It was one of those nights where the stars lined up just so. I won’t say they lined up just right because it was a fucked up evening. It happened sometime in the mid- 1990's but in my mind, it could have been yesterday.
My buddy, I’ll call him Cory in honor of former right-fielding Cleveland Indian, Cory Snyder (I do, after all, have an obligation to protect the names of the innocent, right?) calls me up and tells me he was able to score a couple last minute Cavs Tickets. I was quick to accept the invite, not because the Cavs were great that year, but because back in those days a night spent sober felt like a waste of good youth. The plan was to meet up at Cory’s office, grab some food and beer at Great Lakes Brewery (One of the greatest things to ever come out of Cleveland,) and then head to the game. After that, who knew?
We met as planned at his office on West 25th, which isn’t the hardcore hood but it isn’t exactly suburbia either. Having spent a good portion of my childhood roaming the mean streets of downtown Cleveland (unsupervised), I felt absurdly comfortable in places that would have had the majority of my sheltered suburban friends stroking out. As we made our way toward Great Lakes, we passed several very seedy “adult establishments” and we both cracked jokes about heading to one after the game. The one we fancied in particular was a little gem called Bugsy’s Speakeasy. We liked it based solely on the name. Our other choices were Sam’s Show Bar or The Peek-A-Boo. In all reality, though, we never had any intention of ever passing over the threshold of any of them.
Dinner was awesome as were the beers so we were toasty before the game even started. The Cavs sucked that season. I believe Cory and I were treated to an evening spent with fat Shawn Kemp, a rookie Zydrunas Ilgauskas (which was nice,) a ball-hogging Bobby Sura, and my favorite player at the time, Danny Ferry. The arena was as you might expect, half empty. Still, we drank many overpriced beers and the Cavs even managed to eek out a win. I remember this odd fact because Cory and I used it as an excuse to keep the night rolling and the beers flowing. We’d cracked a dozen jokes during the game about hitting up Bugsy’s afterward, and while the curiosity was almost painful, we knew that if we were to walk in that bar, we’d likely be the cleanest, best dressed (we wore jeans and long sleeve tee shirts,) best smelling, and probably wealthiest guys in there. I think we had $100 between the both of us. So naturally after a lot of bantering it back and forth, I managed to peer pressure Cory into checking it out for one beer so that we could at least say we’d been there and done that, even if it meant getting mugged, beaten, and probably raped – by the strippers, of course.
His arm was easily twisted and before either of our drunk asses knew it, we were opening the door and walking into what I still say was one of the scariest, seediest, most unnerving strip clubs I’ve ever patronized. Yes, friends, I loved it and felt that completely unnatural sense of well being when I should have felt paranoid, uneasy, and just plain scared. Cory was uncomfortable. He tried to play the part, but as we’d guessed at the game, we were indeed, the cleanest, best smelling, most well dressed guys in the place. The gentleman who lined the bar could have been homeless people for all we knew. Most were older white men who looked black due to excessive amounts of facial soot. The majority wore trucker caps and long johns as shirts. Most couldn’t spell soap let alone use it, and those that weren’t filthy looked like straight up creepers.
The interior of the establishment was rectangular in dimension and the main bar ran across two-thirds of its length. The space nearest to the door held a couple tables and the far end showcased the stage and the requisite pole. The length of the wall opposite the main bar had been fashioned with a six-inch wide shelf. A small area with a few tables opened up in front of the stage and a row of booths were set against the opposite wall. A jukebox occupied the space behind the main entry and the restrooms lived at the far end of the bar behind the stage and a three-foot wall that hid them from view.
There were a few seats available at the main bar but Cory and I thought it best to sit as close to the door as possible. We grabbed a couple bar stools and settled in against the shelf at the back wall. I ordered a couple of beers and we prepared to feast our eyes upon what we were sure would be a lackluster collection of strippers. We’d consumed our first beer with nary a glance from a single one of the seven dancers who’d been advertised on the chalkboard behind the bar as working that evening. We were growing disenchanted but decided a second beer was in order. We’d come this far, had cash in our pockets, and were obstinately determined to have a good time.
Jasmine, who we’d later learn was a thirty-five-year-old mother of four, sauntered by and dropped her fifty cents in the juke and selected her song. Then, with the grace of a tortoise, she ambled up to the stage and started her routine. As I slugged down another gulp of my Miller High Life, I couldn’t help but wonder if a little cocoa butter wouldn’t help reduce her plethora of very visible stretch marks? We were just about to call it a night when Joey pulled up a seat.
She was young. I'd be surprised if she was even twenty-one. Her brown hair fell freely past her shoulders and her bright green eyes, long legs, and fruit-scented body spray were a welcome relief from the likes of Jasmine. Unlike the others, she looked natural, cute with the typical girl next-door quality. Her bubbly personality and her natural D-cups kept Cory and I interested enough to stay for at least one more beer. She chatted us up and explained that none of the girls were eager to talk to us because “guys like us” were usually assholes. Who would have thought? We drank and listened for five full minutes before she asked us to excuse her for a moment. We nodded and watched her hop off the bar stool, walk up to the derelict who’d just entered and slap him hard across the face, yelling at him for not having come sooner. Cory and I simultaneously choked on our beer.
Little five-foot-two Joey perched herself back on the stool and apologized for the distraction as if nothing out of the ordinary had just taken place. “What the fuck was that all about?” I asked. “Oh, it’s no big deal. He likes that kind of stuff and pays me extra to be especially abusive.”
We were astounded. We’d heard about the bizarre fetish-types but we’d never actually known or thought we’d be participating in any such act. We eagerly prodded little Joey to fill us in. Our night was rapidly improving. She told us how he’d place his hands on the stage and ask her to grind into them with her platforms. She even told us that she’d walked him around the neighborhood on a leash. He wore a dog collar. She then told us that he had something special in mind for that evening. Cory and I demanded to be allowed to watch. She bopped over to talk to him while another one of the girls, Ambee, joined our little party.
Joey returned from the table opposite the stage where her submissive had been sitting. She said that he’d purchased a pair of pointy-toed cowboy boots for her and it was his wish that she adorn her new footwear and then kick the crap out of him. We choked on our beer again. I asked if we could watch.
“He wants us to make out while I kick him,” she said.
I replied, “awesome. Now it’s a party.”
Cory, Ambee, Joey, and I all headed over to the table. Joey tried on the boots and the red Roy Rogers specials fit perfectly. She sat across from him, flipped some sort of mental switch, and went into bitch mode. She verbally humiliated and abused this poor bastard as if she’d been professionally trained to do it. As we watched, we were powerless to withhold our laughter. It was half shock and half absurdity. Then, like a spastic reflex, she drove the tip of her new boot into the guy’s shin. He winced in pain but didn’t move. He shuddered and trembled a little in between kicks. We weren’t sure if it was pain or pleasure for him? It was officially a car wreck. We couldn’t look away. In between kicks and her verbal assault, she delivered swift, powerful backhands to his cheek. The dude was in fetish heaven. Ambee, Cory, and I were in hysterics. Joey could have won an Oscar. She was in the zone.
Then, as promised, we all shuffled over to the corner of the stage. The vagrant-looking customer curled himself into the fetal position in the corner of the wall that separated the bathrooms from the stage. The logistics of his request for Joey and I to make out while she worked on him weren’t able to be accommodated, so the three of us formed a human wall as our new little stripper friend unleashed an offensive that made the Rodney King beating look like a schoolyard scrap. He wailed in agony but begged her to continue. She’d actually started breaking a sweat and we were on the floor. This was really happening. After a full three minutes, the manager working behind the bar yelled at us to knock it off. She thought the dude was getting felated. Little did she know that she couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The night went on a few hours longer. We watched Ambee grind her platforms into his hands at his request and slap him hard. Joey wore her trophy boots for the remainder of the evening and dazzled us with stories, continued random acts of violence, and even managed to squeeze in a dance or two. At the end of the evening, the sorrowful-looking regular handed Joey a wad of bills and picked up our tab. He thanked us for an amazing evening and said that he hoped we could all do it again sometime, but perhaps at a different, more public venue? Cory and I were too drunk to refuse but after that evening at Bugsy’s, we never saw him again.
I like to think he’s out there somewhere being whipped or beaten as I type. It’s not for my wish to see him humiliated rather his wish to indulge in whatever freaky shit makes him happy. As long as he’s not hurting anyone, I say have at, old creeper.
I think it goes without saying that sometimes the most random unplanned evenings end up becoming our most memorable. Our night at Bugsy’s Speakeasy ranks high for me in that department.