We'd heard there were Thursday-night bikini contests involving hot tubs at the Cactus Café, the month-old bar that took over the Have a Nice Day space in Westport. So we made a scouting expedition to the double C and soon found out that we would be witnessing the inaugural event.
Arriving, we were disconcerted by the drastic change in décor from HAND. Gone was the raised dance floor with its ADA-approved ramp. The two bars were made of fake distressed wood, and two big-screen TVs hung behind each bar. Christmas lights in different colors dotted the ceiling; also hanging from the ceiling were hubcaps ("Nothing says groove like hubcaps," noted Research Assistant John) and empty burlap coffee sacks. Alas, HAND's tasty fishbowls had disappeared. But the bar rustles up signature margaritas (manager Gary Chisholm told us they're made with 1800 Tequila) and also pushes Jell-O shots in raspberry, cherry, orange and blue. We were drunkenly unaware of these specials, though, so we got our dependable girl drink: Malibu rum and pineapple juice.
Our attention was soon drawn to the hot tub burbling away on the dance floor. A couple of other things also caught our eye: Tony Gonzalez. And the obscene-balloon-hat man. Together in the same room. Naturally, we decided to get Tony a balloon hat. But not just any old balloon hat -- a naked-lady balloon hat made of Chiefs colors.
Dan the Balloon Man did a stellar job. The base of the hat was red with a yellow loop attached. The voluptuous naked lady was made up of white balloons, her nipples formed by the twisted ends. Dan drew a sweet, plaintive expression on her face with a blue marker, then wrote "Tony Gonzalez" on her stomach, along with an "8" on each breast. We tipped Dan and asked him to deliver his creation to Tony with the message that it was from a couple of admirers. We then watched as Tony, baffled, looked askance at the hat. He rejected our gift of luv and nearly fumbled it as he put it on his friend's head, who then eschewed the hat as well.
That's when we approached him. "Why aren't you wearing the hat?" we asked.
"Do you want me to look like a dork?" he said.
Well ... yes. But since he had no interest in it, we put it on and, in best cheesy-fan behavior, posed with him as RA Nadia took our picture.
We tried to blend back into the crowd, which was kind of hard, because it was somewhat sparse for that huge space and was composed mostly of guys. And we were still wearing the hat. But all that was soon forgotten as the bikini contest -- or, more accurately, a strip-down-to-your-skivvies-and-get-in-the-hot-tub contest -- began. Unfortunately, all we could see was a flash of thong here and a strapless bra there, because of the crush of guys who rushed the tub. We did see 6-foot-4-inch Tony craning his neck to get a better look.
Manager Chisholm described the contest, which will run for eight weeks (before the bar gives away the hot tub), as "very classy." Huh? "The underlying rule in any contest is 'skin to win,'" he explained. "If you do that here, you're disqualified." He also said that the hot tub wasn't for regular use by patrons (and he hasn't had to fish anything sketchy out of it), but on some nights, a member of his staff will get in and sell beer from it. We tried to sneak out a sample of the hot-tub water in our drink cup for lab analysis of its skank parts per million, but our attempt was foiled by the bouncers.
So, some good clean fun it was. Especially since we failed to charm Tony with our humble offering.