How Much Should a Writer Reveal When Reviewing a Strip Club Steakhouse?
That was the question I pondered after a City Paper editorial meeting last week in which editor Michael Schaffer, showing off again his ridiculous ability for recall, pointed out that Frank Bruni came out of the closet with his review of the Penthouse Executive Club for the Times.
For the record, Bruni didn't exactly claim to have worn a rainbow-colored mohawk to the club. No, his language was more coy, more teasing, like the strippers who surrounded him at the Manhattan establishment:
We were strangers to such pulchritudinous territory, less susceptible to the scenery than other men might be, more aroused by the side dishes than the sideshow: underdressed, overexposed young women in the vestibule, by the coat check, at the top of the red-carpeted stairs up to the restaurant, on the stage that many of the restaurant’s tables overlook.
Then Schaffer dropped a bomb: He expected a similar, jaw-dropping revelation from my review of the Stadium Club. I knew he was joking — or at least partly joking — but there's actually an important question buried within Schaffer's semi-serious dictate: How much should a food writer reveal in a review of a strip club that serves steaks?
I mean, the subtext of such a place is to bare it all, right? For the dancers, it's their body. For the patrons, it's their desires, repressed or otherwise. For writers, it's our ability to speak honestly about our experiences.
For example: Did I get a lap dance? (No.) Did I flirt with any dancer? (No.) Did I repeatedly try to get a good look at the dancers through the windows of the Stadium Club's restaurant? (Yes.) Have I been to strip clubs before? (Yes.) Do I enjoy strip clubs? (Can you answer "no" and really be honest? The honest answer is they make me uncomfortable for lots of reasons, which makes me dislike them, but you'd have to be a block of wood not to have some neurons firing away when you enter a strip club.)
The biggest revelation I had at the Stadium Club was this: During the drive back from the club, I turned to my wife and said, in all honesty, that I find clothed women more sexy than naked ones. Don't get me wrong, the human body is gorgeous, but for me, there's something about the drape and cut of clothing that emphasizes the sexiness of the female form.
Now, I have to say, as far as strip club experiences go, you're at something of a disadvantage at the Stadium Club. When eating at the restaurant, you don't have the kind of interaction with dancers that Bruni had at the Penthouse. You won't have an experience like Bruni's:
“Are you hungry?” one of these women said, making hungry sound like an X-rated word. “Ravenous?”
Speechless was more like it. We sat down in a cocktail lounge at the front of the restaurant. A beautiful woman claimed the plush armchair opposite mine. She introduced herself. I wasn’t sure I’d heard her name correctly.
“Mahogany?” I said.
“Yes,” she purred.
I was getting my bearings. “Mahogany,” I asked, “do you know where you’re going to?”
She didn’t miss a beat, noting the reference, summoning the singer, and moving on to another of the dreamgirl’s hits. “I’m ... coming ... out!” she sang, waving her arms, wiggling her hips. Mahogany and I would get along just fine.
She said she was running low on cabernet. I took the cue and asked if I could buy her a fresh glass. “Yes,” she said. “And you can pour it on my toes.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery