Ladies Night at the Pink Poodle

The first dancer has the toughest job. Dressed as a security guard, he blows his whistle in time with a disco beat. He also acts as his own cheerleader, trying to loosen up the (mostly) female crowd in this dimly lit club in San Jose. He needs their enthusiasm (wouldn’t you?) as he takes off his uniform and stops to kneel on the stage.

He encourages a woman in the front row to help him with his zipper.

She does, and that elicits the desired screams and shouts.

This is not the first time for him but it is for at least half the women who drove here immediately after work, paid their six dollars, and quietly took their seats. Are they horny or just freak-show curious?

It’s ladies night at the Pink Poodle, where they serve up drinks with no alcohol and dancers with (eventually) no clothes. There are girls in the audience as young as eighteen as well as women with gray hair and pictures of their grandchildren in their purses. Middle-aged women — some bold, some shy — are here, too. A few curious boyfriends and husbands have come along as well.

My wife quickly deems the show repetitious, yet other women have come here every Wednesday since the show — perhaps the only all-nude male revue in the country — began a few weeks ago, in the winter of 1982.

“It might be different if I were single,” she concedes.

Six men, in a variety of costumes from trench-coat flasher to Latin lover, perform during the show. Some are better looking than others, a few are excellent dancers. The crowd has its favorites and there is no set formula for success. Of the ones able to elicit screams without the benefit of cheerleading from either the MC or themselves, the first has a sort of teddy bear quality, the next is a none-too-handsome but clearly effective tease, and the last is strong and aloof.

With one exception, all of the dancers, once they’re down to their g-strings, come down off the small stage and into the audience to kiss women who then tuck dollar bills into the closest thing to a pocket the dancers have left. Soon even that minimal coverage comes off.

The exception is the last dancer. He’s taller and more muscular than the others. He’s also the only one with a beard. He gets a big build up from the MC and the crowd responds, but he remains detached.

Women of all ages and descriptions get kissed, including a gray-haired grandmother seated near the door who showed she knew how to use her tongue.

During the finale, all six dancers are on stage, nude, or in the audience, nude. A small blonde near the front holds a dollar bill, folded lengthwise, between the fingers of her clenched fist. One of the dancers — he has curly hair and a mustache — straddles her chair, wraps one arm around her, and kisses her passionately. As he does, he tries to take the dollar from her with his free hand, but three sharp tugs are not enough to loosen her grip, so he gives up and moves away. Only after a two-second pause does the flushed young woman realize she still holds the tip she offered. Looking lost and about to cry, she tries to get the dancer’s attention once more.

No luck. He moves about too quickly.

She is crying by the time he climbs back on stage. Then, finally, she gets his attention and gives him the tip.

He seems genuinely touched.

The show ends and everyone heads for the exit. An attractive blonde in her early thirties, who says she’s seen the show three times, decides she’s had her fill.

“You keep waiting for the really big one,” she says, “or the really hard one.”

BOOKS BY AL RISKE

Precarious | Sabrina’s Window | The Possibility of Snow | Then We’d Be Happy