Chinatown is a lot like the Mustang Ranch. Both entice you with a tantalizing, exotic promise that only leaves you smelling like fish. No wonder it's situated right next to all the titty bars in S.F.
I have been to the Lusty Lady and the Mitchell Brothers' Theatre and vowed never to return (“Too expensive” and “I'm not a man” being my main reasons). But I continue to be titillated enough by strip clubs to consider going back, and I was curious about Larry Flynt's Hustler Club. Who wouldn't be? Plus, unlike most of these other places, it serves liquor.
My friend and I arrived there in the afternoon, so there was no cover and we could just sashay on in. A tall staircase leads down into the club, which made me wonder what disabled people are supposed to do. Even Larry Flynt, who uses a wheelchair, wouldn't be able to enter his own club.
But it's not just the disabled who don't seem welcome; I'm thinking that the club doesn't get too many female patrons either, and judging by the welcome we got, I can see why. No one approached our table to see what we wanted to drink. I had to go up the bar and fairly pound on it to get the lady's attention. What are horny lesbians to do? Ain't their money just as green?
We settled into a table near the main pole-dance area and continued to be ignored by the entire establishment, which was just fine by me, because I couldn't help but stare. I suppose I should describe the joint, but you can probably conjure up an exact replica of the place: Las Vegas-style gaudy carpeting, chicks with their asses hanging out, dipshit customers in NFL coats hunched over drinks, and a liberal dusting of risqué insincerity.
I used to feel sorry for women who worked in these places, but I think that my “concern” was really just me being judgmental. Now it's not so much that I have been liberated from my judgments, it's just that I don't give a shit anymore. Go ahead, rut around in some guy's lap for money. I don't know you and therefore have no idea what your motivation is. I can't hold you down. Fly away and be free! (Is anyone else picturing a nuthatch in a G-string? No?)
We sat there and sipped our drinks. My friend had never read Hustler, so I told her what I could remember about it. Instead of a centerfold, readers can find a two-page spread of just that — a spread. A total beaver shot that takes up the entire space. Flynt also ran a cartoon called Chester the Molester, about a predatory pedophile. He published pictures of horribly deformed people as a sort of sideshow extra. He was also brave enough to dip into the fetish coverage before any other pornographer of his stature.
I always wondered who would want to read this magazine regularly. What kind of person would have a subscription? A sicko, that's who. Larry Flynt is the last person I ever thought would end up getting mainstream attention. But pornographers are like cult religions. If they hang around long enough, they eventually become established. The Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrine is loony tunes, but we consider that group a full-fledged church now. Larry Flynt is a pig, but he now lends his name to a chain of pseudo-elite gentlemen's clubs.
Oh gosh, there I go again, being judgmental. It's not as though the Hustler Club is some über-grody den of vice. Actually, if anything, it was like a generic airport lounge, only with coochie.
Suddenly, a young guy with long, greasy hair emerged from the back of the club. He had dark, darting eyes and a gait like a high school stoner on his way to study hall, 20 minutes late.
“Did he just crawl out of someone's pussy?” my friend said. It seemed the guy worked there, because he went up to the door guy and they had an exchange, then he shuffled back to where he came from. Finally, a bona fide titty-bar creep! Flynt must keep a stash of them in the back. What a relief.
We got bored shitless in no time and did not order another drink, but, if anyone had approached us, I might've been tempted. At least then I could've had a short, up-close-and-personal Jane Goodall-esque interaction with one of the cocktail servers. But since we didn't look like the types of customers who would be asking to go into the champagne room, no one cared.
When we emerged at the top of the stairs on the street, I immediately added Larry Flynt's Hustler Club to a short list of boobie bars I would never return to. Strip clubs just make me feel like I'm on some big, naked NYSE trading floor. How men can come into these places and not feel like a commodity is beyond me. It's not the women who are being manipulated; it's the patrons.
But I'm not judging.