The owners of Blonde have some rumors to clear up.
First: The place isn’t closing. Even Blonde owner Casey Matile’s mother called last week when she heard talk going around town that Blonde was going the way of The Drink.
Second: Yes, they are serving sushi off a nearly naked woman.
The body sushi event goes down every other Wednesday. Though it’s a gimmick, the scene last week was so subtle that a person could walk into the dimly lighted club and totally miss the human buffet. Casey Adams, owner of Nara (1617 Main) and provider of the sushi, stood in front of his model (a blonde, of course). Adams carefully adjusted the rice-wrapped rolls. They were strategically placed on her torso, which was draped with banana leaves and spiky Asian flowers.
The 24-year-old model, Meghann Hesse, lay on the bar so that only one side of her was visible.
It wasn’t a serve-yourself deal. Patrons pointed at which rolls and pieces of nigiri they wanted, like customers facing the counter at a doughnut shop. Nara manager Stephanie Stone handled sushi retrieval. Pieces that had warmed from Hesse’s body were replaced with fresher fish. Stone used gloved hands, not chopsticks, to put them on plates, giving the scene a medical feel. And the last thought you want in your mind when eating raw fish plucked from a pretty woman’s body is gynecologist.
The idea isn’t new. When Japanese businessmen eat sushi off a woman’s body, they call it nyotaimori, and the reward for finishing the meal is obvious. At Blonde, beneath the sushi and the tropical leaves, Hesse wears underwear. “I wouldn’t do it naked — never,” Hesse insisted.
During the duration of Hesse’s two-hour stint as a human serving platter, a row of three men hung around, and she chatted amiably with them and other patrons. When a woman with a platinum helmet of hair had a tough time deciding, Hesse pointed out the spicy tuna roll on her belly.
“It would be weird if I laid here and didn’t talk, don’t you think?” asked Hesse, who’s studying for a graduate degree in occupational therapy at KU Med. “I like to talk to people.”
Though her presence always attracts a ring of men, it’s the women who are more forward. “I’ve had girls hit on me,” she says. “You know, women appreciate other women.”
Hesse won’t divulge how much money she makes by lying on her back, and neither will Matile, Blonde’s owner. But if she ever quits, women have lined up to replace her. “I would say about a fourth of the women who come to the event ask someone about whether they can do it,” Adams says.
Hesse was raised in a big Catholic family and says she doesn’t consider body sushi a moral issue. “I would never have agreed to do this if I didn’t think it was tasteful,” she says. “Sushi is an art in itself.”
She’s right. Body barbecue just wouldn’t have the same ring.