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June 27, 2005

Dick Bars

The weather in DC had cooled some by the time Tom and I went out for the evening. I didn't know where we were going; we got in his car and I followed the route as best I could. We drove along the Tidal Basin and the Washington Channel. My memories of that are Fannie Fox, the Tidal Basin Bombshell, and Congressman Wilbur Mills.

We came to a non-neighborhood of low industrial buildings. Tom told me we had crossed just into SE. I looked it up on a map the following day; the dividing line is South Capital Boulevard, which we were just off of. This no man's land was where the strip clubs are.

(R-rated, so continued as an extended entry)

Tom didn't call “Secrets” and the other bars there strip clubs; neither did my other friend in DC. It isn't an accurate term, since there was no stripping going on. They called them more accurately “dick bars”. Guys stand up on platforms, naked. Well, they aren't naked. That's illegal. They're wearing shoes and socks. Most of them make a pretense to dance while they're up there but mostly they rub or stroke themselves in the hopes of attracting a tipping customer. I assume more could happen, but I didn’t see more than someone fondling a dancer’s legs or butt, and then slipping a folded bill into the guy's sock. I did see one guy attract a dancer's attention in a novel variation of blowing in his ear; only that wasn't the hole he blew into.

The dancers seemed to be in their twenties with different body types, both taller and skinny and short and more developed. Almost all of them had flat stomach muscles; for that I hated them. My favorite guy was of medium height with nice pecs. He danced on occasion – he vogued, and did it like it was his one good dance move, but he was endearingly bad. Mostly he would play with his nipples or stroke himself (for those needing details, he was the “beer can” sort), and that did get him quite a following, even more than the skinny boy clambering up on the poles above the bar like a monkey. Impressive, but I’m not going up there to put a bill in his sock. Voguing wasn't Nice Pec’s only dance move. He did do a sort of shake-and-bake thing that looked kind of how-does-he-do-that? hot from the rear view and kind of wanga-wanga-wanga funny from the front.

There’s a second half to the bar, named Ziegfield’s. This is where the drag shows are, starring Ella Fitzgerald (no, not the real one), who’s a local legend. She’s a formidable little drag queen; her best and most evil moment came when she dragged three (biological) females on stage to a version of the theme song from “Bonanza” sung with only one word: “Poontang”. You can guess what this involved for the poor humiliated women. The place had a reasonable amount of straight women in it; they seem to go for bridal parties. Go figure. Other drag queens included a HUGE Latina mama in some sort of fuzzy purple vest that made her look like a Care Bear and the tall skinny black queen who did the repent-and-find-Jesus gospel lip synch. She did it absolutely without irony, and either it was a coup of performance art or it just didn’t matter to her that she was singing about finding Jesus while there were naked guys stroking themselves on the other side of the bar.

Tom thought this would round out my dance experience in DC, and he was right, but how could I tell him in the middle of a Dick Bar my dark confession that only a few of my gay friends - and now the whole goddamn internet – know:

I think penises are funny.

Well, think about it. They are.

It's not like I don't like them; I've been best friends with my own for years. But, I mean, this skinny wiener thing either hanging or sticking out there unprotected? I'm not sure in which state it looks funnier. Who thought up this design?

I'd only been to a Dick Bar once before in my life and that one was a strip club: the now closed Gaiety in New York. Again, it wasn't my idea. It was about a decade ago and I was going with a female friend to meet her then-boyfriend, who danced there. Honest.

The Gaiety presented a show on a stage and the guys came out one by one. They'd dance around briefly in front of a silver glitter curtain, disappear for about a minute behind the curtain and return erect. The atmosphere was dark and seedy, and it was expensive (I think $15 even back then). I don't recall the other men that well, but I do recall Tony, the guy I had come to see, because he came out with a goofy he-has-to-be-straight grin on his face and his schlong sticking out in front of him. It was just enormous. Hilariously so.

I collapsed over hooting in the Gaiety.

"YOU PUT THAT WHERE????" I started howling to my friend, who turned several shades of red, poor dear.

"Please stop laughing." she pleaded. I did my best, but was practically hiccupping instead.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at June 27, 2005 7:23 PM

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