On the edge in Edge City

Brad Tyer finds fun, more fun and big fun on the Richmond Strip

The decor is studied ramshackle, with flags and beer posters and neon and lots of pseudo-rustic wood cramping every available nook and cranny. There is a Wall of Shame -- under one name or another, the ubiquitous signature of a Richmond Avenue establishment -- featuring signed photographs of local and national notables who have paved a path of fun before you. There is always something to look at in the Yucatan, and if the conversation hits that seven-minute silence, or if the drinks run temporarily dry, or if for any reason there should be a lag in the fun, one can reasonably occupy the awkward and sure-to-pass moment by taking a quick visual inventory. In a corner hangs an oversized poster of a reclining buxom blond of the sort evidently preferred by the majority male clientele; her caption reads "Yucatan: My Favorite Wet Spot."

The disc jockey's voice booms over the PA with a dedication to "Holly and Ducky," and a coterie of women leaps up from their corner table squealing, headed for the dance floor, followed by a slightly less enthusiastic group of their male companions. The song's chorus burbles, "I finally found what I'm looking for."

Outside on the patio, a pickup volleyball game is in progress on a sand-covered plot. Every now and then the ball hops the short, boarded boundary and momentarily disturbs another patron's drinking. Out back also is the previously mentioned Sky Coaster, previewed with a sign listing precautions for riders. Drunk patrons, for instance, are not allowed to swing, probably for the sake of clean pavement. Number two on the list, interestingly enough, has been blocked out with a swath of blue paint. I ask the man tending the booth if he can tell me what outdated safety rule the paint hides, but he can't remember. The Sky Coaster, at $20 for a single-harness ride, seems to be gaining popularity as the night wears on, and boyfriends and beaus become more eager to impress girlfriends and would-be bedmates.

Displayed prominently by the door joining patio to interior is a coin-game punching bag, also designed with an eye toward impressing the fairer sex. Terry, "his lady" standing by his side, waits for a chance to play. He places money in the slot, winds up, and strikes the bag IhardI. The score display -- a graded graph illustrated with the likeness of an adoring woman -- lights up to a level that seems to indicate a certain dearth of masculine vigor. Terry shakes his head, looks at his lady, glances around at the bystanders, and places more money in the machine. He hits the bag hard again, hard enough to knock anyone without tripod legs in the dust -- the score is worse. Terry looks around again, mutters something disdainful about the machine being broken, and heads inside for another drink.

nside is where Terry tells me that he used to be a professional baseball player with the Atlanta Braves. I accept this as unconditional truth. Terry is stocky and strong, with a look and demeanor that support his claim, but he doesn't seem to be having as much fun as he was having before the punching bag defeated him.

More Fun: Hold on to your butt
Next door to the Yucatan, Kacross a driveway and past the valet parkers, there's yet more fun to be had. Club Blue Planet caters to the indulgence of a crowd somewhat swankier than the laid-back fun-hustlers of the Caribbean-motifed Liquor Stand. Where the Yucatan houses a casual crowd of Docker- and jeans-wearing men mingling with women decked out in 1980s-era mall fashion, Blue Planet hews closer to the cutting edge. There are more synthetics in the wardrobe, brighter colors, blacker blacks, and the generally more dressed-up feel of a clientele that takes its partying seriously. Standing in line at the door, I was asked to please tuck in my shirt.

Blue Planet is four months into a new life, its building having previously harbored The Rose on Richmond, a country-flavored disco. If Richmond Avenue has somehow designed itself to offer all things fun to all stripes of fun-lovers, Blue Planet embraces the glam-style ethic of the roaring 1980s. Every surface is stylishly and glossily painted to add up to a garish mosaic effect the polar opposite of the Yucatan's beachwear nonchalance. (Blue Planet's owners cover the bases, though, with Bait Camp, their cluttered, plastic-sheeted version of on-the-sand ambience, just down the road.) The room is jammed with svelte bodies, strobes flashing off of gleaming skin, bar help working doubletime, dance beats shaking the floor. Here, as elsewhere on the Strip, waitresses wearing leather shot-glass harnesses and bottle-holders roam the room, fueling the fun. Jello shots are a hot drink item, and my date and I split a lime and a cherry version.

The manager, Jeff Meinecke, is eager to show off his new hot spot, pointing to the stage when I ask him just what Blue Planet offers to draw the crowds on competitive weekend nights. Up there, partially obscured by fog machines and human steam, an employee in full-dress costume is lip-synching to a recording of comedian Sam Kinison's version of "Wild Thing." The evening's schedule promises more of the same, including three young women mumbling along with the words and shimmying provocatively to "Nasty Girl," and a crew miming a Beastie Boys medley. Dancing patrons eat it up, and before closing time, more than a few are jerking and swaying atop tables and barstools.

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