Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dancing at "Flash" 6: Finale McBeal?

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:

Checking out Toronto's "members only" strip club Flash became a regular habit of mine due to an alluring dancer I call "VinTatum" (named after Jersey Shore's Vinny and Channing Tatum.) What started as a fluke turned into a puzzling infatuation that I couldn't shake. (Check out Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four and, yes, Part Five for what led up to this!) The drama continued with my perpetual urge to create a satisfying "finale" to my encounters with VinTatum. Would that moment ever come? Or would I turn blue waiting? Stay tuned...

March arrived and the first weekend of the month gave way to yet another trip to Flash. Most of my friends at this point steered clear of joining me for fear of enabling or encouraging my addiction. (Many of them are seriously ready to stage an intervention...) But as luck would have it, I had coffee with a pal who had never been to Flash before and he agreed to be my partner in crime for the night.

My frustrations from my last visit to Flash led me to create a mental list of talking points I wanted to bring up. Once again I was hoping to create a "grand finale" so I could try to break free from an increasingly costly habit. I really wanted to try telling VinTatum about some of the impact he was having on me, even if I couldn't confess everything. As my friend and I approached the entrance, I was determined to keep my wits about me and hit the right beats when we made our way in.

As soon as we entered, I Flashed my membership card and my pal signed in at the front desk. We then headed downstairs to the coat check area. Bounding out of the dancer's dressing room was VinTatum himself, sharply attired in a hat and vest that made him look like Magic Mike. (The guy who reminded me of Joey from Friends was also wearing a bow tie and cuffs, furthering my opinion that he and VinTatum are buds and may have co-ordinated their outfits that night.)

"I'm glad you came to see me tonight," VinTatum said with a huge grin as he paused to grind on me for a moment.

I can wax poetic about these encounters for days after they occur, but during the moment itself my brain goes tilt. Whatever his flaws, VinTatum posesses a killer charisma and often uses it to full advantage.

I introduced him to my pal, to which he replied, "Hi friend!" Then he was rushing back up the stairs to where the mayhem was.

My friend and I had trouble finding a good spot to catch the show, but eventually grabbed a table in a back corner. We got a couple of drinks and he enjoyed the blend of lights, music and men that I found so intoxicating. Shortly after we settled in, one dancer was strutting his stuff to Samantha Fox's 1980's hit "Touch Me (I Wanna Feel Your Body)." It was surreal to see a song previously associated with the exploitation of women getting recast as an anthem for men to strip to. We've come a long way baby.

The energy remained high as the fabulous drag performer Carlotta Carlisle came out and did a routine to the song "Hey Big Spender." (My friend noted the cheekiness of her song selection...) Carlisle also owned the stage with funny quips about testing out the private dances to ensure "quality control" for the club. She remained on stage to MC the "One Minute Flash" and gave sassy commentary as the boys stripped down.

When VinTatum came up, I let out a loud shriek and clapped for him. Subtlety is my strong point. Not too long after VinTatum's exposure on stage, he came by our table. I told him I was definitely up for some dances, but that I wanted to spend some more time hanging with my pal first. "I'm gonna kidnap you soon," he promised. VinTatum is one of the few guys that can make abduction sound sexy.

After checking with my friend that he'd be okay on his own for a bit, I was off to the races with my stallion. VinTatum and I went to the back and he teased me about heading over to our "regular" spot. I started to make a joke about carving our initials into the booth when his face suddenly turned sour. "It smells like old people and farts in here," he grimaced before leading us to a different room. His comment seemed a bit harsh given his flirtation with some of the silver foxes outside only moments earlier.

We finally settled into a more scents-ible booth where I could totally drink in one of the sexiest looks he had ever sported. "You look great tonight," I praised. "You want me to leave the hat on?" he asked before the clothes started to peel off. My eyes bugged out when his jeans came down, revealing a tight pair of Emporio Armani briefs in lieu of the Diesel shorts he favoured. He was such a knockout that I felt like I was being chloroformed by his sensuality.

"I'm hooked on you," I murmured at one point. "That's a good thing," he replied with a suave, assured demeanor. "It's good for you, but it's not good for me," I countered, trying to shift our banter into more realistic territory. "We both get something out of this," he reasoned.

I couldn't really argue with that, since the feeling he was giving me was a fiery inferno of delight. Whatever felt "flat" the week before was replaced with an energy that crackled between us. There were times when he'd tilt my chin up to look at him and his lips were inches away from mine. "It's too bad you don't kiss," I said, feeling an electric spark within the tension of being so close to what I wanted. He masterfully eluded my mouth, but allowed a kiss to land on my forehead. Soon he worked his way down to my neck, where he smooched with such ferocity that I was worried I would have hickeys later on.

The action was soon underscored by "DJ Got Us Falling In Love Again," which throbbed almost as much as we did. "This song is sick!" VinTatum declared in a voice so butch I almost asked, "Do any of your bros know what you're doing right now?" Appropriately, our bodies were rocking side to side as we sang along with Usher's ode to clubbing.

The only thing that briefly took me out of the moment was when he began pounding on the wall when he heard voices near our booth. "I like to scare people," he explained. "So you're a prankster? I like that," I said, more or less on autopilot since I didn't really get it. Maybe it was a display of that hint of Jersey Shore I sensed in him? Who knows?

At any rate, the dances were superb and I was about to pass out from the sensuous stupor that had overtaken me. For an attempted "grand finale" it really did feel like I was going out with a bang. We then began to settle up for the night.

"Thank you for your loyalty to me," VinTatum commented as we hugged.

"If I don't see you again, thank you for inspiring me," I said, getting in at least one of the major points I wanted to tell him.

"Don't worry, I'm still gonna be around," he reassured.

"I really have to start watching my money now," I countered, knowing full well I had said the same thing several times before.

Part of me started to realize that creating a "finale" would be always be difficult. After all, why would VinTatum want to say goodbye to a guy that helps pad his finances every few weeks? I might never get that cinematic farewell I dreamed of, where we'd chuckle and give each other a sincere blast of well wishes for our respective futures before parting ways.

After coming back from my dances, my friend and I spent a bit more time watching the other strippers before getting ready to go. We soon travelled back down to the coat check, where I saw VinTatum coming out of the change room with his jacket on. He and I hugged one more time before my pal and I bundled up and prepared to head out.

As soon as we exited, I gasped when I looked down and saw VinTatum having a smoke with a couple of guys on the sidewalk in front of Flash. (Although I had just seen him with his coat on, I wasn't expecting him to be right outside when I left.) I suddenly saw the potential for a moment that would take my "grand finale" over the top. My nerves tingled as I headed down the front steps, gathering the courage to approach VinTatum with my idea.

"I know you're probably gonna say no, but can I get a picture with you?" I asked earnestly.

VinTatum paused, with a sly smile creeping across his face.

"Anywhere but Church Street," he replied.

We hugged again, but the disappointment quickly set in when we parted. My pal and I then walked away from the relative darkness of Flash's entrance, heading towards the glow of the Hero Burger down the street. Once inside, I consoled myself with a Diet Cherry Coke, while my friend ordered a burger and we talked about what just happened. Part of me expected VinTatum to say "no" to a photo, but it was the phrasing of his answer that confused me. I can understand the fear of being outed as a stripper, but why did he single out Church Street as the place he couldn't be associated with? Would something overtly gay be a threat to the non-Flash reputation he's cultivating?

I sometimes forget what a slippery slope identity can be. I've been out and proud for over a decade and generally wear that as part of my everyday life. But VinTatum's comment made me wonder how fragmented his own persona is with different groups of people. Is he straight, bi, gay-for-pay, heteroflexible? I know we all tailor ourselves to different audiences, but what made him choose to work in a venue that's so in-your-face with its homosexuality? How does his secret career at Flash fit into the larger picture of his life?

There will almost always be more questions than answers. (If I was a bit braver, I might try asking VinTatum himself for some responses to my queries.) But he really doesn't owe me anything. It was my own choice to invest more than a thousand dollars into a potent fantasy that captured my imagination. In fact I probably learned more about him than I should have, which made it easier to justify going back so many times. Intimate sensuality combined with human curiosity and attraction can be a dangerous combination.

In the past, I've had my share of infatuations with guys that I couldn't have, but I still wonder why VinTatum was the first to trigger that feeling in such a long time. He definitely had a beautiful allure and charm that he exuded, but how did it go from casual fun to full on addiction so quickly? Maybe it was the challenge of trying to win him over, thinking it would only take a clever gesture or two for him to like me for real. Perhaps I longed for him to recognize or appreciate something about me aside from my money before I could fully let go of our encounters. (Though, to be fair he did acknowledge my love of music, my "happy" personality, noticed my Sketchers shoes and complimented my cologne.)

I also imagine VinTatum is eager to be appreciated for more than his body and seems to be charting the course towards his true goals. I really do wish him well and imagine him being very successful. I don't think I would have become so hung up on him if there weren't a real spark underneath the sexy image he portrays. For my part, I hope to have a grand musical, novel or even a finished song or two to represent this era of my life. VinTatum really did inspire me in a lot of ways that he probably never expected to and I appreciate that. (Not sure how he'd feel about all these blogs, but I hope he'd be flattered in some way if he ever does stumble across them.)

I can't say with any certainty that I won't go back to Flash, or that I won't see VinTatum again. But I am finally starting to understand that I might never have the perfect ending for this set of experiences. At times, it felt like a puzzle I was trying to solve, since the moments I shared with VinTatum resonated more deeply than I expected. Figuring out where all the pieces fit and understanding what everything meant was a journey in itself. Despite the concerns, criticisms and loose ends involved, I still feel it was a mission worth investing in. My wallet may be a tad emptier, but I think I've come out richer from exploring the multitude of feelings that VinTatum and Flash teased out of me.

Until next time, stay Frothy and fabulous everyone!

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?