Two for the Road

In which our man in Dallas joins Sofia Staks, Kayla Kleevage and other noted First Amendment activists on a mission to rescue Houston from the pashas of prudery. Or something like that.

At an angel-faced 27 years, XTC owner Eric Langan looks barely old enough to enter his own establishment.

Before a galaxy of porn stars and dancers takes the stage for the Adults for Legal Freedom show that Friday night, the blond Langan greets me in a cluster of harshly lit offices a couple doors down from XTC. The offices are mostly empty, save for one room full of computers manned by a jovial man with greased-back salt-and-pepper hair and a generous gut.

Stan is Langan's fiftysomething hired gun for his Internet video business. Eighteen months ago, XTC opened a site on the World Wide Web called "The Girls of XTC." What you get every Friday and Saturday night, after logging in to the site, is Eric's all-nude dancers live on your home or office computer screen. A video camera positioned above the club's L-shaped stage records the performances and flings them into cyberspace, to be retrieved by anyone who wishes to spend $69.95 for a four-hour block. (One-hour blocks are also available for $19.95.)

"We're at an evening low of 71 hits," Stan tells me, his pudgy fingers dancing over the keyboards. "Earlier tonight, the high was 211 takers."

"I trained myself on the Internet while my wife was pregnant," Langan explains. "Toward the end, I was staying home a lot with her. I started off BBSing. From there, I learned all about the World Wide Web and got interested in Internet publishing and video."

"Five just logged on from Japan," Stan interjects.
Langan is already a veteran owner of the SOB game, having opened some of the first adult tanning salons in Dallas. He switched to "gentlemen's clubs" in 1994, when XTC opened. Langan considers himself not just an entrepreneur but an innovator, and "The Girls of XTC" is the latest jewel in his crown. He boasts that the club is one of the first in Texas to display its dancers on-line.

Langan pulls me over to a computer screen where, in an open window that takes up about a quarter of the monitor, a young woman, totally naked, gyrates on the stage on all fours. Her pale nude body is an indistinct white tube, her movements choppy and slo-mo, as if she's attempting to swim through molasses.

"Video Internet technology hasn't quite caught up with audience expectations," Langan admits. "Video shows you 24 frames per second, while the images on-line happen at 6.3 frames per second."

When I return to the club, which is by 9 p.m. packed to the rafters, a young woman with small breasts and shoulder-length hair is still thrusting her hips toward the stage. I have no idea if she is the same woman I saw, miniature and eerily sluggish, on the computer screen two doors down.

But it's the guys who watch her, the patrons of XTC, that surprise me. I knew before I arrived here with a star-studded entourage that the club was all-nude, which, according to city code, means the club can't serve any alcohol. Patrons can bring in their own alcoholic beverages, however, and the club allows patrons 18 and up. The cover is $25.

The tunes blasting from XTC's sound system should have been my first clue to the club's target audience. Girls shake and sway to songs by Counting Crows, Oasis, Blind Melon and the Toadies. Where I expected to encounter an audience majority of men in their thirties, forties and fifties, I am surprised to stumble into a stormy sea of post-adolescent hormones. T-shirts, sneakers and baseball caps worn backward are so common as to be a uniform here. A glance from above the stage, where the adult entertainment luminaries hold court in a VIP room next to the sound booth, indicates that the average age is about 20.

Owners and employees in the Houston adult entertainment industry are already firmly behind Ray Hill. The main reason for the Adults for Legal Freedom event at XTC is to encourage consumers of sexually oriented entertainment to register to vote and support Hill. The multimillion-dollar question is this: Can a drunk 21-year-old be incited by a naked dancer to perform his civic duty?

Unfortunately, the designers of XTC's building have placed the stage entrance down a long hallway between the emergency exit and the public restrooms. The stars gather there to be introduced en masse by the show's hostess, Kayla Kleevage, a vision in sparkly white with a bosom-straining mini-dress and white go-go boots.

The guys who've been entering and leaving the restroom quickly realize that the blur of leopard-print satin, sequins, mascara, hair spray and silicone at the far end of the hall signals the entrance of the featured performers. A bottleneck is created as eager patrons mob the excited women just minutes before they take the stage. A combination of Sundown staffers and XTC employees ushers the faithful back into the open air of the club, defusing what had begun to look like a scary situation.

Kayla Kleevage, a Houston resident, takes the stage to a tumultuous roar from the crowd. She introduces herself, thanks the club and kicks off ALF's voter registration drive in earnest. Unfortunately, she is talking in a small, barely comprehensible voice.

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