Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hunkmania - Part 2

The first bunch of ladies are a group of ten celebrating a bachelorette party. Most of the women appear to be in their mid-twenties. They’re decked out in minimal clothing, lots of sequins, strappy, metallic shoes and of course, penis paraphernalia.

“Hello ladies. Welcome to Hunkmania. Can I see your confirmation sheet?”
The leader of the pack charges up to the podium and without missing a beat announces in full long-island accented fashion, “We’re here for a bachelorette party.”

I can’t resist. I know I should. But I can’t. I take a second and slowly look them over, turn to the girl and say with probably too much sarcasm, “Really?”

This goes over their heads completely as the leader comes around the podium to my side, leans in way too closely and says in a ridiculously overdone whisper, “Uh. Who do I talk to about getting our bride on stage? The website said we can put her up on stage and embarrass the shit out of her. I don’t care how much it costs, we want her up there with one of the cutest guys. Does D’Angelo still work here? Oooooooh, he’s HOT. Can she be on stage with D’Angelo?”

Between her disgusting alcohol breath and her nasal voice, I’m not feeling very good about my evening. I muster up all of the strength I can and try my hardest not to sound condescending, “Okay, first off, do you think you could step back behind the podium?” Holding my hands up in front of me to show her that I’m feeling a little bit crowded, I step off my stool and stand up protecting my personal space.

Luckily, she backs up a few inches, but continues to rant. “But we want Deeee--Ange-AH----looooooooo.”

I’m trying to be patient, really I am. But, this is the first group of close to 200 women and I’m thinking ahead. If each group takes this long to get checked in, we’ll be here all damn night.

I let her know that all of the “on-stage” stuff is taken care of when you get inside. I also tell her that D’Angelo no longer works here, but all of the guys at Hunkmania are hot and I’m sure she won’t be disappointed.

“Well, can we look at them and choose which one we want for her?”
Okay, now I’m over it.

“Let me see your confirmation form. The quicker I get you inside the sooner you’ll be able to take care of all of this other stuff, okay?” Smiling a tight, impatient smile, I find their confirmation number on the list, give them a bunch of souvenir, Hunkmania magnets and usher them inside.

By this time, the chanting has begun. Bubbs comes inside and says, “You hear it, right?”

If I weren’t wearing mascara, I’d rub my eyes in frustration. Outside, on 14th street, there are at least 100 girls chanting in unison, “We want the Hunks! We want the Hunks!” Over and over. The inflatable penis is being passed amongst the line and an inflatable doll complete with genitalia and pubic hair, has now joined the mix. Doc, the neighborhood drunk, is dancing with the inflatable doll doing a tango of some sort up and down the line while the women are tirelessly chanting, “We want the Hunks! We want the Hunks!”

At this point, the MC of the show arrives. Lance. He’s the main man. He took D’Angelo’s place. Where I run the door, he runs the show. He’s the announcer. The host. The guy who keeps everyone pumped up and happy.

He’s a little over six feet tall, with blonde hair, a deep tan, no matter what the season is. He’s very bulky whereas some of the guys are lean and cut. Lance has more of a bodybuilder look to him. Maybe that’s because he’s always on some sort of diet pill. Stackers – a fat burner that amps you up like you’ve just had a triple espresso. Couple that with a Red Bull and you’ve got one large, hyped up Hunk. He was actually suspended a few months ago for his temper. Lance, in the midst of the Hunkmania madness one evening, told a girl to “Shut the fuck up.” He got right in her face. She was drunk. He was stressed and stacked up. She cried. He felt bad. I broke out some drink tickets for her friends. And Lance was relegated to dancer duty for two weeks.

Lance is living a dichotomous life. He’s Funeral Director by day and male stripper by night. He’s currently going to college for Funeral Direction while being groomed to take over the family business in New Jersey. He grew up learning how to embalm corpses and spends his days in school and consoling people while they plan funerals for their loved ones. It’s very Six Feet Under, but it is no joke.
Stripping started out as fun way to make some extra cash. He came to Hunkmania three years ago and was eager to learn and work hard at becoming a great dancer. He’s a pleaser, so naturally, he went from being a dancer to being the MC. Now, he’s always complaining about how he wishes he could be just a dancer again. I don’t buy it. Lance loves the drama and the power of being in charge just as much as loves being a martyr.

“Hi Hon. What the hell is going on out there?”

Turning my head to receive his kiss on my left cheek, I look at him with a raised eyebrow, “What do you mean? Those women out there are the most well-behaved, classy ladies I’ve seen in a long time.”

“Yeah, sure. Tell Doc that when they try to kill him for taking their inflatable boyfriend away from them.”
With that, he turns on his heel and says as he’s walking through the doors, “I’ve got Hunk Bucks for you. I’ll bring ‘em out later.”

“ ‘Kay!” I call back, “Can you ask one of the massage guys to come outside and work the line so these girls stop chanting?”

The madness continues.

Thankfully, things calm down a bit once the massage guy goes outside to hand out magnets and flirt with the girls giving them something to look at while they wait to come inside. The next several groups of women are hassle-free and actually very polite and funny, so I’m feeling better about the evening. Looking at the list, I’d say we’re about three-quarters of the way done and the show will only start about ten minutes late.

As I’m checking the remaining ladies in, a new guy comes out from inside the club.

“Uh, hey sweetheart. They said I could cash my hunk bucks in with you.”
As he stands there with a large wad of fake Hunkmania money in his hands, I do my very best not to show my annoyance. After all, the guys have been told over and over again that hunk bucks can only be cashed in before we open the doors and after the show. It’s too confusing to check people in, keep track of those going outside to smoke and count hunk bucks. I’m a multi-tasker, but shit, I’m not that good.

Plus, I don’t really know this guy. In fact, I don’t even know his name and obviously he doesn’t know mine because he’s gone with “sweetheart” which is kind of funny to me as I’m sure he can’t be more than 22 years old.

“Uh, what’s your name again?” I say feigning disinterest. I know I should be nicer, but I just can’t help myself.

“Rinaldo. Well, that’s my hunk name. My real name is Jeff.”

“Well, Rinaldo/Jeff, “ I say, as a group of 10 ladies walk inside. “Give me one second here. Hi Ladies, how are you? Can I see your confirmation form, please?”

Of course, they’re more interested in Rinaldo/Jeff than listening to me. “JenniFAH! JenniFAH! Where are you? Do you see this guy? He’s fuckin’ hot!” As she announces this, she is rubbing her hands all over his shoulders and chest adding a few, “mmmm’s and niiiiiiice”.

JenniFAH makes her way up to the front of the small crowd standing in front of me and throws her arms around Rinaldo/Jeff almost knocking his hunk bucks out of his hands,
“Ahhhhhhhhhh!!! You are BEAUTIFUL. FUCK, isn’t he just adORRRable. I love this place. “ She turns to her friends, “He must be new.” To me, she says with pride, “I’m a regular.” Pause. “I come here all the time.”

It can’t get much worse. Well, okay, it definitely can, but announcing you’re a regular and then feeling the need to define the meaning is pretty close to the edge of the annoyance spectrum.

Again with my tight, condescending smile, “Yeah. I know what a regular is. And being a regular you must also know that I have to get you guys inside so the show can start, right? So let’s see that confirmation form.”

As she’s organizing herself, I turn to Rinaldo/Jeff and tell him,
“Uh, listen sweetie. I can’t do your hunk bucks right now. I’m too busy. Plus,

I ‘m really only supposed to do them before we open the doors or after the show. So hold onto them, and I’ll take care of it later, okay?”

He nods and then looks like he’s about to say something, but thinks better of it. He turns and opens the door which for some reason, makes this particular group, JenniFAH’s group think they are cool to just follow him right on in.

“Excuse me. Ladies. Ladies. Hey!” I hop off my stool, yell out to Bubbs to hold the line and now I am in the club walking as fast as my high heels can carry me trying to get the attention of these women who are hanging onto Rinaldo/Jeff as he’s escorting them to a table. Thankfully, Jimmy sees all of this and stops him, “Hey man. Don’t you hear her calling you?”

I catch up with them and tell them that I haven’t checked them in fully and everyone needs to come back outside. Normally, I could check them in right there, but by my count, they are one person over what they actually paid for in advance. This will take a minute to sort out and it’s always best if I get them to come back outside to get an accurate head count. This is also where I start to feel like a camp counselor or something, rounding people up and marching them out the door. I need a drink.

Once outside, I explain to them that they only paid for 9 tickets and there are actually 10 people in the party. Somebody has to pay for the extra ticket and since it’s being purchased at the door, the price is $40 instead of $30. This goes over real well as everyone starts protesting and asking one another, “Didn’t you pay already?” “JenniFAH paid for me” “No I didn’t. I paid for me and Candace.” When all is said and done, they finally figure out who didn’t pay and when they do, the girl just looks at me a bit dumbfounded and says, “Oh. I didn’t realize I had to pay you.” At this point, it’s not even worth a smart-ass comment back.

“Thanks ladies. Now you’re all set. Enjoy the show.”

8pm and Lance comes out with his wireless microphone in hand. A sign that he’s ready to start the show.

“How many are left, Liz?”

I scan the list and count up the remaining people that have not checked in.

“We’re still waiting on a party of 18. And then a couple of parties of 6. So, overall, we’re looking at 40 more ladies. Give it 5 more minutes and we’ll see if this big party shows up.”

“Okay. Hey, can I give you my hunk bucks or should I wait until later?”
“Uh. Do you have them on you right now?” I ask, looking around as if I’m contemplating doing something illegal.

He pulls out his hunk bucks all nice and neatly separated into batches of five. I love Lance. He always does it right.

“Okay, I’ll do them, but don’t tell anyone. I just gave one of the new guys a hard time.”

“Fuck ‘em. I’m management and so are you. We can do whatever we want. And if any of the guys gives you a problem, let me know. I’ll take care of it.”

Lance, in all his glory, loves to remind people he’s in charge. Me, I’m happy to hand it all off to him whenever I can. Though, once the show starts, I’m the one people come to. If I were on a power trip, I’d love it. But this is a place that I come to make fairly easy money. I could care less about the power crap.

“Just remind everyone to separate their bucks into increments of five.” I say, handing him $200 in real money.

Lance counts his real money and turns to go back into the club.

“Thanks hon. I’ll give it five more minutes and then I’m starting.”
As Lance heads back into the club, Bubbs comes in from outside and sits back down on the stool.

“You hungry?”

“Not yet. Maybe after everyone’s inside.”

A girl peeks her head in from the outside doorway and says, “Has the show already started?”

Bubbs looks at me and I know what he’s thinking. I just know. Annoyed, he looks at the girl and says, “Did you not see the rope outside?”
She shifts her weight in discomfort and says, “Yeah, but nobody was outside, so I just figured.”

“Yeah, you figured.” He looks at me and just to make the girl feel foolish, he keeps looking at me while he speaks to her, “Go back outside. And I’ll be with y’all in a minute.”

Once she goes, he shakes his head and says, “Man, sometimes, I hate these women. It’s like they think they can do whatever they want. I’m just gonna sit here for another minute. Just to make them wait.”

I smile because I know. “I feel your pain baby. Let me get us some drinks. Apple Martini?”

Bubbs’ face lights up. “Yeah. But tell her no sour mix. I hate that shit.”

Inside, the energy is amping up. The first batch of women are most likely two drinks into their night. The waiters are running around like crazy. The music is pumping. The bartender has her head down as she’s making a batch of 6 Apple Martini’s and 6 Cosmopolitan’s. Without even looking up she acknowledges my presence.

“Hey baby!! How ya doin’? We didn’t even get a chance to catch up tonight.”
I lean my elbows on the bar so she can hear me. “I know. I was late. We’ll talk before the next show.”

She looks up as she’s handing over the dozen drinks just made. “Cool.”

“Can I get an Apple Martini for Bubbs and my usual?”

“Sure. And, don’t tell me, Bubbs doesn’t want sour mix, right?”


She makes the drink for him in record time. This girl is a pro. She’s been bartending in the clubs for about ten years, eight of which have been at 2i’s.

“Hey Liz, Ketel One and soda, right?”

“Yeah. Splash of cranberry – “

“I know. I know, “ she says smiling, “splash of cranberry on the side.”

As she’s handing me the drinks, someone taps me on the shoulder from behind. It’s Bubbs.

“We got a huge group of ladies outside and one of them doesn’t have ID. You better come out.”

“Okay.” I hand him the drinks and leave $20 on the bar for the bartender, making sure I get out of there before she hands it back to me in protest.

I come out into the vestibule and as I’m adding just a touch of cranberry juice to my drink I ask Bubbs,

“Is this the party of 18?”

“Yeah. They’re all pretty wasted. One girl can’t find her ID. She’s looking in the limo for it right now.”

I take a sip of my drink and exhale with satisfaction

Outside, in front of the club is the biggest limousine I have ever seen. It looks like someone took one end of a Hummer and stretched it as far as they could, making it at least 20 feet in length. It’s white, of course. Tinted windows. Tiny yellow lights trim the bottom of the vehicle all around, giving it an almost theater-like vibe. The doors are open and besides the thumping bass coming from inside, there are flashing purple strobe lights, a disco ball hanging from the center of the ceiling and little red lights lining the black, velvet interior.

Twenty or so girls are all hovering around the vehicle. Some heads are peering inside, while others are smoking cigarettes. They are all outfitted in typical Hunkmania garb. Strappy, high-heeled shoes in mostly metallic colors. Tight jeans, short shirts with bare backs and excess skin hanging out in places not meant to be seen. Lots of large earrings and necklaces. And, as if they needed more, they are all wearing hot pink feather boas around their necks. Priceless.

They finally gather themselves and make their way to the ropes, where Bubbs and I are standing. The leader of the pack is clearly wasted as the stumbles up to the ropes.

“Is this HUNK A MANIA?”

Bubbs, bless his heart, just looks at her and points to the 3 by 5 foot sign that has “HUNKMANIA” written on it in bold, black lettering.

“We’re celebrating a bachelorette party and we’re from New Jersey and we want to make sure we get good seats and we want to get our girl up on stage with the dancers. They said we could do that when I spoke to someone on the phone. ‘Ter!! Ter!! TER---RY. Get ova here.’ Who’s the guy we talked to on the phone?”

Terry is smoking a cigarette as she makes her way up to the front to stand next to the leader. Blowing smoke out of her mouth as she talks , she says, “Fuck if I remember. Timmy. Tommy. Jonny. Something like that.”

At this point, the smoke has formed a small cloud right around Bubbs and myself. I step closer to her and say, “Do you mind not smoking over here?” Terry rolls her eyes and puts out the cigarette melodramatically. “Can we go inside already?”

Bubbs steps up and says, “Yeah. I just need that one girl’s ID.”

The leader puts her long, french manicured nails through her hair for effect and leans in closer to Bubbs and myself.

Here it comes.

“Yeah, well ya see, one of us, the bride’s sister, forgot her ID at the hotel.
She’s definitely 21. Shit, she’s got two kids. MAIR! Show her your kids.”

I jump in. “Uh, no that’s not really necessary, thanks.” I scan the group, “Which one is she?”

The leader yells which is totally unnecessary as we’re all pretty close to one another. “MAIR---EEEE. Come up here. Come on.”

Mary makes her way up towards me and Bubbs. Bubbs looks at me and already I know what he’s thinking. This girl is NOT 21. Definitely not. I start shaking my head because I know this is going to get ugly.

I address Mary in a matter of fact way. “So, you don’t have ID?”
“No. I think I left it at the hotel.”

“Where’s the hotel?” I ask.

The leader interrupts, again at the top of her lungs, somebody give this girl a valium. “Come on, she’s got kids. She’s married. MAIR! Show her your rings.”
Mary obeys like a small child and holds up her rings.

Shrugging my shoulders, I drop the bomb. “Pretty ring. But, I’m sorry I can’t let you in without ID.”

The protests begin and suddenly, I’ve got 18 girls all talking at once – “this is crazy.” “she’s 21.” “she doesn’t even drink” “so what? She’s not coming in with us?” “this is total bullSHIT” “that woman is just being an asshole”

At this point, Bubbs steps in. “Ladies! Ladies! Listen. She’s right. You can’t come in without ID. It’s not up to us. It’s the law. If the cops come, and they see that she’s been let into the club without ID, we get fined $10, 000.”

This is met with surprise and disbelief.

The leader speaks to me and the rest of her group, “So what the hell are we going to do?”

There are so many opportunities in my night to be a complete asshole. The culture is ripe for it. However, I always try as best as I can, to be nice – even when I’m dealing with people that are well, less than polite.

At this moment, I wish I didn’t care about the law and the fines. As much as I despise the whole bachelorette party thing, I respect that this is a big night for people. How horrible is that, one of them, can’t come inside? And I stand there wishing I were the type to look the other way and say, “oh screw it. Just let her in.” Danny would do it. The ongoing joke between us is he’s the good cop and I’m the bad cop. This is why 2i’s is always getting raided by the cops – because Danny’s a softie.

Sure, I could go and get him and let it be his decision, but I don’t. Maybe I’m trying to prove something to these people. Or maybe I’m just too tired to be nice. And as badly as I feel about their party being potentially ruined, who the hell goes out these days without an ID? Plus, I’m not so sure this girl really is 21. So, I make a choice, right then and there.

“Listen,” I say to Mary with compassion, “I can’t let you in without ID. I just can’t. Here’s what I suggest you do. Let the rest of the party go inside. Have your limo driver shoot you back up to your hotel. It’s in Times Square, right? We’re on 14th street. You’ll be back here in 30 minutes tops. When you bring back your ID, I’ll get all of you a round of drinks on me and you’ll have a good time. Does that sound fair?”

Defeated, she looks at me and nods. The leader goes ballistic. “This is BULLSHIT. YOU (pointing with her manicured finger) are a BITCH. You’re just giving us a hard time. I should kick your fuckin’ ass. Your RUINING our night. FUCK you. FUCK you.”

Okay. Now, it has reached a whole new level. Bubbs sees this and tells me to get inside. As I’m walking inside, she’s yelling, “Oh sure! Walk away you fuckin’ CUNT. WAWK A----WAY. You afraid to get your ass kicked?”

Bubbs handles the situation and as the girl is getting back into the limo to retrieve her ID from the Hotel, he lets the group inside. I have taken the opportunity to go inside and down into the office to take a minute to recover and gather myself. Drink in hand, I walk into the office and fall back onto the couch.

Danny, still counting money, looks up and says,
“You okay, luv?”

Exasperated, I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. “Yeah. I just got called a bitch and a cunt by a girl who has acrylic nails, a fake tan and really bad highlights in her hair.”

Danny sits up stiffly and says protectively, like an older brother, “What? Sillywanker. Ya didn’t let her inside, now, did ya?”

“Yeah. Bubbs took care of it. It’s fine. She’s drunk and I wasn’t letting her friend in because she didn’t have ID. Blah, blah, blah.”

Danny sighs and goes back to counting and sorting twenties and fifties, “I don’t know how ya do it every week, luv. I’m knackered out just watching it on the cameras. Let me know if you need me to kick her silly arse out.”

“Thanks. I’m gonna head back up there. We all set up down here for the second show check-in?”

Upstairs, the show is just getting started. “Ladies! Welcome to Hunkmania!” Lance bellows into the wireless microphone as he makes his way out to the center of the dance floor. He’s got women on either side of him stacked up in the carpeted bleachers, screaming, cheering and waving their arms with enthusiasm.

“Before we get started, I’d like to get everyone ready for a night you’ll never forget, though we have one very important rule here at Hunkmania.” He pauses for effect. “Ladies, always remember, WHAT HAPPENS AT HUNKMANIA STAYS AT HUNKMANIA!”

The crowd erupts as Lance exits center stage and the lights go out. This sends the crowd into a frenzy as the women start stamping their feet, alternating between screams of “Woooooooooo” and “Yeah Babeeeee!”

The DJ starts the Hunkmania song. Yes, there is a song. It’s an original. The lyrics were written by the owner of Hunkmania as a rap, which has been recorded over some random hip-hop beat.

"...smack it up, flip it, rub it down...
Its the H-U-N-K and we're ready to play
Hunk mania we get naked every day
We're gonna take it off
And show you what we got
We're gonna take it off
Gonna make you feel hot"

I try to avoid this part of the show whenever possible. The cheese factor is just too much for me. There are at least 200 women in the room, all bopping their heads along to a song about male strippers. The worst part is that if I do catch the song, it sticks in my head and haunts me for the rest of the night. I’ve even caught myself humming after I leave the club only to realize in horror that it’s the Hunkmania song.

Four of the dancers come out onto the dance floor. This is the big, choreographed opening number. But these guys really can’t dance. How funny is that? Male strippers who can’t really dance! Some of them try and some of them either don’t know they can’t dance or they don’t care. Four men, all at least six feet tall, out in the middle of the dance floor in “Certified Hunk” tank tops (which they will each rip off themselves at the peak of the number) moving their bodies in unison to the Hunkmania song a la ‘N Sync or something. The only one who can really dance is Joey and it’s a shame because his coordination just makes the lack thereof in the others more apparent.

Here’s the best part of all. Nobody seems to care. The women are not here to see skill and expertise. They are here to see gorgeous men take their clothes off. And like kids at a magic show, they are mesmerized. They’re not thinking about how Tony just turned to the right while the three other guys turned to the left. Nobody has ever come up to me at the end of the number to complain about how Shawn looks like he’s got two left feet. No. These guys are hot. If people wanted synchronized dance, they’d go see a Broadway show, I guess.

For me, it’s just too painful to watch. I’d much rather go and sit with Bubbs outside and bullshit.

As I turn to make my exit, Lance taps me on the shoulder. I turn around and he signals me to wait for one second by putting up his index finger. From there, he glides out onto center stage.

“Ladies! Let’s here it for the men of HUNKmani-aaaaaaa!!”

The crowd goes wild screaming their heads off and waving their arms.

“I can’t hear you ladies!!” Lance bellows into the microphone, egging them on even more. “Okay, okay. Before we bring out our first Hunk, I’m going to split you up into two sides, yes ladies, that’s right. The ladies to my right are my orgasm side!” More screams and cheers erupt from the right side of the room. Lance steps over to the other side of the audience, sweeping his arm out towards them. “And this side. This side is my horny side.” One woman stands up in this crowd, both arms straight up in the air, flexed, screaming, “YEAUhhhhhh!” She looks like she just scored the winning goal in a soccer game or something.

Lance makes his way over to me, while still talking to the crowd. “Okay, ladies. We’ve got our orgasm side and our horny side. Let’s see which side is hotter!!”

Like a dancer, not missing a beat, he screams into the microphone, “Let me hear my orgasm section!!” The women go ballistic, screaming, cheering, stomping their feet. He lets this go on long enough to turn to me.

“I hear some girl went crazy on you outside. You alright?” To the crowd, “How about my horny side?” Who knew the enthusiasm could escalate any higher than the first group, but sure enough, the decibel level raises as there is more screaming, more cheering and more stomping.

“I’m fine. It’s just one of those nights.” I scream to Lance, getting so close to him I wonder if I should have put a piece of gum in my mouth.

He turns back to me. “Okay, hon. As long as you’re okay, I’m okay. Now let me get these bitches under control.” And with that, he slides away back onto the dance floor. “Ladies, I told you, we’ve got it all here at Hunkmania. Right now, making his debut at Hunkmania from Boston, let’s give it up for AWWWWW---S--TINNNNNN!!”

I turn and make my way back towards the door. Bubbs’s standing just inside the club at the far end of the bar, with a drink for me in one hand and a drink for himself in the other.

Bubbs cocks his head to one side and looks at me with serious concern.

“You alright? “ He puts our drinks down and gives me a hug. My 5’ 6 ½”, 118 pound body engulfed in his 275 pound frame – quite a sight.

“I’m fine. It’s just amazing to me how crazy these people are.”
Taking a sip of my drink I say, “Hey, what time is it?”

He looks down at his watch, which seems entirely too small for his oversized wrist. “Time for you to hit the bathroom before it’s too late.”

Snapping to attention, I say, “Seriously? Oh shit. I better get down there.” I put my drink down on the bar. “I’ll be right back.”

Normally, I don’t need someone to remind to use the bathroom. However, the bathrooms at the club are downright disgusting. And that’s when they are clean. The bathrooms have seen everything from vomit to urine to semen to who knows what else. Even when they are clean, I am grossed out and reluctant to use them. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go. This is why it’s important to pee before 9pm – always. After 9pm, people get wind of the bathrooms on the lower level. Once they do, it’s all over. You’d think that men would be the worst offenders and a practically all-female crowd would make for better bathroom conditions. Nope. I’m here to tell you, women are slobs. Especially women, who’ve been drinking and are determined to pee as quickly as possible so they can get back to the show.
Squatting over the toilet, the ceiling above me shakes. It sounds like a war zone as 200 pairs of feet stomp with excitement as Austin starts to take off his clothes. Once I’m finished, I head back upstairs to retrieve my drink. Bubbs is still stationed at the bar just inside the interior doors.

He hands me my drink and the lockbox full of hunk bucks. “Lance says people need to buy hunk bucks.”

I make my way back towards the main event with drink and hunk bucks in hand. I notice all the guys are standing around watching Austin’s routine. This strikes me odd as they usually wait downstairs until it’s their turn to perform. But the guys are like mesmerized. Craning their necks, standing in obscure corners completely entranced by Austin’ performance. Now, I’m curious. I assume my hunk buck position just at the end of the bar where I can also see the show.

And what a show it is. Austin, who’s real name I don’t even know, is wearing a silver glittered tuxedo jacket – complete with top hat and tails. He’s wearing a mask that looks like something out of Cirque du Soleil and the best part of all – he’s like 5 feet tall! He’s not really dancing. He’s performing. The music he’s chosen has been professionally mixed and it’s obvious that he’s put a lot of work into his routine. I still don’t really know what he looks like as his mask covers his face and his clothes are still on.

“He’s really good isn’t he?” an envious voice says behind me. “I hear he used to be a Chippendale. Man, he’s good.”

It’s Joey talking, but his eyes are on Austin. I can’t believe how enamored he is by this guy. In fact, ALL of the dancers appear to be just as impressed. K.C. and

Lance stand off to the side whispering to one another in a way that just screams of envy. Shawn watches from the side – he’s squatting down on the floor concentrating as if he’s taking mental notes.

I’m not impressed. Call me cynical, but this guy is five feet tall! That’s not sexy. That’s not exciting. That’s bizarre. And compared to all of the other guys, this one sticks out like a freak at a traveling carnival.

“He’s okay. I like his music.” I say as I move back to the bar to organize the hunk bucks.

Joey looks at me as if I crazy. “Are you kidding? I hear he’s got like six different routines. You should see the suitcase he brought with him. He’s even got a guy who custom makes his g-strings. That’s the real deal, man.”
I decide to leave this alone. I can’t engage in stripper envy. Though it’s worth noting that there hasn’t been stripper envy of this magnitude for a long time. The last time the guys were falling all over themselves with envy was when one of the dancers, a legend in the business, joined Hunkmania. Safire – real name Antoine  apparently a big deal in the male stripper world. He was pretty hot, as long as he didn’t speak. The best part of having Safire around was his assistant. Yes – assistant. Though, I’m not really sure what his assistant did other than roll Safire’s suitcase around for him. This sent the guys into severe stripper envy as they all aspired to have an assistant. I thought it was hysterical that a grown man could have another grown man around just to help him dress. Safire’s notoriety took things up a notch at Hunkmania. The guys tried a little bit harder. The fact that Safire had a strong following gave Hunkmania a kind of credibility. I just remember that I could never understand a damn word Safire said.

As Austin finishes his routine, I’m struck by two things. Austin looks like a cartoon character. He’s got brown hair and very unexciting features. His height, or lack thereof is a problem for me. His body is average. He looks like a muskrat. I don’t think I’ve ever really even seen a muskrat, but that’s the word that pops into my mind as I look at him. The other thing is that his set was really long. Very telling. I’ve seen this before. I bet this guy is a legend in his own mind. In fact, I’d put money on it.

Lance continues to keep the party going. “Ladies! Before we bring out our next Hunk, I’m going to call a few names and when I do, I want them to report to the center of the dance floor. If I call your name it means that someone has purchased a hot seat for you. YOU are coming up here to get up close and personal with our next Hunk.” The crowd erupts yet again, into enthusiastic cheers as the anticipation is palpable. “Don’t be shy. Remember the rule here at Hunkmania.” He pauses and gets closer to the microphone for effect. “What happens at Hunkmania…….” He points to the crowd to signal their input.

The crowd doesn’t miss a beat as they all scream in unison, “STAYS AT HUNKMANIA!”
A hot seat is something extra that can be purchased for the bahcelorette or birthday girl. It’s advertised as a way of giving the guest of honor, “special attention” or more simply put – it’s a way to embarrass the shit out of her as she is seated with three other women in the center of the dance floor while the dancer performs his set. Throughout his set, the dancer will focus on one woman at a time, sometimes picking them up, or laying them down on the ground and air-humping them in time to the music. Other times, he’ll take two women and get in between them while he guides their arms up and around him resembling one sick group hug.
The women in the audience eat this shit up. The women in the hot seats mostly enjoy it. But there are those that are mortified by the whole special attention factor. The key to getting the most attention possible, of course, is about how many hunk bucks and/or dollar bills the person has attached to them. When a hot seat is purchased and the lucky lady’s name is called, she sits down in a chair on the dance floor while her friends stick dollar bills all over her. They put bills everywhere: in her hair, her cleavage, her pockets, the zipper of her jeans. Anywhere they can stick a bill, they do.

“Doris. Can I get Doris up here on center stage, please?” Lance is arranging each of the women in their respective hot seats while their friends flock around them affixing hunk bucks and dollar bills to every place they can.

As I’m handing out hunk bucks, Lance walks over to me. “Uh, hey just so you know. We’ve got a really drunk girl in the house. I told Jimmy not to serve her any more alcohol.”

Perfect. “Okay. Tell him though, if she looks like she’s gonna be sick, to have Bubbs get her out of here. We don’t need to have a yakking episode out on the dance floor or anywhere in the club for that matter.”

Lance nods in agreement and gets back on the microphone. “Here we go, Ladies! Let me here my horn---eee side!” The horny side goes wild. “And how about those orgasms in the house.” Screams and cheering come from the designated orgasm side of the room.

Next up is K.C. He’s beautiful. Tall, like 6’7”, lean, but muscular, very dark skin, bald head – very hot. Unfortunately, he knows it and this contributes to his lack of personality. Although, I’ve actually had some decent conversation with him over the years. He’s always kept to himself, which has earned him respect from the other guys But lately, he seems to be too cool, even for himself – walking into the club and not saying hello to anyone. His mystique is all bullshit to me. K.C. and I had a moment years ago and after that, I realized this is a guy who’s never really had to work very hard for anything. He’s always gotten by on his looks so why try to cultivate his personality?

Now, he and I play this little game week after week. He comes to the club and basically ignores everyone, including me for most of the night. It’s only towards the end of the night, after he’s danced, walked around in his g-string rubbing up against women for money, does he decide to have a conversation with me. It’s comical because it’s the same thing each week. I’ll be packing up my stuff getting ready to leave while K.C. is changing back into his street clothes. The show is over. Well, at least upstairs it is. In the locker room it’s just beginning.
K.C. will nod his chin in my direction in lieu of addressing me directly. “So, uh, you goin’ out after this?”

Some nights I play along, just for the ego factor. “Um. I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet.”

“Do you wanna do something?” he’ll ask, still not really looking at me directly.

“Whadja have in mind?” I ask knowing full well what he’s talking about.

He’ll then start to shuffle around uncomfortably and say something like, “We could get a beer.” Translation: “We could drink a beer upstairs for free and then go back to my place where I can use you to help me release all of this pent up sexual energy that has built up all night long from being rubbed and touched by strange women.”

No thanks. What I came to realize a long time ago is that male strippers are probably the most dysfunctional when it comes to sex. They’re so used to dry-humping women and simulating sex that when it comes down to the real deal, they’re completely absent and incapable of connecting on any level of intimacy.

Back out on the dance floor, Doris is having a blast. She’s completely into the special attention she’s getting from K.C. as she continues to replenish the hunk bucks he takes out of her cleavage. Each time he goes in to get the money, she tilts her head back, closes her eyes in sheer ecstasy and grabs the back of his head shoving it into her breasts. Poor K.C..

The vodka has kicked in and I’m feeling a bit more relaxed. I’m almost enjoying myself as I watch Doris and the rest of her clan high-five one another as K.C. finishes his set and she goes back to her regular seat.

After another round of hot seat assignments and more hunk buck sales, Lance stands in the middle of the dance floor and introduces Joey – stripper name: “Chris”. The lights go out and the theme from military boot camp cues up. “Yo left. Yo left. Yo left, right, left.” Joey comes out wearing army fatigues. I like Joey’s music and it’s not painful watching him dance because he can dance. He has presence. His head is shaved and he’s got a natural tan skin tone, which accentuates his green eyes. I think he’s half latin and half American, but whatever he is, he knows how to work what he’s got. His body is in incredible shape, though he’s one of the more neurotic ones (about it) in the bunch. Thankfully, he doesn’t have the temper thing going on like Lance.

There’s just something about him that really draws you in. I think it’s his passion. He loves to dance. He loves to perform. And amongst all of these guys, he stands out as having the most energy simply because he’s having fun. The crowd responds to him as per usual tonight. He takes one of the hot seat girls out of her chair and eases her onto the floor face up, so she’s lying on her back. Standing over her, perfectly timed to the music, there’s a dramatic pause and he chooses this moment to rip his pants off  which are held together with Velcro seams  in one full swoop. The crowd is on their feet yelling, screaming and waving their arms around like their at some sort of political protest. Joey stands over the woman on the floor and slowly squats down so his groin is directly over her face and again, in perfect time to the music he gyrates up and down dramatically making it appear like he’s sitting on her face. Unbelievable.

In spite of myself, I’m smiling though it’s more from a place of incredulous wonder about why this is so exciting to women. Still, I’m also slightly amused. Or maybe I’m just getting drunk.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see K.C. approaching. He’s wearing nothing but a red g-string and motorcycle boots and in the semi-darkness of the club, it’s hard to make him out being that his skin is so dark. He’s definitely coming my way. Great. Here we go. Let the games begin.

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