The sleaze quotient on the stretch of Grand Boulevard south of the Sprint Center was recently reduced by a small fraction when the large, porno-style, black-and-yellow Barely Legal sign atop the empty storefront at 1515 Grand was removed by the building's owner.
It's not quite Pleasantville on the block yet, though. Next door, that same owner operates Temptations, a strip club where bright-red exterior lights boast of "Totally Nude" dancers — a moral eyesore that, given its Missouri address, also happens to be false advertising. Bookending these properties are relatively innocuous establishments whose signage nevertheless fares poorly in the context. One could be forgiven for assuming that the now-closed Thai Paradise restaurant was some sort of exotic sex resort. Even the Cigar Box evokes a certain Clintonian bawdiness.
From the outside, the sleek, modern nightclub Luna appears a tasteful alternative to all the sin happening across Grand. But when I stopped in last Friday, the scene was not far from totally nude. The male bathroom attendant was shirtless and lacked the humble countenance I have come to expect from bathroom attendants. ("I just fucked a fat girl in the booty hole," he howled to an apparent friend; it was unclear whether he was stating a fact or making some kind of pop-culture reference.) Another guy was strutting around, sans shirt but with a black tie around his neck. A Cristiano Ronaldo look-alike made the rounds in tight European underwear. Hot female bartenders poured RBV after RBV in revealing nighties. There was exactly one person in the building wearing prescription eyeglasses. Take a wild guess.
The occasion was Sleepover 2, a sequel to what I am assuming was a very similar party to the one I attended Friday. The main draw of Sleepover is that people don't wear much in the way of clothing, and everybody dances all night. It's almost like sex! Also sexy: appearances by Playboy Playmates Brooke Banx, Maria Lopez, Jessica Hinton and Ashley Young.
I arrived at the party around 10:30 p.m., hoping to worm a creepy interview out of one of the Playmates before the crowd arrived. Which shows how much I know about celebrity nightclub parties: The guests of honor don't show up until the party is in full swing. Early on, the crowd was mild, about 50 people. A bed, with rose petals strewn across it, was planted on the dance floor in front of the DJ station. On the landing upstairs, overlooking the dance floor, I asked some beefy-looking bouncers what they were expecting.
"Big party, some people wear bedtime clothes, everybody gets wasted," one of the guys said, barely looking at me. "Briana Banks is supposed to be here later."
He meant Brooke Banx — Briana Banks is more of a Penthouse/Vivid type of entertainer, popular in the early 2000s, starred in Double Air Bags 6 and the Sodomania Slop Shots series — but I elected not to quibble. Outside, I chatted up two guys who did not at all resemble the Situation, which is to say, they seemed out of place — much like myself. They were Navy men who had come in from Virginia Beach for a wedding in Topeka the next day.
"How'd you find your way downtown?"
"We didn't want to spend a Friday night in Kansas," one of them said.
Let's be best friends, I wanted to say. An SUV pulled up and unloaded two dudes, with dumb, white designs on the ass pockets of their jeans, and five women in heels and miniskirts. (Most of the women at Luna wore heels and miniskirts.) The rope in front of the door magically parted for them. I had to walk up and around and back down along the rope, like you do when waiting to order at Wendy's.
I crossed the street and had a drink at the Cigar Box, and when I returned, after midnight, a line had materialized outside. Inside, it was madness. A woman in the shortest skirt I've ever seen was dancing on the bed to DJ Ashton Martin's beats. A bartender was lining up 20 Jägerbombs. From above, on the landing, I could see one of the Playmates — I don't know which one — glad-handing and mugging for photos in the VIP area. It was a very grope-friendly environment. Everybody seemed to be having the time of their life.
Eventually, that included me. At some parties, I get self-conscious about standing by myself or about existing as a human being in general. At Luna Friday night, I crossed over into some higher level of consciousness. I was so irrelevant to everybody there, so invisible, that I became totally free. Other people meditate to reach this state. But maybe going to extreme dance parties where you don't fit in and don't know anybody works just as well.