Mack realized as he made his way into the dimly lit entrance that it might very well have been the first time that he had ever been to a strip club alone. He checked his cell phone with the bored looking girl behind the counter and paid his $20. It was also the first time since he put out a record that he had to pay a cover charge anywhere. Famous people get in free. That was the rule everywhere. He assumed they either didn’t recognize him or didn’t believe an artist of his level of popularity would show up anywhere alone. Mack let the bouncer pat him down quickly to make sure he wasn’t hiding a recording device or a weapon. The giant man opened the heavy wooden door, letting the young rapper through.
Mack could feel the beat hit him in the chest as he made his way in. The Diamond Palace wasn’t what he had been expecting. It wasn’t the typical black floors, brass poles, black dance stages, and old tattered chairs surrounding them. This place looked like a blast from the past, like old Hollywood or vintage Vegas. There were five stages, two on each side and one main stage in the middle. The side stages were each decorated the same. They were softly lit with round light bulbs that reminded Mack of a vanity table from old Hollywood movies. Lush ox blood red curtains, edged in gold trim, draped over the backdrops, allowed the dancers to make a grand entrance. The main stage was a more extravagant version of the four other ones. The most noticeable difference was the floor that seemed to be made completely made of diamonds coated in resin. The light was reflecting off the stones glittered around the room like a spectacular disco ball. The chairs closely packed by the stages were made of silky black leather, well-kept by any standards.
“What can I getcha?” a girl quickly appeared by Mack’s side as soon as he walked in. She was shorter than him, with black and blonde curly hair that grazed her lower back. Her horn-rimmed glasses offset her tattoo-covered body, making her look like a naughty librarian somehow. The fishnets, hot shorts, bra, and necktie added to the fantasy.
“I’m good,” he said absently, barely giving her any of his attention. He searched the room for signs of Amber. He didn’t see her on any of the stages. Maybe she was circulating around the room or in the back giving a private dance
“There is a two drink minimum,” she stripper waitress said with her hand on her hip.
Mack’s sights fell on a group of guys at the far stage. They were all dressed in slacks and ties. Clearly they had dressed up for a special night of sorts.
“Is that a bachelor party?”
The girl nodded.
“Buy them a bottle of Goose. That should be more than enough to cover the drink minimum. Put it on this,” he handed over the card and walked casually to a seat in the middle of the room, not next to any particular stage.
He watched the crazy life of a strip joint unfold before him. The bachelor party yelled and jeered as they were awarded their free bottle, the girls circulating to pull guys into private dances, and the constant flow of dancers taking turns on each stage. It was well-timed clockwork. Everyone knew their place and time. The DJ kept the rhythm, changing the song at constant intervals to not favor any one girl. Mack realized he had never simply sat back and watched it all. He had always been too involved with whatever woman was on stage taking his dollars.
“And now, coming to the main stage, the queen of The Diamond Palace. Pull out your cash boys. It’s Madison!” the DJ’s voice came through the speakers and ignited a movement. The crowds were surrounding the other stages turned and made their way towards the center of the space. Mack’s curiosity peaked. Whoever this “Madison” was seemed to be the reason these men all chose this particular club. It was obvious she was the main attraction.
The dark red curtains pulled back. A familiar beat started to play. Mack instantly recognized it as one of his own. He could feel his pulse quicken. It was going to be her. It just had to be. He could see her heels and legs peek out from the blackness onto the stage before he saw the rest of her. Although he was much too far away, he felt as though he could hear her heels as they clicked across the diamond encrusted stage in rhythm to the music. As the spotlight brushed against her skin, it was as if the rest of the world fell way. Suddenly, they were the only two people in the club. She made eye contact, and his chest constricted hard.
It didn’t matter that every man in the club was surrounding the stage and ignoring all the other beautiful women floating about. It didn’t matter that the glittery floor was covered in dirty dollar bills almost instantly. It didn’t matter that piece-by-piece she took her clothes off, climbed the pole, and danced. She was doing it for him. It was his private show.
“I’m sorry. You’re not allowed back here.” The massive bouncer stopped Mack as he made his way through the back of the club towards the dressing rooms.
“It’s cool. Amber told me to come back,” he replied.
“I don’t care who told you. I’m not allowed to let guys back here. Now get out before I throw you out.”
Mack sized him up. The guy was nearly twice his size with arms bigger than both of his legs combined. He was not the type of person Mack wanted to press his luck with. Instead, he put his hands up in mock defeat and made his way out the building. He rounded the block to the parking lot, found the back entrance, and knocked on the door. Amber opened it and smiled.
“I thought you would have left after Fred turned you away.”
“That giant’s name is Fred?” he asked jokingly. The name was not nearly as intimidating as the man. “Of course I wouldn’t leave.”
Amber waved him in and led him to the locker room where she was packing up for the night. Her duffle bag was exploding with outfits and shoes of all different crazy colors and styles. Mack was pretty sure he even spotted a bag of weave or a wig buried in there. There were crumbled piles of bills and a few neat stacks lying on the dressing room table. There was far more cash on her stand than all the other girls combined. The DJ had been right. She was the queen of the club.
Mack took a seat in her makeup chair and started unfolding the bills, running them over the edge of the table to flatten them. She folded her tiny clothing and packed her bag as he worked. It felt like this was something they had always done. They fell so quickly into a routine.
“Okay, what now?” he asked as he stacked the last dollar bill neatly on top of her impressive earnings for the night.
“Lobster,” she said playfully.
“It’s four o’clock in the morning. Where in the world do you plan on getting lobster?”
She winked at him. “You’ve lived in Miami how long? In this city, you can get anything you want, any time of the day. You just have to know the right people.”
“Oh, and you do?”
“Baby, you ain’t the only star in the room. I know everyone.”