The New York Times ran a story today about how the city’s luxury strip clubs have been sitting empty all week. This is a bit baffling, honestly. At one club, at least, tonight, a barback instructed a waitress to keep at hand a good supply of speared olives and lemons “for when 50,000 Republicans show up.” In the dressing room, meanwhile, the dancers popped speed-like pills in preparation for a long night.
This particular waitress—sadly, me—did not see the night out, as she was overtaken by what appeared to be a chicken finger-induced illness shortly before midnight. But even at that early hour the club was filled with a good number of people, a sizeable portion of whom were men in suits. The club’s normal weekday summer crowd consists of couples looking for adventure and “Guidos from Brooklyn and Queens,” as one cab driver described them, so the wave of suits means either that a) Wall Street has returned from the Hamptons (an event, according to my customers in the champagne room last night, that is not due to take place until next week), or b) the delegates, perhaps fired up by Zell Miller’s declaration that “God is not indifferent to America,” had come in for another night of spiritual fulfillment.
There have, indeed, been other new additions to the club’s crowd this week. By early evening, the bar was surrounded by men in red T-shirts that read “We Won! Continuing to prevail…” on the back. They were members of the Communications Workers of America, a union that endorses Democrat John Kerry.
The convention has brought in a number of new groups—the Coast Guard, the police—but this was the first one connected to the protest movement. Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, as the union members talked with the strippers (who later declared them “really fucking cheap”), the staff discussed the previous day’s arrests. The consensus among those who had, in fact, sampled the “mystery meat” of the city’s jails was that risking arrest in any way showed complete idiocy.
It is pragmatism, then, that keeps my co-workers off the street, for they are overwhelmingly anti-Bush. The Republicans are appreciated for their money (although the delegates from out of town are decidedly low tippers), not their policies. It was “America’s mayor,” indeed, who forced the club to build along the desolate streets of the far West Side, outside of the heart of the city. The Federal Communications Commissions’ campaign to sanitize the content of a certain shock jock’s programming has further angered the dancers. And certainly the GOP’s ignoring of certain sectors of the population doesn’t help.
Yesterday I saw a youngish Republican point to the sparkly dot on the forehead of the South Asian dancer gracing his lap. “What’s that?” he asked. “A bindi,” she answered matter-of-factly. “A what?” he asked. “A bindi.” They went back and forth in this way for some time before she said, with some hostility, “It’s my heritage.”
This sort of tension has been brewing for several days now. If the Republicans, buoyed by Bush’s nomination, get randy tomorrow night, it may boil over.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 2, 2004