Space Cases

Space might be considered the final frontier, but we beg to differ; we found it at a Challenger-themed party in Lawrence.

We’d heard that the Eighth Street Tap Room threw these amazing theme parties on the second Saturday of each month. Sadly, we’d missed the one a couple of months ago: a girls-only pillow fight. When we decided to make the trek in September, the space-shuttle motif was decidedly less foxy — but more weirdly alluring. What the hell would this involve, we wondered? Christa McAuliffe lookalikes wandering about? Intrigued by this potentially tacky tribute, we headed westward with Research Assistant Cece.

After paying the $2 cover, we were directed to the basement, where the first person we saw was an astronaut. He was dressed in a white plastic jumpsuit tucked into black boots, and he wore a white motorcycle helmet. He also had on a mask made from a T-shirt with a picture of Klaus Kinski’s face. The effect was a bit like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” in a haz-mat outfit. On top of that, the astronaut did some sort of funky crawl-dance move across the floor to a support pole, then humped it. Very impressive, we thought as we headed to the bar.

Drinks were extremely cheap ($2.75 for mixed drinks; cash only downstairs, but cards were accepted upstairs). We settled on the rickety bar stools, feeling very glam and louche. Red walls and vinyl booths added to the loungey feel, as did the red light bulbs illuminating the bar. The artsy crowd was starting to trickle into the very cool space.

Then we encountered our first alien.

A tall guy sat by us and seemed friendly enough. We chit-chatted a bit; he told us he was pre-drinking at the Tap Room before he headed to another bar to meet, in person, a woman he’d met online. After that initial intro, he disappeared in the crowd. He came back twice, though, mumbling something each time that sounded vaguely dirty.

“What?” we asked.

“If you meet the right guy here, will you explore your deep, dark secrets with him?” he repeated. When we gave him a look of confusion, he backed away, saying, “I like fucking with people. I’ve got a mild form of Tourette’s. Yeah, people pretty much hate me.”

After that odd exchange, we turned our attention to the astronaut. He had taken off his helmet and mask to reveal his hot self — a cross between Owen Wilson (aka “the butterscotch stallion,” as calls him) and Beck. The space-centric innuendos flew between the Night Ranger and RA Cece.

“Heeeyyy. Is that a rocket in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?” said the NR.

“He can send me into orbit anytime,” Cece parried.

Of course, we didn’t actually approach him with these lines. We’re wusses like that. (Plus, we weren’t fully liquored-up yet.) And, of course, he had a girlfriend who was really cute; she was clad in a strapless, sea-foam-green, ’80s-like minidress and white, furry, knee-high boots. Her blond hair was arranged in two bunches high atop her head. But enough about her; we wanted to talk to the astronaut.

It turns out that he goes by DJ Hasselhoff, and he’s the organizer of Second Saturdays. He and three other DJs take turns spinning obscure music and old classics, such as Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” and everybody’s favorite, Boyz II Men’s “Motownphilly.” (ABC, BBD, bitches!) Second Saturdays, Hasselhoff told us, started last November; themes have included a “Pants-off dance-off (hetero vs. homo)” and a Valentine’s Day party for which the bar was filled with “a thousand balloons” and attendees had to dress in red, white, pink or black. Hasselhoff also told us about the party where a professional masseuse, dressed in a Winnie the Pooh outfit, brought his table and gave massages to the ladies.

We asked him why he decided on a Challenger theme. “It’s just a random thing,” he said. He explained how the Challenger disaster was a landmark event in his childhood and that 19 years of mourning the disaster was enough (as the fliers stated: “19 years — enough is enough”).

“It was definitely a media frenzy, a publicity stunt,” he said of the launch. “And it’s almost like, everyone has to die, so why not die as a hero for all time in a $5 billion spacecraft?” Later in the night, Hasselhoff stopped the music, asked for a moment of silence and played the broadcast from the accident. A Chloe Sevigny lookalike (wearing tight, cute, blue ruffled shorts, black stilettos and a black tank top) hoisted her bottle of beer. “To the Challenger!” she said.

Frenetic dancing continued late into the night. We watched a guy in a red, sleeveless, midriff-baring American flag T-shirt, shorts and tube socks do a pole dance with the support beam, then dance while holding an Uncle Sam mask to his crotch. We also talked to another tube-sock wearer: Meghan, 21, a beautiful, blond KU anthropology student who was rocking the ’80s look with satin shorts and — best of all — roller skates. Unfortunately, she took off the skates. They were too small, so she stored them by a speaker.

“I just bought them,” she said. “They say ‘Chicago’ on the wheels and tag. They’re the shit. I’m not an expert, not in roller derby. I brought them for spectacle. Second Saturdays is the only time you can bring roller skates to the bar. It’s kind of like Halloween.”

Speaking of Halloween and spectacles, the Eighth Street Tap Room’s October party will (surprise!) involve a haunted-murder theme. Hasselhoff promises a night filled with “sexual darkness.” After September’s dance-off, we can hardly wait.

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