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.
Gold Rush, 29 NE 11th St, Miami; 305-358-9848.
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.
The polecats here follow the three-songs-and-out formula but perform on elevated platforms just a few feet from patrons, providing a wormhole view of their charms.
Mary Anne, a Latin seductress with baked-bean nipples and buttery hips, left the crowd howling when she grabbed a spinning trapeze attached to the ceiling and whirled like a dervish.
Ceecee, a bubble-butt brunet boasting mouthwatering breasts and luxurious locks framing her fetching face, was by far the sauciest performer at any of the clubs. With dick-throbbing pirouettes and shameless eye contact, she left male onlookers slavering like idiots.
Tucked in a strip of industrial warehouses on the outskirts of Coral Gables, the Alley Cat offers ladies who range from a handful of hotties to girls you just want to slip a buck to and pray they leave you alone.
This was the most couples-friendly of the three clubs, with several pairs enjoying the action. And plenty of well-heeled professional types were buzzing the bar.
Alley Cat offers valet parking, has a happy hour from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. with discounted drinks, and also has a menu with burgers and salads in the $6 to $8 range. It's open until 5:00 in the morning most days.
The place is spacious and clean, with a large stage in the center of the room featuring a black curtained backdrop sprinkled with a constellation of glittering white and red lights and the club's name emblazoned in bright blue.
One of the dancers a University of Miami MBA student with a peaches-and-cream complexion and corn-fed curves asked patrons to stuff their tips between her breasts.
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A Brazilian dancer, decked out in dominatrix gear, looked like Betty the Ugly turned swan. Sporting nerdy eyeglasses, a leather corset, and platform leather boots, she was sexy as hell.
The show stealer was Jacky "La Cubana." The guitar-shape stripper with silver-dollar-size areolas gyrated her culo onstage as if someone had wedged a Roman candle between her cheeks.
None of these clubs boasted acts one would confess to his priest about. And after a few drinks, a lap dance, or a visit to the VIP room, a pilgrim and his wallet will soon be parted. (ATMs conveniently located on premises should offer a clue.)
At Gold Rush, one of the tired dancers summed it up best. Armani, who began peeling at age seventeen in North Dakota and has come a long way from the badlands, sounded like a Wharton School of Business grad after descending from the stage. "We are having a very hard time making money," the single mother said. "The economy is in a downward spiral, and people are trying to stretch their incomes as far as they can. Who knows how long these types of clubs might last."