The XXXmas Coolio Concert You Always Needed But Never Experienced

The XXXmas Coolio Concert You Always Needed but Never Experienced
By Rod Johnson

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Editor’s Note: The author’s views on vaginas do not reflect the official opinions of Cream City.

It’s the day after Christmas and life as I know it is going to end. I am about to become a man.

In my thirty-two years of existence, I have neither attended a strip club nor have I seen an actual female vagina. As a self-identified chub-chasing gay man living in today’s world, my sexual exploits have largely transpired through the Internet—and believe me, I have been busy. Tonight, that’s all going to change because my childhood idol, Coolio, is playing at a local strip joint. But before I dive into details, let’s rewind a bit and construct a context for this story.

I grew up in a blue-collar family located in the Bible belt that attended our local Southern Baptist church every Sunday Coolio1(morning/evening) and Wednesday. I don’t remember much from my religious training other than sex is bad, don’t fuck till marriage, and you’re most likely going to burn in hell no matter what you do. Nothing too heavy before adolescence. This theological agenda only made sense when the pastor was busted for fucking his secretary. Go figure.

Whatever, anyway, needless to say I have a lot of ideas about what strip clubs mean and what type of people frequent these establishments. These decadent sin dens are filled with powerful, evil forces that cause AIDS, drug addiction, and mass murder. (My mother often warned against pornography because “that’s how Bundy got started.”) In strip clubs, demon women seduce desperate men into selling their souls to the devil. To quote a classic, “you can check out anytime you like, but you can’t never leave.” Is this place going to transform me? Will I become a regular? What if people question my disinterest in lap dances and strip teases? Will I be threatened with taunts, violence, or worse? Will I need to get a tetanus shot or delouse myself after the show?

I imagine that most men confront these fears once they turn eighteen. I, fortunately, never went through that stage of male adolescent development. In fact, on my eighteenth birthday, I got kicked out of my first club because I was rolling balls and barely able to stand up. The off-duty cop most likely saw an ambulance ride in my near future. But if that were the case, why did he attempt to buy pills off me? Who cares, that’s not the point. The main issue is that I never learned what it means to be a strip club patron and, hence, an American Man™.

But all of that is going to change this evening because the award winning, hip-hop legend-turned-chef Coolio is touring Wisconsin and stopping at a Juneau titty bar. (Note: the phone number on the flyer is actually incorrect. Juneau has a 920 area code. Not 902.) Never heard of Juneau, Wisconsin? Well, that makes a lot of sense because it is the whitest and lamest city in the United States.

A small rural town siCoolio2tuated in southeastern Wisconsin, Juneau brags a population of approximately 27,000 people that is 94.4 percent white (all statistics derived from the U.S. Census Bureau). Of this population, 1.9 percent is foreign born, 4.2 percent of households speak a non-English language, 18.7 percent qualify for social security, 12.4 percent of the population possesses at least a bachelor’s degree, the median household income is $45,000, and the median value of owner-occupied homes is $116,000. Unsurprisingly, this city is really fucking conservative. Incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker easily won this area by a comfortable 64.4 percent in the last election.

This is all to say that this is going to be the most ironic concert in American history and there’s no fuckin’ way that I am going to miss it. Unfortunately, all of my friends are pathetic losers (that’s what you get for living in a liberal college town) that refused to come along on this fantastic voyage. “It’s Christmas and I have familial obligations!” “I’m going to be out of town.” “My vagina hurts.” Blah. Blah. Jesus, people. Do I have to spell this out? Coolio is playing a strip club in rural Wisconsin!!! So like most rites of passage, I am doing this alone.

Determining Logistics
I initially tried to purchase tickets online, but the website indicated that none were available. WHAT!?! How? Why? Will I have to suck dick in the alleyway to get inside? Panicked, I contacted the venue. The young woman that answered spoke in a stereotypical Wisconsin accent, “Oh noooo, we have plenty of tickets both general admission for $15 and VIP for $30.”

I interrupted her, “Wait. Did you say VIP? What does that include?”Coolio3

She enthusiastically replied, “That includes a buffet, a meet and greet, and pictures with Coolio.”

Gleefully, I responded, “Get the hell out of here! You mean I get to meet Coolio!?! Should I purchase tickets now or do you expect them to be available at the door.”

“Oh no, we have plenty. You should be fine.”

So fuck, this shit just got serious, yo. Not only do I get to see Coolio play at a strip club in Juneau, Wisconsin. I get to hang-the-fuck-out with him and possibly obtain an interview. Could this Christmas get any better? Answer, NO!

I’m stoked. The big day arrives and I’m nervous as hell. I rent a Ford Focus and hit the road. I have no idea what to expect and I’m driving one hour to the venue while jamming Moby’s “In This World” and “In My Heart” on repeat. There are no streetlights on the freeway so I can only see the twenty feet of concrete illuminated by my headlights and the occasional car passing by. This shit is so country, there are no road signs notifying me that the turn is approaching. So I have no clue when to exit until, BAM, the sign appears out of the fog and ten feet in front of the road that I am supposed to join. Unbelievable! I pass my exit and have no idea where I can turn around. This is a six-lane highway separated by a large grassy median. Fuck! Traveling at 65 mph I see occasional gaps in the median that could be police U-turn lanes, but I cannot tell. WHY?!?! Because there are no goddamn street lights that enable me to navigate this space! Finally, I find a farmhouse and turn around. In the process, I nearly fall into a ditch and, again, miss the turn.

Arriving to Town
I finally come correct and re-situate myself on this highway to hell. I pass large dairy farms with massive trucks parked next to two-story houses that include wrap around porches and American flags posted in the front yard. Vast wheat and cornfields separate these homes by several acres or miles. As I approach the town, I am greeted by a small, outdoor shopping mall that includes a Piggly Wiggly grocery store, Subway restaurant, Landmark Credit Union, and car wash.

Coolio4There are long rows of Midwestern style homes irradiated with large, multicolor Christmas lights and plastic, glowing statues. Locals wearing Green Bay Packers sweaters and Milwaukee Brewers jackets pull their oversized trucks into the local Kwik Trip parking lot to purchase snacks and booze before returning home to the family. Police officers park on side streets and monitor the comings and goings.

Just around the corner is Silk Exotic. Readers may be familiar with this club if they regularly read The HuffPo. This is the same venue where two strippers (one pregnant) were arrested last year for fighting on stage for an unclaimed dollar that was contributed by a guest. The large concrete columns constituting the façade are dyed by fluorescent green, pink, blue, and purple lights that fluctuate to garner attention from onlookers. This club is attached to a small strip-mall that overlooks the county administrative building and local law-enforcement department. In front of the police station is a dirty SUV with a “Don’t Tread on Me” sticker placed on the bumper to express the owner’s white supremacist orientation. How adorable! A large douglas fir is decorated with Christmas lights in front of the administration building and the streetlamps are ornamented with plastic candy canes, bells, and wreaths.

The streets are basically empty besides an occasional car or two passing through the downtown district (Yes, this is downtown!). The strip-mall is lined with cars parked in front of a saloon, a glass studio, a tanning salon, a closed public defender’s office (with a “For Rent” sign posted in the window), a bowling allCoolio5ey, and empty storefronts. Old white men stand outside the saloon smoking cigarettes while eyeing me suspiciously as I jot down descriptions of the scene. At the other of the block, a local family exits the bowling ally while I snap photos and marvel at this contemporary Norman Rockwell portrait. Welcome to Pleasantville!

Entering the Club
After touring the three block downtown center (which also includes a standalone Dollar General), I finally park next to the entrance and approach the club. There is no line to get inside. I pass three women smoking cigarettes and crowding the walkway. They politely acknowledge/greet me while I hurry into the building. I open the dark tinted glass doors and life, as I know it, changes. A tall, muscular, bald man wearing a black suit and holding a metal detector immediately confronts me.

“Do you have any weapons?” he asks before rubbing the plastic wand around my testicles.

Upon paying the entrance fee—which turned out to be $40, thank you very much—I enter a large, dimly lit room surrounded by a balcony with neon signs reading, “Silk Exotic,” “VIP Lounge,” “Sky Boxes,” and ”Shower Shows.” Loud music vibrates the building with TLC—“What About Your Friends”—and the portly announcer screams things like, “Invite these hot babes to the shower or a lap dance,” “It isn’t raw if she’s wearing a thong at Silk,” and “Who’s ready for Coolio?” Maybe three people scream or express any awareness of the event each time the headliner is announced.

In the middle of the room is a large stage divided into three sub-stages with metal poles that extend into the second story ceiling. I wonder to myself, “Do women really climb to the top? And, if so, how they got down?” Clearly, I am having a Gump moment. I soon observe women desperately pulling themselves to the top sliding down into splits. Fuck. That’s when I realize all of these women could beat my ass and so I better be on my best behavior.

Coolio9I survey the room for an empty seat located in a corner where I can blend into the background. Quickly, I notice a few seats at the bar and take refuge by what I think is a popcorn machine. You might be wondering, “Why would there be a popcorn machine at a strip club?!?” Relax this is common in Wisconsin. Cheese heads LOVE (notice love is both capitalized and emboldened. That wasn’t a mistake) popcorn and, right hand to God, there is a fucking popcorn machine in nearly every bar. This is Dairyland, USA, son. These people don’t give a fuck! They have two dope football teams and their own food supply. If you try us (I’m looking at you, Stanford), our dudes are enormous and they’ll beat your pussy ass. So go ahead, laugh at our popcorn machines and our bubblers (water fountains). See where that gets ya, mister. That said, the mysterious machine contains, get this, limp, overcooked hot dogs that patrons can purchase and dress with Heinz Ketchup, Mustard, and/or Relish. That’s right folks, this strip joint enables you to simultaneously enjoy cold beer, hot dogs, bare tits, and shaved pussy.Coolio11 How the hell are you going beat that?!

Taking in the scene, I locate the lap dance room and—wait, what is that thing in front of it, get the fuck out of here! It’s a BEER PONG TABLE with cups positioned and ready to go! Not only that, the announcer actually uses the loud speaker to brag about this amenity and encourages patrons to use it! They’re proud of this shit! Several young men take the Pepsi Challenge and begin beer-ponging. Wearing blue jeans, Underarmor sweaters, and camouflage hats, one patron eventually misses the cup and a ball flies at the stage. How appropriate!

I quickly learn two important things. First, I am struck by the amount of camouflage, football apparel, and blue jeans that is worn by patrons. I start to wonder how these people got into a self-identified gentleman’s club with such shabby clothes. Duh! There’s no dress code. Meanwhile, the employees wear black coats and slacks like this shit is supposed to be classy.

Second, in my Christian hometown (Tampa, FL), where we believe in Jesus Christ, the church, wholesome family values, and unregulated markets, strip clubs are governed by a six-foot rule and women are prohibited from being completely nude. Juxtapose that with Silk Exotic where anything goes. Women spread their legs, expose their vulva, and give titty/twat face rubs for a couple dollars. So to be clear, this is a FULL contact/nude titty bar where women will ride you on stage, during private lap dances, or in a private shower.


The Dancers
Silk patrons have a wide variety of women to choose from. The dancers are surprisingly diverse: black, white, and Latina. Second, men can

Coolio12select from a range of body types. For example, some women will make you think that you are drowning in Lake Michigan when they start twerking in your face; others will remind you of anti-drug PSAs; some have enormous tits; and others look like teenagers that recently got their period. Third, some women look old enough to be your mother while others are clearly in their early to mid-twenties. Fourth, some women can fucking dance. I mean these bitches tear shit up and make dat money. A couple, in particular, work the pole with the elegance of a cheetah stalking its prey. They enthusiastically slide down, spread their legs, and moan like they were getting fucked with a Ron Jeremy size cock. Still, other women are clearly amateurs and uncomfortable with their profession. It was like watching malfunctioning robots twerk to the beat of “How Low.” Needless to say, the latter category makes little money. Finally, some women go full nude while others do not. The former group freely drops their panties (shameless LMFAO reference) and work that ass on stage while the latter is much more modest. I assume the club owner delegates discretion to the dancers regarding whether they remove their clothing and to what degree.

The Patrons
Unsurprisingly, the patrons are overwhelmingly white and from the surrounding area. Consequently, the crowd is filled with frumpy, corn-fed, farm boys looking for some holiday action. Heaven to a chub-chaser like me! Mentioned above, camouflage sweaters, blue jeans, and sports caps are common attire; however, it is also true that this group REALLY enjoys Bud Light. I mean, side tables are filled with empty bottles and patrons walk around sipping longnecks while throwing dollar bills at dancers.

Moreover, the sexual tastes of these patrons seem to lean toward thin, white women with huge tits and tattoos on their lower backs. This claim is evidenced by the flurry of dollar bills that litter the stage when these women dance. In contrast, nonwhite women of any size often experienced crowd dispersion upon entering the stage and frequently complete their performance with fewer tips. This could be because they lacked the dancing skills of their white counterparts; however, in many instances this was clearly not the case.


Customer-Staff Interactions
Female and male patrons wave dollars across the stage to lure naked women in their direction. Once their attention is grabbed, these women spread their legs, shake their ass, rub their bare breasts across the patrons face, wrap their legs around the customer’s neck, shake their shaved pussy in the client’s face, retrieve strategically hidden dollar bills located in the shirt collar or waistband of the customer, slap their ass, clack the heels of the knee high leather boots, and move onto the next customer.

During these interactions, some customers gently massage the twat and taint of dancers lying on their backs with their legs spread open while others just straight up throw cash at the exposed vaginas as though channeling Tony Montana—“Filthy whore, I’d fuck that shit if I wasn’t a post-adolescent scrub that still lives with his parents and possesses zero disposable income.”

At this point, I begin to feel disgusted. Not over the objectification of women, but due to the exposed vaginas. Meaty. Pink.Coolio13 Raw. Clap traps. Shudder. This is the first time I have ever seen one in real life and I am horrified (which is weird because I didn’t blink when a human-puppy shit on the carpet of a swanky hotel in downtown Chicago). I desperately try to conceal the displeasure, but my face automatically winces as though I have just witnessed a rosebud (inverted asshole produced by excessive fisting) or human decapitation. I promised that I wouldn’t descend into immature faggotry because it’s, quite frankly, basic and expected, but ignoring this part of the story would be disingenuous. Plus, this is an opportunity to connect with heterosexual readers. I finally understand why straight guys commonly grow sick when I discuss hard, melting cock. We’re even, guys. You’ll never hear me bring up fag shit again, but know that you’re heterosexuality disgusts me as much as my homosexuality disgusts you.

The reactions of customers to the dancers vary. Small groups of young men cluster at the stage and smile nervously at each other after receiving some action. To their left are heterosexual couples paying for mutual body contact (and, Christ, do I want to fuck some of the boyfriends). To their right is a rotund mother wearing a sequenced tank top congratulating her son who just received his first strip tease. In each instance, the women snatch their dollars and accumulate large piles of money at the center of the stage. The night is constituted by hundreds of interactions such as these that repeat like clockwork.

 

Coolio Enters the Building
Where the fuck is Coolio? The announcer keeps teasing us with updates that Coolio is almost to the venue. It’s nearing 11:30pm and I’ve seen more strip teases than I care to and the dancers have processed through three cycles. I’m bored and cannot help but suspect this place is a little heteronormative and possibly sexist. In addition,

Coolio14it’s getting late and I have to drive an hour home. When the hell is the dude going to get here? Finally, an entourage of black men enters the VIP lounge (forgoing a buffet that includes pulled pork sandwiches, chicken wings, sliced ham, and a vegetable tray). The small group heads to the back corner of the lounge where the management has placed iced Champagne at a reserved table.

One thing that I learned about Coolio is that that motherfucker is an amazing entertainer that knows his motherfucking audience. Check it, dude walks into the venue with, get this, an Aaron Rogers Green Bay Packers jersey, a Green Bay Packers hat with holes that allow his braids to poke through like antlers, and rhinestone glasses. Come on, yo! This guy just showed the fuck up for Wisconsin. How’s that for Christmas cheer? Bitch!

Rather than mingle with us (as promised with our VIP passes), Coolio says fuck it and just chills in the corner with a woman on his lap. Everyone’s like where’d he go? See, he’s hidden behind the entourage. He’s really just chillin’, overlooking the club from the balcony, and taking in the scene. Eventually, he stands up and starts stretching. I’m all like, fuck yea! I’ve been waiting my whole life for this moment. Thoughts race through my mind: What will he play? Will he start with Fantastic Voyage or Gangster’s Paradise? I struggle to conceal my zeal, but the excitement is causing me to shake!


Coolio Takes the Stage
Finally, Coolio takes the stage. Immediately, fog machines emit thick vapor into the air while strippers flock to the side stages and start strip teasing, climbing poles, and engaging in what appears to be a lesbian orgy.

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Naked and half-naked bodies twist together, sweaty flesh glistens from the neon stage lighting, and dollar bills fly through the air as Coolio works his magic (see video). Following the first song, Coolio develops repertoire with the crowd:

“I wish I had some motherfucking Wisconsin cheese and I don’t mean cash! I’d put cheese in every refrigerator and a bitch in every nigga’s bed.”

The crowd roars while I embarrassingly shake my head and die laughing. What the fuck is he talking about?!? Suddenly, I notice people around me are filming. Is this legit? I don’t want to get my ass pounded by the bouncers (pun intended). So I approach one of them and ask, “What’s up? Is it cool to film?” He quickly replies with a jolly grin on his face, “Oh yea, bro. Film all you want. We told the girls that we were allowing it before they got on stage.” Shut the fuck up. I get to take videos? Damn, son. Shit just got hot! Too hot!

Throughout the set, Coolio tries to solicit crowd participation, but few know the lyrics to certain songs and the experiment Cooliofails—repeatedly! In response to his prompts, there are short, lyrical pauses. Coolio doesn’t give a shit though. Even in his old age, dude is still baller. He just keeps going like nothing happened. He doesn’t skip a beat. Not even once. Shit just flows like sauce from a gravy boat, kid.

Another thing I learned about Coolio is that he’s fucking funny. In between songs, he approached fans and asked:

“What should you do before touching your woman in an intimate way?”

After two lame-asses respond, “Tell her I love her,” Coolio interjects.

“Naw, bitch, wash yo hands—cause cleanliness is next to pussiness. If you don’t, you could give your girl a yeast infection. So wash your motherfucking hands and stop using latex. It makes the pussy stank!”

Shit, I didn’t realize this was gonna turn into church. But the dude is straight up preaching Gospel. This leads me to the third thing that I learned about Coolio, the dude is an immortal player that will never die. He’s so baller, it doesn’t matter what venue he plays because he’ll out rhyme and out wit any young motherfucker off the street. That’s science, yo. Dude is a true American hero that continues to shine in neon glow.

Suddenly, gunshots ring out. What is that? A drive by? A police raid? Hell no! That’s the opening to “Gangster’s Paradise”! Coolio looks at the sky (well really the VIP lounge) in awe. And he should. This is his most important contribution to hip-hop. Gospel-style music echoes through the club as black, half-naked female bodies climb the poles, fat/skinny asses twerk, titties bounce, twats grind, money flies, and cameras flash.

This is it. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for—our Doc Brown escort to the past. Mentally, I am transported to my awkward, closeted middle school years and visualize Michelle Pfeiffer telling a classroom of minority students to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop blaming society because “there are no victims in this classroom!” No, just a lot of culturally disadvantaged kids that apparently always needed a strict white woman with a military background to whip them into shape and replace the lazy, immoral, Cadillac driving, welfare receiving role models that have entrapped them in a never ending cycle of poverty (sarcasm). SMDH. That movie is the worst. Whatever, anyway, we collectively revisit our pasts and, briefly, forget the horrors that constitute modern America. White, black, Latino, Asian, male, female, bro, loser, gay, straight—it didn’t matter. We all twerked and bounced in a unified rhythm that would make Dr. King smile and Malcolm X puke.

Meeting Coolio
The show is over and I’m waiting in line to receive my twenty-dollar picture. Coolio performed approximately six songs including, “If I Was Your Boyfriend,” “1, 2, 3, 4,” “Gangsta’s Paradise,” “I’ll See You When I Get There,” and “Too Hot.” After the show, dude throws up the deuces before returning to the VIP lounge.

A line is developing to show love and take ironic photos. Coolio doesn’t give a fuck. He’s just chilling with his woman and doesn’t even acknowledge that we’re there. Guess what though—I’m not leaving until I take this motherfucking photo. I have come too far to not receive a pCoolio18Pixelshoto that I can post on Facebook and receive endless likes. Waiting in line, I am butted by two obnoxious bros that previously indicated they were from Milwaukee. Go figure! One is wasted and giving me a weird “I’m gonna kick your ass, faggot” look. So I look at the floor in effort to avoid a scene.

Finally! Coolio’s oversized bodyguard signals that the photo shoot is about to commence. Oh my god! My stomach fills with butterflies and I panic. What if he thinks I’m a loser? I’m next in line and going to faint. I prepare my phone and hand it to the bodyguard. This dude is a Suge Knight look alike. Swear to God. He wears one of those old-school plaid Dickie’s g-funk style button down shirts, covering the wife beater. We stand in front of a casino machine that illuminates the background. I genuinely thank Coolio for a fabulous show. He replies, “thank you, man,” and places his fist in the air to bump for the camera. The hired muscle snaps the photo and comments, “Man, you ain’t got no flash and yo screen is shattered.” Wait a minute, did I just dissed by the muscleman IN FRONT OF COOLIO! I’m mortified and respond with an appropriate, subjugated voice, “Yea, been meaning to get a new one,” before exiting the VIP lounge. Could this night get any better?


Driving Home
As this epic adventure closes, I am consumed with depression. It’s been an amazing year for the Internet: Auschwitz Selfie,

Coolio19the Orlando Bloom-Justin Beiber fight, the fall of Mama June, Brendan Jordan, Scott Stapp’s ongoing public meltdown, and the entitled teenage Xmas tweets. While each of these events has temporarily filled our otherwise empty lives with joy and meaning, this concert represents the end of history. It is the standard against which all future Internet sensations, scandals, and memes will be compared and devalued. Hence, there’s no up from here, only down. Our lives are now condemned to mediocrity as we continually relive this moment in our thoughts, knowing full well that this experience will never be replicated. With this in mind, I pull into a 24 hour McDonalds to purchase a large fry and medium chocolate shake that I consume in the parking lot, alone, while listening to “I Know It’s Over” and watching the rain gradually obfuscate my view of the blinking Christmas lights that flash before me. I can feel the soil falling over my head.

Bonus Videos


Black Lights and Blue Balls—Reflections on Burlesque and Stripping

Editor’s Note
Several months ago, sometime in early February, Cream City sought to commission writings from the semi-legendary Randall L. Ladnar. We at Cream City always admired Ladnar’s ability to navigate the world of sleaze and smut with a philosopher’s pen, so we were thrilled when he agreed to write a burlesque show review for us. Most importantly, we knew Ladnar’s writings would be a huge credibility boost for the site and likely result in ad revenue increases. Ladnar demanded payment in advance, and we obliged, but his deadline quickly passed with not so much as an update on the review’s progress. The piece was originally slated as a post-Valentine’s Day romp, but by mid-March I was sending bi-hourly emails and texts to Ladnar, demanding the burlesque review, or our money back.

About two weeks ago, I finally decided to pay Ladnar a visit at his Station North apartment. After prying one of his windows open with a crowbar, I tip-toed across his living room, through a minefield of drained absinthe bottles and used condoms, to find the man passed-out on his couch in front of a television set that was blasting the Hallmark Channel at some inhuman volume. I woke Ladnar. He tried to make a break for it, but I introduced him to my good friend, Gerber Clip-Point, who was finally able to persuade him to write the burlesque review, in light of the fact that he could not pay off his debt to Cream City in that moment.

With my associate, Mr. Clip-Point, I watched Ladnar type each and every word of the fascinating screed that follows. Personally, I’m surprised at how amazingly well the thing turned out, given the conditions under which it was written. It’s definitely the kind of classic Ladnar rumination that we’ve all come to know and love. Anyway, in case you find yourself wondering why the hell we’d just now be publishing a partial-review of a burlesque event that happened in mid-February—well, now you know.


Black Lights and Blue Balls
Reflections on the arts of burlesque and stripping
By Randall L. Ladnar

An Introduction
Strip clubs are hardly the typical Valentine’s Day purlieu of middle class candygram-sending American romance seekers. Spending your love day cooed up in the throbbing haloes of bass and viscous glittersmoke is about as traditionally acceptable as a man throwing a pre-wedding fleshlight party for his bachelor bros. So what options are left for the bourgie sort who none-the-less want to pay good money to sit with perfect strangers and watch people undress? Burlesque. It’s like the etsy of American nude entertainment. You can even invite your mother.

At least that’s what I thought until I saw Reggie Bugmuncher take a rotary grinder to a metal plate covering her pubic mound during Gilded Lily Burlesque’s 5th Annual Tassels and Champagne show, showering the stage with a veil of hot sparks. Maybe it was for the best that I hadn’t brought my mother.

What follows is a review of the Gilded Lily Burlesque’s rather remarkable Tassles and Champagne event. But first, a rather indulgent meditation on the difference between stripping and burlesque. If such distinctions bore you, please, proceed to the review.

*************************************************************************************

bur·lesque
noun
1. an absurd or comically exaggerated imitation of something, esp. in a literary or dramatic work; a parody.
2. a variety show, typically including striptease.


A Few Facts
All of the strip clubs I’ve ever visited were about as erotically enticing as watching Guy Fieri jerk off into a pit-beef sandwich.  Burlesque, on the other hand, with its acceptance of the Rubenesque, its swaying, gravitational dances, the tidal pull of glove & gauze till oh look it’s off (except that tasteful, enamored, en-armored target)… In its embrace of the tease and tarry, I sense a stirring at the root of the photoelectrified, callused, porn-tundra of my American Sexdrive.

What is the difference, you might wonder? Well, a little history is in order. The first American stripper was really just a ballerina trying to be comfortable. Her scandal caused all the “decent women” in the theater to storm out. The men stayed, and the Bowery became the heart of American strippery. Whitman once reviewed these “taboo’d” and “robustuos” theaters (unsurprising: he focused intently, almost pornographically, on the all male audiences who frequented them). In his words, they were:

…pack’d from ceiling to pit with its audience mainly of alert, well dress’d, full-blooded young and middle-aged men, the best average of American-born mechanics—the emotional nature of the whole mass arous’d by the power and magnetism of as mighty mimes as ever trod the stage—the whole crowded auditorium, and what seeth’d in it, and flush’d from its faces and eyes, to me as much a part of the show as any—bursting forth in one of those long-kept-up tempests of hand-clapping peculiar to the Bowery—no dainty kid-glove business, but electric force and muscle from perhaps 2000 full-sinew’d men

LadnarArt2

Original artwork by Guy Fawkesalot

Unsatisfied with the term “stripper” to describe her profession, the legendary burlesque diva Gypsy Rose Lee enlisted the help of the American essayist H.L. Menken. The resulting neologism—ecdysiast, from the Greek meaning to molt—is far too erudite to titillate, and worse, reminds one more of an STI than an exotic artist. It never caught on.

Side note: The controversial poet e.e. cummings loved burlesque, and painted numerous portraits of dancers. It’s appeal, he thought (like Whitman), was to the blue collar and mechanical man. He wrote later in life, “Burlesque appeals to me. I’ve seen in the past thirty years of my proletarian life, a lot of burlesque shows (and I hope to see a lot more).”

Additional side note: He also wrote of snow once as “sexually fingering the rooftops of houses.”


Regarding the Appeal of Stripping
The average rutting male juiced up on redbull-vodkas and foursquares of redmeat & budplatinum secretly believes one special thing when purchasing a lap dance: for him alone, the stripper will drop her act. In burlesque, the pleasure is in the act. There is no possibility for separation of act and actor. One would no less expect the Venus de Milo to start offering stony titjobs.

The art of burlesque exists simply indulge. It resides the borderless horizons of the tease, a jurisdiction confined only by the fractal limits of play. Porn is still art, but it is restricted by the genre’s tacit promise of gratification. Its payoff is never unexpected; it completes the circle from urge to act ending creative culmination. It requires not imagination, but a form of sexual empathy—a visual prostheses.
Although not truly a sub-genre of porn, strip clubs activate the same mental (libidinal?) schematics as porn. The viewer becomes the ultimate consumer—paying merely to browse. Too often a lupine browse: carnal—with all the predatory implications of the word. With hunger unsated, lust subsumes to fantasy (a fantasy which has as its basic premise the dissolution of the fantasy, a transgression between worker and client—in just the mind of the client). Too often, the outcome is violence. (Crime against strippers is almost epidemic; crime against burlesque, unthinkable).

I do not say this to denigrate the profession of stripper—I wish only to denigrate the target audience.

Stripping seems like such an American enterprise. The tensions arising from our puritan modesty ensure a market where supply does not outstrip demand. (Yes, I know we have no claim to the artful nude—or, for that matter, the topless muses of art nouveau or the gartered strutting of the le Moulin Rouge, our protoburlesque.) Along the trade route that took us from brothels to burlesque, stripping is an oddly capitalist waystation. To create a market for graphic titillation, one must commercialize nudity, not by heightening demand, but rather by fetishizing supply. Sex as a product carries its own inherent demand, but stripping is not sex, nor ostensibly, the promise of sex. It is actually its opposite: unfulfilled arousal. Striptease. Black lights and blue balls.

LadnarArt

Original artwork by Guy Fawkesalot

It is at this juncture that burlesque and stripping begin to diverge. Out of the guarantee of nudity one must hypothesize sex. This is perhaps the element of the pornographic: visual stimulation of fantasy—many a healthy sex drive craves such. However, this admixture becomes explosive when it is paired with a male gaze that territorializes women’s bodies.  Here fantasy threatens to go off the rails. The tease becomes interlude. Whereas the transgressive play* of burlesque refuses to acknowledge gratification as a destination, the monologic ethos of stripping promises a destination somewhere short of gratification.

Inevitability is the enemy of desire. We say longing because desire is distance. The stripper, by inevitable eponym will end up naked. The titty bar, the strip club, build into their names exactly what one finds there. Money is paid, tits are shown. In the inevitability of this exchange, seduction as delay across distance morphs into a lesser cousin: the grind.

Despite their neon dinginess, there is something sanitized in the product put on display. Female form is abstracted, idiosyncrasies submerged. The typical stripper’s appeal is calculated, market tested, chain-store g-stringed; it is often as dull and prepackaged as a Wal-Mart couch. It is a fabricated arena where the good citizen can turn inside-out in predictably dingy ways. Entering the black-light glow & plumeria mist, I feel about as classy as Burt Reynolds in Vaseline filled boots.

For burlesque, the pleasure is in the real, the crenulated zaftig—a rare, un-rendered vitality. (Americans especially are trained at an early age to squelch such animal fascinations with the shape of real bodies. Boys learn to point at cellulite on the legs of teenage girls and laugh as if such vague pocking were not the thumbprints of the vowelless hand of an as-yet-unnamed-god: the lust of the eyes & the lust of the flesh).

Perhaps this is why Menken mined such arachnid origins for his word—ekdysīs. Burlesque pivots on our subcutaneous itch, the ancient suspicion of clothes—the animal sexual teeming of fleshfulness: skin the outward and immediate form of our dying. Shedding ones clothes then, is both a Lazarus act of vital indifference and a dance with the death we each wear outward.  To strip is to put on grave clothes.  To burlesque is to mock the long toothed reaper with our gaudy pigment and breathing and full-bodied vehemence.


An Uncomfortable Realization
I see now that I never really reviewed the show in question.  By now, what specific memories I possessed have faded.  Blotted impressions remain.  A red sexual gauze of rimshot memories.  What I remember:  I drank two bottles of champagne.  I watched the sashay, heard the repartee, got lost in the frothy cocktail of banjo and clarinet from Sac au Lait.  Most importantly, perhaps, for the well-intentioned yuppie, you leave having enjoyed the sex without braving the murky political waters of neon sex-work indulgence, and you are free to like it without the burden of irony. Privilege pervades, choice reigns on all fronts, and its result is a self-conscious artistic product that can be safely, yet not unerotically, consumed by all—perhaps even your mother.

**(Burlesque is by its very nature a queer space, approaching pleasure through vivid multiplicities.  ****Here the author is lost for a moment in reveries of the divine Paco Fish, whose recent absence from the Baltimore burlesque scene is deeply felt. (http://pacofish.net/)  Soon may he swim back.****)

—Randall L. Ladnar

Book Review—Graphic Thrills

A Review of Graphic Thrills: American XXX Movie Posters, 1970-1985
Let’s explore vintage smut with Cinema Sewer’s Robin Bougie!

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Letting Cinema Sewer magazine creator, Robin Bougie, take you on a tour through the world of smut is somewhat like exploring the Atlantic Ocean with Jacques Cousteau as your guide—you’re not going to find anyone better for the job.

Those familiar with Bougie’s work understand that he is the Howard Zinn of sleaze. He is a true people’s historian, documenting obscure and forgotten material from the world’s cultural underbelly and making it available and accessible to the writhing masses—and usually alongside lots of his drawings of boobs, butts, and boners. Nowhere does Bougie channel his inner-cultural historian better than in his new book Graphic Thrills.

Yes, Graphic Thrills has it all. The book is a collection of pornographic movie posters from 1970 to 1985, but it offers so much more than just breath-taking, lurid images and catchy film titles. Bougie opens Graphic Thrills with an absolutely epic essay on the history of smut, beginning at human pre-history, with 7,200 year-old cave paintings. From there, Bougie takes some sizable leaps through time, spending most of the 12-page intro detailing the trajectory of smut throughout the period in question: 1970-1985 (with a geographic focus on the US). I know, I know—it sounds like a lot of text for a collection of pork-film posters, but let me tell you, it is all worth the read. Bougie’s writing will inform you, make you laugh, and perhaps even cause you to grool or give you a boner. He moves fluidly, almost creamily, between the topics of the state’s campaign to suppress smut, the lives of adult filmmakers and performers, and then, of course, stories behind the posters that make up most the book’s 141 pages. And hey, if you’re not really that into reading, fear not: this section is peppered with a wealth of sleazy images to which you can stroke the old johnson or massage your slit—whichever applies.

With that said, let’s get to the meat of this book—the posters. Each of the 124 featured images is paired with text, supplied by Bougie, which contains the author’s descriptions of the films in addition to excerpts of interviews with relevant adult filmmakers and stars. For as fun and interesting as the text is in this section, the posters steal the show. Their artwork ranges from silly to cute to cryptic to straight-up raunchy. Each piece is eye-catching or junk-grabbing on at least some level.

Among the many notables is the poster to Barbie’s Fantasies, which showcases a painting of a curvy blonde woman standing in front of what appears to be a pink hole—you know, like a black hole in outer-space, only pink. The lady is leaning back, licking a finger, and using her other hand to knead her bulging twat through tight white shorts. Yep. Not surprisingly, this iconic image is featured on the back-cover of the book. Good call, FAB Press—it’s one of the main reasons I purchased it.

Wow. Just wow.

Wow. Just wow.

An additional standout is the poster for 1978’s Hot Teenage Assets. Another painting, this poster is a perfect visual encapsulation of the aesthetics of the 1980s (even though the film was released in the late 1970s). Against a hazy, dark-blue backdrop, a woman in a cherry-red bikini flash-dances while showering herself with a long, twirling white hose that looks like something out of a laser-light show and appears to be spraying water and constellations over her. The text on the poster immediately calls the original Tron movie to mind, which is a good thing. Fans of 1980s art will also love the classic, semi-psychedelic poster for Consenting Adults.

Oh, I almost forgot: vore and macro fetishists will most certainly go crazy over the poster for Champagne for Breakfast—the central image is a painting of a tiny, nude, mustachioed man floating in a glass of champagne as the drink is raised to sultry, larger-than-life scarlet lips for a drink. The concerned look on the man’s face says he’s about to go down the hatch.

While this book is a net-masterpiece, there are some lowlights to be discussed. For one, the poster compendium is rather hetero-centric. However, Robin Bougie not only acknowledges this problem in the book’s intro, he completely laments it, stating, “It should be noted that effort was made to include posters representing the more noteworthy gay films of the same era, but it turned out to be

Champagne for Breakfastan exercise in frustration.” Bougie goes on to explain that, due to prevailing norms of the times, posters typically weren’t even made to advertise gay fuck-films between the years of 1970 and 1985. Bummer. What’s more, according to Bougie, of the few gay adult film posters that could be tracked down from that time period, the cost was simply too high to purchase them, due to their rarity.

And on a pretty subjective note of criticism, the last forty-some pages of the book begin to display more and more photo-based posters, which sort of bummed me out. While some of the photographic content is certainly interesting, most of it pales in comparison to the outlandish, dynamically styled artwork that comprises the bulk of Graphic Thrills. But hey, maybe you’ll love the photos?

At the end of the day, Graphic Thrills is truly an unrepentant masterwork of the mondo di sleaze. I write with confidence that it is a must-own for fans of either porno or posters—and especially the very small number of people who fall into the middle section of the classic Porno FanPoster Fan Venn diagram. You may also consider buying this book if you like: smut history, vintage art, boobs, psychedelic colors, butts, feeling sexually aroused, or simply things that are just fucking awesome. Seriously, pick up a copy of Graphic Thrills at Atomic Books in Hampden, now, you dirtbag.

Book Review—The Little Book of Big Penis

For the Love of Chubs: A Review of The Little Book of Big Penis
By Kit Ames

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It’s hard to find a good schlong outside of straight-up porn these days. Hollywood and HBO are quick to pop a pair of tits on-screen but very rarely do we see a real-deal peen—and when we do, it feels like a rarity and a big deal. I remember being very impressed that The Wire showed a dong on-screen some 4-5 times throughout its five-season run (though boobs appeared probably three times as much as that on the show), because I’d never seen one in a TV series before. Similarly, johnsons are much less frequently the subjects of erotic art than female forms. Consider the vast empire of strip clubs featuring exclusively female dancers in Baltimore, on The Block or out on Pulaski highway. I only know of one strip club in this city where you can see a pocket rocket. A good schlong—for viewing purposes—is hard to find.

Dian Hanson is changing all of that with her series of books that showcase erotic photography across decades. After publishing The Big Penis Book, Taschen put out a new, more compact version in 2012 called The Little Book of Big Penis. About 30% of its material is different from The Big Penis Book, and it offers all the benefit of its small, ready-to-travel size. 

Hanson opens the collection with a brief, but fascinating, history of the evolution of erotic photography with male subjects. She explains how the US government’s (namely, the Postal Service’s) vilification of homosexuality made the publication and distribution of erotic photography nearly impossible, meaning that it wasn’t until 1970 when the first full-erection could be found in adult bookstores. While I was a little miffed by the lack of critical analysis in this section of the book (it suggests that gay men would be the only audience for dick pics, and doesn’t mention the acceptance of women in erotic art may also stem from the fact that men are more willing to objectify women), it overall was an interesting, quick read. Also, it was followed by lots of penises.

Chris Donovan in work attire

Chris Donovan in work attire

 

Dude, these dicks are huge. Some of the pictures made me squirm just imagining them inside of people. But whether they make you squirmy or aroused, each and every one is definitely worth a gander. They range from the delightfully campy to the painfully posed and smoldering, to the undeniably sexy. One of the first photographs, opposite from the cover page, is a 1970’s wang on top of a slice of bread next to a jar of French’s mustard and a fork and knife. If the book were only variations of that picture in different tints, I’d be sold. Other highlights include a charming shoot of Bob Moore as a naked, half-way aroused cowboy framing his “Lil’ Bobby” with a lasso. Additionally, there is a very sexy shot of Chris Donovan, his preppy tie and shirt undone, no pants, and his unit coyly peeking out from under his cocktail. There is also a great collection of military-themed schlong shots. And then there are the jaw-droppingly long wang-doodles of Moby Dick and Long Dong Silver, which are always sure to please a crowd.

My only complaint about this collection would be that some of the wieners look particularly oiled and something about this slickness in a photograph weirds me out. Regardless of your preference for or aversion to slick-dicks, this collection of photos is definitely worth checking out. You can find it at Atomic Books in Hampden, or underneath my bed.