The first customer of the night, a friendly guy with a head of neat cornrows, was a prophet. “Should be busy,” he told the bartender. “The Republican convention’s here. There’s a lot of cats in town looking for a little entertainment.”
Sure enough, a few hours later the delegates began to trickle in. The first group I waited on told me they were from D.C. A mix of young, attractive men and women, they seemed more interested in flirting with each other—”I’m going to make sure I sit right across from you,” a man with lacquered hair said to a giggling blond—than in watching “the girls” on stage. The group shelled out a few twenties for dances, but purely for the novelty of it, it seemed. Otherwise, they acted unimpressed. “This is it?” one man asked me.
Other delegates followed in ones and twos, and I started to see driver’s licenses from the South attached to men who displayed ever-increasing levels of naïveté. A Texas man sitting alone in front of the stage balked at the price of his glass of wine and insisted that I ask the bartender what brand it was.
When I returned with an answer, his indignation had subsided. “Why aren’t you up there dancing?” he asked me, gesturing to the woman gyrating. (On the list of questions frequently asked of a strip-club waitress, this one is rivaled only by “Can we see some girls over here?”) “Listen,” he said, his already thick drawl slurred by alcohol. “I like buying beautiful women expensive clothes. I like taking them out to any restaurant in town.” He went on, detailing his gentlemanly ways, for some time. I noticed he had a red, white, and blue ribbon pinned to his lapel.
Then he said, “I like playing with two girls at once—but that’s not a requirement. If I wanted to pay for a girl to spend the night with me, I could.” He wrote his cell phone number on the back of a business card. “But that makes me uncomfortable.” He handed me the card. I saw the name of an energy firm.
(I get propositioned like this about once a week, but usually by couples.)
The man later told someone in the club he was a Washington lobbyist. I wondered if he would try to add a clause allowing “two girls at once” into the Republican Party’s plan for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
But don’t get me wrong: Certainly not all of the out-of-towners were lewd. In other corners of the club, family values were on full display. When I approached a man sitting with the Massachusetts delegation to ask him if I could get him anything to drink, he—mistaking me for a stripper—pointed to the lone woman in the group and cried, “That’s my wife!”
By the end of the night, the club had filled with men in polo shirts and women in flouncy dresses. I hurried from one table to the next, explaining to half of them, it seemed, that no, we didn’t carry Miller Lite. The tables grew cluttered with empty glasses, champagne corks, and passes from the Lynyrd Skynyrd show that had been held at a nearby club in the delegates’ honor. When it came time to close, no one showed any intention of leaving.
The deejay turned off the music, someone flicked on the lights, and eventually the club cleared out. The horny Republicans have a big day ahead of them, after all. John McCain’s opening the convention Monday. The day’s theme: A Nation of Courage.