"Ten bucks says I can get one of these guys to show me their wiener," my friend Toxic JuJu tells me, as we grab some seats at the bar inside Pumphouse II to take in a gay male revue.
I look around the bar. The place is packed with men, but I don't see a single dude here who looks like he's into chicks. In fact, many of the men are making out with each other, grabbing each other's asses, and playfully calling each other "bitch." I don't think JuJu has a chance in hell. She may have a short blond bob, but there's nothing remotely boyish about her tonight, she's done her makeup and she's wearing a low-cut shirt that reveals her rather ample rack.
But Toxic JuJu, so nicknamed because she used to be married to the drummer of '80s punk band Toxic Reasons, has more guts than a Quentin Tarantino flick and more attitude than the most flaming of gay men. And she just might be desperate enough to pull it off.
After almost a year here, Toxic JuJu is moving back to Indianapolis (my hometown, too; a mutual Hoosier friend gave JuJu my number when she moved here), partly because she never found a good guy for herself out here not even just for a lay. And although I prefer to frolic with the fairer sex, I can sympathize with the plight of a disappointed penis-lover.
So on a recent Saturday night, Toxic JuJu and I have decided the only proper send-off for her is to observe an unofficial "Wiener Day," and celebrate by eating bratwursts and watching gay male strippers.
For once, I was ready for a big, fat, juicy wiener. But we couldn't find a hot bratwurst anywhere, so we ate some Hawaiian food and bitched that it shouldn't be so hard for a woman to find a wiener.
We'd already had a few beers before arriving at Pumphouse II, a gay bar just off 41st Street and McDowell Road where drag queen Savannah hosts an all-male revue every Saturday. Now JuJu's starting in on the cosmos, ready to see some beefcake.
The first dancer of the night is Gage, a tall, muscular guy with tattoos, spiky fire-engine-red hair, and a total baby face. Dressed in only a dark leather loincloth and matching leather torso straps, he works the stripper pole like a gay gladiator to the strains of Nine Inch Nails. The men love him.
So does JuJu, who pulls a buck from her purse and barrels through the boys to get to him. When he comes twirling around the pole, JuJu's standing right below his brick house buttocks, waving her dollar. He kneels down to let her tuck the buck into the front of his G-string, but she puts the bill between her teeth instead and bends over backwards in front of him. He leans down and takes the dollar from her with his teeth.
The bar full of men goes wild, cheering and whistling. And JuJu, who earlier had thought that the idea of picking up a man in a gay bar was "hysterical" and was worried she'd feel out of place, is totally encouraged.
"I am telling you, they're all straight," she says of the strippers. "Those guys are all about money. You watch. I'm gonna find a wiener."
I tell her she's crazy, that everybody's just drinking and having fun and there's no way she's going to hook up here.
JuJu sighs and starts on another cosmo. I head for the unisex bathroom. When I get back to the bar, JuJu's talking to a gorgeous, olive-skinned Italian guy, who looks like he's had a few drinks, too. He's introduced as, oh, let's say, "Brando," because he resembles a young Marlon Brando with darker hair and eyes. We're not the only ones who noticed. Four or five different men have been buying him drinks all night.
I resume watching the strippers and don't pay much attention to JuJu and Brando's conversation. When I turn back to them, Brando's got his arm around JuJu's neck, and they're leaning close into each others' faces. "No, no, I am not with her; she's just my friend," JuJu says, obviously referring to me. "I like men. But aren't you gay?"
"I'm not gay, I'm bi," Brando says in his thick Italian accent. "I love you. I would marry you . . ."
He leans in to kiss her, and they start making out. I can't help but crack up as the men who've been trying to land Brando all night start crowding around and tapping him on the shoulder.
JuJu doesn't appreciate the interruption. She rears back and screams at Brando. "You're gay!"
He insists he's not while all the guys around him insist that he is, and then JuJu starts asking Brando rude questions. "How many dicks have you sucked? Have you ever taken it in the ass? How many times? See, you're gay! Who are all these guys around you?"
Then she starts asking questions to Brando's would-be boyfriends. "How many times have you taken it in the ass? So you're gay, right?"
She grabs Brando's shoulders. "You're with all these gay men you're gay!"
Brando grabs JuJu and whispers something in her ear. Then JuJu grabs me. "C'mon, he's leaving with us," she says. "I'm gonna have sex with him tonight."
I'm stunned, but I agree to drop them off at JuJu's. When I get to the exit, I look back to see Brando still sitting at the bar. JuJu comes running up a few seconds later.
"Why isn't he coming?" I ask.
"He said, 'Well, I don't like Niki.' "
"Well, he wouldn't be having sex with me," I say with a laugh. "You know what the real problem is, JuJu? He's gay."
JuJu looks kind of sad, so I pat her on the back. "Hey, you're a straight woman who just made out with a gay man in a gay bar. You should be proud!"
And we shuffle off into the night, still nary a wiener in sight.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.