By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Our first stop: Phenomenon, a strip club sports bar combo. Before we passed through the metal detector, our doorman asked us for ID. Fifty feet away, another thick-necked bouncer shook his head at us, then at Mr. Doorman, who explained: "You're gonna think it's discrimination, but it's not. It's the owner's policy: no unaccompanied women." To give him a second chance, I then identified myself as a Voice columnist and told him that I would report his refusal.
"Yeah, you can print that. And say that Raul didn't let you in. That way my boss knows I was doin' my job."
One bouncer told me that single women don't get into strip clubs because the management assumes they are sex workers looking for clients, and the club could get busted for prostitution. Another manager told me that women aren't allowed in because they may be hunting for their husbands. I think the policy is clearly intended for the comfort of the male clientele. In a strip club, to be a woman who is not for sale upsets the balance of men-as-buyers and women-for-purchase.
We headed toward the 59th Street Bridge, where there are three clubs close to one another. Outside Goldfingers, we recruited two guys to "accompany" us$40 for the male escorts, $10 each at the door, and we were in.
In its heyday, Goldfingersthen located on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hillswas one of the most popular strip clubs. The mayor held a press conference on its steps to announce its closing as a victory over sin and sleaze. The fact that Goldfingers reopened in a different location a month ago is a testament to the enduring spirit of the sex industry: underneath the steel girders of the elevated N train in Long Island City, a puffed-up phoenix rises from the ashes to spread its wings and dance again.
The parking lot was crowded, but the place appeared to be empty. Then we saw a thick velvet curtain with two signs over it: THE ENTERTAINERS WHO PERFORM IN THIS PORTION OF THE CLUB ARE NOT EMPLOYEES OF THE CLUB and ENTERTAINERS ARE ONLY PERMITTED IN THE SPORTS BAR OR CIGAR CAFE TO EAT OR BY CUSTOMER REQUEST ONLY. NO EXCEPTIONS. Symbols of the impact of Giuliani's sex war. Because Goldfingers is near a church, it has to abide by the 60/40 rule. The 60/40 rule is a way for a strip club to legally remain in an area where it is less than 500 feet from a "sensitive receptor" (i.e., a school or place of worship). Sixty percent of the space must be dedicated to nonadult activities; that explains the full dinner menu, cigar bar, pool table, big-screen TV, and espresso bar. The 40 percent that everyone comes for is behind the curtain.
For a Wednesday night, there were enough customers, and the dancers worked them all. The girls were pretty, engaging, half of them natural, the rest silicone-enhanced. No one looked too drugged out or desperate, which always depresses me. We felt comfortable there; no one was leering or overly concerned about our presence. Some of the women seemed genuinely glad we were there, and they sat and talked with us. We met Coco, who did a table dance for Patricia and told us about her girlfriend, who's also a stripper; Angel, a Russian beauty with a pierced septum, who was wearing a blue wig and silver dress; Kitty, the mother of a three-month-old, who was nervous about dancing again because of her slightly bulging tummy and stretch marks.
After only 20 minutes, a manager came over: "So I heard you're the girls from The Village Voice." When I asked him how he knew, he said, "I just know everything."
He launched into a tirade about Giulianihe clearly had a lot to get off his chestand I felt for the guy because he's angry, frustrated, just wants to run a strip club in New York City. He talked about undercover cops coming in every week, all the paperwork and rules. Meanwhile, I missed Angel doing her three songs onstage. He rambled on about statewide zoning policies, but I was there to see a girl shake her butt.
I wanted my girlfriend to have the full strip-club experience, complete with a private dance. She liked a woman we had seen when we first walked inred dress and lipstick, long dark hair, nice round ass, black spiked heels with straps that wrapped all the way up her legs. We described her to one of the VIP guys, but he brought out another woman. This one was dressed in pink, had light brown curly hair, big fake boobs, and the culpritthe same strappy shoeswhich explained the confusion. Red said she felt bad when the guy asked her, "Is this the one?" She didn't want to reject the girl, so she said, "She's fine." The dancer took her dress and bra off, danced in front of my girlfriend, but didn't get near her or her lap. You can't really get a lap dance anymore, according to the management, only a table dance. Red didn't think it was too big a deal, but she doesn't know what a lap dance was like in the old days, where a girl might actually rub up against you. (FYI: Even if one of her sensitive receptors had gotten rubbed, if I say so, Goldfingers would get busted.)