My Night At The Pussy Cat Lounge

Apr 03


The story you are about to read is true.
Only the names have been changed to protect . . .whoever.

So. How do you know that the new man you’re dating is a stand-up guy?

You could meet his mother, which I did.
You could talk to his kids, who were very welcoming, and obviously liked their Dad.
You could Google him, but this was in the Dark Ages, before google was a verb.
You could ask your friends, who gave him the thumbs up right away.
You could just trust your instinct, even though your instinct had been miles off in the past.
 
I found another way — although you might not want to try it anytime soon. For me, the question was answered definitively one fateful night when I asked him to rescue me from The Pussy Cat Lounge. That really sealed the deal.

Wait! Before you jump to conclusions (or anything else), let me tell you the story. It doesn’t begin on a dark and stormy night, although things did get a tad turbulent in the course of the evening. It began, in fact, on a lovely Spring day  . . .

A few months before our story begins, at a time in my life when I should have known better, but was — in the words of Carly Simon— still quite naive, I met a man on a plane on the way to California. I was developing a cold that day, a bad one, and he had a flask of whiskey (I should have been suspicious immediately), which he shared with me to help me get through the flight. Although I told him that I was seeing someone seriously (as opposed to un-seriously, I suppose), we exchanged numbers, and back in New York had a very pleasant lunch together, can’t remember where, but someplace nice. He was an ex-cop and was working as Security Chief at a major midtown hotel. He said that he understood that I was involved with someone else, but liked the company of good-looking women, and just wanted to do lunch. Right.

A few weeks later, on that lovely Spring day, he called to arrange another lunch, a late lunch, and I said okay. Since I was working hard in those days, I figured that I could make it really late and take the rest of the day off. Well, by the time he called back, it was really, really late, for lunch anyway, but I was hungry, overworked, and far too agreeable.

I agreed, therefore, to meet him at an address downtown I was unfamiliar with, left my office and grabbed a cab. (Why do we say “grab” a cab? What does grabbing have to do with it? Never mind, let me tell the story.) So, the cabbie pulls up to the address I had been given, turns around and asks, just like in the movies, “Lady, are you sure this is  the place?”.

I wasn’t sure at all: it was a dive called The Pussy Cat Lounge, a bona fide strip joint, with a long, low-lighted bar, and a stage on the right as you entered, featuring a woman on her back with her pelvis thrust towards me, or the door, or the Universe, doing what looked very much like the bridge position with benefits (not physical therapy as I know it!), wearing a bad attitude — and very little else. The scene was eerily similar to, but far more lurid than, the illustration above, the place darker, much, much darker, and the woman wearing less, much, much less, and not so girl-next-door; you get the idea.

As for me, I find that generally it’s a not a good sign when the first thing you see upon entering a public place is a pubic place. And “crotch” is not a word you think of for a restaurant review.

Never a person to let a little thing like this intimidate me, I strode to the bar, wearing a business suit and a confident air, which was a total joke, and asked for the person I was supposed to met, thinking all the while that this had to be a Big Fat Misunderstanding. It wasn’t. Not only was he meeting me there, that very evening, in that very unsavory place, he was a co-owner of the joint, and, as I later found out, not just an ex-cop, but an ex-cop who may have been asked to leave the force. Uh-oh.

So I bellied up to the bar (What else could a girl do?) and pretended that this wasn’t really weird. The bartender told me that He-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless (we could call him He-Who for short) was running late (running from what, I might have asked), and that I should have a drink on the house. I did. Several. And it was lucky for me that they were watered down, because I was determined not to leave. I don’t know why, but this had become a point of honor or something, and I kept drinking.

The women who were performing across the way would come up to the bar between acts, so to speak, and when they found out I was in publishing would tell me their life stories. And interesting stories they were. One of them was working her way through business school by performing a routine that involved not only whips and chains but a very severe haircut and strange-looking handcuffs. Another had taken this gig because the auditions weren’t exactly panning out, and all the directors wanted to do was, well you know. Another was paying the rent, and getting away from a bad boyfriend, by wiggling her ass and so forth for drunken Wall Street types who were only too happy to shove ten-dollar bills in her g-string — this was, of course, before the market tanked. Now, I hear, women who lost their jobs on Wall Street are taking jobs as strippers, and can make as much $160,000 a year in tips alone. And you meet such interesting people! Well, we all drank Scotch together, enjoyed lots of girl talk, and I told them to send me outlines of the books they wanted to write. Thank Zeus, none of them ever did. I published children’s books!

Finally, my “date” showed up, but by that time I was convinced that he didn’t just want a good-looking woman to have lunch with. (Duh.) Besides everything else, there was no food at this dump, not even a measly peanut. Somehow, before I was too drunk to descend into total madness, I made a phone call. To the new man in my life. The one I was seeing seriously. And without missing a beat, he took down the address, hopped into a cab (And what’s with the hopping into cabs, like we’re all frogs?) and appeared on the scene, all Mr-Steady-As-She-Goes, a good thing because I wasn’t steady at all, obviously, and he rescued me.

So how often do you get to be a damsel in distress? And then, how often do you get rescued?

Not that often.

I knew that night that this man was a keeper. He sized up the situation, he didn’t get upset, and Mr. Plane Person, AKA He-Who, knew that my guy was there, and he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

In the course of that strangely enchanted evening, we saw a woman perform an act that involved fire coming out of an orifice I’d rather not specify, and heard, from the female performers, many more tales of woe. And, from the customers, talk of dough. They were paying a lotta money for a little Scotch, a lotta crotch, and not complaining at all. In fact, they were bragging. People do tend talk to me, a lot, and it was all very educational. Very educational.

Plane Man (that isn’t his real name) asked what it would take for me to get on stage and do my thing, whatever the hell my thing was, and I said, A million two. Cash. I have no idea where I came up with that figure, but co-owner or not, Mr. I-Just Wanna-Have-Lunch wasn’t coming up with the money, so we’ll never know if  I would have done it or not. Big surprise: I never heard from him again.

After a sufficient amount of time had passed in this colorful atmosphere, I left The Pussy Cat Lounge with my new steady, and we walked off into the night, me staggering a bit on the streets of the Village, and him, being him, keeping me straight.

It was a great night, and the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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