While strip joints have pretty much been zoned out of St. Louis proper, around these parts east side is pretty much synonymous with naked flesh. That's right: Within minutes of hopping the Mighty Miss on the Poplar Street Bridge, you're slipping dollar bills into G-strings.
And as Riverfront Times editor Tom Finkel said at last week's staff meeting, "A Final Four guide with no strip joints is like a martini with no olive." All that remained was to dispatch the only two RFT writers gullible enough to take on the assignment with no expense account. (Which is to say: If they didn't manage to hit every lap-dance lounge in the metro east, it wasn't for lack of trying.)
Jess: Here we are on Illinois Route 3 in the picturesque industrial mecca that is Sauget, Illinois, home of the spankin'-new Penthouse Club (1401 Mississippi Avenue #18; 618-274-0380). The former Diamond Cabaret has reopened with a touch of Vegas, complete with track lighting and faux marble. As an added bonus, the manager on duty looks not unlike Johnny Sack from The Sopranos.
Ben: This is by far the classiest joint in strip-club in mogul Micheal Ocello's local empire, which also includes the Platinum Club (213 Madison Street; 618-274-2582) and Roxy's (410 Madison Street; 618-274-4491) off Route 3 a bit north of here in Brooklyn (though incidentally, I was just told by a Penthouse Club staff member to avoid the food at the latter). PT's Centreville (6400 Four Corners Lane; 618-337-4400) -- known for some meaty couples nights -- and its preppier twin, PT's Sports Cabaret (200 Monsanto Avenue; 618-274-4500) right here in Sauget, round out Señor Ocello's nudie quintuplets.
Jess: Guess what? A mere $1,500 a year gains you access to Penthouse's members-only club, complete with two-inch-thick leopard-print carpet, stuffed wild game and leather chairs bigger than Gene Shalit's head.
Ben: Who has time for membership? PT's is calling us from across the railroad tracks.
Jess: And what a deliciously throaty call it is. What is it, exactly, that makes PT's Sports Cabaret so sweet?
Ben: Is it the cocktail waitresses in cheerleading outfits? Or the approximately twelve-foot-tall TV sets? I mean, I can't tell you much about the dancers, but I sure can tell you a lot about Kevin Garnett's glistening gourd.
Jess: But there are no poles! I mean, it's cool to have huge screens and naked ladies, but it's weird to see a naked lady right in front of a twelve-foot-high Manu Ginobili head.
Ben: Are we in Washington Park yet? Oh, yeah, we must be -- there's that giant sign for Larry Flynt's Hustler Club (Exit 6 off I-64 at Route 111; 618-874-9334) and that beaver smoking a cigar.
Jess: It's amusing that the "Home of the $10 Dance" is also the most pretentious place in town.
Ben: While we're in Washington Park, do you think it's worth a stop at low-budget luminaries Club 64 East (52 St. Clair Avenue; 618-875-0221) and Dollies Playhouse (6210 Forest Boulevard; 618-271-4257)? Maybe we'd be better off just heading for Miss Kitty's (5200 Bunkum Road; 618-875-6477). It's just across the street from Hustler and easy to find -- just look for the neon sign advertising a single "Showgirl."
Jess: Dude, seriously. I friggin' love Miss Kitty's! The cheap carpet and wood paneling -- it's a rec room with naked women! Oh, and did you see that blonde grinding on one guy while carrying on a conversation with another? It's just so...personal.
Ben: Oh, really. Thank God they didn't enforce the two-drink minimum. It was a little disheartening to see that some poor strip-club DJ has been put out of business by a RadioShack-quality stereo.
Jess: Wait, what's that palace of neon up ahead? Could it be...?
Ben: Yes! It's Hollywood Showclub (5481 Bunkum Road; 618-874-9000), which calls itself the "first multi-million dollar nightclub in the Midwest." I am really enjoying the three different screens of hardcore porn going on right now. Do you think we're looking at that chick's real anus?
Jess: Shhh! They've actually got a DJ! And he's playing Black Sabbath! But I have to say that by far the best part is that the whole place smells like Pez. And the bathroom stalls are painted gold and smell like a Bath & Body Works exploded. And all the blacklight. Damn! Look how much lint's on my sweater. And my drink actually has a lime in it.
Ben: Before you get too far into that drink, we need a rundown.
Jess: A rubdown?
Ben: Whatevs. Hottest girls?
Jess: Um, P.T.'s had that blonde in the white "skirt." But Kitty's had the Wonder Grinder.
Ben: Strongest drink?
Jess: Kitty's, definitely. Straight rum with a splash of Coke. And you barely got through your girlie drink.
Ben: Shut up. I'm a connoisseur of tequila sunrises. Best overall experience?
Jess: If you're looking for upscale, it's gotta be Penthouse, but if you're looking to go home smelling like roses and not cigarette butts, it's all about Hollywood.