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Summer's Here, You Monkeys

"We can't have a jungle going on," Kevin Waldroop says. "Bald or landing strip. Neat and trim. Nothing more than that."

Yes, we are talking about pubic hair. The tall, black-suited, blond young man is disclosing the grooming standard for Scarlett's Cabaret, a high-end strip club near the Miami-Dade/Broward County line, where he is one of the managers.

In the maroon-and-mirrored room where seven leggy women stand around with curling irons and makeup, prepping for a night on the stage, the state of one's crotch is serious business.

Karly, a girl with a broad-boned face, dark eyes, and dark wavy hair, is dressing after her shift. She shows me what she's got going on down there, which is next to nothing. "When I have time, I wax," she says, referring to the hair-removal method that is becoming more and more standard, especially in the bikini towns of South Florida. "I found out you can wax the whole thing when I was living in New York. I asked the woman [at a salon], 'Can you take more off?' She said, 'I can take the whole thing off...' You can't just go to anybody, though," she warns. "You could get bruised if they don't pull the skin right."

The pain factor can be extremely high and might seem like an unnecessary submission to feminist backlash. You know, the one that requires ladies to work and hold semipowerful positions for unequal pay but still be total sluts in the bedroom and nurturing to fragile male egos and newborns.

But it's not totally like that. People have been obsessed with pubic hair for centuries. Ripping roots from the follicles is no new phenomenon.

Some stories say that Cleopatra and her handmaids used to mix a concoction of sugar, oil, and lime juice, smear it into a paste, apply it, and then tear one another's body hair out. The modern techniques -- in which you lie down and spread your legs like a little baby, then get waxed, fanned, and powdered -- seem preferable.

Goo goo. And, the more you do it, the weaker the new hair, which means the less it hurts.

Men are not completely off the hook here, not if the Scarlett's girls have anything to say about it.

A stripper named Juliany, who has long brown hair and wears a tiny black dress, says she's been full bare for years, and for that, she wants reciprocation. "As far as male maintenance is concerned, I don't like a forest. Short, short, short, or completely bald. Make that forest a carpet, or take it all off. I'm tired of flossing my teeth. You want us to trim, honey? I want men to be trimmed."

A third stripper, Rene, who's downing food from a styrofoam plate but has a body tight as hell in a little black bikini, long black knee socks, and heels, toots her horn to the same tune. "I had sex with a guy once," she testifies, "and he had the biggest bush. He must think it looks good."

They giggle about it.

Male hair maintenance is coming into vogue. And frankly, gents, why cloak the jewels? I even found an interesting little gadget called the balltrimmer on the Internet that looks like a tube of mascara but is specifically designed to keep you shorn. Cost: $20.

Up in the booth at Scarlett's, DJ Andy Ruiz gives me his take on maintenance. "I trim because it's more hygienic for everyone. We live in Florida; it's hot."

The short, athletic-looking, dark-haired and dark-eyed man adds: "One time I was at the beach, and this woman was wearing a bikini with all her hair sticking out. I started thinking, she's really hairy and sweaty, and it's 90 degrees out. Seventies manes are really unattractive," he says, recalling retro porn with women who look like they've got Rasputin between their legs. "I can't imagine nowadays running into something like that."

Waldroop comes up to the DJ booth, and Ruiz addresses him, "Maybe we just think of it this way 'cause we're in the biz."

Good point.

So I went on a search for the norm. What do men in the real world have to say about pudendum panache?

First, I headed to the ever-packed gay bar Georgie's Alibi to get some opinions on grooming.

I came across a table of three game men in their mid-20s.

Twenty-three-year-old Chris, an adorable and energetic blond who's pierced on lip, tongue, nipples, and belly button, feels strongly about the subject. "I shave from head to toe," he said. And as for his taste, "Burly is the last thing I want. If I want a bear, I'll go back to Connecticut and go hunting.

"I shave my ass too," he added.

But Chris has been remiss in his maintenance, I learned as I stood up to go.

"I want to show you something before you leave," the saucy cutie said and pulled down his pants to reveal his slight, pleasant, though slightly downy little bum.

A man at the next table yelled, "Hey wait! I missed it. Can you make him do it again?"

I'm powerless in such matters.

Tuesday night found me cruising into the Rose and Crown Pub and Eatery on Commercial Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, located in the same parking lot as Trapeze swingers club. Surprisingly, local bands Truckstop Coffee and TIMB were playing in the back room of the large, wooden bar. I hit up a regular named Mario, a mustachioed man in his 50s with dark hair and eyes who was downing a Budweiser. Initially, he was surprised by my query but willing to talk. "I like women without the grooming. I'm being straight up with you -- I like a bush on that thing... I guess I'm the weird guy."

Next I spoke with Acid Scott, a local named for his extracurricular predilections who the pub's owner, Dean Gramenidis informed me used to do some porno. He said, "Grooming is a monkey deal, 'cause monkeys groom each other and pick each other's hair out.

"I'm pretty flexible," he explained, "but I don't like patchouli sluts with hair everywhere. Not here," he said, pointing to the upper thighs, "not armpits or legs."

Finally, I cruised downtown to the Porterhouse, a mainstream dance club where the prototype partier drinks, dances, and hooks up. That will set the standard, I thought. I asked Leo, a straight-laced, good-looking, 25-year-old man about pubic hair, and he replied: "I have no preference as long at it's not crazy. I would never tell a girl to change herself for me. I adapt myself for her."

His 22-year-old friend, who gave his name as Yoni (The sanskrit word for vagina. Is this guy fucking with me?), was a small, handsome boy with dark hair, who added to the sentiment with emphasis, "It's not about hairy or not, the vagina makes the rules. When you like the thing, when you understand it, it doesn't matter. One thing controls us. It's not legs or breasts. It is the vagina."

He says the word vagina with a sonorous lilt that makes the issue of body hair seem moot.

Perhaps there is no norm. But with the professional standards being so bare and summer cracking the thong bikini drawer, it's probably to your advantage to get in step and get shorn, plucked, picked, or otherwise bramble free -- you monkeys.

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Courtney Hambright

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