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."

Peterson has to go off and be the boss, so we kick back with our drinks -- Crown and Coke pour moi and a bloody Mary with Skyy for the J-unit, served up by Candace, a gorgeous lady in black stockings, heels and corset. Our hostess helps Jett with the parade of ecdysiasts (that's a big word for strippers, yo) from which the J-girl will select a lap-dancer. First up is a curvaceous brunette who answers to "Persistence." The copper-skinned AZ native approaches us in a slinky number cut so that you can see plenty of flesh through it, and of course, Jett's eyes are on the babe's ta-tas like white on rice. Jeez, what a lech!

"Oh, I've got to ask your ethnicity," wonders the J-girl in mid-slobber as Persistence takes a seat at our table.

"Mexican, Spanish and Portuguese," she informs us. "You like?"

"Absolutely!" replies The Horny One. "How long have you been dancing, sweetie?"

"Oh, about eight or nine months now," Persistence relates. "I started dancing at the Penthouse Club in New York, but I like this one better. It's newer, and the pace of life in Arizona is more easygoing."

"Make a lot of scrilla in this club?" I inquire.

"If I work four nights a week, I can make around $1,800," she answers, adding, "but that's just me. Everybody's different."

"I reckon Persistence pays off then, eh?" I crack.

Both gals look at me like I'm an idiot. Well, someone had to make that joke. We politely dismiss Persistence with Jett whispering to me that she'd like to see a few more candidates before she chooses one to do the lounge-chair tango with her.

"Look at as many as you want," I snarl. "But you're only getting one. Though they're only $10 down there on the floor, they're $20 up here in VIP, and I don't expect you brought your own chedda."

"My own what?"

"Exactly," I respond, as the next breezy on the hit parade sidles up next to us. Now this is what I'm talkin' 'bout. She goes by "Hollywood Babylon," and has the most unique look in the joint, something like a cross between Bettie Page and Morticia Addams, with ink-black bangs, an ivory complexion, and Egyptian-styled mascara. Known for her outrageous antics on the pole, Hollywood states that she got her name from a Misfits song, not from the Kenneth Anger book of the same title. Either way, the chick is smokin'. I know I'd pick her if I were in Jett's shoes.

"My signature is this move where I slam my heels down on the stage really hard," she says, laughing. "It's my 'pay attention to me' move. Either I'm gonna make you look my way, or scare the crap out of you."

"Cool," coos the Jettster. "Are you a big Bettie Page fan?"

"I am!" she effuses, pulling out a purse with the '50s pinup gal on it. "See, she's on my purse. And on my back, I've had a queen of hearts tattooed. That's what they used to call Bettie back in the day."

Hollywood has this strapless number on, and turns around to show us the skin art on her lower back. As Jett drools, I shoot out a question.

"What kind of guy or gal do you think picks you for a lap dance?" I ask.

"Someone who's a little more interested in the dark side. I don't get a lot of those happy guys who want a normal girl. But the good thing about this club is there's practically a girl for everyone."

HB's being called back onstage by the DJ, so we say goodbye, and the procession of beauties continues, with Jett's peepers bulging like she's buzzed on Adderall. Finally, the perfect match appears, a lass named Cody with pale skin, long brown hair and a juicy bod that Jett's eager to view up close.

"I'm bi," Cody reveals. "I prefer guys, but I love girls; they're fun."

The J-girl's eyes are glazed over with lust, so I allow Cody to lead her over to a couch, where they do their thing. I kick it with these guys Mike and Rick, and Rick's girlfriend Lois. Seems they're all VIP members. Rick's in the mortgage industry and Mike sells concrete, so I ask Mike to tell me something about concrete I don't know. Mike blanks, but Rick steps in, suddenly knowledgeable: "There's no such thing as wet concrete," Rick relates. "Paint is wet. Technically, concrete is soft, not wet."

Suddenly, this loud moan comes from behind the couch.

"Same with the girls who work in this club," I remark. "Soft and then hard. 'Cause with strippers, it's all about business, even if my pal Jett doesn't currently agree."

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