We recently visited Rum Runners for its regular Wednesday-night tit-tacular, hoping to find Kansans who could set a good example of anti-puritanical behavior for their neighbors. We found ourselves heading over to Interstate 35 and Merriam Drive, accompanied by a male Research Assistant who, embarrassed to be present at such an event, wanted to remain anonymous.
We have to admit, we have no problems with the teat, having just been to our first strip club. (We stopped by the Shady Lady after the Royals' home opener; hey, we were in the neighborhood.) However, we'd never been to a wet T-shirt contest -- in fact, we thought this was a dying breed of bar contests (in the KC area, at least) -- and were somewhat intrigued by the potential sociological weirdness of it all. Plus, in our Night Ranger career, we've documented other interesting sordid spectacles (best butt contest, blow jobs, swingers, etc.), so why not add a wet T-shirt contest to the list?
After traveling through downtown Merriam and past some darkened warehouse areas, we finally located the bar. Its dark-brown façade was reminiscent of a former Coco's, but the interior was ginormous and cheesily great; we immediately deemed the place a divey club. The main room contains a huge dance floor, a bar with aluminum siding, a good number of circular booths, and tropical-themed paraphernalia (such as, um, patio umbrellas that provided much-needed shade and a beachlike ambience). A large, stuffed gorilla holding a Jolly Roger stood guard over the dancers. Another room held pool tables, but the best room was a dark, wood-paneled lounge area, complete with worn leather sofas, a big-screen TV tuned to BET, a disco ball and a zebra-print rug. "It's like a dirty uncle's basement," Mr. Research Assistant said of the lounge. "It's what the inside of Uncle Rico's van would look like."
Indeed, the look of the bar and its patrons had a vaguely Napoleon Dynamite feel to it, though with significantly less quirk, so we needed to liquor up. The drink specials that night were appealing ($1 wells, $5 Boulevard Wheat pitchers). The NR spotted a red grog swirling around in a frozen-drink machine and had to try it; sadly, the banana-rum mixture was appalling in its overwhelming artificial flavoring. Yarrgh, matey! At least a friendly, lively crew rocked the dance floor with much butt-to-crotch grinding until the DJ announced that the contest was starting. White tank tops were passed out, a wading pool was dragged to the dance floor, and five contestants emerged from the bathroom, their tank tops strategically torn for maximum demure naughtiness.
As we waited for the contest to begin, we asked one of the contestants if she had a strategy to win the $100 prize.
"You jiggle. And you stand over here and play with your nipples to make 'em hard," said Wendy, 26, who was the most stacked of the bunch. She's a bartender, a jazz singer and a karaoke host at Balanca's, and she had a supportive group of friends cheering her on, such as Jen, 25, who had advertised the event on her Web site (which she declined to name). "Dollar drinks and a wet T-shirt contest? I'm there," Jen said. She's a semi-regular on Wednesday nights. "I love beautiful women. Don't you?"
After telling us how she's also a fan of fishnet stockings ("That's my thang"), we asked if she was into men and women. She said yes, then told us about her boyfriend (who was in attendance) of the past seven months. "But the first month counts as booty calls, so it's really six months," she said before asking the NR if she wanted to dance. El Night Ranger politely declined. ("Did you tell her you were strictly dickly?" asked Señor Research Assistant later.)
No, we didn't, but all that was forgotten when the contest started. The women lined up on the dance floor. Contestant No. 1 got in the wading pool. As "Do Me, Baby" blared from the speakers, a guy -- wielding what seemed to be a white plastic pesticide can -- sprayed her chest.
"I don't see nipples yet!" the DJ brayed. But we saw them soon enough. One by one, the women were wet down, and they jiggled and writhed to the music. Some ran their hands over their boobs; a couple of women doubled up for some girl-on-girl frontal touching action. The guys were going nuts, and in our tiredly drunken state (we had been drinking since happy hour that day), we were surprised to find ourselves stunned by the antics of a wet T-shirt contest. We guess we were kind of fascinated, in a train-wreck sort of way. Perhaps it was that we had too much to absorb, what with the noise, the commotion and all of that wet flesh up close, and couldn't do anything but try to dumbly process everything.
At the end of the contest, the DJ apparently had trouble declaring the winner (which was to be determined by the trusty applause meter). "Fuck all y'all. I'll take No. 1," he said, picking a woman with smaller boobs than the rest. The crowd protested, so the prize was split -- each woman won $20.
After Contestant No. 4 (Stacey, 28) changed back into her regular clothes, we asked how she felt about her performance.
"I think I should have won," she said. "I was worried that the girl with the small boobs was going to win -- not that that's bad or anything."
Stacey told us that she'd entered a wet T-shirt contest just once before, at Lumpy's in Olathe. "I was mad," she said. "The girl with the big boobs won, of course." She proudly touted the fact that her breasts were real and told us that she works out and tries to keep them firm. She also informed us that Playboy is on a real-breasts kick right now. We were slightly dubious about that claim, but let it go.
"If I didn't really need the money, I wouldn't enter," she continued, explaining that her sister's wedding and niece's birthday were coming up. "I'm not trashy. This is only the second time I've done it. I wanted to make sure I won."
Well, Stacey, everyone was a winner that night. Except for Baby Blunt, who will probably ban the white T-shirt next.