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Risky Biz-ness

Dime time. That means, 10 o'clock on a Thursday night, and I'm chillin' at my homegirl Jett's pad as she readies herself to ride on da club. The crib's split between her side and that belonging to her roommate, T-Dog. One guess which side looks like a Hummer did doughnuts in the middle of it.

"I thought chicks were supposed to be, uh, like, neat 'n' stuff," I say, rubbing my chin, and eyeing a pile of dirty underwear.

"Well, this chick isn't," Johnny Depp in drag replies, coming out of the bathroom in a jean jacket and high-heeled black boots. "I really don't want to do the Biz tonight. Everybody hates me there."

"Payback for breakin' so many hearts, dude," I say, as Jett primps a little more. "You can't let the haters win. It's just like 9/11. You gotta show the world you're walkin' tall like The Rock. Anyway, how long can we ignore P-town's premier lesbian venue?"

"All right, all right!" she says, holding up her arms dramatically. "Lez-be-on our way, Notorious P.I.G. And don't embarrass me by slobbering all over the sistahs. One thing they hate more than me is straight guys trying to pick them up."

"Maybe I can pass for a gay guy?" I wonder.

"Or a bull dyke," mumbles Jett.

We're out of the apartment faster than Shy-town's Twista can rap.

Cut to the parking lot Ain't Nobody's Bizness shares with a bowling alley and a Filiberto's, at 3031 East Indian School Road, where scores of so-called lipstickers (hot lesbians), mullets (lesbians who look like me in a wig) and bois (small, boyish-looking lesbians) are climbing out of their autos and headin' for the door to the dance floor.

There's no cover, and we enter to the sound of DJ Trina (one of Jett's ex-flames) playing Petey Pablo's latest joint "Freek-a-Leek." To one side, there are three or so pool tables converted for cocktails with sheets of plywood. On the other end of the large hall is a long bar where you can get a small pitcher of Bud Light for $2, the beer taps decorated with gay-pride-style rainbow flag stickers. Up on the wall behind the bar is the only art in the place: the outlines of three curvaceous nude female torsos -- headless, armless and legless, backlit by red neon. I'll say one thing about gay chicks, they've got their priorities straight.

Between the pool tables and the bar, there's a large dance floor where Pink wanna-bes in wife-beaters and punkish 'dos get low with partners in Adidas kicks, fly windbreakers and lids cocked to one side. Green and purple lights flick back and forth, a mirrored disco ball spins, and all about, high up near the ceilings, are TV sets showing the action on the dance floor. In the far back, there's a platform partly surrounded by a tall chain-link fence with some booths and tables for folks to kick it.

We head to the bar and grab some vodka tonics. Everyone seems more patient and polite than in the average club. Folks even queue up at the ends of the bar to make their drink orders. I'm surprised by the number of gay dudes dancing with each other.

"There are a lot of queer guys in here, too. Thought this was a girls' club?" I ask, yelling into the L-word Usher's ear.

"They like it 'cause there's less pressure," she yells back. "In a gay men's club, it's all about looks and pickin' up. Here, they just come to dance."

We suck down our drinks and rotate outside, because it's bumpin' too hard to do more than scream. Outside are clusters of peeps socializing. Almost immediately, there's a little drama as one of Jett's former flames sidles up to us. It's Misty, a petite cutie with straight brown bangs and purple eyeshade, dressed in red pants, yellow wrestling shoes, and a black, sleeveless jacket. Actually, she doesn't seem to hate Jett at all, though she confides to me that, "I think Jett's hair looks better in a pompadour."

Jett butts in, "Misty, tell him about the car accident you were in."

"I like to talk on the phone a lot," Misty says in a singsong voice, her eyes growing wide, "so I kinda backed into someone when I wasn't paying any attention. I was really upset. I've never been in an accident before."

"Did you pull a Bishop O'Brien?" I ask.

"What? No! Actually, it could have been their fault. But I don't know, because I was on the cell phone," she says, lighting up a menthol ciggie.

"Misty, you're an insurance agent's wet dream," I tell her. "Somewhere out there, there's an actuarial table with your name on it."  

Bored with a former conquest, Jett says, "Hey, let's talk to Pippi Longstocking over there."

Who's Ashley Burson, 21, a sweet, fetching lass with short black hair, pigtails and various types of tattoos and piercings all over her body.

Come to find out she's a member in good standing of Phoenix's Church of Body Modification, which is run by her boyfriend Steve Haworth. In a red halter, short pleated skirt, thigh-high, multicolored socks and chunky black Mary Janes, she looks like some sort of demonic cheerleader at a Marilyn Manson concert. I ask her about a swollen, pink scar in the middle of her chest.

"This is a branding," she says proudly. "It was done by a laser which vaporized all the flesh that it passed over. My scar tissue happened to overfill it, which is why I have the keloid, the raised red tissue. It's an upside-down star, which is a Wiccan symbol of protection."

"I'm guessing that was painful, witch girl?" I say.

"It hurt more than anything I've ever done in my entire life. I do suspensions, brandings, cuttings, and this was more painful than any of those. But hopefully, this keloid will keep for the rest of my life."

"Not to be naive, but why do you do these things to yourself?"

As if talking to a fool, she answers, "I need the pain. If I don't have pain for a certain number of weeks or days, I crave it and have to have it. I get an incredible rush. When you have pain, your endorphins and your adrenaline kick in so hard you get high. And you start to crave it like you wouldn't believe! So therefore I suspend myself (with hooks), or I get a branding, or I get something else done, so I have this pain."

"I have the same experience whenever I eat a meatball sub," I crack. Jett slaps me.

"Don't mind him, he's an idiot," she snorts. "Why do you come here to a gay club, since you say you have a boyfriend?"

"We're having a going-away party for a friend who's joining a circus side show, and this is a place where we can come and dance with boys who aren't trying to get into our pants."

"Here you just have to worry about the girls trying to get into your pants," explains Jett, with a leer.

"What do you worship in your church?" I query, ignoring Jett's lustful banter.

"We don't actually worship anything," says Ashley. "It's more that we congregate, and support each other. If you're interested, we have a Web site, www.uscobm.com."

Ashley's body-mod pals run up to her and pull her back into the danceteria, while Jett and I strike up a conversation with Angela, a fly girl with black hair and blond highlights, sitting on the curb in her wraparound sunglasses, pinstriped pants, white Adidas and a red jogger's top with black piping. We'd seen Angela in the club break-dancing, and ask her about it.

"I've been breaking for about three years now. It's coming back because the whole '80s retro thing is hot," she says. "I've learned mostly by watching other people. There's a lot of it in Colorado, where I'm from."

"Why are you in P-town?"

"I just got out of the Army. I'd been in for five and a half years. I went in when I was 17."

"Seventeen?! Did you have to get permission to do that?" inquires Jett.

"Yeah, my mom signed off on it. It was either go into the Army or go to jail. I was a bad kid," she says, laughing. "Nothing too bad, but I got into a lot of trouble. Had to do juvie 'n' stuff."

"So how was the Army? Did you have to do five years?"

"It taught me discipline, but that's about it. I don't really like conforming. Actually, I was supposed to do one more year, but I got out of the Army with an honorable discharge by telling 'em I'm a lesbian," she says.

"Do they still have that 'don't ask, don't tell' policy?"

"Yep, and I told, ha! I'd had enough. It was hard for me to hide the fact that I like women. I did hook up with some girls there. But there are a lot more gay guys in the military than lesbians. Big time!"

"Do tell! I hope you didn't have to go to Iraq," says Jett.

"Thankfully, I didn't have to go overseas. Basically, when it comes to that Iraq mess, we've got to get Bush out of the White House," Angela says, getting very serious.  

About this time, Angela's gal-pal -- a chick in jeans and a white tee rolled up to the midriff -- hops on the back of a motorcycle out in the parking lot driven by somebody else. "We'll meet you over there," she tells Angela, referring to an after-party.

I notice that Jett is off in the corner chatting up some foreign-looking bird. I walk over, just as the chick hits the ladies' room.

"Very smart girl," says Jett. "Too bad she's not my type. Her name was Alexis or something. She's from Mexico, but went to Germany to work on helicopters. She's in Phoenix to work on her degree in electrical engineering."

"Always on the make, ain't you!" I say, grinning. "Thought everybody hates you here."

"No, everybody hates you," she says. "Especially me, right now."

A slutty-looking honey passes us by.

"Whoa!" I say.

"That's a hooker, Kreme," says Jett, rolling her eyes.

"Introduce me. I think we have some business to discuss."

"A hooker for lesbians, ya nut," says Jett.

"Well, you didsay I look like a bull dyke, remember?"


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