad for female strippers. Many of them are fucked-up on drugs and cocaine. They've been beaten and raped by men. I'm serious. I used to be a social worker."
Next, I talk to Summyr, age 21, and Carolyn, age 26. I ask them what they think of La Bare and strip clubs in general.
Carolyn begins, "It's like a snake. It looks slimy from far away, but when you touch it, it's not. Does that make sense? I'm sorry. It's different than anything you've ever compared it to. Not raunchy and a lot of fun."
Summyr adds: "It's great to have fun and see hot guys. I like the attention, and I'll give them some money for that."
Would you like it better if the men were fully nude?
"No," they both agree, and Summyr adds, "This way, it leaves mystery to it. I like that."
When I return to my table, my female companion looks away from the stage -- where Rodney, another chiseled black man, is starting his striptease -- and asks, "Do you think they stuff their underwear?"
I confront Milton with this question. "Absolutely not," Milton says. "You want proof? When I show you a picture of that guy up there, you're gonna crack up." He walks into the backstage area and then goes over and whispers to the stripper on stage. When he comes back, he shows me two pictures of a large, fully erect penis being serviced by a woman with braided hair.
It is a little more information than I bargained for and not nearly as arousing as Rodney's spandex-clad waist in full swing.
"How do I know that's him?" I ask.
"He's got more pictures in his locker. Do you want to see them?"
"No, I think that proof will just about do it."
Milton busts out a little rhyme: "You can call him Rodney, 'cause his rod hangs down to his knees. Call him Rodney. No wires. No trickery. You saw it all yourself."
On-stage, a new act is, um, going down. Another woman, this time a bride-to-be with a veil sticking out of the bum of her jeans, is sitting in a chair waiting for her striptease. A big white dude comes out in red shorts and a yellow superhero shirt and starts bouncing her around. He picks her up and undulates from behind as her ample bosom bounces all over the place. When he finally sets the disheveled woman back down, she says to her friends, "I don't know who to thank, but thank you."
La Bare is open only Wednesday through Saturday, but quality is rock to scissors over quantity any night of the week -- so ladies, try to avoid that randy feeling on the nights the place is closed.
As I'm leaving, Milton tells me that another La Bare (2355 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach) has a Sunday-night boxing-stripping show -- meaning that, if you're willing to take a little trip, you need endure only two lonely nights a week at home alone with your worn-out copy of Secretary and your, uh, back massager.