Four of Clubs

Kreme rides the bull while Jett lusts after cowboys at Tempe's Graham Central Station.

I reckon my cheeks are redder than Elmo's ass, the cheeks closest to my grill-piece, that is. It's a Saturday night at Tempe's colossal, 28,000-square-foot Graham Central Station (www.grahamcentralstationtempe.com), the four-in-one nightclub that includes the karaoke bar Alley Cats, a Top 40 dance hall called South Beach, an '80s room named Confetti's, and a huge country-western bar, Rockin Rodeo. This last section of GCS includes pool tables, a danceteria about the size of a basketball court, several bars, and, to my ultimate embarrassment, a mechanical bull in the center of a red, white and blue air mattress, an air mattress that's supposed to painlessly break the fall of all the wanna-be urban cowboys who give this bovine robot a ride.

See, like a chump, I got played by the ambisexual Eva Mendes, a.k.a. Jett, who challenged my manhood by stating, "If you really had a pair, you'd ride that bull, fat boy." Now, here I am trying to lift my 300-pound frame onto the friggin' thing, with little or no success, as the crowd watching me grows larger by the second. Flash back to junior-high gymnastics classes as our battle-ax of a teacher Mrs. Sandpaperpanties tells us we've all got to make it over that pommel horse before we break for lunch. That's usually when I'd feign a groin pull.

"Goddamnit, don't they have stirrups on these things?!" I cry.

"Keep jumping on the mattress, Kreme, and maybe you can bounce up there," advises the Jettster, chuckling.

"I'll bounce you, you bisexual bee-ahtch," I mutter under my breath, when the two cowpokes who run the machine come to my rescue, and gallantly boost me onto the bull. For one magical moment, I'm riding high, my right hand in the air, poised and plump like Hoss in those Bonanzareruns. Then they turn the machine on, and three seconds later, I'm flat on my back, counting the stars circling my cranium. Jett's pretty puss appears overhead.

"You know, they say it's a lot easier if you ride the bull backwards," she relates, matter-of-factly.

Now she tells me. But I ain't the Johnny Knoxville of the PHX. That's enough punishment for one night, so I lift myself from the blow-up mattress, thank the cowhands who've helped me, and head for the nearest bar, where there's a large beer with my name on it.

The nearest waterin' hole happens to have as a barkeep a cowgirl named Cassie in revealing black chaps, a zebra-striped bikini top, and little else. I ask for the coldest brewski she's got, and let Jett fend for herself. I suck down some suds and watch a good portion of the 2,000 party people in the hizz-ouse line-dancing to Brooks & Dunn. Folks pay $6 to gain entree to GCS on a Saturday night. And according to GM John Dubose, the two-year-old Tempe GCS is part of a nightclub chain of 33 similar clubs, owned by the Texas-based Graham brothers. Some of the venues have more than four clubs, and GCS itself plans to add a Coyote Ugly-style bar called The Cooler sometime in March.

GCS is filled with both male and female hotties, with those in cowboy threads mostly congregating in the Rockin Rodeo section. I see Jett's abandoned me to go chat up some cowstuds, so I decide to confabulate with some college-age cuties nearby, Jennifer Fateley and Angel Munlz. Both have brown hair past their shoulders and look like they're out for a good time.

"What do you think of the club?" I ask.

"We love it," they both say, nearly in unison. "We come here often."

"So what do you like about it exactly?"

"Cowboys! Woo-hoo!" shouts Fateley with a big smile.

"What do you like about them?"

"Their butts," says Munlz.

"Their boots on my bedroom floor!" chimes in Fateley.

"Dang, maybe I can swap my gators for a pair," I smirk. "Have you ever made a love connection here?"

"A few of them," claims the felicitous Fateley, taking a swig from her Coors Light.

"So what do you do when you want to talk to a guy you like?"

"Well, they've got to approach us," she says.

"Yeah, but how do you get them to do that?"

"Just smile, and make eye contact," she tells me.

"If it were only that easy for the fellas, especially me," I comment.

"Now don't go around smiling at chicks, Kreme, or they'll think you're retarded," spits the J-girl, coming up on me from behind.

"How'd you make out with the cowboys, chuckles?"

"Eh," she shrugs. "They're fine 'n' all, but sort of, uh, monosyllabic."

"Well, let's do the rounds; maybe you'll have better luck in one of the other rooms," I tell her.

We're closest to Confetti's, the '80s room, so we hit that first. It's dark and loud, with a big ol' mirrored ball over the dance floor. I'm feeling the music, a lot of Prince and Rick James, but it's hard to conversate in here, so we move on to club South Beach on the other side of GCS.

Now, this is more our style, four dance cages filled with honeys. Palm trees painted on the walls like something out of Scarface. Top 40 hip-hop and R&B. The crowd is younger, flyer and slightly more diverse. Perhaps the illest couple on the scene are Raymond and Michelle. Michelle's a fair-skinned, redheaded Valleyite, and is sportin' a low-cut, black-and-white top, while Raymond is from the Dominican Republic originally. Raymond is muscular, with wraparound shades and a short-sleeve mesh shirt that shows off his LL Cool J-like six-pack. Both say they've been to GCS before.

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