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Posted at 10:36 AM ET, 08/28/2012

The GOP convention striptease


Yes, we can. (Bonnie Jo Mount - THE WASHINGTON POST)
TAMPA — Tampa’s Strip Club story is nothing but a tease.

If I have to read one more article or watch one more video about how Tampa’s strip clubs are preparing to welcome a deluge of Republican National Convention delegates — well, I don’t know what I’ll do exactly, but you won’t want to be there when it happens.

The trouble with the Strippers of Tampa Ready For Republican Onslaught story is that it is located many leagues beyond Too Good To Check on the blessed island of Stories Too Good For Anyone To Wait For Them To Actually Happen.

“Wouldn’t it be hilarious,” someone thought, “if the family-values-boosting delegates to the Republican National Convention produced a boom of business in the strip capital of Florida/The World/Whatever Area Everyone Agrees Tampa Is The Strip Club Capital Of?” “Yes,” everyone responded. “Yes, it would.”

Cue an onslaught of stories about it.

The Republican Boom at the Strip Clubs of Tampa is the dog that so far is refusing to bark. Possibly this may change. The convention is young. But there is no way it can live up to the hype.

The only people descending on the strip clubs of Tampa in disproportionate numbers, thus far, seem to be reporters.

At the Mons Venus, the doorkeeper noted that they had had four radio shows call on Monday alone. They had also done pieces for “The Daily Show.” Meanwhile, the only visible patron was a daily regular with an annual pass.

In the restroom, there is a sign on the mirror. “My name is Claire and I’m a reporter for the student newspaper at Indiana University,” it begins, as though you were not already convinced that the only people who ever visited these places were members of the news media. “I want to hear your side of the story,” it concludes.

What story?

Emerge from the restroom and there are all of three guests there. I’m sure that, if asked, they would have assured me that they, too, were working on stories about the convention. This is even quieter than usual for a Monday afternoon, an employee tells me. So much for stimulus. Isaac is the only one making it rain, and it isn’t even particularly raining.

At 2001: A Nude Odyssey, manager and marketer Todd Trause said that at least seven outlets had filmed segments, including a Canadian documentary on cheating, Fox Business, Current TV, Inside Edition, CNN, Telemundo and a Japanese TV station. He has been quoted in the New York Times and the New York Daily News.

The woman working the front desk noted that she saw one guy come in and say that the convention was canceled and added that he seemed to have a good time. But that is about it. And he might not have been a delegate.

Even the optimistic Todd estimates the number of patrons vs. media as something of a dead heat. There have been at least 15 media outlets. But patrons? Twenty-five or so, and some of them are locals.

“More reporters than customers,” Bernadette, who manages weekends at the Mons Venus, tells me.

Everywhere along the strip, the story is the same. Patrick, minding the door at Scores, says there has been “a lot of hype.” He says a guy came by but “he didn’t want to be seen out here because the Democrats have video cameras.”

What is the explanation? Too much coverage? The weather? The start of the school year? The demographic of the convention? Traditionally limp Monday attendance certainly plays a part. But what about all those video segments and promotions?

The Super Bowl, Patrick suggests, is “a bunch of corporate guys that are like 'Don’t tell the wife, but’ whereas the RNC is more of a family thing. Not to mention it’s a complete pain ... to get in and out of downtown.”

Perhaps, given the level of knowledge of female anatomy that Todd Akin’s recent comments suggest, it is simply unreasonable to expect any of the attendees to be able to locate the Mons Venus.

Todd at 2001 is more optimistic and insists that business has been good and will continue to be so. August is always the slowest month. The men are “a little bit more aware of who they are and what kind of trouble they can and can’t get in.” The 2001 has increased prices on its private rooms from $300 to $500.

“We don’t have too many bad nights in here,” Todd concludes.

Outside, a man who asks to be identified as “an observer” begs to differ. “I don’t know what happened,” he says. “There’s nobody here.”

Near midnight Monday at Thee Dollhouse, where a Palin impersonator just finished a weekend of shows and the girls sport patriotic stars-and-stripes bikinis, Moses, the man minding the door, insists that “close to 100 people” are inside. I count 11 patrons. Which I guess is close to 100 in the sense that we are close to a long-term resolution of the budget crisis. Perhaps this kind of math could be applied to the deficit somehow.

It’s a microcosm of the convention itself. We so badly want it to be a real story that 15,000 reporters are here. Meanwhile, actual things are happening all over the place. But we are scurrying around the strip clubs.

Maybe things will pick up later.

By  |  10:36 AM ET, 08/28/2012

 
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