The Groom
and Phil
as the Jack of Clubs
Part 4 - We Have Learned Nothing
Part 1 Part 2  Part 3  Part 5  Part 6  Part 7


The Cosmo says they are art, not candy dispensers.
(click photo to enlarge
- ESC to exit)
        After the pizza, Phil announced his plans for the evening. "Ground Rule Number One."
        Jeff said, "I've lost track. Is that the one about having no gods before him?"
        "That's the First Commandment," said Phil. "The Ground Rule is classy strip clubs only."
        Steve held out his hand. "Maybe no strip clubs at all."
        It was too late. The idea of topless women to us is like blood in the water to sharks. There's a frenzy, we thrash about, climb all over each other to get there first. And then we start biting.
        "I guarantee this place is classy," said Phil, and to illustrate how classy, he put on a monocle.
        "Sapphire Club?" asked Steve. His best man had been to the Sapphire Club and described it as a pricey, elegant and high-class gentlemen's club that had clean furniture, tasteful appointments and a lot of privacy.
The Cabana lobby
Ready for an elegant evening.
(click photo to enlarge
- ESC to exit)
        "That was my original plan," said Phil. "But Mike helped me research clubs on the Internet and we found a better place. All the reviews say this place is, and I quote, 'pound-for-pound, the best value in Vegas', and 'the most stripper for your money.'"
        Mike nodded and gave a thumbs-up.
        "You guys go without me," suggested Jerry. We booed and he explained that he needed to pick Dan up at the airport.

        Our expectations were high as we piled into our cars. By the time we pulled up to a non-descript cinder-block building engulfed in sketchy shadows, our expectations were shattered. The sign said "Foxy Girls" but the building suggested "crack house". People shuffled around in the dark shadows behind it.
        "This doesn't look classy," said Steve.
        "Pound-for-pound," repeated Phil with confidence. Mike giggled.
The welcoming exterior of Foxy's.
You know Foxy's is classy as soon as you arrive.
(click photo to enlarge
- ESC to exit)
        We made it safely from our cars to the heavy door and walked into the dark and loud club. The first thing we saw was a snack vending machine. Mike snapped photos with his cell phone.
        Phil pointed to the pink Hostess Sno-Balls for two dollars and said, "See?  Classy."
        "Hey! Chicken dumplings," said Jeff. "Why'd we have that fancy stuff at the Cosmo?"
        "I wonder how those taste," said Steve.
        Robert pulled out his wallet. "I'll buy you some."
        "No, that's okay. It's just, what kind of strip club sells prepared food?"
        The answer was Foxy Girls. One could say there's a fine line between foxy and skanky. But there was nothing fine here:  the distinction was vivid. We turned the corner into the main room and saw that it was nearly empty. Nobody danced on stage, but two topless women hovered over a toothless man playing video poker. A couple drunks slumped over the far end of the bar. A guy and girl played pool at a table directly next to the stripper's pole and seven-foot-long catwalk. The bartendress, a woman in her forties, greeted us.
Sno-balls for sale.
Grab a quick cup of soup at Foxy's.
(click photo to enlarge
- ESC to exit)
        "Where should we sit?" Asked Burt, pointing to the empty sectional sofa directly beside the stage.
        "You can sit on the floor for all I care," she answered. We debated amongst ourselves and agreed the sofa was probably slightly less dirty. The bartendress took our drink orders. Sadly, they had no Four Loko.
        The topless girls, one with Bob's Big Boy-like proportions, the other more like Rosie O'Donnell, joined us. Another large girl came out of the bathroom, adjusted her panties, got on the stage and wrapped herself around the pole while a Judas Priest song played.
        Steve shook his head and looked at Phil. "Pound-for-pound, all right."
        The heaviest girl introduced herself as "Fat Charlie."  She sat in Matt's lap and asked him to buy her a shot of whiskey and a beer. He did. As his thighs bowed under the weight, she told us about the lesbian UPS driver girlfriend who treats her like a princess, how she is available as a rental for $500 a day, how she sure could use another whiskey and beer, and how she was fired from Larry's Villa, a club we had previously thought was the worst strip club in town. She demanded, and we agreed, to buy her more drinks.
        "Do you like fake boobs?" she asked Matt.
        "I hate them," he replied. "But I like real ones that look exactly like fake ones."
        "Mine are fake."  She pressed one into his hand. He felt a hard kernel of silicone somewhere under the layers of fat.
        The bartendress cut Fat Charlie's off after her tenth drink in the first hour. She begged us to buy more, pretend they were for ourselves, and then slip them to her.
Steve and Ghizal getup close at Foxy's.
(click photo to enlarge
- ESC to exit)
        Steve had been stalling about sitting down after seeing the way the strippers used us as human cushions. He finally did take a spot on the loveseat, and immediately jumped up.
        "What's wrong?" asked a meth-addled stripper with a wet finger in Robert's ear.
        "I felt something move."  He moved to the sofa. Mike took his picture when a stringy blond with stretch marks up to her ribs plopped in his lap.
        "Hey, no pictures!" growled Fat Charlie. Then she grabbed her boobs in both hands and said, "You think people should get this stuff for free?"
        "Is this a fair-market pricing question?" asked Ghizal.
        Steve sourly agreed with the strippers and added, "Just to be sure no pictures are taken, maybe we should leave."
        The meth stripper dug her claws into his back and hissed.  Another girl with missing teeth asked, "What's his problem?"
        We explained to the girls that it was his bachelor party and we were treating him to the classiest strip joint we could find.
        "Are you going there after this?"
        "No," Steve sighed and sunk lower into the sofa. The girls lavished attention on him, probably to reassure him that the dating pool can be a scary place and he was right to get married, but maybe because we told them he was incredibly rich and foolish with his money.
Steve shows off his wonderful gift.
(click photo to enlarge
- ESC to exit)
        He tried to escape by moving to the edge of the stage just as a girl in black-and-orange knee-highs danced to Oingo Boingo's "Dead Man's Party." 
        Jeff leaned over to the other guys and said, "I can't tell, but I don't think Steve's enjoying this."
        "Want me to break his arms?" asked Fat Charlie.
        "I've got a better idea." Matt wriggled out from under her and staggered out of the room, clutching the bar as he went. Two minutes later he returned, still wobbly.
        "How much have you had to drink?" asked Robert.
        "I'm not drunk," answered Matt. "My legs fell asleep."
        He tossed Steve a package of pink Hostess Sno-Balls. The coconut-covered sponge cakes landed in his lap. "What are these for?"
        "For fun. Make 'em last. They cost two bucks."
        Fat Charlie licked her lips. "Oh, my god. I love those things."  Steve might not have wanted the Sno-Balls, but he didn't want her to have them either. He snatched the package away as her hand worked its way up his pant leg toward them. Mike snapped a photo. Fat Charlie reached for him, stretching herself so that one of her legs splayed across Phil's chest.
        "My god!" he shouted as he grabbed hold of her limb. "You could feed a family of four with this thing."
        "They better be hungry," Fat Charlie said proudly.
Steve shares.
Steve shares.
(click photo to enlarge
-  ESC to exit)
        "Did you get a message?" asked Steve. Mike shook his head and then returned to keying on his phone.
        "How much is your phone worth?" asked a half-asleep, strung-out stripper.
        The ladies were generous with themselves. Fat Charlie brought over the club owner after explaining to us that he owned a Corvette. He encouraged us to buy more drinks. So we did, a few for ourselves and many for Fat Charlie. She was not a jolly drunk; she took out her frustrations on our laps.
        Burt chatted up the blonde missing teeth who seemed to be influenced by something stronger than Four Loko.  It didn’t help her dancing.  Her stripper name was Destiny, and she claimed to have a daughter with the same name.  Burt was unconvinced that she had actually named her daughter Destiny until she pulled down her top to reveal tattoos featuring the names of all seven of her children.
        Fat Charlie smashed her boobs against Robert's face and clamped her hands onto his legs so hard he bruised. She slurred into his ear that she wanted another drink.
        "Do you give out TGI Friday's points?"
        It didn't matter. Once Robert opened his wallet he saw that almost all of the glorious cash from the Joker's Wild was gone. While the rest of us tried to work ourselves free from the vise-like grips of other girls, Robert did math. He tried counting the drinks and singles and tips. He added in the meals. It didn't sum up to what he was missing, yet the evidence was there: a paltry forty bucks left.
        When he told Fat Charlie the bad news, she snarled and moved on to Jeff. A look of shock spread across his face when he opened his wallet and found similar thinness. Over the next hour, the rest of us found ourselves nearly broke. This wasn't the first time we'd lost track of our finances at a gentleman's club.
        With our finances in disarray, we slunk out of Foxy Girl's. Robert's glasses were so smudged with boob-grease that he stumbled, relying on his sense of smell to navigate, zeroing in on the delicious Sno-Balls that he wrested from Steve’s hands in the parking lot.
Steve at Foxy's.
Steve regroups after exiting Foxy's.
(click photo to enlarge
- ESC to exit)
        Burt broke the bad news about our finances to Steve and how it would impact the classiness of his weekend.
        "Don't worry, though. We have a plan."
        "Ground Rule Number Ten," said Steve. Phil confirmed that the number ten was still available.
        "What's that?"
        "No robbing liquor stores."
        We convened and tried to devise a different plan while Steve sat on the curb, massaging his temples to halt an imminent headache.  He was waiting outside a sketchy strip club he didn't want to go to on a weekend trip he didn't ask for with a group of friends who were broke and he had no phone to call for a rescue. He was certain this would never happen again once he and his fiancée upgraded to higher-class friends.
        Then it hit us: a foolproof, surefire moneymaker.

        While most of us were getting chafed thighs and bruised ribs, Jerry picked Dan up from the airport. Dan's fight was late, and while Jerry waited he too burned through his winnings. Only, he did it a quarter at a time playing a themed slot machine that promised him a peek inside Captain Kirk's stateroom.
        By the time Dan got off work, got home, packed his bag, kissed his wife and child goodbye, caught a plane and landed in Las Vegas it was already late. He knew he had missed basically everything:
  • A luxurious night in a Rio suite
  • Jeff's hot-to-the-ninth-power craps roll
  • Pawn Stars
  • Insert Coin
  • A sexy, sexy strip club.
Robert's bored
Dan and Matt chat while Robert pines for action.
(click photo to enlarge - ESC to exit
        He even missed the deep-fried onions at TGI Friday's. But unknown to Dan: he also missed squandering all of his money. Thus, he arrived in town as the one percent, a flush wag raring to go among a beaten-down throng of stone-broke, lap-danced proletariats who couldn't keep the party going if their friend's life depended on it.
        "I'm busted," Jerry said in greeting as Dan got into the car. "Can you buy gas?"
        "What? I thought you guys won all that money."
        Jerry punched the dashboard. "Stupid Klingons."
        Dan didn't ask. He just wanted to be there for his friend. "No problem, I'm fat with cash. Where are we going?"
        "We're meeting back at El Cortez. A few of the guys want to take very long showers after Foxy Girls."
        "That good, huh?"
        "Not that kind of shower," Jerry corrected, and an awkward silence descended on the car.
        Dan now wasn't sure what kind of shower Jerry meant, so he jumpstarted the conversation using a technique he learned at Toastmasters. "I myself don't masturbate in the shower." 
        The awkward silence deepened. And he had lied.

The downtown neon.
The alluring neon of downtown.
(click photo to enlarge - ESC to exit
        Steve's big weekend was in jeopardy and he took the opportunity to suggest we call it a night and maybe just get some culture the next day.  He suggested the Bellagio art gallery, a local book store, pedicures and mimosas. We refused. We'd made a lot of promises to him:  a urinating-boy fountain, Segway scooters, and a private jet with a black marble toilet. We'd made some to ourselves, as well: to pay off those payday loans, to go back to school, to buy a car and stop riding a skateboard to work. Fulfilling these didn't worry us, though, because we had our carefully thought-out and foolproof plan.
        That was to win like crazy at the El Cortez craps tables. Here's how:  we'd bet small and win to build our bankroll.  We'd then raise our bets and win some more. Then, we'd do it a third time, maxing out the table limits and clearing the casino's racks of black chips. Simple, elegant and as surefire as getting the clap from a waitress at Hooter's.
        The El Cortez three-dollar table was pricey, but that meant we'd win three times as much as at the Joker's Wild. There were only a couple of players when we arrived, so we were able to strategically position ourselves. Mike, Matt and Phil, our weakest shooters, would roll first. They would do well, but not great. Robert, Burt and Ghizal would come in the second wave once we upped the stakes. They would also win, but just enough to give us adequate bankrolls for when the dice got to Steve and, finally, Jeff. They were the golden arms. Theirs would be the money shots, splattering the table with pressed bets, parlayed props and maxed odds. It would be like taking candy from a baby.
        Except, it turns out, the baby was a surly, strong, foul-mouthed bitch. Mike sevened out. After setting a series of come points and hitting none of them, Matt sevened. Phil rolled twelve four straight times, then an eight and a seven. He also hit the cocktail waitress in the eye with an errant throw. She refused to serve us after that.
The El Cortez.
The classic El Cortez.
(click photo to enlarge - ESC to exit
        Our short stacks shrank. Robert gave us a little hope when he hit a four for our first win. We increased our bets and he sevened out. Burt was no better. Ghizal rolled for a long time, but mostly inconsequentially. By the time the dice got to Steve, we only had enough chips for a single roll.
        "Drop out, Steve," Burt ordered. "Let Jeff shoot."
        "I want to roll," protested Steve.
        "We need a winner."
        "What am I?"
        "Jeff's a winner."
        Steve was annoyed. This was his bachelor party, after all, and his turn to roll. None of us had the financial wherewithal to mollycoddle him, though. We'd rather hurt his feelings now and soothe them with gifts and hundred-dollar bills later.
        But Steve wouldn't let go of the dice and a brief scuffle and some squealing ensued before Ghizal pried them away. He handed them to Jeff. "Do your thing, Chosen One."
        Jeff rubbed the dice, and set them on the felt with seven showing. He launched them down the table. They tumbled and spun, sparkling under the casino lights. They hit the felt. Then the miracle started.
        "Four, easy four," said the stickman, "show the hard ways to the door."
        We stacked our remaining chips behind our line bets and prayed. As we reached "Thy will be done", the floor supervisor ordered us to quit it. Jeff went through his dice-setting routine. He tapped them on the table, gave them a light kiss, no tongue, and let loose. They landed amid the odds bets at the other end.
        "Seven out."  Then the miracle ended.

Downtown action.
Dan is greeted by celebrities upon arrival.
(click photo to enlarge - ESC to exit
        Jerry and Dan reached the El Cortez just as the group turned away from the horrible, horrible craps table. Dan assumed it was to greet him with hearty handshakes, back pats and embraces. He was wrong. Steve grimaced at the center. Burt ran outside to find a cat and kick it.
        Dan gave Steve a warm hug. "How's the party going, man?"
        He groaned.
        "Are you having the best time ever?"
        "Yes, he is!" shouted Matt as he put Steve in a headlock.
        Steve groaned again. Matt squeezed harder. "Shut up, Steve."
        Burt returned. Robert asked, "Feel better?"
        "A little. It was a small cat."
        Dan, having heard about the Joker win, said, "It's about to get better! How about if we go for midnight lobster and champagne at Caesars Palace!"
        "We have five-dollar comps for the coffee shop," Ghizal informed him gruffly.
        "Well, in that case…"
        We sat in the Café Cortez, one of the few downtown that is still open 24 hours a day. Jerry ordered biscuits and gravy, which cost slightly less than the five-dollar comps. Everyone else followed suit. As we waited for the food to arrive, Jeff, Ghizal, Mike and Robert each asked Dan in whispers, passed notes, hand gestures and telepathy if he would cover the tip.
        "No problem," Dan whispered, wrote, gestured and thought hard. Phil is Dan's brother and they have a special connection. They exchanged information telepathically to explain that we had somehow squandered a small fortune in the preceding hours.
        Then Matt leaned over and piled on. "You're paying my tip."
        "You, too?"
        "Are you refusing?"
Late night feast.
The almost affordable biscuits and gravy at Cafe Cortez.
(click photo to enlarge - ESC to exit
        "Not at all," Dan assured him. "I didn't realize how bad a situation you're all in."
        "See how these biscuits and gravy look?  Our situation's worse."
        "Damn. So what about Steve's weekend?  Did Foxy Ladies--"
        "They weren't foxy," interjected Burt.
        Mike added, "Or ladies."
        "I wonder if we could sue them for false advertising," Phil mused. "The accurate name would be Ghastly Linebackers."
        "Yes," added Mike, stifling a laugh, "they really misled us."
        Matt continued, "So, you're also covering everything else for the rest of the weekend."
        When Steve got up to go to the men's room, Dan followed.
        "So, how's the party?"
        "It's not what I expected."
        "Never is," Dan said. "That's how marriage is, too. It's always a surprise. You can be married for hundreds of years and still find out new things about your partner. As your friend who has been married the longest, I have some good advice for you about marriage."
        "Hasn't Matt been married longer?"
        "Technically, yes, but he'd give you horrible advice."
        Steve went into a stall.
        "Should I keep talking while you poo?"
        "No," came Steve's voice through the door.
        Dan played drums on the counter while waiting for him.
        "Listen," Dan said the instant the toilet flushed, "In marriage, everything is a compromise. You give. You take. You fill in when you're needed. For example, the guys are kind of short on cash, so I thought maybe you could pick up the tip in the café. It's good practice for when you tie the knot."
        "How can they be broke?  They didn't spend that much tonight."
        Dan shrugged, "They're idiots. Just pay the tip."
        "Why me?  I'm the bachelor."
        "I'm saving my money for tomorrow. I have a big surprise planned for you."
        "Oh no you don't," Steve yelled with such force that Dan feared bodily harm. "Phil pulled that ‘I've got a big surprise for you' crap already, and I wound up with a 300-pound stripper on my lap."
Return to the Cabana.
We sleep off our misery in the lurid Cabana Suites.
(click photo to enlarge - ESC to exit
        "I'm taking you to lunch at the Cosmo tomorrow."
        "Bullshit!" screamed Steve. "I already got that promise, too, and do you know what we ate? Pizza! You know where I can get pizza? Anywhere!"
        Dan was scared. "Steve. Stevie. Fine Print. Calm down. See, this is good practice for marriage. You have to learn to listen and stay calm. I have lunch reservations for all of us at Estiatorio Milos. It's gourmet. It's supposed to be incredible. They serve a yogurt martini. I'm a foodie, you know. I watched this thing on the Food Network once, so I know quality."
        "The Food Network, huh?"  Steve relaxed a little, because he and his fiancée watched that channel every night, but he bristled on the way back to the table when Dan reminded him to pick up the tip.
        The rest of us didn't concern ourselves with monetary matters. In fact, we slurped up our biscuits and gravy and hightailed it out of there while Dan and Steve were in the bathroom. We returned to the ghoulish green of the Cabana Suites. We said good night and headed to our own rooms. Phil noticed that the Skittles bowl was still empty and waited for the clerk to return.
        Dan was disappointed to arrive in Las Vegas, only to eat a crummy meal and go to bed. But at least he still had his money. When Steve got to his room, he slumped on the bed and wondered what he'd gotten himself into. He considered calling his fiancée for a moment, but it was after one a.m. and he didn't have anything good to tell her. He repeated to himself, "Tomorrow will be better, tomorrow will be better, tomorrow will be better," until he fell asleep.