The Modigliani Girl Appears

Let me liken entering Rick Blaine’s Place to delving into the blackest night. Particularly on sun-blasted Las Vegas afternoons.

The dim foyer where the caged cashier sat giving prospective gawkers lazy once-overs failed preparing eyes for the initial immersion into void past the second set of entry doors. No matter how many times one visited Rick Blaine’s Place, this reaction remained constant. Before advancing deeper into the bar, one must stop, let sight adjust. Naturally this was also an effective way for the room’s muscle to judge who entered.

In essence new arrivals were temporarily blinded while he had absolute advantage.

Unlike the platinum clubs with their security gangs, Rick Blaine’s Place made do with at most three no-necks. Primarily during the weekend night shifts. During the day, one bouncer sufficed. None were ever the accustomed young buff ‘roid monsters stuffed into ill-fitting suits. Rather, big men, yes, though not really all that imposing, provided and maintained the order common in venues throughout Las Vegas.

They weren’t intimidating. Their purpose wasn’t to intimidate.

Generally older than the youthful granite blocks eagerly anticipating exercising ultra-violence at the slightest provocation elsewhere, these men instead exhibited calm sturdiness from having been around. One glance and they’ve thoroughly sized up any who’ve entered the establishment. Life had taught them who might need monitoring and who could be ignored.

Their job wasn’t to manhandle unruly patrons. Their job was to defuse explosions before any erupted. Doesn’t that explain why every incident involving a Las Vegas gentlemen’s club invariably cites an upper-end address staffed with barehanded bearhunters? Rick Blaine’s Place and the city’s other lower grade strip clubs had hired experienced muscle who’d already ascertained potential problems then deduced how these may be solved or prevented altogether.

That skill only came with age.

As always at Rick Blaine’s Place, the gray hair who inspected me extended a proper greeting. Four years ago upon first landing in Las Vegas I haunted the place. Then I’d been on familiar terms with whoever perched on the corner stool. Now absence had made current personnel strangers.

Except for the DJ. He was the same carny barker as before. A Blackhawks fan if remembered correctly. Too bad.

Once my vision sharpened and the joker poker machines on the bar, the ATM, those televisions above the planks, the pastels-lighted stage, and customers, entertainers, and staff emerged from darkness, Klanger was the only person who recognized me.

Aware of the effect endured, he waited until my eyes fully adjusted before shouting me a greeting from across the room.

What’s it been? Three years since we last met? We exchanged firm handshakes and the best compliment or lie men can extend one another – “You look good.”

Metal sculpting and travel had kept him fit and alert. While he took his art with the utmost seriousness, a light attitude bestowed upon him an easy and approachable countenance. While an artist, he didn’t imbue himself and burden those he contacted with his ARTIST mantle.

We huddled at the bar, ordered beer – bottled beer at that because whatever comes from those taps, no matter how robust, tasted watered down. Same went double for the cocktails whoever behind the bar slopped together.

What our old jiggle joint lacked was Anne injecting herself between us, we three sharing an open secret. But then I guess that meant subterfuge was absent.

In an amusingly adult way, Klanger and I discovered the same woman heated both our carnal fevers. Thanks to always improbable coincidence, three years earlier we settled in seats at the bar next to each other one Wednesday afternoon. Offhand comments led to recognizing the other had something on the ball. This opened the door into conversation.

Anne had been off the floor when I arrived. Exiting the strippers’ ready room, she must’ve only seen one or the other of us sitting at the bar. She failed registering the second man. Light played with sight like that at Rick Blaine’s Place. Illuminate as indirect light there did, sometimes it utterly blotted scenes.

Who knew? Perhaps had Anne seen a pair who’d played in her secret places she might’ve veered aside in the hope one sharer might’ve vamoosed. This to avoid what proper society would’ve deemed an awkward situation. Or maybe not. In Las Vegas what situation might truly be considered awkward?

Either way Anne plunged into our midst.

Klanger and I avoided farce by not letting either of our large man palms creep below the grinning woman’s waist and once there cup a globe of her nut-hard ass. Narrow as Anne’s tush was, the Lycra tanga girding it, like the companion top banding her compact carriage, further compressed right and left masses of flesh. Nothing could’ve prevented our man hands from brushing.

We were both glad to have missed that shock.

Instead, how Anne spoke with us, the familiarity with which she behaved, tickled our suspicions. Either she was a better actress than Klanger and I ever would’ve credited her, or the French portion of her female makeup decided to brazen this circumstance through risible charm.

Later, Klanger and I confessed that first mutual session among us three the most expressive we’d ever seen her. Anne’s almond eyes livened and her thick lips gained the pliancy in speech they assumed through her kisses and, uh, other oral ministrations.

Klanger occupied the only spot on a very exclusive list. Should I ever want, he’s the sole person with whom I’d ever candidly speak of Anne. Since she’s satisfied us on the most intimate terms, it wouldn’t surprise me if we conducted that particular dialogue in knowing shorthand.

Between us who else but Klanger’s fingers had grasped, combed through, and judged the texture and weight of the midnight strands framing Anne’s face? And hadn’t Klanger’s own lips mashed against her two small coupes before his tongue likely encouraged their dark crowns into hard sharp anger? Or maybe he could offer me his appraisal of the heat her skin released during arousal into gratification.

The DJ’s summons tore Anne from between us. We watched her well-known lean brown body, her figure rendered all the more girlish through added inches of ludicrously clunky, clear Lucite platform shoes waggle until she vanished into murk.

Curiosity whetted, Klanger and I twisted towards another to confirm the apparent – that we each scratched the same woman’s itch. I ventured we knew Anne horizontally. Klanger lumped me, adding, “And dorsally, too.”

Were we younger men, discomfort might’ve existed between us at that moment. In that spring of life, unburdened by gray hair and disobedient waistlines, somewhere in our unmoored 20s, our threat perceptions would’ve mirrored and ramped up from the reflections.

Today during summers extended into our mid-50s, our male prerogatives and imperatives have focus. What matters now? Why, deriving as much utmost sensual pleasure as possible, naturally. We weren’t rivals. But simply collaborators, after a fashion.

Our less mature, more randy selves doubtlessly would’ve been disappointed in our present-day discourse regarding Anne. No empty bragging or exaggeration. Indeed we spoke thoughtfully and kindly of Anne. We praised her “generosity.”

When she took the stage that first time our respective duos had become a by-chance trio, it was strange. Odd yet somehow reassuring to sit beside another who had himself reveled in her more hidden gifts. I couldn’t envision Klanger with her – and always hoped he refrained from seeing me ride her. I nonetheless expected the sculptor’s verve with her as vigorous as mine.

Those times her eyes skipped our way from above throughout that afternoon, I have no doubt Anne solely focused on me. If asked, perhaps Klanger would dispute my view. Again as in our most recent meeting challenging him about that aspect of that day slipped my mind.

(To be continued)