On the weekend of the deer season opener, the Treasure Island Casino in Red Wing hosts the Playgirl Centerfold Male Dance Revue. Coincidence? I think not.
Venturing through Treasure Island's many theme rooms, I can't help but notice how many men, guests and employees alike, have lined up to watch what appears to be Red Wing's answer to the Sex and the City girls: scrawny twentysomethings in halter tops, fuck-me pumps, and cheap eye makeup. Several of the Lycra-clad ladies leading the way to the Indigo Bay Showroom are already hammered, despite the fact that it's only 6:30. A chubby bride-to-be disrupts the flow of bathroom traffic, inspecting her lip gloss and adjusting her Life-Saver-and-condom-bedecked veil. "Hey," barks her pal, a hard-looking lass sporting a lumberjack shirt and an REO Speedwagon hairdo, "they ain't gonna be lookin' at you." The line for cocktails being equally intimidating, many women are purchasing three or four bloody marys or sex on the beaches at once.
At the ticket counter, a gruff, gray-haired casino official informs me that my companion and I must wait for the PR rep, Missy, in order to claim our "VIP seats." Missy, as it turns out, is virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the man-hungry mob, what with her tight sweater, high school class ring, and bleached blond hair. Moments before showtime, she lays down the media ground rules: All journalists must sign releases granting the Playgirl Centerfold Male Dance Revue and Treasure Island Casino full editing privileges prior to publication. When I demur, Missy says we'll have to take it up with the Playgirl authorities after the show. And with a terse "buh-bye," she is off to her choice stage-side seat.
The lights go out, the air thickens with fake fog, and the sounds of female screams and Kenny Loggins fill the air. Four buff men, dressed as airport ground controllers, take the stage, lip-synching to "Danger Zone." Then comes emcee Chris D'Angelo, who splits the room into two sections--the "nasty side" and the "horny side"--and promises a gratis bottle of Champagne to the lady who can make the most noise. A busty, braless woman in a nylon top nearly knocks herself unconscious leaping into the air to get the dancers' attention.
Dancer number one, "Juan DeMarco," commences his act, eliciting shrieks of "TAKE IT OFF!" fifteen seconds into the routine. He obliges, but our vision is temporarily obscured by four babes wearing pleather raincoats and plastered-on wine coolers, who are trying out their Coyote Ugly dance moves right in front of the VIP section. Obese secretary types waddle up to the stage, prepared to part with their twenties in exchange for the privilege of having a greasy, thong-clad fellow who looks like a stereo salesman give them his undivided attention--i.e., simulate oral sex with them in front of their friends.
As long as the cash keeps flowing, dancers continue to get physical with spectators, to the sounds of Jay-Z and the Commodores. One dancer yanks a woman's skirt up around her waist, exposing her underpantsless pubes to the drunken masses. During the dancers' brief costume change, our emcee reappears to deliver yet another anecdote from his vast repertoire of foul cunnilingus jokes. This does seem to have a calming effect on the frenzied audience, but all bets are off when a Marlboro Man clone comes out and strips down to his Daisy Dukes to Kid Rock's "Cowboy." Even the self-conscious are moved to their feet, grinding their hips and tossing their permed hair.
The next round of chair dances gets dirtier still, as two centerfolds mime a hair-pulling double-penetration scene with a sorority girl. Her weathered-looking elders, trembling right down to their python-print pants, clap hands to mouths as if to stifle their shock. Inevitably, though, the novelty wears off. As the applause grows weaker, D'Angelo teases the crowd by offering to remove his own tight satin trousers. "I hear they like chocolate in Red Wing," he purrs. "And you know chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand." At this a fellow VIP leaps to her feet and howls, "Just take your fuckin' clothes off!"
Post-show, several hundred audience members form a single-file line and patiently wait to pay $10 a pop for Polaroids of themselves posing with the dancers. Just outside the Indigo Bay Showroom, a Playgirl understudy allows giggling bridesmaids to clutch his crotch as their friends snap away with their autofocuses.
And along comes Missy, who beckons me over to where she's supervising the photo session, insisting the half-naked D'Angelo has some legal concerns to discuss with me. It seems that if I want to write a single word, I'm required to teleconference with her first. Sure, Missy. (A similar fate, I am later to learn, befalls the City Pages photographer assigned to cover the high jinks.)
As menfolk statewide don their long johns and Day-Glo orange accouterments in preparation for the day's ambush, I fall in step with my fellow party girls on the long trek to the Treasure Island parking lot, having glimpsed the naked truth beneath the gleaming nickel-slot surface of showboy Babylon.