There's a perfectly good scientific explanation for this, we swear -- we once learned in a medical physiology class that the increased amount of sunlight makes some gland produce more hormones, which is why everyone becomes more, uh, amorous in the spring. So, we present to you a scouting report for our 2005 fantasy draft. Play ball!
The field: The new Grand Emporium, which revamped its concept and opened under new ownership in August.
Now, we were kind of indifferent toward the old Grand Emporium. Although we enjoyed many great shows there, the place seemed to attract JoCo types who thought they were being all wonderfully brave and adventurous by venturing out to midtown on the weekends. When we heard that the bar was reopening, we assumed the same kinds of people would show up. However, we started hearing rumors about how it was more of a martini-serving, upscale, dance kinda place, which was somewhat baffling to us.
When we finally made it over, we were stunned by the changes. Gone are the concert fliers that plastered the walls as well as the grubby feel of this former KC institution. The bar is sleek and spaceshiplike inside. A new back bar has been set up in a separate area that also contains black sofas and two plasma-screen TVs (for which people can borrow an Xbox in exchange for a driver's license). And thankfully, the curtains that blocked the toilets in the women's restroom are also gone; there are proper stall doors now. We asked owner Stuart Salomon why he kept the Grand Emporium name despite so many changes. "We do a lot of live music during the week," he said. (Wednesdays and Saturdays, DJs spin.)
We visited on a Saturday, which is its busiest night, thanks to DJ Steve Thorell and no cover for the ladies ($5 for guys). After meeting Research Assistants Tom, Matt and Laura around 11:30, we hung out in the back bar and assessed the joint.
The lineup: Well, we found our catcher almost immediately; before the Night Ranger even walked in, she was accosted on the sidewalk by a sketchy older guy who looked as if he came from the adult video store across the street.
"Can we hold hands and walk in together?" he asked.
"Uh ... no," the NR replied and walked by. Were we mean? Yes, but there you go. After entering, the first thing we naturally noticed was the abundance of man tribes, many of which were quite attractive and amenable. Of course, the guys were in striped button-down shirts; the chicks were decked out in their boob tops (i.e., the backless halters and one-shouldered shirts; and, yeah, why are those still around?). Britney wannabes in pink sunglasses and back-of-the-neck sunburst tattoos were prevalent. The trendoid crowd was intriguing to us; it seemed to consist of those who make the club rounds in KC -- the DJ groupies. Ages ranged from early 20s to 40s, and a variety of professions were represented, from lawyers to students to service-industry members. And because the place wasn't too pretentious or horribly packed (apparently, it can sometimes get annoyingly crowded), we actually had a pretty fun time -- another thing we didn't really expect.
Second base: We ventured over to the other half of the bar, which had been temporarily walled off with panels to better contain the music. Thorell and his guest DJs set up on the high stage, and across from that were two booths draped with white, gauzy curtains. (The booths can be reserved on Saturday nights for a $200 bar tab minimum.) A group of guys occupied one.
"Has this booth been a chick magnet?" we yelled above the din. Apparently so, said "Christopher King," 23 (who gave his porn name). He then said, "Let's get blown!" We weren't sure if that was in reference to the chick hordes that supposedly approached his booth or to the, um, illegal substances he offered to hook us up with. (No, we're not talking about steroids.)
"Is this bar a haven for fake boobs?" we hollered at him again.
"This place is a fucking whorehouse -- lots of fake tits! Are yours real?" he asked, looking at the Night Ranger cleavage. Well. That was the first time the NR's been asked that -- thank you, Wonderbra.
Christopher then told us how he felt up some fake breasts the previous week at the Cigar Box. "It was on a 45-year-old. She'd just got them done. She's like, 'Here, touch these.' Her husband got kind of pissed off and beat me and my boy with a bat. Got 'Pepe' knocked out." He pointed out the lump on his forehead. We felt it up but couldn't really find much.
We turned to "Pepe," 29, to verify the story. "Here's the deal," he said. "Her husband left [the bar]. I didn't know she was married. I walked out, and this dude dropped me. With his fist. I didn't get hit with no bat." Pepe went on to tell us how he had sex on Arrowhead's 50-yard line before an Oklahoma State game -- right after he ran the bases at Kauffman. We weren't sure whether to grant him home-run points.
Closers: The NR started chatting up a friendly guy. "Would you like to get breakfast?" he asked.
"Are you going to call me or nudge me?" the NR asked, cribbing that line from a cheesy '80s movie. Apparently he meant at that very moment. We regretfully declined because we still had work to do. Instead, we started talking to two snazzily dressed guys in suits. They were in town for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament. Hamid, 28, and Dorian work in the mortgage business and run a program with the NAIA to raise money for schools.
As awesome as that is, we were fascinated to hear that Dorian, a University of Kansas alumnus and former cornerback, went on to play for the NFL for the Ravens, the Dolphins, the Chargers and the Bears. We peppered him with questions as we were being herded out of the bar. "Did you play with Jay Fiedler?" (No, Marino.) "What's Ryan Leaf like?"
"Leaf has skills. He's a top player but lacked maturity," Dorian said.
Hmm. Kind of like many of the guys we meet. But then again, who are we to talk? So, on that note, we waved ourselves toward home.