Night Life

Et Tu, Downtown?

Wednesday, March 14. 12:36 a.m.: Ass and titties.

Inside the packed downtown dive Incognito (2524 McKinney), visiting Chicago spin man DJ Funk sets his vocal mantra of "ass and titties" to a frumpy bass beat. The bawdiness to come demands no less hype. In a matter of moments, a dozen or so ladies climb onto the club's stage covered in damp white undershirts, while eager dudes with water bazookas make sure everything is transparent in the right places.

The contest gets a tad out of hand. Ladies soon are taking off their shirts and stripping down to their drawers, accepting tips from spectators, bumping, grinding, sliding, basically making a wet, slippery mess all over the stage. It prompts the night's organizer, Dan Cusma, to leave the room "out of respect for my wife." Not much later, he returns, exhorting things like "Take that shit off!" and "Who wants to soak a girl?" over the PA system.

The wet T-shirt contest was courtesy of "Trippin the Love," a weekly mini-rave that has gone on there for almost two years. The party is known for its rather risqué image, thanks largely to the naughty color flyers distributed by Cusma and his Flashdance Productions crew. (A recent flyer declared February "Luv Yo' Pussy Month.") This is the second time "Trippin" has fleshed out its entertainment, so to speak. When DJ Funk played at "Trippin" the night before Thanksgiving, organizers hosted a thong contest, in which women (and a few men) turned out their other cheeks.

Cusma swears the skin games are reserved only for when someone like DJ Funk, who spins "booty house" music, performs at the event. Otherwise, it's just a dance party. "Yeah, I thought it was very appropriate for the type of music he plays, definitely," says Cusma.

Cusma and his "Trippin" cronies aren't the only ones bringing in a spring break-style ruckus to downtown. Over at Rehab (709 Franklin), a wet T-shirt contest is the centerpiece of Thursday "College Night." While the two venues were unaware of each other's plans for watering down women, the folks at Rehab feel their competition is rather tame (absolutely no nudity) in comparison to the dripping debauchery at "Trippin."

"I want this to be a regular Thursday thing, to go on until people get tired of it -- which ain't nobody ever gonna get tired of that," says Chris Alan, Rehab general manager and creator of the splashfest. "And if we keep it clean and stay within the law, we can do this every week and have some entertainment for guys, and girls, too."

Like many other NoDo proprietors, David Edwards, owner of the classy-ass Mercury Room (1008 Prairie), has mixed feelings about the wet T-shirt action and the customers it attracts. Liquored-up, hormonal young men inflamed by the sight of ill-concealed female flesh are not everyone's idea of the perfect customers. "On one hand, I welcome people coming downtown," says Edwards. "On the other hand, I hope that not too many places cater to that demographic, because you do then have the potential of hurting the image of downtown."

Edwards should know. His own club walks the fine line between sophistication and exploitation. As some of you may remember, the Mercury Room has boosted its clientele from time to time by hosting Playboy models clad in only the silkiest and merest lingerie.

In fact, the club is planning another Playboy party on April 12. "Yes, I'm guilty of doing something to bring the masses in that maybe is a little bit…," Edwards pauses, looks up and wonders if what he does isn't all that different. "Maybe it is cheaper," he continues. "But [wet T-shirt contests] are a very calculated deal, and we [host Playboy models] maybe only once every six months. If every Tuesday or Friday night we had a wet T-shirt contest, then I'd say I was guilty."

So it looks doubtful that downtown will soon brim with young dudes guzzling dollar beers and soaking gals with pitchers of water. What's more likely is that lowest-common-denominator entertainment will pop up once in a while. As for Cusma, he's quick to defend his shindig; to him, "Trippin" is more than an event where people ogle what lies beneath soaked cotton. "I don't have a bunch of little kids there," says Cusma, who adds that he's already thinking about hosting another wet T-shirt contest when DJ Funk comes back in August. "It's an 18-and-up club. IDs are strictly enforced. It's not done on a regular basis. Our flyers are sexually oriented on a regular basis, but it's different from a rave -- it's a club night."

Last Call

"Hey DJ!" looks to be the big event for rave kids this week. Throwing down on Saturday, March 31, at the Lone Star Arena (5515 West Loop South), the Dance Junkies crew has assembled an impressive lineup of spinners, many of them coming from far afield to hype their latest CD collections. Three of the four headlining DJs -- Chicago's DJ Bam Bam, Washington D.C.'s Scott Henry and L.A. woman DJ Irene -- will be present to promote and peddle their new recordings. The same goes for Houston PA performer Jake Childs, who will be pushing his Live in Philadelphia. But there will be other cats on hand, too, including local faves Chocoholic, Patrick De La Garza, Agent A and Puff the Magic Dragon. These guys don't have a damn thing to promote except their skills. For more information, call (713)226-2511.