WAY PAST CLOTHING TIME
Up on a platform, three go-go boys in jockstraps (one of whom hangs upside down from a pipe running across the ceiling) simulate a menage a quatre with an exotic girl in a rubber dress. And from their vantage point up on a scaffolding, two young women in cat suits peer through the bank of artificial smoke and hold a dead-end debate about the sexuality of the bare-chested bartenders directly beneath them. No shirt? No shoes? No problem at The Works, a new nightclub in Scottsdale.
Yeah, we have a dress code," club owner Steve Rogers says with a laugh. Don't come dressed in a leisure suit. Come very unusual or very sleazy. Dress down!" Strip down!" might have been a more appropriate command when The Works hosted an underwear party over the Memorial Day weekend. Billed as Underworld Technoeroticus" (Experience the transmutation of sexual energy to a higher state!" ballyhooed psychedelic fliers), the industrial-style bacchanal attracted more than 500 revelers (mostly male) who checked their laundry at the door. Just what kind of place is this?
It's a situation where you have the gay people standing around asking, `Is this a straight club?' and the straight people are standing around asking, `Is this a gay club?" says Rogers. And that's exactly how I planned it. The energy is in the ambiguity. Not everybody belongs here."
Make no mistake about it. The Works, as they say, is hot. It's also steamy and sweaty. And as near as anyone can determine, it's the only club in town where, if the mood strikes them, clubgoers are encouraged to shuck their duds and dance in their Skivvies.
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It's a little bit like Carnival in Rio where the city sheds its rules and everybody has a real good time," says Rogers, who (with partner Greg Walker) opened the club three weeks ago. Located on Second Street near Scottsdale Road, the club was formerly the site of Actors Lab Arizona. Rogers says Valley nightlife is in pathetic condition." Until this place opened, he argues.
Here you have an environment where there are minimal rules, with lots of sexual titillation going on and everybody's invited to join in," he says. It's almost a spiritual experience."
Services at the cavernous dance club are currently being held Wednesday through Sunday nights, with after-hours on the weekend for those 18 and older. The Works is Walker and Rogers' third club to open in the Valley. We've got a college club [Club UM, in Tempe] and an uptown club [Zone, in Scottsdale Galleria]," says the 40-year-old Rogers, who designed nightclubs in New York City prior to moving to Phoenix several years ago. The Works is our downtown club-and it's the first club I've ever done where one and one added up to more than two."
In other words, math confusion. Defying traditional dance-floor pairings, lemminglike clubbers undulate under pulsating white lights in clusters of four or five, while others groove solo to the omnipresent pipe-banging technopop beat.
The Works is modeled after the raves," an underground nightlife scene popular in Los Angeles and New York City for the past several years. A backlash against the sort of elitist in" spots where clubgoers are forced to practically audition before snooty doormen, the raves are generally one-night-only events staged in warehouses or abandoned buildings that are transformed into dance halls for the night.
In an effort to stay one step ahead of authorities uptight about the idea of a floating dance hall and to distance the evening's receipts from the scenes of the raves, promoters often have resorted to elaborate ruses to keep the actual sites a secret, even selling advance tickets to the event" in the form of a series of maps that eventually pinpoint that evening's location. So just how does a legitimate businessman, presumably in for the long haul, duplicate a phenomenon that not only thumbs its nose at commerciality but also owes much of its popularity to its transitory and outlaw nature?
The idea was to get a permanent location but give it that temporary look," explains Rogers, a firm believer in the less is more" school of nightclub decor.
By that criterion, The Works' exterior is a model of what can only be called Fly-by-Night Chic. Party-hardy clubgoers who straggle out by dawn's early light (the club is currently open until 5 a.m. weekends) will thrill to a scene that looks like an RTC takeover just waiting to happen-a warren of concrete-and-steel buildings set on a rolling tract of dead grass, all surrounded by a lopsided barricade of portable fencing.
Under the forgiving cover of darkness, the scene is only slightly less foreboding; at night the windows beckon all comers with the seductive silhouettes of dancers writhing on the other side. During The Works' first weeks of operation, arriving clubbers were also expected to brave a darkened obstacle course of curbs, concrete blockades and assorted construction debris en route to the entryway at the back of the club. (As an apparent sop to safety, exterior lighting has since been beefed up.)
I purposely put the entrance in the back instead of the front," explains Rogers. It all adds to the mystery-and you need mystery when you're trying to do an underground club that doesn't move around." That's also why he says he refrained from adding any identifying markers to the front of the building. If you put a big sign out front, you've got everybody coming in here to check it out," he says. Although he refuses to get specific, Rogers would probably give the shirt off his own back to get rid of one group that has haunted The Works since its opening.
Let's just say that Scottsdale has let its presence be known," he says, alluding to alleged visits from the local authorities. It's been sleepy out here for so long, I think the city is a little xenophobic and feels a little threatened. That's why this scene is so effervescent-the cap's been on so long." If the fuzz don't mess with the fizz, Rogers claims his kinky cauldron of technoeroticism might just goose the local economy. Thanks to his patrons' voracious appetites, a neighboring Jack in the Box has extended its weekend hours.
At least one other nearby business is taking it in the shorts-but it couldn't be happier. A clerk at the Dillard's down the road reports that the club's recent underwear bash actually triggered a big run on Calvin Klein designer briefs.
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