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Just through door of the Covered Wagon, an epicurean redhead flashes her pearly whites and demands five bucks. Hesitation seems out of the question. She shifts slightly, reaching for the hand stamp that will last through at least two showers and one snotty where-did-you-get-drunk-this-time glance from the French triathlon athlete who makes your coffee in the morning. No matter. A small light overhead refracts off the polished black corset worn by Teal Good, the hostess who seizes the proffered fin and smiles sweetly. Kink -- a dark, voluptuous woman with wild hair and wilder eyes -- looms on the bar overhead, grinding and gyrating in a stylized black catsuit while the CW bartenders sell shots of whiskey at her feet. Farther in the room, another go-go dancer plies her trade on a pool table that usually serves as staid happy-hour entertainment for beer-swilling bike messengers. Tonight the table is embellished by Tigger Le Twang, a woman renowned for her fine modeling work in Big Butts Magazine, and for the years she spent dancing for Candye Kane (who made a name for herself by playing the piano with her prodigal bosom). Miss Le Twang is a big girl who, judging from the number of bills spilling out of her apparel, really knows how to shake her, um, stuff.
Welcome to "Stinky's Peepshow," home of San Francisco's large and lovely go-go dancers, where the music rocks, the crowd drinks, and the entertainment is quite simply immeasurable.
"There were no good rock clubs left in the city," explains founder Audra Angeli-Morse, an amply endowed Italian club veteran with huge brown eyes, crimson lips, and remarkable teeth. "My old partner, Paul King, and I just created the exact kind of environment that we would want to hang out in -- loud, colorful, glamorous, trashy, kitschy, ridiculous, and fun." It's worked. Stinky's has become the nightclub where other club employees go to hang out. Throughout the evening bartenders, DJs, and doorstaff from Slim's, Paradise Lounge, Trocadero, "New Wave City," and the Warfield are seen trolling amongst the proper paying customers.
"It's like family," says Tree Angulo, who works in coat check.
"I work for the Audra mafia," counters Kink, whose day job is designing custom-made latex gear for her partnership So Hip It Hurts. "I have no choice in the matter. I get Audra protection in exchange."
In the DJ booth, Spike -- an employee of Fat Wreck Chords, the singer for Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, and Angeli-Morse's main squeeze -- spins a nostalgic, head-shaking set of no-bullshit rock songs: Slade, Billy Squier, Cheap Trick. During a particularly memorable middle school-era AC/DC song, a couple of chicks (out on a tear for a bachelorette party, they giggle) jump on the pool table to grind with Le Twang. It is a short-lived affair.
"I'm not particularly attracted to the dancers," says 27-year-old Ryan Blanchard, who works at Pier 23, "but I find them fascinating. I'm working on a photo essay. I have an entire album dedicated exclusively to Stinky's." Blanchard has not missed a night in over three months. "You don't get this sort of thing in Georgia," he says, tipping his handsome cowboy hat.
On the main stage, Phoenix Thunderstone -- a band comprising a singer who looks like Nick Cave, a bass player who could have dropped out of the cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a harmonica player who dresses like Robert Palmer, a Pearl Jam drummer, and a Guns N' Roses guitar player -- are finishing up their onslaught of stupendous Bad Seeds-inspired rock. As at every Thunderstone spectacle, the last song leaves lead singer Sean Heskit completely nude, writhing around onstage, sweating like an early Iggy still flushed with self-loathing and genius while the rest of the band begin packing up their gear.
"He grabbed my balls earlier in the show," mentions a man standing near the bar without much concern. "He grabbed a lot of people's balls."
"I saw Vaginal Cream Davis get him off during a live show in New York," adds bartender Wade Palmer.
Two drag queens, dressed as twins in matching boas, enter the bar with bullhorns. "The Peepshow will begin in 10 minutes!" they bellow. Those in the know grab their drinks and bolt for the back room, which is already gorged with grinning fans. Latecomers crush together on the floor, a few inches away from the slightly elevated stage. The Muffra Twins, as the queens are known, embrace and embark on an operatic plea for their monster mother. Muffra enters the room wearing large gauze wings, a giant pastel vagina attached to her chest. She careens around the stage. The Muffra Twins coo. Then, Boobzilla enters. Her copious breasts swing freely, threatening to bludgeon customers seated near the door; her great, green tail swishes in Muffra's direction, taunting. The two engage in battle. Boobs fly. Silly String is produced. The Muffra Twins cower. It is chaotic and funny and the crowd is rapt.
"This is the shit," says a man seated behind me. He is first in line when Jell-O shots are offered on the bodies of the lady monsters ("Boobs or Muff, pick your winner," say the Muffra Twins, holding little cups of quivering alcoholic dessert). Both men and women wait patiently for their chance to slurp gelatin from between Boobzilla's breasts (though most of the women buy a shot off of both beasts "for fear of choosing one part of the anatomy over the other").
"I just love burlesque," says music writer/Stinky's regular Gary X. Indiana, just before posing for a photo sandwiched between Boobzilla and Muffra. "It's nice family fun."
Back in the front room, the resident tarot reader flips over the first card for her beautiful dreadlocked client. "Aah, this is the most hedonistic card in the deck," she says with a smile.
Good place for it -- for good, clean, family-style hedonism.
By Silke Tudor
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