Lein had changed his mind about a million times concerning his birthday celebration at the strip club. But every time he did, Ronnie would put up a fuss until he relented. He’d gone over to the club earlier and read the names of the dancers on the marquee who would be on stage that night: Athena Passion, Lolita Fragile, Diamond Shine, Cherry Sunshine, Red Rose Garnet, Summer Knights, Spring Blush, Kandy Brandiwine, Amara Love, Pink Lady, Charity Breeze, Cristal, Sapphire Blue, Vanilla Chocolate Surprise, Maxie Climber, K.Y. Slick, Soledad, and three relatively new dancers [new because he hadn’t seen them]: Daisie Buzzsaw, Peppermint Onyx, and Wild Innocence. He’d seen all the acts by the regulars, the new ones he hadn’t experienced, but he didn’t think they’d be anything special. Once a guy saw a dancer’s tits, thighs, and asses, they all started to look pretty much the same. It was sort of like watching pornographic films. After the first dozen or so, they became boring because all the action became repetitive.
Lein had told Ronnie his feelings about seeing the same ol’ same ol’ girls, but the man refused to give in.
“You’ve just gotta come down to the club, Lee, you’re not gonna believe your fuckin’ eyeballs. Take your bro’s word for it, all right,” Ronnie had told him.
All right, asshole, Lein thought to himself, I’m going down there and I’d better see something amazing. If I don’t, I’m going to punch you in the nose.
During the ride to the club that evening, the limo was filled with good-natured banter. But Lein thought the night would be a disaster anyway. Before Ronnie came to pick him up, Britta had asked to come along. When Lein told her it was guys’ night out, she’d thrown a pristine fit. Before she left, she screamed at him until she felt better. He didn’t know if he’d ever see her again. But it was just as well; she was really beginning to piss him off anyway. His fight with Britta convinced him that the night held nothing more than utter disappointment.
When the four young men entered the club, the bouncer was more than willing to accommodate them. Lein remembered when the same bouncer had literally thrown him and his brother out. They took a table at the front especially reserved for them. Lein customarily flipped his chair backward, straddling it, while Ronnie turned his into a recliner. The guys brassily ordered a round of drinks for themselves and the rest of the bar. They were hit on immediately, and like the egotistical young men they were, they took it all in stride. Lein felt the night was getting better.
Looking around the interior of the club, Lein had to admit to himself that The Rose Bush was one of the more ‘theatrical’ strip joints in L.A. For one thing, all the dancers had characters, like ‘Athena Passion,’ or ‘Daisie Buzzsaw.’ These ‘characters’ were normally a part of the dancer’s own personality. Not only that, but the inside of the building seemed like something straight off Broadway, only on a much smaller [and sleazier] scale. There were two long stages on each side of the rectangular building. Both stages were draped with heavy curtains controlled by sand bags separating front stage from back, just like an old-time theater. Between the two stages, there was a strip of floor with ten seat-six-at-a-time tables placed for the customers, and several more branching out from the center.
From experience, Lein had learned that the right stage [opposite from where he and the guys sat] featured dancers who took off everything and solicited lap dances. These dancers were often referred to as ‘Rightie Girls’ or ‘Thumpers.’ There were usually two or three dancers on the right stage constantly. The left stage featured dancers who literally came out and performed an act. These ladies usually stripped down to tiny G-strings and/or thong bikinis and came close enough to the customers to enable them to stick money anywhere it would fit. These dancers were often referred to as ‘Leftie Girls’ or ‘Virgins.’ After their numbers, the left stage dancers thanked everyone kindly and retired backstage. He supposed the Lefties were sent out to tease the guys enough so they’d move to the Righties and pay for a lap dance or two. Like other strip joints across the world, there were a series of firehouse-type poles installed to aid the dancers in performing their symbolic sexual acts. Normally, Lein preferred the Thumpers, but it was Ronnie’s idea to be with the Virgins.
While one of the girls began her number on stage, Perion sat backstage at her vanity station preparing herself for her own. A dancer approached her as she was fixing her face. The girl glanced briefly at the small photo taped up on the mirror before looking down at Perion and smiling.
“Perion, those guys in that magazine cut out are in the audience tonight,” she said.
She dropped her eye shadow applicator in mid-stroke and glanced up at the girl. “Sonia, you’re nuts. You can’t mean Hard Axe.”
“That’s exactly who I mean. They’re right up front. One of the other girls told me, but I didn’t believe her, so I took a look myself. They’re out there, all right, go check it out yourself.”
Slowly, Perion stood up and walked over to the wide-open dressing room door. Just off the opened door, a curtain separated the stage from the dressing room [the club’s owner was extremely arty]. The loud music played for Kandy Brandiwine as she gave her all. Very carefully, Perion opened the curtain a shy quarter of an inch. She took in a shocked gasp of air as her eyes settled directly on Lein Blake’s face.
“Told you,” Sonia whispered teasingly from behind.
Perion jerked the curtain closed and strode back to the dressing room, with Sonia following closely behind. Perion plopped down in her chair. “Oh God, Sonia, I don’t know if I can do this.” She suddenly felt like she had on her debut night. All the uncertainty and hatred came flooding back. She was close to craving a line.
“Of course you can, Perion! Jeez, don’t be a wimp. You’ve got the guys on the mirror. You might as well give them a show. You’ll probably never get to see them this close ever again.”
Another thought crossed her mind...the lap dance. “Oh shit,” Perion groaned. “Newsome bullied me into doing a lap dance for a bigwig tonight. You don’t suppose...”
Sonia laughed. “Oh, come on, you shouldn’t think like that. Guys like that don’t need lap dances. They can get tail for real, why would they need a tickle and a tease?”
Perion sighed. “Maybe you’re right. Jesus, I hate that fucking Newsome.”
“Even if it is one of those guys, what’s the big deal? You’re a performer, you can act like it doesn’t bother you!” It wasn’t as easy as it sounded, but there was no way she could get out of it now. Newsome would have her ass in a sling.