Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dancing at "Flash" 5: Once More, With Feelings...

WARNING: Adult situations and sexual themes are discussed at...er...length. Once again, this blog includes details about my encounters with male strippers! Readers' discretion is advised!

Greetings Frothy friends, here's a quick Flash-back of previous events:

Visits to Toronto's "members only" strip club Flash left me shaken and stirred thanks to a dancer I call "VinTatum" (named after Jersey Shore's Vinny and Channing Tatum.) What began as a fluke turned into a massive crush that I can't quite escape. (Check out Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four for what you missed!) Part of me feels like I'm in an ongoing Queer As Folk plotline full of sexy drama and mysterious men. But after a series of episodes, I'm still craving a satisfying "finale" to the season that never seems to arrive...

I started the New Year with a resolution to stop by Flash only once a month to get my "fix" of VinTatum's intoxicating charms. By February, though, the resolution was as smashed as I was back on New Year's Eve. The month began with a fabulous dinner with friends as we took advantage of the Winterlicious promotions taking place. A tasty meal, however, didn't quite satisfy my appetite for another excursion to VinTatum's weekend haunt.

After showing my membership card, the doorman waved me through before I could even check my coat. I hadn't even gotten settled when VinTatum smiled and made a beeline towards me. "You're not that cold," he said as he leaned into me, though my glasses were still foggy from the weather outside. "You smell good, as always," he added in a sexy voice. After drooling over his cologne on several occasions, he was now returning the compliment. I knew it was part of the game, but I still liked the flattery. While we chatted, he was also having fun banter with the guy that reminded me of Joey from Friends.

Almost immediately after my arrival, it was VinTatum's turn on stage. Joey stood next to me and watched, with his arm around me, rubbing my back and giving me little squeezes. At first I worried he was buttering me up to get dances with him, but overall I sensed a really cool, friendly vibe from him. It actually seemed more like he was there to support his buddy, joking with VinTatum about how to work the pole as they traded funny barbs. They seemed to get along like frat boys at times, which was a show in itself. As usual, I watched VinTatum with awe, captivated by his masculinity as if I was a voyeur in a slow motion perfume commercial. Sometimes I worried that the essence I was giving off smelled like "Obsession With Men." Eau the agony.

He got off stage and asked if he should "kidnap" me for our private dances right away or later. "Now is fine," I replied. I didn't even pause to buy a drink or put my jacket away before VinTatum swept me into a booth. I didn't ask too many probing questions this time, prefering to enjoy the ride for a change. Though I did pause to ask, "Do you like men, women or both?" He replied, "Both."

The dances were great as usual, but then he threw me a surprise curve ball. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that VinTatum opened up about his future plans in a way I wasn't expecting. It gave me a lot more insight into his "real" life and goals. Inititally I was trying to wind down my whole VinCrushing and felt this trip was just a fun bonus round to my last visit. I thought I had more or less wrapped things up, but now the wheels of curiosity and intrigue were spinning again.

After our dances concluded, I looked at my watch and told him I was happy that I still had time to go over to Fly for Sharon Needles. He didn't seem to know who Sharon was and I worried that he thought I was off to do hardcore drugs with people. "She's the winner of RuPaul's Drag Race," I explained. "That should be fun," he replied.

We said our goodbyes and I made my way to see Sharon Needles make her appearance at Fly! (The crowd was packed like sardines and, as a result, I got several free lap dances from people squeezing by me.) But the one thing even spookier than Sharon's FABULOUS performance was the fact that I was still haunted by my infatuation with VinTatum.

***

Two weeks later I returned to Flash for an event called "Sin." The infamous tagline on promotional material reads: "Everything Is Permitted." I started the night by myself, but a pal was slated to join me around midnight. An awesome tribal remix of Madonna's "Gang Bang" blared as I wandered between floors, though the main stage on the lower level was strangely subdued without any dancers on it. During Sin, the dancers were upstairs in the Erotico lounge performing for patrons who were lined up on opposite sides of a tiny stage. The arrangement looked almost like a Soul Train dance off headlined by semi nude hunks. To my simultaneous dismay and relief, VinTatum wasn't there that night. Without his presence, I knew I could concentrate on having a good time with my pal and not be inclined to blow through a giant wad of cash.

When my friend arrived we began to mingle, took in some tasty jello shots and explored the venue. What was interesting about an event like Sin is that it seemed to flip the script on a typical Saturday night at Flash. The guys who came to Sin appeared more invested in cruising each other than the strippers. I even noticed a few of the dancers sitting around at a table, mostly sidelined from the action. All they seemed to be missing was a deck of cards to pass the time. (There's probably a joke about strip poker in there somewhere...)

Eventually I explored the dark rooms and sauntered in and out of the areas cordoned off by flowing curtains. At one point I said to no one in particular, "Is this where everything is permitted?" The decor was sumptuous and I half expected a framed picture of Bette Midler to be hanging on the wall. (Flash was once home to the famous Bigliardi's Steak House, which attracted guests such as the Divine Miss M.) Soon, I came across signs indicating I'd found the semi-private area where everything was allowed For The Boys.

I did loops in and out of the darkened corridors with a mix of nervousness and curiosity about the cruisy behaviour taking place. Eventually I noticed a cute guy walk in and followed him. We made eyes at each other and moments later we were alternating between gropes, kisses and more. My new friend took the lead and a few other Sinners began to watch us. It was sort of naughty and exciting to be a "performer" for a change, letting our actions speak louder than words.

When all was said and done, we shared drinks and chatted for a bit. Even though it didn't solve all my woes with love and sex, it was a great feeling to meet a guy and have a moment of mutual attraction. It was also nice to remember what it was like to be wanted for my own traits and not my wallet. Yet, no matter how much I enjoyed a glimpse of what desire was like freed from handling fees, VinTatum was not an easy habit to shake.

***

One week after Sin, a pal and I were downtown at a birthday gathering for a friend. When the party ended he sardonically remarked, "Hey, you have just enough time to visit Flash!" My eyes perked up and I replied, "You're right! I do!" His brow furrowed and he quickly tried to recant his suggestion. "I didn't mean it! Seriously...don't go there tonight." However my mind was set and my companion reluctantly came with me.

We reached the doorway of Flash, but my pal said I should check if VinTatum was there before he shelled out the cover charge. Since I had membership, the doorman let me take a quick peek inside while my pal waited. A huge crowd surrounded the stage as VinTatum was sweating it out to Dan Hartman & Loleatta Holloway's classic "Relight My Fire." I rushed back to tell my friend we were staying, much to his chagrin. We checked our coats and then fought through the mob of patrons to carve out our own space in the venue. It almost felt like a small scale Studio 54 with disco music and scantily clad men dominating the room.

As we settled in, the song ended and VinTatum surrendered his platform to the next dancer. The DJ then put on Kim Wilde's bombastic 80's dance version of "You Keep Me Hangin' On." Once more I marvelled at how the soundtrack at Flash seemed to capture certain moods and feelings. Over heavy electronic drums and synths, Kim belted out the key line "You don't really love me, but you keep me hangin' on..." only moments before VinTatum and I were reunited. As my friend and I watched the other Flasher shake his stuff, VinTatum snuck up on me and I was suddenly face to face with his beaming smile.

"Did you see me on stage?" VinTatum asked as his hands teased my body and quickly found my weakness. "Did I get you all turned on?"

It would be crass to say he had me by the balls at that moment, but he certainly had a good grip on the situation.

"You were great up there," I stammered, melting under his touch.

"Are you ready for a dance?" he asked, as I looked over to my pal. "Do you mind if I go now? I can stay out here for a bit longer," I offered. "It's ok...go," my pal replied.

This marked my sixth excursion to the private booths with VinTatum. My visit was so impromptu that I told him I needed to hit the ATM before our dances. "Don't worry, you can go there after," he said. "I trust you." We then resumed our journey to the back area of the club.

"How've you been doing?" he asked. "Good," I replied somewhat cautiously. "How are you?"

"I'm doing good too," he answered. "Moving forward with things."

If our dance was a poker game, we were holding our cards very close to the vest. Maybe I was imagining it, but we both seemed a little more guarded than usual. Since he opened up a bit during our last visit, I was hoping for more of that reality to slip through. Yet, things were strangely flat. He didn't volunteer any new stuff about himself and I had no idea what I should be asking or talking about. It a weird way, it was almost like courtship in reverse, albeit embedded within a series of paid transactions. The sexual stuff was so well established that I was now more curious about the man himself and wanted more than the eroticism. Otherwise, it was just a really expensive way of getting off.

Since I couldn't get much conversation going, I was at least going to enjoy the music that accompanied our dances. I sang along with selections as varied as The Pussycat Dolls' "Buttons" (which he joked was "our song") and Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger."

"You seem to know your music," VinTatum observed. "I love music," I replied. "Music heals the soul," he added. That felt like the perfect opportunity to say: Yeah, I actually like to write songs and you've inspired quite a few! I wanted to say anything to propel things in a new direction. Do something to shake up the old routine. However, words seemed to escape me during this particular encounter.

Once our dances were done, I thanked him and he followed me as I went to the ATM. My pal saw us and gave a look that seemed both sad and concerned as he witnessed the most literal representation of my addiction to date. Picture me leaning into the glow of a money machine, pulling out cash with a shirtless hunk watching cautiously. It probably would have made a great artsy photo or painting with a title like, "A Portrait Of Desire."

After business was settled, my pal and I headed towards the coat check, but he couldn't make it two feet without being accosted by strippers. The quasi-hustler vibe that pervades Flash is one of the main reasons my friend hates coming with me. Our exit, though, became dryly comedic as we kept getting stopped by dancers jumping out of the woodwork.

One Flasher began a conversation with the infamous, "Where are you from?" My pal then replied, "Cheektowaga," in honour of our road trips through Buffalo. The dancer resembled a sk8r boi and we essentially said "see ya later boy" when he tried to market his goodies to us. I did give him points for insisting, "I forsee us having a dance in the future." We barely made it past him when a cute Latin hunk approached. My pal was totally done at this point and started making up random stories. "I have to go right now because my friend is leaving and he's my ride home," he insisted. I almost burst out laughing since he lives a few blocks away and I don't even have a driver's license.

We finally got our coats and as I was making my way back up the stairs I saw VinTatum and Joey running down towards the dancer's changing area. As I previously noted, they seem pretty friendly with each other and I would love to see whatever their story is played out as a movie or documentary. I can totally picture them going on a road trip and discovering what life is all about in the process. VinTatum then stopped me and gave me a big hug and Joey was playfully envious. "I'm jealous," he remarked. "Give me a kiss!" Our quick smooch on the lips felt both enjoyable and bittersweet, since Joey was volunteering the one thing VinTatum wouldn't give me.

In retrospect, VinTatum's comment about "moving forward with things" seemed to underline how much I wasn't. There was a sense of yearning and futility I felt from trying to squeeze "real" moments out of an essentially artificial scenario. As much as I could recognize that you don't get to ride off into the sunset with an erotic dancer, I did want to see if there could be any small Flash of connection between us. I might be one of the few folks who thinks it would be neat to drag a guy like VinTatum to a diner and have him tell me his life story over pancakes. (Well...pancakes for me, and whatever he could eat that wouldn't ruin his fitness regimen.) Understanding the improbability of the situation didn't make it any easier to quash my curiosity about who he was or the urges to keep paying to see him.

COMING UP NEXT: The grand finale?

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