By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
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By Chris Parker
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"No matter what happens here tonight, Kreme, we ain't knockin' boots," declares my sometimes Sapphic, sometimes stick-happy sidekick, Jett, as we're parking the Impala near Club Chameleon, the PHX's premier palace of swing. "So don't get any ideas!"
"Hell, girl, you can keep 'em on," I smirk as we head straight for the still-locked front door, past a line of 10 or 12 peeps awaiting entry when the club opens up at 9 p.m. "Your upper half will do me just fine."
Before the J-unit can shoot back a retort to my crudities, the door pops open, allowing only the Sifl and Olly of Valley nightlife to swagger into the swap meet, being that it's still a quarter 'til. Immediately before us is a waiting room that could pass for a dental office, with lengthy membership forms for newbies to fill out, stating all the club rules in detail, and a cash register where those 20 and up can pay the $25 yearly membership fee, and whatever the cover for the night happens to be. Saturday nights, like this one, are couples' nights.
Club Chameleon, which has been in operation since 1997, is in an industrial district near the dead ends of 29th Avenue and an almost impossible-to-find road called Cheery Lynn. Though the club is 12,000-square-feet large and well-lit on the outside with plenty of security, it's a bitch to find, even on the second and third return trips. In fact, truth be told, I doubt the J-girl and I would have found it, or have bothered to find it, had it not been for the Phoenix City Council, the City Prosecutor's office and the Phoenix PD's vice unit.
See, the city passed a law back in 1998 aimed at closing the handful of het and gay sex clubs in the Valley, making it a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in the slammer to operate a nightspot where someone might get it on while someone else is watching. Reckon the city fathers and mothers couldn't out-and-out ban bonin', group bonin' or watching either. But they did want to put the swing clubs out of business. Hence the enactment of Phoenix City Code 23-54, which you can read more about in two stories by New Times reporters David Holthouse and Paul Rubin ("Moral Sex," December 31, 1998, and "Civil Libertines," March 18, 1999).
Seems the law was drafted by the City Prosecutor's office with the help of this wing-nutty outfit of Jesus-huggers called the National Family Legal Foundation, and the city has since that time spent gobs of taxpayer chedda defending all the constitutional challenges while the PD's vice coppery spends even more dolo raiding these spots, trying to catch someone doin' the nasty or whackin' off. Currently, the owners of nearly all the swing clubs in town have been charged on one or more counts of the new law and are each scheduled to go to trial in the next month or so.
Which brings me back to why the Jettster and I are at the Chameleon tonight. I figure if there's some freakin' goin' on somewhere in clubland, it's the duty of this Valley's dissolute Daredevil and Elektra to dive headfirst into that carnal cesspool while we still have the chance!
But boy, were we in for a surprise. First off, there's no firewater at any of these places, including at CC. Yeah, they've got Red Bull, but no Skyy to go with it. (I knew I should've hidden us a flask of Stoli in the J-girl's handbag.) And though they do have pornos playing on TV screens all over the place, the large, main room is otherwise like any dance hall in downtown or Scottsdale, with tables and chairs, a shiny DJ booth, and a couple of mirrored disco balls. Off to one side is a big buffet, with fresh shrimp cocktail, cheesecake, cold cuts, lemon squares and fruit salad. On this evening, there's even a fella carving off slices of prime rib and frying up omelets to order, though CC usually only has these during special events.
The Jettster and I take up residence at the bar and observe as the generally well-heeled crowd files in, hoping that we'll see 'em rip off their clothes as soon as they enter and jump into a big ol' pile of nekkid flesh. But there's none of that. Even as the night progresses, the wildest thing I witness is a couple of gals losing their tops, which is something you can see almost anywhere on a Saturday night. But maybe because of the slightly more mature crowd (most folks are in their late 20s, 30s and beyond, with very few in their early 20s) or the lack of jungle juice, the place seems subdued, cordial and very adult, kinda like the key party depicted in The Ice Storm, if you've ever seen that flick.
As far as looks go, a Scottsdale scene like the Pussy Cat Lounge is an eye-candy Nordstrom's by comparison. About 15 percent of the chicklettes and studbuckets in da club that night were in the hella-fine category. The rest were like anyone you might run into at Albertson's, ya dig?