Seraglio of Sin

Where's Jett's latest harem? At Phoenix's new, Vegas-style striptease palace, The Penthouse Club

"Kreme," sighs the Jettster via phone as we consult on our next nocturnal escapade. "I need a lap dance."

I'd only just gotten through to the J-unit at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday, following a series of phone calls trying to locate her sorry ass so we could sketch out a game plan for the evening. I don't know how I could have forgotten -- Her Majesty never rises before mid-afternoon! And even when the bisexual bizzatch is awake, work is the one four-letter word she rarely utters.

"Lap dance? A smack upside the head is what you really need," I threaten. "I may start beating you to get your rear in gear. We've got a job to do, or are you tired of having the easiest occupation on the planet?"

"Hey, I know," she spits, snapping her digits. "Why don't we do that new Penthouse Club tonight? That way, I can have some dime rub up on me while we snag a column for next week's issue."

Like James Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ, we all have our cross to bear, and mine weighs about 110 pounds and thinks she's the friggin' Queen of Sheba! But despite being lazier than Homer Simpson on smack, she occasionally comes up with a good idea, The Penthouse Club being one. The palatial, 10,000-square-foot adult cabaret opened last November at 1902 North Black Canyon Highway, about a block north of McDowell Road, and it boasts a staff that includes nearly 160 dollar ballerinas. More important for the Inferno budget (i.e., my wallet), Penthouse runs a $1.99 you-call-it special on Tuesday nights, with everything from domestic and imported bottled brews to higher-end liquor like single-barrel Jack Daniel's.

So we hit Penthouse a little after 10 p.m. and receive a tour of the place from Eric Peterson, the grand Pooh-Bah of the Zona's Penthouse enterprise, and I have to say, the place is impressive, a veritable seraglio of sin that could turn one of those altar-boy-caressin' Father Feelgoods in the Catholic Church into a red-meat-eatin' lover of the female form. Past the tall double doors is a chic, adult boutique where you can buy all manner of Penthouse lingerie, marital aids and assorted swag, while viewing erotic flicks on a flat-screen TV near the cash register. Continuing on through the second set of double doors usually costs $7 to $10 (ladies get in free on Fridays and Saturdays, and there's a two-for-one special on Mondays), but that's a pittance considering what lies beyond: a circular, Vegas-style strippeteria with pulsating colored lights, plasma TV sets screening music videos, two triple-long bars featuring a strip of ice down the middle of each so you can keep your drink frosty at all times, and three dance floors with a high catwalk leading down to the main stage, allowing the dancers to make a dramatic entrance.

The stuffed chairs are big and roomy, and though smoking is permitted, a state-of-the-art ventilation system keeps the air fresh so your threads won't be stinkin' like an ashtray afterward. In the far back is a deck with plush booths and a space for couples to get their groove on. You can even dine at your table from a menu including rosemary chicken, and rib eyes. And unlike most of the strip joints in P-town, there's not the constant pressure of chicas asking if you want a lap dance. If you express interest, the gals will approach, otherwise they won't be on you like flies on a half-eaten Mars bar. Need a pause that refreshes? Then check out the men's facilities complete with flat-screen TVs.

As if that weren't enough, those willing to pony up $1,500 a year, plus a $1,000 initiation fee, gain entree to a Members Only VIP lounge overlooking the entire club through tinted glass. That's where we retire to after our tour is over. Here the chairs are deeper, and there are couches and a leopard-skin-print rug. The section has its own bar and cigar-filled humidor, and a VIP hostess tends to your every need, even going outside to fetch whatever honey catches your fancy.

As I've mentioned in past columns, I steer clear of the whole lap-dance thing, which I find more frustrating than erotic. But the switch-hittin' Emilie de Ravin is like the proverbial kid in the candy store and sets about picking girls she wants to inspect for a potential grind, while I ask Peterson about the company he works for, the publicly traded VCG Holding Corp., and its relationship to the magazine.

"Essentially, we bought the rights to the name out here," explains Peterson, a tanned cat with salt-and-pepper hair who looks like he's in his 50s. "There are six clubs licensed by Penthouse, and three of them are ours: St. Louis, Missouri; Denver, Colorado; and Phoenix.

"Penthouse magazine sold last summer, and Bob Guccione no longer owns it. The people who run it now are changing the image to more of a Maxim, going away from the hard-core stuff, making it more upscale. They plan to feature our dancers in the September issue, and beginning August, every Penthouse Pet centerfold will be visiting us to sign autographs."

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