Tour de Sleaze, Part 3—Journey to the Center of The Block

A Baltimore Tour de Sleaze—Part 3
A journey to the center of Baltimore’s Block
By Ingrid Verde and Andre Novak

Bar #4—███████████████
Note: The name of this establishment has been deleted at the insistence of Cream City’s lawyers.

I recall very little about the ride to The Block except that, once we were in the car, I started on some kind of political tirade that seemed to unsettle the driver. He was a good sport though. Also, Ingrid’s leg was hanging out of the car’s rear-left door as we drove off from Sherrie’s. She pulled it in before it became an issue though. We made it to The Block in record time. The hard part, we quickly realized, was deciding on where to spend the little money we had left. Haleigh-TourDeSleaze2

After a lot of arguing and peering through smudged, neon-lit strip-club doorways, we finally decided to try the largest and glitziest-looking joint on the block—you know which one. I was completely opposed to setting foot in the place, but I’d been out-voted by my associates. Jim kept insisting that we’d have “the time of our lives”—I remained 100% skeptical. The place just seemed too pricey and corporate for any real fun to be going down there. Ingrid had to drag me past the front doors as we entered. After going through some kind of blurry and expensive admission ritual, we were finally permitted to enter the dance room. The whole thing felt like passing through a military checkpoint.

Now, the exterior of this place didn’t make it seem that much bigger than most establishments on The block, but let me tell you: the interior is massive beyond your wildest imaginings. In a single room roughly the size of the Parthenon, hundreds—maybe thousands—of round black tables surround a tall circular stage on the main floor. The stage’s center is marked with two metal poles rising some 80 feet into the air, all the way to the ceiling. Each wall of the establishment is actually a stack of two additional floors, each opened to the stage for your viewing pleasure.

We were seated at a table way in the back. Jim was barking lasciviously about how great the place was as we paid large sums of money for our drinks. I didn’t like it. We were too far from the action. Even with my tiny binoculars, I could barely see the stage. I felt stranded in the desert of the real. From where I sat, there seemed to be tiny speck of a woman performing acrobatics on the pole at 60-ish feet up. But who could be sure from that distance?

I was growing weary, readying myself to organize a mutiny, when a thin man with a dark beard sidled up next to me. He leaned over and whispered something.

“You know, there are no girls here,” he said.


“No girls—not a single one. It’s all CGI or somethin’. I just came back from the front. I reached onto the stage to put a couple bucks inna girl’s g-string and my hand went right through ‘er—some kind a hologram, I think. I’m tryin’ to tell as many people as I can on my way out.”

I put my binoculars up to my eyes. It was hard to see what he meant, but the dancer on stage did have kind of a translucent glow about her. I started to turn toward the man.

“Hey, lemme go!”

I heard him shouting before I even saw the two men in black suits grabbing each of his shoulders. They each hooked an arm under the man’s armpits and began calmly dragging him in the direction of the door.

“Hey! Hey! I want my mone—“

He was pulled right through the exit doors.

By that time, Jim had apparently gone AWOL with his Tinder Date. I hadn’t noticed or cared. Ingrid, Brad, and I decided to try our luck elsewhere. We slunk toward the exit as the two men in suits stared us down. I’m on to you, I thought to myself, looking them in the eyes.

After we got out the door, we figured Little Darlings would be the logical next step as it was so close. We walked down a set of fuzzy stairs, into a darkened purple-lighted room where we each paid a cover of merely $5 before we were granted access to all of our wildest dreams, so we hoped.

“Let’s go next door—to the sketchier place. Im sure there’s no cover, and it’s more of what we are looking for,” Andre protested in front of ███████████████ where Jim had led us.

We headed next door only to find that they had an entrance fee, albeit half the cost of ██████’s. After a minor debate and at Jim’s insistence, we found ourselves at ██████—the granddaddy of Baltimore strip clubs. Out front, commanding signs and a long red-carpeted stairwell led up to the club.

Inside, clusters of tables circled a Colosseum-esque arena with two poles that led up to the high ceiling. The nude dancers climbed the pole to the second floor before twirling high above our heads and then dropping to the floor. I gasped, believing a freak accident to be inevitable and imagining the performer, mangled and broken, at the base of the pole. The $20 cover seemed worth the nude version of Cirque de Soleil.

A cocktail waitress interrupted my revelry to ask if I wanted a drink. I assessed my current level of intoxication and decided I should skip alcohol in favor of water.

“Are you crazy? Water costs just as much as alcohol here. Just get another drink.” Brad admonished.

This mentality had gotten me into a lot of trouble before. Shit was going to get crazy.

“Has anyone seen Jim and what’s her name?” I asked.

“They got a private room.” Brad said.

“OH in that case, let’s go back to the other place we scoped out. That’s what we came here for. Besides, I’m starting to think these strippers are just CGI holograms anyways…” Andre muttered.

Bar #5—Little Darlings
This establishment was small, but definitely more of a shoebox than a broom closet. The place was brimming with strippers. The management had simply hired too many girls for that night it seemed—the dancer-to-customer ratio was some 10 to 1. Also, the purple-ish lighting reminded me of black-lights and I knew we’d hit the jackpot. This was the place we’d been looking for. The three of us had to push our way through a small sea of near-naked female bodies as we walked toward the mainstage. I took a short detour past the bar and ordered another Pikesville on ice.

By the time I sat down next to my compatriots, Ingrid was already swarmed by a gaggle of strippers who were stroking her hair and lightly grabbing at her body like gentle molesters. Brad and I, it seemed, had turned into translucent ghosts at some point, which was fine with me. Brad, however, descended into a state of outrage as he shook his head, throwing his hands up, and commenting repeatedly on how Ingrid was hoarding all of the girls. “No respect,” he muttered lowering, his face into his palms.Haleigh-TourDeSleaze

I simply couldn’t relate in that moment. I turned toward the stage only to realize that one of the dancers had been staring me right in the face—with her brown eye. She was bent forward and shaking her butt-cheeks in my direction. How long had this been going on? Was I supposed to tip her? I was clueless on matters of strip club protocol. Fortunately, a doughy kid in a Batman t-shirt stepped in and saved the day.

“I got it, man,” he said to me, probably reading the panic on my numbed face.

He took a fistful of dollars and casually threw them at the dancer’s ass. She turned her head to smile at him. I noticed she had brown eyes.

“Thanks,” I said.

It was time for another Pikesville. However, I was horrified when the people at the bar told me the credit card machine was broken and they were only accepting cash. The barman pointed me toward the ATM in the far corner of the shoebox. Fair enough, I thought while taking wobbly baby-steps toward the glowing machine. I remember that a new song came on as I walked—some kind of slow organ dirge started seeping through the speakers. An airy female voice began:

Look on down from the bridge
There’s still fountains down there…

I shook my head and wondered what kind of sick joker-of-a-DJ would play that song in a club like this. No matter—I was on a mission. But even all of that went to shit as I approached the ATM and caught a slippery patch on the carpet with the heel of my shoe. I fell over and onto my back.

Everybody seems so far away from me
Everybody just wants to be free

A man dressed in a tuxedo-vest and bow-tie stood over me, and asked if I was ok. I reached into my pocket.

“Sir, there’s no smoking in here.”

“I know that.”

I discreetly slid the cigarettes back into my pocket and pulled my cell phone out. “I’m calling my lawyer, that’s all.”

“That won’t be necessary, sir.”

I’m just gone, just gone…

“Yeah, I know.”

Walking back to the stage I noticed that there were now three girls on stage, making out and grinding on each other. Whoa.

As I approached my seat, I asked Brad where Ingrid was. His eyes were wide and he just kept staring at the spectacle on stage. That’s when it hit me. I slowly turned my head around to confirm my theory. Ingrid was on stage. I turned back to Brad.

“What happened?”

“I dunno. They just pulled her on stage and she seemed down for it. They yanked her clothes off and then all of this started.”

Ingrid was standing, dancing and making out with one stripper while another one seemed to have her face tucked between her thighs.

There’s a light in your eyes
And you know, yeah you know

Batman was still seated to my right and his eyes were visibly dewy.

“This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” he muttered.

“Is it really?!” I snapped.


Look on down from the bridge
I’m still waiting for you

I thought we’d been kicked out promptly at 2:00AM, which, at the time, seemed really strange in a place like that. However, I was later informed that we had, in fact, lingered around until about 3:30AM. That’s when were booted. Ingrid put her clothes on and we left, walking east down Baltimore Street in search of the next big thing.

We headed through a dark and narrow stairwell leading down to the doorway of Little Darlings. Once the door opened, I knew this was it. This is what we had been searching for. We had made it to the Promised Land— one overflowing with strippers and liquor.

“YES! This is everything I had hoped it would be!” Andre voiced my sentiment as he rushed to the bar in the back corner.

Our trio sat down at the seats arranged around the stage next to a guy with a Batman t-shirt, greasy hair, untrimmed beard, and slight paunch. I wondered how he was going to sneak back into his mom’s basement later that night.

“Oh my god that girl is so hot—the brunette one onstage.” Brad gushed.

A tall slim dancer called Jessie went on with a shorter girl wearing a g-string and jock socks. They twirled around the pole before sliding to the floor and crawling about together and simulating oral sex. Brad was in love. Jessie caught my eye and crawled to the edge of the stage.

“Hey there, sexy. You are gorgeous.”

“Seriously, Ingrid? They’re hitting on you?” Brad interjected.

“Come onstage,” she urged, pulling me towards the platform.

I resisted.

“DO IT!” Brad goaded.

“Come on Ingrid.. Come on! IN-GRID! IN-GRID…”

The other dancer had joined her in pulling me towards them; I was helpless against the siren song.

As I climbed onto the stage, Jessie unzipped my jacket and I threw it toward the audience. It smacked Brad in the face. Bright lights blinded me to the spectators. Jessie and Jocksocks simultaneously undressed me; I was oblivious to anything else. A fog machine (or, maybe, the copious amounts of alcohol I had consumed) created a haze that glowed with the lasers and rotating, multi-colored lights.

“Kiss me.”

Jessie’s lips were soft and sweet. I have no idea how long we made out pressed up against the pole onstage while the other dancer tangled between our legs, but, eventually, the set ended, and I retrieved my strewn clothing while making my way back to my seat.

“That was amazing! And I have pictures!” Brad exclaimed. “I would have had more too if the bouncer hadn’t slapped my phone out of my hand.”

Ingrid Verde, pictured at center Image courtesy of Brad Baisley

Ingrid Verde, center, conducting important research for this article
Image courtesy of Brad Baisley


He shot an irritated glance at the towering presence staring at us from the wall.

“I was just about to shoot a video when someone shouted, ‘Hey! Show some respect!’—that’s when Shaq’s big brother decided to assault my phone.”

Oh, that’s just great…

The neck-beard in the batman shirt learned forward and turned toward me.

“I just want to say that was the hottest thing I’ve ever seen.”

I laughed awkwardly as I put my shirt back on.

The girls were completing their shifts and came over to socialize. Jessie and Kendra sat on the side of my chair, while another girl played with my hair behind me. Everyone moved in a sort of blur. At any given moment I had my tongue in a different girl’s mouth.  Brad shook his head in despair behind us.

“Are you all lesbians?” he inquired.

“No, but how could you not love her.” Kendra purred.

I hadn’t realized we were the only ones left in the club until the Shaq look-alike screamed, “Girls—clothes on! You guys, OUT!”

“You need to come to our after party.” Jessie appealed as she handed me my phone.

I had several new additions in my contacts list under names like “Kassie” and “Jewel.”

“Alright we will.” I affirmed as we were shuffled out into the cool, forsaken streets of Baltimore.

“We are going to that after party.” Brad stated while hailing a cab.

My phone vibrated constantly with directions from several sources.

“Hell, no,” I slurred. “I was making out with like five girls, and they’re all asking me to come now—way too much girl drama. I can’t do that…”

“It’d be great for the story,” Andre mused.



Tour de Sleaze, Part 1—A Bar Crawl Through Baltimore’s Underbelly

A Baltimore Tour de Sleaze—Part 1
Take a bar crawl to nowhere in particular
By Ingrid Verde and Andre Novak

Original artwork by Haleigh Hey Boy!

Original artwork by Haleigh Hey Boy!

Editor’s Note
Seemingly  due to sheer laziness on behalf of the authors, each section of this article has been split into two separate parts: one written by Ingrid Verde and one written by Andre Novak. I tried to convince Andre and Ingrid to combine their distinct sections into a single easy-to-read piece, but they refused, both claiming to be suffering from “severe crickets—no, rickets” before cackling hysterically into the phone and hanging up on me. Accordingly, the shift in voice, from Ingrid to Andre and vice-versa, is labeled with their names—and in bright colors—for your convenience. Thank you for your patience during these economically trying times.


Deep in the heart of the urban labyrinth of Baltimore lies a grimy decadence whose existence is denied by the decent people of the world. It is a darkness one can normally avoid by simply remaining within the Fells-Canton-Fed Trifecta—the carefully mapped-out “safe zones” that the upstanding citizens of Baltimore inhabit and commute to-and-from in the safety of their Uber Black Cars. In search of The Truth, Andre and I decided to delve deep into Charm City’s uncharted territories of degenerate dive-bars and go-go clubs as a sort of sociological study, or perhaps to just release our own suppressed debauchedness under the pretense of academic pursuits.

The night of our assignment, I scoured my wardrobe for a costume that would appear familiar to the locals we were sure to encounter. I donned my sweatiest of sweat pants, slip-on canvas shoes, an Orioles t-shirt, and one of those now popular “Baltimore” caps you can pick up at any 7-Eleven around the city (if you don’t know what I am referring to, you may be an elitist). Was it convincing? I wasn’t sure, but I knew a blunt to the face could only improve my haze-eyed Baltimore sleaze-crawl uniform.

Baltimore's seedy underbelly File photo—AP News

Baltimore’s seedy underbelly
File photo—Cream City Newswire

My roommate, Brad Baisley, had agreed to accompany us on our tour of Baltimore’s seamy underworld. “As any good Baltimorean knows, we cannot head out sober,” Brad admonished as he handed me my first of many Fireball shots. I glanced at the clock. 3:30 in the afternoon and I am already inventing dance moves in the kitchen—thank you very much, Mary Jane.  Andre had promised to head over by 7:00 PM. Plenty of time for pre-gaming and karaoke. Brad, a skilled bartender, began to mix drinks and shots while belting out the lyrics to various 80s serenades.

My neighbor Jim, an expert on the depravity of our city—a man who has, in fact, banged a girl in a Porta Potty (and at Preakness, no less)—volunteered to act as our guide through the dense underground of the Greatest City in America. He arrived just as I had finished constructing a giant straw (patent pending) consisting of about ten separate multicolored straws jammed into each other so that I could maximize my drinking by never having to pick-up or cease slurping my ever-flowing vodka-sodas.

Jim immediately downed a Fierball shot, intent on descending to our level. He glanced down at his phone before announcing that we would need to stop by his house before heading out to pick up a girl that was purportedly to meet us there. “Who is this girl?” I asked suspiciously.

“Some girl I met on Tinder.”

“You’re bringing a rando Tinder date out with us??”

He laughed unashamedly.

Andre’s knock announces his arrival. “Thank God. Someone with some sense is here.”

I ran to the door to admit a sane presence to our midst. Andre had shaved his beard into the sleaziest of mustaches had a cigarette holder between his lips and was wearing an olive colored jacket over unbuttoned plaid shirt over a t-shirt. He had one of those tiny press notebooks in hand. “Well, Do I look the part?” he asked excitedly.

“I’ve been drinking. “ I blurted out. I have a tendency to out myself. “Come upstairs and have a shot before we head out.” I imagine Andre was frustrated with our revelries, as he wanted us to venture into the abyss sober. Oops. I sought to make up for it with Fireball.

Jim and Brad were mid-karaoke performance when we returned to the kitchen. “Guys, I’m going to need to grab some food before we head out,” the entirely not-intoxicated Andre interjected. “We could just grab some Rodeo Burgers from…”

“Nah, let’s go to Sip & Bite and get real food,” someone countered.

Thirty minutes later we were walking, en route to Burger King, after a visit to Sip & Bite where we had found a table but left 10 minutes later when a server had failed to appear.

“Let’s grab some Natty Daddies.” Jim suggested.

“Well, if we’re going to have a trashy night out, we should probably do it right,”  Andre affirmed.

As I found myself walking into Burger King (as a vegan this in itself is an anomaly) with a 24oz bottle of Corona stashed in a brown paper bag and asking for one of their wax cups, I put a new entry on my mental This-is-a-First list.

“I think I’m going to need the biggest one you’ve got.”  I said setting my beer on their counter. The cashier suppressed a laugh and presented a King-sized cup. “This oughta do it.”

Now that my fellow explorers were temporarily placated with their burgers  and beers disguised as sodas, we headed back to Jim’s house to grab his Tinder date before heading to our first authentic Baltimore shit-hole of the night.


The idea was simple—execute a Saturday-night tour of Baltimore’s sleaziest nightlife establishments and return, unscathed, to document the whole experience for Cream City. I thought it was going to be easy.

However, from the moment I met with Ingrid to embark on the journey, I could see we were heading into a long, blurry tunnel with no light at the end. While I had insisted that we stay as sober as possible to better remember—and eventually, convey—the happenings of the night, Ingrid had insisted on living-out scenes from Sleep’s Dopesmoker album and LMFAO-Lil Jon collaborations for the hours leading up to our departure.

When I arrived at Ingrid’s place, she was a wreck. She answered the door laughing and mumble-rambling incoherently, reeking of high-grade weed. Her wet eyes appeared to be hemorrhaging a bit. “Wonderful,” I said to myself. Ingrid had thrown all professionalism out the window. At first I was disappointed. I even pulled my tiny homemade “PRESS” credential from my hat and placed it inside Ingrid’s trash-bin while she slurped vodka through a ten-foot straw, giggling like a fiend on nitrous oxide. But then it hit me. Ingrid hadn’t failed the project—she was taking it to the next level. Of course. I thought it through. How could we possibly cover Baltimore’s sleaze-beat without becoming complete shitbags ourselves? I mean, it won’t be easy, but it’s certainly the right thing to do—we cant’t just half-ass this project like City Paper would. Upon realization of Ingrid’s grand journalistic vision, I was ready to dive in.

About a half-hour later, I was sitting in a prominent fast-food restaurant on Eastern Avenue, savoring a final bite of my Rodeo Burger and sucking the remnants of a Natty Daddy from a towering wax “King Cup.” Ingrid, Brad, John, and I were loudly discussing the effects of salvia divinorum while a family enjoyed their meal in the booth behind us. I recall that they looked deeply unsettled for some reason. By the time we finished our food and beverages, it was around 8:30 PM and we were ready to tackle the assignment. Sure, we were already really drunk—but not just on beer and skunky malt-liquor; we were also drunk on our undying lust for the truth. As we stepped onto Eastern Avenue, we gazed long into the abyss—the abyss also gazed back. We set out for a bar called RJ’s— but first we had to stop at some place on South Collington to meet up with a lady-friend of John’s who turned out to be a Baltimore Hooters Girl.

Bar #1—RJ’s
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s  ‘Bad Moon Rising’ was playing as we walked through the doorway, which I took as a good sign. RJ’s was the first bar on our list and it was the only destination that made me uneasy.

A famous wall on which female patrons can donate their bras for public display made this place a must-visit for our project. However, I had been informed earlier that RJ’s was basically a haunt for Baltimore’s aging combat-veterans. I knew the vibe would be macho, racist, and possibly violent. What did ‘RJ’ even stand for? Ron Jon?

The building was basically an elongated broom closet. Quarters couldn’t have been any closer. Out of all the people in our group, Ingrid and I were the obvious outsiders. Patrons stopped their shouting and whooping as we walked by, giving us both the tense eye.

It was a weight off my chest when the bartender—an orange-haired, middle-aged lady—greeted us with a warm smile. I remember thinking that maybe things would be alright. All of that, however, ended at my drink order.

“Hey—just a Wild Turkey on the rocks, please,” I said, smiling.

“A Wild what?”

“A Wild Turkey—on ice.”

The smiles were fading fast.

“No—no, we don’t have that. We have Miller Light and Coors.”

“Gimme one of those Colorado Kool-Aids,” I said grimacing, thinking I’d just scored some credibility points.


“Colorado Kool-Aid,” I mumbled, mostly to myself.

“What the hell’s wrong with you?”

“Um, a Coors. I’ll take a Coors.”

I hadn’t been sipping for very long when a stout man with a distended belly shoved his way through the narrow space between the barstools and the back wall. Just as he was passing me, a tall guy with long, stringy hair and coke-bottle glasses edged close enough to stout man to slap him on the back.

“Kramer, I didn’t realize this was a gay bar!” he shouted while cackling.

This man, Kramer, didn’t even look back to see who it was when he responded,  “Yeeeeaaaah, fuck you, you faggot.”

RJ’s was quickly becoming the place that I imagined it would be: a hangout for gay-bashers and proto-nazis. Ingrid suddenly remembered why we had come. She unhooked her extra bra and handed it to the barmaid. All kinds of cheering and whooping ensued.

It was time for a smoke break. I dragged Ingrid outside with me. After a half-hour in that bar, hearing someone speak in way that was free of casual bigotry seemed strange, but we quickly re-assimilated as we talked about plans for this article.

We enjoyed about 2 minutes of peace before the door swung open and Kramer stepped between us. I could tell we were both thinking the same thing—we needed to make this guy think we were like him, lest I be beaten to a pulp for no real reason whatsoever. We had to hide any of the cultural trappings of our public-ivy backgrounds. Well, we failed. Kramer hassled us viciously for some minutes. We decided to leave after he played a cruel prank on Ingrid.


Swaying into RJ’s Place, I found myself surrounded by locals. I knew they would be here, but it was glaringly obvious that Andre and I were not indigenous to the scene. Brad, Jim, and Tinder Date were passable. I suddenly felt like an explorer who had unwittingly donned the war paint of a neighboring tribe in a feeble attempt to assimilate. Do they know I am here under false pretenses? All eyes found us as we shuffled sideways down the length of the bar to the empty seats.  I became conscious of the disparity of age and background between us. The patrons were largely comprised of retired veterans talking loudly, guffawing, throwing-back beers, and in desperate need of baths. There was only one thing that would remedy this pickle I found myself in— vodka. Andre was already haggling with the plump middle-aged bartender with frizzy orange hair over some whiskey.

“Could I get a Vodka soda, please?”

“Sure, hon.”

She slid the mystery vodka across the bar and I was pleased to find that the soda was an afterthought. I noticed the famed wall of bras behind the bar and remembered our purpose for visiting this establishment. “Is is true that if you give up your bra you can drink for free?” I asked the bartender.

“No, Hon, we just collect them.”

The majestic Bra Wall at RJ's

The majestic Bra Wall at RJ’s

“So, you want girls to just hand over their bras without compensation?” What is this, St. Vincent de Paul’s?

The bartender leaned over the bar. Her tits flattened over the surface and I had to rescue my drink from certain doom.

“Normally we would let you drink for free, but the owner is here now,” she whispered conspiratorially, her eyes jetting to the older man behind the bar.

Luckily, I had come prepared. I reached under my shirt and ripped off one of the two bras I was wearing and handed it over.

“Add that to your collection.”

“Ron, we got another one!” she shouted, holding my bra above her head like a prize. Ron came over inspected the spoils, turning it over in his wrinkled hands.

“Oh, this one is going right here in the front. Yeah, this is a nice one—I can tell. This is one of those $50 ones, right here!” he proclaimed proudly as he hung it on the collage of lace, cotton, satin, and underwire.

Turning over my glass, I took a moment to more closely examine the clientele. There was a definite impenetrable camaraderie that suggested this was the daily watering hole for these guys. They addressed each other by name, made bets, and exchanged misogynist jokes. The compadres laughed riotously as Andre and I exchanged uncomfortable looks.

“Do you want a cigarette?” Andre asked me. I took the offered Lucky Strike. My cigarette consumption is contingent on my alcohol intake. Sober, I will not touch a cigarette. This night, I was a chain-smoker.

Andre lit his cig, inhaled deeply, and lamented, “This place is everything I had hoped and feared it would be.” Kramer burst out the door, the remnants of laugher still on his face…until he saw us. “What are you fresh-faced university kids doing out here?” Oh god… he’s on to us ! We’ve been discovered.  My alcohol-and-weed-addled mind raced for an escape. He watched us suspiciously as he reduced his cigarette to ashes in an instant. “Let’s head over to that Go Go place I was telling you about.” Andre suggested, after we’d withstood about five minutes of Kramer’s abuse.

“I’ll get the others.” I dashed inside to grab the others relieved to abandon the stares and bigoted crudeness that was RJ’s.

“You kids have never worked a day in your life. You don’t know the meaning of work…” Kramer informed us as we left the bar.

His voice was trailing off as we piled into the waiting taxi.