It's Thursday night at The Dawnrose in Beltsville and the small smoke-filled lounge on the lower level is packed with women, most of them in their 30s. On stage a muscular young man bathed in a lurid red light gyrates to a top-40 tune and slowly strips down to a G-string, or "slingshot."
"Come on stud, strut your stuff!" yells one woman, provoking the dancer to exaggerate his rhythmic gestures. The crowd roars with laughter at this, and enthusiastically applauds as Mr. Valentine hastens off-stage.
This is ladies night at the Tin Dipper, where for $2 both men and women can ogle attractive male go-go dancers like Juicy, The Tennessee Stud and Mr. Innocent as they suggestively bump and grind to soul, disco and country and western.
The Tin Dipper is Prince George's County's second such club, a smaller version of the popular Hangar Club in Camp Springs which began featuring male go-go dancers in 1974. Howard in a former warehouse and dairy farm on Rte. 1, the Tin Dipper is one of three clubs owned by local musician, record producer and butcher Frank Gosman.
The entertainment offered at The Dawnrose is as vaired as Gosman's Prince George's county career: Upstairs is The Big Dipper, a country and western showcase that seats 300 persons, and downstairs is the Tin Dipper and its women go-go dancer counterpart.
Gosman began featuring male go-go dancers in November at the suggestion of some Hangar Club performers. The Thursday night show proved to be so popular that he recently remodeled the lounge with carpeted walls and strobe lights, and extended the performances to four days a week, Wednesday through Saturdays.
"I believe that for the first time the girls have a place to go to be uninhibited because their families aren't with them. They feel good about that," said Gosman, who also operates a country music record company and frozen meat warehouse on the premises. "They usually come in groups. They get braver when they have more than two." "
Gosman is the glib emcee for the show which begins at 9:30 p.m. and ends at 1 a.m. when the floor is open for dancing. The seating capacity is 72 and drinks start at $1.85. According to stat liquor board regulations, dancers are not allowed to come into physical contact with the audience or to solicit tips.
"Let me explain our rules," Gosman recently told an audience. "We request that you have a drink, relax and enjoy yourself . . . And now let me introduce Mr. Innocent -- young enough to mother but old enough to love."
Mr. Innocent, 23, is reluctant to disclose his real name. A business major at the University Maryland, he explains that "there are certain people I don't want to know." He dances primarily because "It's a lot of fun," rather than for the $25 he receives for a night's work.
"The first night I danced was a trip," Mr. Innocent said, adding that he was unable to sleep two nights afterwards because of his initial embarrassment. "I never have been a real good dancer."
Mr. Innocent says that although he is aware that his act may be sexually arousing to women, he is surprised (and annoyed) when "perfectly happy women" approach him. "You wouldn't believe how smart women are about finding out your phone number and where you work."
The women who go to the Tin Dipper generally say that it is all in good fun. On a recent Thursday night, a group of nine women from a Prince George's County public school were raucously celebrating a birthday. Another watchful group from District Heights sat nearby quietly celebrating an impending wedding.
"Oh my god," yelled an older woman from the school group when one of the dancers provocatively undulated while removing a brief, shiny black jump suit
"I was pretty excited about coming here. I didn't know what would happen," said Debbie Grello, 24, who brought her sister to the club to celebrate her upcoming wedding. "My husband and I are pretty honest with each other. If he can go to a topless bar, I can go to one of these.
Now six months pregnant, Grello exlains that "I didn't come looking for anything -- I came here just for fun."
There are only a handful of men at the club on male go-go nights, Gosman says. A South American-born Prince George's man who came with a group of women explained: "I admire beauty. I think that no matter what, at a certain age men have better bodies than women."
"I like it and I'm coming back," grinned Mildred White, a government secretary who lives in the District. White said she was suprised, but not shocked, by the sexual innuendos made by the dancers. A friend from Reston, who readily accepted White's invitation to vist the club, added "My boyfriend brought me to see the ladies dance so I'm going to bring him here to watch the men dance."
Juicy, a dancer who says he prefer his stage name to his real name, is a 36-year-old landscape gardener who is a father of four children. His wife approves of his after-hours vocation, but seldom attends the show. His children do not yet know that he dances, but Juicy says he thinks that they, too, would approve.
"The women here are so nice," he said. "I don't believe they think of me as a sex object and I don't think of them as a sex object. I think of myself as revealing my total person -- the naked truth."
Although Gosman admits that the show is intended to be somewhat sexually arousing, he says he tries to give "the ladies" what they want. As long as it's kept in good taste it's going ot be popular. I'm delighted everybody has a good time."