Monday Night Fleshballs

"My 17-year-old son is in Iraq right now. I'm afraid he's going to get killed." It is a sad sentiment. But the words have less bite, somehow, coming from the mouth of a drunken stripper who appears to be in her mid-twenties. Her name is Carmen. On top of the depressing news about her first-born, she's just told me that her mom has colon cancer and that she might have to drop out of nursing school this semester to take care of her.

I'm at Gigi's Cabaret (11150 Northwest Freeway) watching Monday Night Football and taking advantage of the beer special offered during the game. I'm shocked more guys aren't -- a buck seventy-five is an absurdly low price for barley pop in this seedy beaver lease. When the game ends, my waitress informs me, the price jumps to its usual $6.75. I start ordering two at a time.

Carmen apologizes for coming on so strong. She's nervous. It's her first day. She's still unsure of what she's doing, tentative as a newly weaned fawn. She took the job out of necessity to pay for school and Mom's upcoming treatments.

It's painfully obvious that Carmen is lying. No big deal. She's a stripper. It's in the job description. But she's so lazy in the telling of her Paul Bunyan-sized whoppers that it'd be a crime not to point them out to her. You know, help her with future marks. This makes her mad.

"Where are you coming from tonight?" she asks.

"The Gold Cup [12747 Northwest Freeway]," I say. "I watched the first half of the game there."

"I used to work at the Gold Cup!" she announces. "I've also danced at the Colorado, Solid Platinum and the Trophy Club."

"I thought this was your first day."

She agitatedly gropes for an answer. "Noooooooooo, it's my first day here…at Gigi's. Gosh, you have an attitude!"

I don't, but here at Gigi's, I'm quickly developing one.

Earlier in the evening, the gracious staff at the Gold Cup let me dine on their buffet without forced intrusion. Every once in a while an entertainer sauntered by and asked, "You doing all right?" and kept moving when I said I was.

The $8 cover granted access to a succulent spread of crab legs, hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, buffalo wings and salad. I drank tap water, afraid the price of even one drink would balloon the cost of the feast. The waitress was happy to bring it to me. I was happy to not be charged $4 for it.

In the middle of the Gold Cup's dark main room was a giant stage with midsize TVs on either side. Just under one of the screens, a group of eight men was hollering loudly during the Monday Night blowout of the Dolphins by the Jets. I finished my plate and headed over to the table to see what all the ballyhoo was about.

I talked to Todd, a goateed man in a yellow polo. He introduced me to the rest of the table. They were all in a fantasy football league together.

"Do you watch football in titty bars all the time?"

"No. Hardly ever, actually. We spend Sundays at SRO Sports Bar. We don't usually get together for Monday-night games, but tonight is important for a few of us. I'm making a killing!"

I suggested he buy himself a dance with his winnings.

"I just might have to do that."

Then I flagged down Hal, 11-year manager of the Gold Cup, and asked him if he sees a dramatic spike in business on Sunday and Monday during pigskin season.

"Sundays are pretty big for us. I wouldn't say it's a dramatic increase, but it's noticeable. On Monday, I don't know. We seem to do better when the game ends. During the fourth quarter we start to get pretty packed."

I said good-bye and went off to conduct more research, which is what has brought me here to Gigi's.

After dealing with Carmen for a good while, I'm relieved when she's called to the stage by the quiet-storm voice of DJ Joey D. She starts dancing to No Doubt's "Hey Baby." And by dancing I mean trying not to fall off the stage.

After I'm alone for only 30 seconds, Nicolette plops down next to me. We make small talk. Oddly enough, today is her second day. Somehow I missed the news of Gigi's job fair. Nicolette asks if I'd be interested in a dance and is understanding when I tell her I'm broke. She wishes me a good night and moves on to her next potential Daddy Warbucks.

Carmen leaves the stage, sits in my lap and changes her sales pitch. "I don't care about the three-foot rule. I'll take my panties down to my ankles."

I can't stop staring at the Band-Aid on her arm. I'm no nursing student, but I have a healthy fear of hep C.

"Do you not find me attractive?"

Good Lord. Her mission to give me a dance started on Scared Newbie Avenue, took a turn on Pity Row, headed straight up I'll Blow Your Fucking Mind Street and has now parked itself on I'll Question My Self Worth If You Say No Again Plaza, with a blink-and-you-missed-it trip down Whaddaya Queer Avenue. She's almost beat me into submission.

"They're usually $25, but for you -- $15."

Cutting Mr. Attitude a break on Bargain Boulevard, eh?

I start thinking of Todd's friend Joe, who told me the reason he leaves the house to watch football is to get away from distractions. It's a believable story at the Gold Cup. Here at Gigi's, the distractions cozy up in your lap.


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