By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Dance-hall owner Jack Smythe shakes his head while skimming an application from a well-groomed, middle-aged woman who'd just applied for a job as a hostess at his new establishment.
Forty-five-year-old men don't want to come in here and talk to a 45-year-old woman," says the 49-year-old Smythe. If he wants to talk to a 45-year-old woman, he can talk to the one he's got at home."
Talk (with anyone, of any age) is not cheap at Giggles, Smythe's hostess-for-hire club located at 4236 North Central. The club charges male patrons at the rate of $21 an hour for the privilege of chatting with a female hostess in a dimly lighted ballroom that formerly housed an Arthur Murray dance studio. Hostesses are fully clad (They're sexy but not sleazy," says Smythe) and no alcohol is served.
And thanks to a long-forgotten but recently rediscovered city ordinance that bans taxi dancing" (a term coined for dance palaces where patrons bought tickets, in effect renting" partners), the Giggles Girls"-as Smythe calls themÏare forbidden to trip the light fantastic with patrons.
For now, this is a dance hall where no dancing's allowed. But chatting with Jack Smythe about his dreams of a classy" joint isn't a bad way to kill an afternoon. And it's free.
While conducting a tour of Giggles, the verbally pugnacious Smythe frets about his bad luck. It looks as if his dance hall has gotten off on the wrong foot.
We're dead in the water," he says. Smythe, who's also owned the Dancing Sunshines topless club on East McDowell for the past 18 years, claims he didn't learn of the city's obscure ordinance against taxi dancing until the day before he opened for business.
It's killing us," says Smythe, who vows not to sit this one out-he adds that he's appealing his case to city officials. I can't keep any girls here because they can't make any money if there aren't any customers-and if there aren't any girls, there aren't any customers."
Smythe alternately likens his brain child to a geisha house, dime-a-dance joint, lonely-hearts club and USO get-togethers. But on a recent day, it looked more like a UFO function, with three bored young women in evening clothes chain-smoking while the scent of garlic wafted from a simmering steam table. In the background, Fred and Ethel Mertz argued loudly in an I Love Lucy rerun.
If all goes according to plan (even though, so far, nothing has), Smythe expects that the typical Giggles customer will be a businessman who drops in on his way home after a hard day in the financial jungle.
A guy comes in here and we treat him like a king," says Smythe. That way he doesn't have to go home and face the wife and kids right away. As soon as he gets home from work, his wife says, `Don't tell me about your bad day-I already had one. Johnny did this. Susie did that.'" Smythe grimaces. The guy doesn't need that-he's had enough grief at work. So he comes to Giggles on his way home and takes his frustrations out here."
Frustration? With the legality of dancing currently in limbo, harried businessmen are strictly limited to such mundane pastimes as shooting the breeze, playing pool or pinball or watching TV-
all in the company of a nubile Giggles Girl."
Once we get the cable installed, there will even be something to watch," says Smythe, who also reveals plans to expand the club's entertainment horizons by hooking up a VCR. But because copyright laws forbid unauthorized public exhibition of feature films, Smythe explains that Giggles' video library will be a little more specialized. We can't show movies but we can show documentaries," he claims. Battle of the Monster Trucks, how-to golf videos, those Time/Life tapes about WWII you see advertised on TV for $19.95-you know, interesting stuff."
If your interest runs to smarmy encounters, look elsewhere. Clearly, not every woman can measure up to the lofty standards required of a Giggles Girl." According to a strict set of 21 rules Smythe outlines on the application form, a hostess must refrain from yelling and using profane language. She must pay close attention to that Ôgreat asset," personal hygiene. She must wear pantyhose, even.
No free feels, kissing, hugging or sitting on a customer's lap," warns one mandate. You are required to wear shoes at all times," commands another. Remember, there could be broken glass." And, needless to say, liquor, drugs and prostitution are absolutely taboo. We do pull dressing-room and handbag inspections," threatens yet another edict. If you don't like it, don't work here." We're not looking for go-go girls or the hard-core biker-type girl," says Smythe, who adds that the parking lot will be patrolled regularly to discourage off-premises commerce. What we're looking for is the girl who works at Home Depot, McDonald's or another nondescript job like that. Maybe she's selling advertising or working in a boiler room doing telephone solicitation. Basically, we're looking for Suzy Homemaker, the kind of girl who's got a little smarts upstairs but just can't seem to find a job where she can use them."