The Hip Strip

"What's the matter? You're in New York! You're not getting flashed? You're not getting fisted? What's wrong?" Dillon, the sharp-tongued co-host of Le Scandal (formerly known as the Blue Angel erotic cabaret), seemed genuinely puzzled that the audience was not laughing at her jokes about trench-coated tricksters and the five-finger forays of sex workers. Sonya, one of the evening's first strippers, had just left the stage after tempting us in, you guessed it, a trench coat. After glimpsing what was under the coat, my friends and I willingly parted with our money, depositing it in the hat she held out as she made her way through the crowd.

But as Dillon told what she called two of her only three jokes, her feisty outrage at the audience's not getting either one had a serious element of truth to it. It's hard to find quality sex in the city these days, and it's even harder to find a good strip show. Thank the patron saint of pussy for Le Scandal, the exotic cabaret held every Saturday evening at the Cutting Room in the Flatiron district.

The Blue Angel began in 1994, founded by former dancer Uta Hanna, who wanted a strip club where women would feel comfortable. Uta and dancer-manager Otter created a place where stripping, classic burlesque, and erotic performance art rubbed up against, and rubbed off on, one another. For all its artsiness, the Blue Angel still offered other kinds of rubbing (including lap dances) as part of its fare. To escape the fate of similar clubs in the clutches of former mayor Giuliani, the Blue Angel changed its tune (buh-bye lap dances), became an erotic cabaret (read: post-Giuliani strip club), and weathered several location changes to keep the erotic flame lit.

At its current home in the Cutting Room (19 West 24th Street; thecuttingroomnyc.com), the Blue Angel has a new name—Le Scandal—and the show is hotter and wilder than ever. Hostesses Bonnie Dunn and Dillon bring such a diverse lineup, one wonders why there isn't a year-long waiting list to get a piece of this action.

Sexy rocker chick Ammo, dressed as a nun, shed her habit to reveal pale tattooed skin, sweat socks, and sneakers while she flossed her shaved pussy with a rosary. All this while the '80s hit "Sister Christian" blared from the speakers. Natasha, hailed as the world's only female sword-swallower, danced around to Limp Bizkit before sliding dozens of sharp instruments, each longer than the one before it, down her throat. I was sitting in the front row and could see the saliva on the metal when she took them out of her mouth. The sideshow/circus freak element was well represented by Raina Tera, who put nails through her nose and darts in her back, and hula hoop expert Kalki (from the Bindlestiff Family Circus), who kept four hula hoops spinning as she took off her clothes. Dillon exclaimed, "That is the best hula strip ever!" There were also an extraordinary belly dancer, a vaudevillian magician-stripper well over 65, and public-access cable queen Miss Kitty taking it off to Carmen (when was the last time you heard opera music at Scores?). Oh, and let me not forget Miss Velocity Chyald (lead singer of the band Vulgaris), who gave an incest-inspired rant I can only describe as the most disturbing erotic performance I've seen in the last five years.

There were only two token boys—Bonnie's dance partner, whose bulging package and long legs were straight out of Bob Fosse's closet, and Flambeau, a fire-starter-slash-eater-slash-performer—but neither took his clothes off. I am not sure I wanted to see them naked, but I would love some sort of postmodern Chippendale's dancer added to the mix.

In addition to their production and managing duties, Bonnie and Dillon also strutted their stuff as part of the show. Dillon, a redheaded lanky girl, looks like the kind of chick who could've been a cheerleader or a ballerina in high school if she hadn't ended up getting pierced and becoming the bad girl she is today (and I mean bad in the best possible way). Her legs wrap around a chair as easily as silk stockings around a submissive's wrists. As MC, she coaxed an enthusiastic audience member to come to the stage and do her own tease to the tune of "Under My Skin," as a birthday gift to her boyfriend.

Bonnie does old-school, cabaret-style burlesque; she sings, she dances, and she gets naked (how many of us can master all three?). When her sexy, vintage, jade-colored gown came off, I spied the sweetest, perkiest breasts I've seen on a woman her age (don't ask, she won't tell, but trust me, it's impressive).

With the current resurgence of burlesque in America, Le Scandal still sets itself apart because each act is not only unique, but incredibly thoughtful and well executed. Although the lineup changes, the night I saw the show, there wasn't a weak performance. "We are the hard rock of burlesque, so to speak. Imagine Fellini, John Waters, and Minsky and the Folies Bergère, and Annie Sprinkle all got together and put on a show. That's Le Scandal," says Bonnie. The Le Scandal performers entertain, entice, and enrage, all the while redefining what is sexy in numerous ways. And unlike other cerebral erotic ventures, it doesn't take itself too seriously or drown in its own intelligence or political consciousness (i.e., it's still a turn-on). It's hip stripping! There was talk onstage of censorship issues, but spirits did not seem dampened a bit: Seduction, sarcasm, camp, irony, sophistication, and intellect blended into a smart stripper smoothie to whet—and satisfy—nearly any sexual appetite (unless you've got a taste for fake-boobed, bored, blond Barbies. Then, by all means, go to Scores).

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