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During the Nineties, a visit to one of South Florida's strip clubs made for a rip-snorting time. From seedier dives such as the Bottoms Up on SW Eighth Street to the wildly popular Porky's in Hialeah, freewheeling floozies ratcheted up their repertoires with raunchy antics that engaged the audience in their performances and drove crowds wild.
At the Bottoms Up back then, what the girls lacked in looks they often made up for in low-octane pyrotechnics: Dancers would pour lighter fluid onto their nipples, ignite the stuff, and twirl their bosoms like fiery pinwheels and then ask some lucky Joe to douse the flames with whipped cream.
At Porky's, it was common for the peelers to drag a child's inflatable swimming pool onstage, fill it with Mr. Bubble, and invite audience members to soap them with a sponge.
Bare Necessity, 9100 S Dixie Hwy, Miami; 305-670-2373.
Alley Cat, 3875 Shipping Ave, Miami; 305-446-8346.
Angel, a busty black porn star visiting from Atlanta, once took the stage carrying a duffel bag and wearing Lucite heels and a Hawaiian shirt. As the surf anthem "Wipeout" blared from the speakers, Angel pulled water guns from the bag and passed them to patrons perched on stools around the rectangular stage. As the music crescendoed, she bent over and grabbed her ankles, offering her bull's-eye as a target to giddy snipers in the crowd. Spectators competed to fill Angel up as if they were trying to win a stuffed toy at a country-fair shooting gallery. It was like they were squirting into a clown's mouth and racing to see who would pop the balloon sprouting from its head.
During New Times's recent visit to several strip clubs across town, much of the action we encountered lacked imagination by comparison.
In downtown Miami at Gold Rush, one of the city's largest flesh emporiums, there were plenty of relatively attractive girls almost one per customer.
Located across the street from Club Space, Gold Rush is the only strip joint in town open 24 hours and is usually packed to the rafters until the wee hours on weekends.
Inside, a bar runs along the entire length of a wall, and several TV sets are tuned in to sports. VIP rooms run $125 for a half-hour and $225 for a full hour. Table dances cost $10, and lap dances are $25 per song. The cover charge ranges from $15 to $20, depending on how busy the place is.
Gold Rush serves typical bar food in the $6 to $12 range, complemented with steaks, pork chops, and pasta dishes. Beers are $6, and drinks start at $8. It also has a full bottle service, with Jack Daniels listed at $300 and a bottle of Cristal running $550.
The main bar's milky Lucite top is lighted from beneath and covered in cigarette burns; one burn mark that appeared to be moving turned out to be a scurrying cockroach. A smiling barkeep smashed it with his hand and took a drink order without missing a beat.
Passion, a reed-thin Hispanic dancer wearing silver bangles on one arm and a pink flower in her hair, immediately asked to be bought a drink, advising that a businessman's buffet was complimentary with a two-drink minimum.
The prime rib wasn't bad, and the drinks were potent, but the talent onstage often lacked energy. Some girls appeared more focused on convincing customers to partake of a private performance.
Near a table closer to the stage, a statuesque, mocha-skinned dancer who sported a smoothly shaved pelt and a pink top she never removed caught the eye but moved lazily, yawning while she swayed from a pole. After she finished her act (the dancers typically disrobe during three songs and then leave the stage to collect tips), Passion took the stage.
The sultry Cuban-Puerto Rican dancer moved her hips as if blessed with an extra set of ball bearings. She shimmied up one of the poles that rose to the roof of the cavernous space, almost disappearing from sight. Once at the very top, Passion parted her legs in a wishbone split and slid down the pole as if responding to a fire alarm.
Jamilla, a Salma Hayek body double using a silky curtain of raven hair to hide her puglike features, took the stage wearing a red mesh outfit and black stiletto heels. She moved like petrified wood, going through a variety of stilted poses before performing a grand finale that raised the bile to the craw. To cap her act, Jamilla slithered sidewinderlike on the stage, dragging the nubs of her implants across the filthy floor. The wiggling bar cockroach came to mind.
Down south, Bare Necessity is one of those neighborhood grind joints mostly frequented by regulars who know the girls by name. It is small but fastidiously well kept and features a stage off to the side, a lozenge-shape runway, and four poles inside the rectangular bar.
The place exudes a friendly and intimate vibe, with dancers and patrons applauding after performances and the girls making the rounds after their sets, collecting tips without getting pushy.
Drinks are cheap: $5 for a cocktail and $4.50 a beer, with two-for-one liquor shots from noon to midnight, and the bar is open until 6:00 a.m. Admission is free if you are drinking age, but a $25 cover charge applies to those ages 18 to 20. Plus there is a two-drink minimum per hour for the barely legal (water, juice, or soft drinks at $4.50 a pop), and tipping is strictly enforced. No food is served, but you do get a basket of popcorn at the bar. There is a VIP room, and lap dances cost $25.