Muy Caliente, Baby!

Our denizens of the dark get singed by the hot chicas and fly papis at Club Bash's Noche de Salsa

A pocket full of jimmie hats and no honey willing to help me put them to use, I was resigned to sitting home with Mr. Zig Zag, a fifth of Sky and that new Petey Pablo CD.

But, suddenly, the land line was buzzing.

"Wassup, Buddha-butt? Feelin' sexy on this Sunday night?"

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It was, of course, the lezzie Catwoman of P-town.

"Always," I respond, lying. "What's the 411?"

"Salsa night at Club Bash in Tempe," says Jett. "Chicas calientes. And $2 Tecate bottles, if we make it before 10:30 p.m."

"I'm on it like a bonnet, baby girl. See you there in 10 minutes."

The Jettster and I rendezvous in the parking lot of Club Bash at Fifth Street and Ash, formerly known as the Bash on Ash. No cover for ladies . . . but they let Jett in for free anyway. Big Poppa had to pay a $4 cover, but at least they weren't chargin' by the pound. Comprendez?

The inside is like Scarface meets the "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" video game. A circular dance floor is surrounded by catwalks and a raised platform where DJ Leo Marin, a.k.a. DJ L-Dogg, drops tracks by everyone from Pitbull and Lil' Jon to La Sonora Carruseles and Celia Cruz.

Three giant TV screens flash videos of palm trees and Latina lovelies, while lights bounce off the metallic backdrop behind L-Dogg. Before him, a crowd of salsa enthusiasts performs intricate combinations, all of them watched over by a huge, Aztec-lookin' head on the wall that can spit smoke from its mouth.

Nearer the entrance there's a long bar and tables and chairs where patrons can catch their breath and drink Cuba libres while waiting for the next dance. We grab a couple of Tecates at the bar, and do a tour of the tables. At one, we strike up a conversation with Allejandro Vecerra, 28, a half-Mexican dude who works as an international business rep for Intel and lives in Mesa. Dressed like a playa in a white Italian racing shirt, he looks like he's got plenty of game when it comes to the ladies. Vecerra's spending time this evening with Nancy Bartholomew, 22, a pretty brunette who's too shy to talk to us.

"Why are you at Club Bash tonight?" I ask Vecerra.

"Because this is where I met her," says Vecerra, looking deep into Bartholomew's eyes. "And also for the music."

"Oooh, sounds like a love connection," exclaims Jett. "When did this happen?"

"One week ago," answers Vecerra, still gazing at his inamorata. "We met here dancing."

"So, Ricky Martin, you must really know the fancy footwork?" inquires my lipsticker escort.

"What do you think?" he asks Bartholomew, with a twinkle in his eye. "Am I a good dancer?"

Bartholomew blushes and laughs. So I decide to ask this Latin playboy for some advice. "Share some of that game, brother," I say. "What do you do here if you're like me and you can't salsa, but want to get next to some of these honeys?"

"Just be polite," he says, wagging a finger at me. "You gotta be polite."

"Cool, so I'm polite and get shot down, then what?"

"Don't give up. Keep going with it. Eventually, you will be successful."

With Vecerra's counsel in mind, I step up to a fine dreadlocked African-American woman sitting on the sidelines, no doubt waiting for my 300 pounds of muscle and joy. Her name is Karen Gilliland, and she hails from Brooklyn. Gilliland's stacked like the steel at a Virginia shipyard. That is, she's all female! I'm about to pull a Cassidy and hand her my room key, when I learn she's married with children, just like Peg Bundy!

"I came out with a friend," explains Gilliland. "I used to go out dancing almost every night of the week in New York, when I was a little younger. I had a dancing partner then, and enjoyed it very much."

"Why are you out here, so far from Park Slope?" I wonder.

"Well, I got my degree in music and anthropology in New Mexico. I met my husband there, and we traveled around with his different jobs. He's a reporter and works as an afternoon anchor at KKNT-AM 960 'The Patriot.'"

"Is that Rush Limbaugh's station?"

"No, but my husband used to work for them -- that's KFYI. But KKNT has Dennis Prager and Michael Medved."

"Sieg heil!" I say, upon hearing wing-nut Medved's name. "Just kidding. Since you're married, is it okay if you dance with others when you go out?"

"My husband's not unreasonably jealous," she says, smiling sweetly. "We're committed, monogamous people -- so that never even crosses our minds."

Dang, foiled again! I was wallowing in disappointment after Gilliland's last statement, when Jett nudges me.

She's been watching the dance floor, and she points out one couple in particular who're hotter than Yuma asphalt -- a tall, thin, Anglo-lookin' fellow in a white newsboy hat and a black shirt and a small but curvy Asian temptress in a yellow sleeveless tee. They're easily the most talented couple out this night. When they're finished with their smooth moves and stroll off the floor to take a break, Jett and I drag them both outside, so we can speak to them while they cool off.

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