While strip joints have pretty much been zoned out of St. Louis proper, around these parts east side is pretty much synonymous with naked flesh. That's right: Within minutes of hopping the Mighty Miss on the Poplar Street Bridge, you're slipping dollar bills into G-strings.
And as Riverfront Times editor Tom Finkel said at last week's staff meeting, "A Final Four guide with no strip joints is like a martini with no olive." All that remained was to dispatch the only two RFT writers gullible enough to take on the assignment with no expense account. (Which is to say: If they didn't manage to hit every lap-dance lounge in the metro east, it wasn't for lack of trying.)
Enjoy the repartee -- and our Oh-So-Sweet Sixteen bracket.
Jess: Here we are on Illinois Route 3 in the picturesque industrial mecca that is Sauget, Illinois, home of the spankin'-new Penthouse Club (1401 Mississippi Avenue #18; 618-274-0380). The former Diamond Cabaret has reopened with a touch of Vegas, complete with track lighting and faux marble. As an added bonus, the manager on duty looks not unlike Johnny Sack from The Sopranos.
Ben: This is by far the classiest joint in strip-club in mogul Micheal Ocello's local empire, which also includes the Platinum Club (213 Madison Street; 618-274-2582) and Roxy's (410 Madison Street; 618-274-4491) off Route 3 a bit north of here in Brooklyn (though incidentally, I was just told by a Penthouse Club staff member to avoid the food at the latter). PT's Centreville (6400 Four Corners Lane; 618-337-4400) -- known for some meaty couples nights -- and its preppier twin, PT's Sports Cabaret (200 Monsanto Avenue; 618-274-4500) right here in Sauget, round out Señor Ocello's nudie quintuplets.
Jess: Guess what? A mere $1,500 a year gains you access to Penthouse's members-only club, complete with two-inch-thick leopard-print carpet, stuffed wild game and leather chairs bigger than Gene Shalit's head.
Ben: Who has time for membership? PT's is calling us from across the railroad tracks.
Jess: And what a deliciously throaty call it is. What is it, exactly, that makes PT's Sports Cabaret so sweet?
Ben: Is it the cocktail waitresses in cheerleading outfits? Or the approximately twelve-foot-tall TV sets? I mean, I can't tell you much about the dancers, but I sure can tell you a lot about Kevin Garnett's glistening gourd.
Jess: But there are no poles! I mean, it's cool to have huge screens and naked ladies, but it's weird to see a naked lady right in front of a twelve-foot-high Manu Ginobili head.
Ben: Are we in Washington Park yet? Oh, yeah, we must be -- there's that giant sign for Larry Flynt's Hustler Club (Exit 6 off I-64 at Route 111; 618-874-9334) and that beaver smoking a cigar.
Jess: It's amusing that the "Home of the $10 Dance" is also the most pretentious place in town.
Ben: While we're in Washington Park, do you think it's worth a stop at low-budget luminaries Club 64 East (52 St. Clair Avenue; 618-875-0221) and Dollies Playhouse (6210 Forest Boulevard; 618-271-4257)? Maybe we'd be better off just heading for Miss Kitty's (5200 Bunkum Road; 618-875-6477). It's just across the street from Hustler and easy to find -- just look for the neon sign advertising a single "Showgirl."
Jess: Dude, seriously. I friggin' love Miss Kitty's! The cheap carpet and wood paneling -- it's a rec room with naked women! Oh, and did you see that blonde grinding on one guy while carrying on a conversation with another? It's just so...personal.
Ben: Oh, really. Thank God they didn't enforce the two-drink minimum. It was a little disheartening to see that some poor strip-club DJ has been put out of business by a RadioShack-quality stereo.
Jess: Wait, what's that palace of neon up ahead? Could it be...?
Ben: Yes! It's Hollywood Showclub (5481 Bunkum Road; 618-874-9000), which calls itself the "first multi-million dollar nightclub in the Midwest." I am really enjoying the three different screens of hardcore porn going on right now. Do you think we're looking at that chick's real anus?
Jess: Shhh! They've actually got a DJ! And he's playing Black Sabbath! But I have to say that by far the best part is that the whole place smells like Pez. And the bathroom stalls are painted gold and smell like a Bath & Body Works exploded. And all the blacklight. Damn! Look how much lint's on my sweater. And my drink actually has a lime in it.
Ben: Before you get too far into that drink, we need a rundown.
Jess: A rubdown?
Ben: Whatevs. Hottest girls?
Jess: Um, P.T.'s had that blonde in the white "skirt." But Kitty's had the Wonder Grinder.
Ben: Strongest drink?
Jess: Kitty's, definitely. Straight rum with a splash of Coke. And you barely got through your girlie drink.
Ben: Shut up. I'm a connoisseur of tequila sunrises. Best overall experience?
Jess: If you're looking for upscale, it's gotta be Penthouse, but if you're looking to go home smelling like roses and not cigarette butts, it's all about Hollywood.
Jess Minnen is the Riverfront Times clubs editor; Ben Westhoff is a staff writer.