It's too soon to tell whether Larry Flynt's Hustler Club entry into the local "topless" club scene will boost the revamped Déjà Vu to the top of the line of East Side strip joints. In the buffet of buck-nakedness that is the circuit, titillation is where you find it, not just where you bump-and-grind it. Madonna sang that, or something like it. The term "topless" has grown to be an anachronism because these dens of funk and iniquity go far beyond, or below, that level of exposure. For the price of a cover charge and a five-buck beer, a hormonally driven customer can see topless, bottomless and skin-to-skin contact between, or among, dancers. It depends on where you go. The basic premise is, the deeper you go into the bowels of Southern Illinois, the funkier it gets. Sauget is the entry-level zone, as antiseptic and safe as this genre gets.
The more adventurous (i.e., desperate), venture into the nether regions of Brooklyn or Centreville. The edge this year goes to P.T.'s in Centreville, with its continued dedication to "couples" nights on Saturday and now on Friday. Those weekend nights feature both male and female "dancers." All manner of audience participation, both spontaneous and programmed, is encouraged -- well, almost all manner. Granted, sometimes a trip over the river and through the woods to a strip joint can be a desultory, even depressing, experience. It's all so starkly patriarchal, in all the worst ways. Women are rewarded for sexual objectification, and men are gauged solely by how much cash they have. But sometimes there is humor. At a recent three-way in the shower stall at Roxy's, as the nubile nude women were conducting simulated and not-so-simulated tongue searches of each other's cavities, the DJ encouraged the assembled testosterone-addled males to throw crumpled dollar bills over the top of the stall. "The last time you saw this," the DJ said, "you had your dick in one hand and the remote in the other." How did he know that?