When it comes to talk of blue balls and sticking fingers in holes, it’s understandable that some might get all skeezed out. However, we’re talking about Pin-Up Bowl, a cool new bowling alley near the Kansas Speedway. Located in the Legends at Village West, Pin-up Bowl isn’t your typical beer-and-stanky-shoes type of bowlatorium. It’s more like Velvet Dog with lanes; it serves up martinis and it rocks the retro-chic vibe with $2.25 Pop-Tarts and $2.95 bowls of Campbell’s soup.
We checked it out with a cadre of research assistants for its First Frame Party, a special bowlstravaganza of a Friday night that featured DJs Automatic Westy and Tony Bagga Donuts as well as Brodie Rush’s lounge-singer act, Blow Chi. After making the trek from downtown, we arrived after 11 p.m. and immediately needed a drink. Thankfully, the martini menu offered up a number of tempting choices, so we went with the $8 Key Lime Pie, a tropical blend of Licor 43, Midori, milk, lime juice, Stoli vodka and vanilla vodka. As we sipped, Brodie, who was roaming around the front lounge area, broke into his rendition of “Canyonero,” the jingle from the faux SUV commercial on The Simpsons. After hearing lyrics such as Can you name the truck with four-wheel drive/Smells like a steak and seats 35, all was right with the world.
Just then, we noticed a striking tableau: a beautiful brunette sitting alone on a red sofa, clad in a white dress shirt and black pants against the red background. She was positioned almost sideways on the sofa, one leg curled underneath, sitting up very straight in a pose that made her look like a pin-up girl. Claudia, 38, was there with her boyfriend, Brian. They met while walking their dogs at a middle school track in Overland Park. We told Brian that we noticed how great Claudia looked against the red background. “She looks good against green, too,” he joked. “Blue, not so much.”
After that, we were summoned to bowl because our lanes had become available. We picked out hip new bowling shoes with Velcro closures. When you mix martinis with bowling, shoelace-tying is one skill that falls by the wayside. And, uh, sometimes the bowling does, too. This became evident when the Night Ranger quickly fell to last place. OK, we suck at bowling. We blame the Key Lime Pie.
But hey, we were also too mesmerized by the atmosphere. The front lounge area, which is served by two bars, is sleekly swank, with its red sofalike seating areas, coffee tables with bowling-pin legs, light-blue and red walls, and pin-up art. Huge video screens played VH1 and the Cartoon Network over the pins as the Skittles-colored balls sped down the lanes, which were bathed in blue light. As ’80s favorites “She Bop” and “Beat It” wafted from the speakers, we noticed that our fellow bowlers were heavily tattooed and pierced local-musician types. “It’s like the Brick moved to Legends for one night only,” RA Nadia said.
That observation soon came to life, when we met 29-year-old Sarah and her boyfriend, 30-year-old Mark. Sarah had paired a skirt with these great white tube socks, which, she said, she borrowed from DJ Westy. She told us that she recently moved from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to teach fifth grade at Satchel Paige Elementary School. Mark revealed that he used to trade girlfriends back-and-forth with a friend. “Not me, though,” Sarah said. The two have dated for years, they said.
Among the Velcro bowling shoes, it wasn’t hard to spot 25-year-old Emily, who works at Pin-up. She was bowling with her 23-year-old sister, Amanda, in the lane next to ours. While sharing the same seating space, we had noticed Emily’s sexy 3-inch red heels with peep-toe fronts. We asked them if they could share any stories of ball-handling. Emily laughed, somewhat embarrassed, and just said that her boyfriend works behind the bar. We didn’t follow up with him on that.
Amanda and Emily’s teammates seemed to be ball-handling experts, though. We first spotted 23-year-old Aaron and his unusual technique: He didn’t put his fingers in the holes. Instead, he cradled the ball in the crook of his arm, then let go. Another guy, clad in a red-and-navy-blue-striped polo shirt, faux-humped Aaron right before he bowled. We went to get their stories, and found out that the guy in the red-and-blue shirt was 25-year-old Ben, who told us that he used to be in the now-defunct local band Ike Turner Overdrive. Ben’s brother is 27-year-old Paul, and they’ve known Aaron for about 15 years.
So what was up with the all-guy bowling? “There are no homoeroticies,” Ben said. “We’ve known each other forever. There’s a closeness. It’s like Stand by Me but without looking in whitey tighties for leeches.” Well, we needed to put that image out of our minds, so we went back to our game, in which the Night Ranger solidly remained in last place.
Last call was announced around 1:30. On the way out, we realized that the long drive meant we’d had to limit our alcohol intake. We climbed into the Night Rangermobile – the anti-Canyonero — and vowed that next time, we’d lift ourselves out of the gutter. Gutterball, that is.