The DJ booth of the Colorado Bar and Grill (6710 Southwest Freeway) is getting clustered with half-butt-nekkid ladies. Ponytailed DJ Chris Hassette fields requests from the talent ("Anything by Depeche Mode," one G-string-clad gal tells him) and alerts the crowd on the mike about the drink and dinner specials. The 25-year-old Corpus Christi native (and onetime member of Latino boy band the Barrio Boyzz) has been the head spin man for the popular "topless sports bar" for a year and a half now. For him, this is not a way to fulfill his perverted whims of seeing half-butt-nekkid ladies gyrate to George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone." No, his job is to "guide" these young women by providing note-perfect musical accompaniment for their sexually charged dance sets.
"That goes into the trust that the girls have in the DJ," explains Hassette. "At some clubs, they don't have a choice. The DJ will play the music, and that's that. Usually it's something that he likes, something that he likes to jam to. He could be a metalhead and always playing hard-core heavy-metal music, and if the girls aren't feeling it, the customers aren't feeling it."
Whether you'd like to admit it, the topless-club scene in Houston is as much a part of the city's nightlife as the other trendy nightclubs -- especially in the southwest side of town, where there is such an abundance of strip joints, they should call it "southbreast Houston." You would think music is the last thing on anyone's mind at such establishments, but DJs and program directors alike say nothing will turn a patron limp faster than a poorly chosen tune -- and a dancer who obviously isn't happy with the selection.
Although the music favored at the Colorado tends to be a steady stream of old-school rock to accentuate the club's party-hearty attitude -- not to mention the thirty- and fortysomething clientele -- the dancers also can experiment with different genres that best fit their performing tastes. Phoenix, an 18-year-old SOB-licensed dancer who has stripped the light fantastic at the Colorado as well as at Treasures (5647 Westheimer) and The Men's Club (3303 Sage), finds that she, like most erotic entertainers, likes to shake to music that she and the audience can both groove on. "If it's geared toward the clientele and the dancer does not feel the music when they dance on stage," says Phoenix, who regularly favors tunes by Shaggy and Metallica, "then they're not gonna perform right."
Rick's Cabaret (3113 Bering and other locations) doesn't worry about such trifles as dancers' music tastes. The club likes to control its sonic ambience; befitting a business with chainlike aspirations -- remember, this was the first topless bar to go public -- Rick's wants to create a similar environment in every one of its locations around the country so that patrons can feel comfortable no matter where they are. Think of it as the McDonald's of strip joints. Donnie Celestin is the program director for Rick's. Even though dancers still can request tunes, he says, the song has to fit the cabaret's criteria.
"A lot of clubs don't really choose their market, or they let the girls dance to anything they want," says Celestin. "I don't understand how they can let that happen, but for us, it's better to have a format since we have multiple clubs. That way, it's all run the same way, so you can go into a Rick's anywhere in the country and have the same feel."
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Naturally, not just anyone can stroll into these places and spin discs for partially nude women. When checking prospective topless-club DJs, a manager must "look out for the age of the guy," says Hassette. "If he comes in here and he's, say, about 19 years old, this guy probably got laid once so far, you know. You put him in a topless club, surrounded by naked women, he's gonna try to do anything and everything he possibly can to take these girls home."
We can sympathize. We can definitely sympathize.
We're officially two weeks into the new year, and there isn't much happening on the party front. Much like the movies released this time of year, it looks like nothing good is out there. The only decent event going down this week is "Cheap Thrills III" over at Club Diesel (5851 Southwest Freeway) on Saturday, January 13. Local crews Boom Tap Sound and tha 4:20 kidz are setting off this little shindig. Detroit's Disco D is scheduled to be the main attraction, but a lot of local DJs will be there to showcase their beat-breaking talents, including the ubiquitous Kung Fu Pimp, Steve Sheffield, Cosmic Cat, Dizzy, BMC and others. If New Year's Eve didn't drain you and you got room for one more party, it wouldn't hurt to check this one out.