Best Strip Joint - 2007
Strip joints (or gentlemen’s clubs, for you euphemism-lovers) fall into two general categories. One is the ritzy emporium of fantasy in which 99 percent of the “exotic” dancers look like airbrushed, silicone- and collagen-enhanced Victoria’s Secret models; where the cover charge is steep, the drinks are overpriced and security guards stand poised to pounce should you touch the merchandise. The other is the down-market, funkier hotbox of writhing female flesh at which the talent is not as pulchritudinous, but the dancers work harder for el dinero than their more attractive (and usually more blasé) counterparts. California Girls in Santa Ana represents the second category. With a minimal cover charge, California Girls allows its horny male patrons to stuff more bills inside the thongs of the young, flexible women contorting erotically for their pleasure. The room is bathed in blood-red lighting that casts an aptly sleazy glow to the proceedings. (The VIP room—where lap dances go for $20 a pop, so to speak—is even darker, for obvious reasons.) The DJs spin a generally rambunctious series of mainstream hip-hop tracks, glazed with misogynistic lyrics—plenty of “bitch,” “ho,” “ass” and other carnal references (this is the only context in which this music sounds good)—while repeatedly cajoling you to “give it up” for Cassandra, Essence or Mandy. “If you came here with no money, you came to the wrong place, gentlemen,” the DJ hectors. Such honesty is refreshing: You, dude, are basically a wallet with a hard-on. Now start peeling off those dead presidents. The California Girls girls are mostly 6s and 7s as opposed to the 8s and 9s you might see at Fritz That’s Too, but they have serious moves and can work a pole with panache. Most of ’em can’t afford boob jobs yet, and believe it or not, that’s a plus. These women are real (or less fake), and their sense of entitlement to your wad of cash is less obvious than it is among the near-nude staff in the swankier palaces. At California Girls, the dancers’ skin is smoother than butter and they smell like lilac and the slightest hint of musk. Although the small talk will be kind of painful and awkward (face it, you’re no Jon Stewart, either), the dancing is athletic, informed by a desperation to better their stations in life. All strip joints are predicated on false assumptions and delusions, obviously, but clubs that avoid the pretension that the whole enterprise is somehow “classy” are ultimately less frustrating than the ones that come over all snooty about the debased charade of leaving libidinous men with blue balls and bluer moods.