No one has made it official, but you can take it to the bank that South Florida is a contender for the strip club capital of the world.
Whether you call them nudie bars, strip joints or use that quaint and arguably inaccurate label of "gentlemen's club," there's little argument that clubs here expose all the flesh there is to bare.
Even in Las Vegas -- which proudly wears the title of Sin City -- there's a certain reticence to let it all hang out. Want a vodka tonic to sip while you watch that 20-something lovely gyrate? In many places in Las Vegas, the mixing of alcohol and full nudity is a no-go. If they're serving hard booze, chances are the dancer will be keeping her G-string in place -- and if you don't know what a G-string is, brother are you reading the wrong story!
Not so in most South Florida clubs, where alcohol flows freely and nothing is left to the imagination.
More than 40 strip clubs dot the landscape in Miami-Dade and Broward counties -- the number varies almost monthly as some clubs close and others open.
They range in style and size from mega nudies like the Pure Platinum and Solid Gold chain, with clubs in Broward and Miami-Dade, to the cavernous glitz of Tootsie's Cabaret in Miami Gardens, to neighborhood holes in the wall like Bottoms Up on Southwest Eighth Street.
side from enough bare flesh to make a gynecologist blush, all these clubs have some things in common:
Some go so far as to offer food buffets or "businessman'' lunches, but the warning about some traditional dining establishments applies here -- if the main selling point is the view, don't expect much from the food.
If you've never been to one of these establishments -- at least that's what you're telling your wife, and we'll back you up! -- here's what you need to know:
Most of the establishments slap on a cover charge during prime time -- usually after about 7 p.m. It can vary from $5 to $20. Sometimes, if you call ahead and say you're bringing a bachelor party with you, the cover charge will be waived. Couples are also welcome, and often the door charge will be waived. Single women are welcome in some clubs – a sign of the bisexual crowd in South Florida -- but many clubs won’t admit single women in the belief they may be working girls trolling for Johns.
Once inside the door, you'll probably have a lot of seating choices -- booths along a back wall, tables and upholstered chairs (the better for lap dances, but more on that later), and chairs ringing the stage, where up close and personal takes on new meaning.
The routine at most clubs is this: The women come on stage for three songs. During the first song, they're usually wearing a costume that covers breasts and bottom. When the second song starts, off comes the top. For the third dance, all is revealed.
Throughout the performance, the dancer will gyrate around the stage, enticing ringside observers to offer up dollars. Sometimes she'll present her hip so the money can be slipped under her G-string. If the G-string has already been discarded, she may have a garter belt suitable for stuffing. Some will take the proffered bill -- the giver should fold it lengthwise and hold it out -- and, pushing breasts together, grab it that way, providing a close encounter.
When the women leave the stage, they'll make their way around the room, trolling for tips from patrons to hang by the stage. As the money is exchanged, the customer may get a kiss on the cheek and a throaty "thank you'' whispered in his ear.
The level of currency exchanged during all these encounters are usually singles, but high-rollers have been known to toss around higher denominations. In an effort to introduce a little inflation into the transaction, change for a $20 bill at Platinum Plus in Hialeah came back in $2 bills!
Whether the initial tips to the dancers are offered in George Washingtons or bills depicting other dead presidents, that's just the start of what a full-on strip club experience can cost.
You'll be offered a lap dance, also called a friction dance or a table dance. Cost ranges from $10 on up -- $20 is about average -- plus the dancer will expect an added tip.
Lap dances at most clubs come in two forms -- those performed at your chair in the open floor of the club, or more private encounters in special, secluded booths or alcoves. The cost generally goes up the more secluded the location.
Many clubs have VIP rooms, where you get the undivided attention of a dancer -- or two -- plus a bottle of champagne or some other expensive brew for a half hour or more. Prices start at $200 and zoom up from there.
But if you're expecting that more money will get you an overt sexual act, think again. Big, beefy guys usually dressed in black patrol the clubs to make sure that the action only goes so far.
And the archives of The Miami Herald are filled with stories about raids on places that pierce that thin veil between acceptable strip club behavior and prostitution. And most places will fire a dancer if they find she's "dating'' a customer outside of the club.
What is acceptable?
A basic lap dance will get you at a minimum a topless woman wearing the briefest of G-strings who will get in your face and rub up against your lap for a single song. At some clubs, the G-string will also come off, so you can study the female anatomy more closely. At other clubs, you have to ante-up for a dance in the more secluded areas to see everything.
There are unwritten rules about what a patron can do while all this flesh is being pressed. Generally, it's OK to run your hands over the dancer's rear -- though when in doubt, it's not a bad idea to whisper for permission.
Some dancers are more uninhibited, offering up a nipple for a brief kiss, or letting a patron's hands wander close to ladyland. The bumping and grinding is usually done in a way to raise the patron's level of excitement.
What may surprise some strip club novices is that the stereotype of a stripper -- brassy, big hair, silicone-enhanced breasts and steeley-eyed stares into space -- doesn't hold true.
Strippers encompass all manner of women, and all manner of body types, from waifish on up to women with what might be politely called "love handles." All are attractive in one way or another. Tattoos are common, though one night at B.T.'s Gentlemen's Club in South Miami the array of tattoos made it seem more like a body art convention than a strip joint. One woman has the phrase ‘‘Kiss This'' tattooed just above her pubic area. And speaking of the pubic area, visit many strip clubs and you'll begin to think that strippers have evolved beyond mere mortal women -- there's rarely a pubic hair to be seen.
Because they're essentially in the entertainment business, strip club dancers go out of their way to appear cheerful and eager to please. For a time, if things are slow or they believe there's big tip coming, they will sit and talk with you -- just don't believe that the names they give you, or the stories they tell, are solid fact.
But if you're looking for a night out on the town, and the fleeting companionship of a naked woman where having a pocketful of cash is the only commitment necessary, there's no place like South Florida.