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In Plain Sight: Cabaret 1

I love downtown Portland. I love everything about it. Having worked in a past life at the corner of 4th and Oak, I’ve seen the best and worst of the core. It’s beginning to change now, what with the vibrant club scene a couple blocks to the east and the development that the new Max extension will bring.

All that said, I don’t go north of Burnside too often. There’s just no reason to. Too many drug dealers and weirdos over there. It’s like a different planet. And with all the construction on 5th and 6th Avenues, it’s even less desireable.

The Cabaret sits on the northwest corner of 5th and Burnside under an animated sign announcing 2-girl shows. Good times. Honestly I would have never given the place a second thought had the sign not been there. So that’s a good thing, I suppose. Things hadn’t picked up yet when I arrived about 10 pm Friday night.

The doorman sits almost immediately on the other side of the door as you walk in. A quick flash of your ID and a very reasonable (probably underpriced) $3 cover gets you in. A sign opposite the cash register announces a two drink minimum and that you should probably behave yourself around the girls. Politeness, I would discover a little later on, has its rewards.

The interior of the club runs the length of Burnside up toward The Roseland. There are three stages lined up along the wall as you walk in, front, “the cage”, and the back stage. I settled into a corner on the rail of the front stage and ordered my Coors Light. Like the Cabaret II, they serve their beer by the glass, and I was immediately reminded of how wussy my beer selection is. Might as well be drinking water. But for $3.75 a throw, it’s not too bad.

As soon as I sat down, I realized why my seat had gone unoccupied. It was wet from someone else’s drink minutes before. I’m not above sitting down in a wet seat. Especially at a strip club. I dunno. Call it gross, call it mind over matter, I didn’t care. I was there for the show.

Based on my experience a few weeks back at the Cabaret II, I wasn’t really expecting much from this place. But the first few girls shook me out of it pretty quickly. While the girls on Stark were weathered and over-the-hill, these girls were mch younger and fresher. It wasn’t 100% quality like you’d find at 205 or The Dolphin, but it wasn’t bad either. Very few Suicide Girls patroling and few stretch marks, although I did see one, Heather from the C-II, who was still peddling her wares. God bless her, but yick.

One thing I absolutely hate to see is the visibly intoxicated dancer. The ones who can barely keep their feet or get a sober word out. It’s a complete turn-off for me. The second dancer on-stage had a friend who was just sloppy. Couldn’t quit screaming and whooping it up. At one point she’d crawled up onto a visibly uncomfortable guy’s lap and started yelling about her friend’s traits. The guy quickly finished his drink and headed out the door. The song mercifully ended and the two friends retreated to the dressing room before the drunk girl turned her attention to me. That’s just too much. I like to be left alone when I’m at the club. The less conversation, the better.

Like I said, this place really wasn’t that bad. The floors and bathroom were clean, the drinks reasonably priced, and the DJ kept things moving. The DJ was actually pretty good, playing a mix of tunes from R&B to Skynrd. And he kept after guys to tip. Nothing worse than a guy sitting at the rail and not tipping. It’s a buck a tune, guys. Every tune.

So I kept feeding singles to the girls and they kept giving me a show. They were all pretty rapid-fire in their approaches. Not really settling down to give me a good look at anything. Oh there’s be a stray every now and then who’d come over and jam her breasts in my face, but for the most part they kept their distance.

That changed about halfway through my second beer. I was actually thinking about getting up and leaving when the DJ suddenly stopped the tunes and started lecturing about tipping. Again. Then he pointed me out.

“Hey big guy in the red!” he said. “What are you drinking?”

“That’s a Coors Light,” I replied.

“A Coors Light for my man in the red shirt for showing all the guys how to tip!”

Huh. I’d never been given free alcohol by club staff before. I once won a pass to the Dolphin for yelling really loud, but that thing has long since expired. Now instead of leaving after this beer, I was stuck with one more. I lifted my glass to the DJ, who saluted back, and we were off to the races.

Suddenly girls were paying more attention to me. At one point a girl was on her back, over the rail, head in my lap, legs on either side of my head. Ummm….wow. All that for a buck. What really made the moment though was the large black woman sitting in the seat next to me who started hooting and hollering and slapping my thigh. It was a moment I won’t soon forget.

I got up to go check out the rest room (three beers, don’t you know). The crowd was younger. Not as hip as the crowd at Sassy’s, but still a good mix of young professionals and their girlfriends. The civilian girls at both Cabaret and Sassys seem much more into the experience than those at the Dolphin. I’ve no idea why that is. Further research is obviously required.

The place had pretty well filled up by midnight. A couple of “make it rainers” and a bachelor party gave the place a much different vibe than it had around 11. That’s not a bad thing. Just different. Fortunately my beer ran out just as the drunk dancer arrived at my table to start her set. I wasnt going to reward a girl who couldn’t hold her liquor. Besides, there were still other places to explore.

Posted by Richard Thruster, filed under Cabaret

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