Use Your Illusion

On a recent Saturday night, we managed to drag ourselves to the grand opening of Club Evolution, the new bar in Westport that’s taken over XO’s space. We had to snicker at the name, because if there’s one building that hasn’t changed in, like, the past 20 years, it’s the one at 3954 Central, which has previously housed Atlantis and the Coliseum. Cage dancing? Thudding music? Laser lights and smoke machines galore? That’s your place!

After paying the $8 cover, we discovered that the inside still very much looks like and feels like XO, though it was a little less dilapidated, thanks to a new paint job. The back room with the Chinese characters was now blue, and the “VIP room” — the quiet oasis that’s perched above the dance floor — was also newly painted blue. The DJ booth was now by the dance floor rather than way up high, and of course, the infamous cages were still there and were occupied by twosomes and threesomes who were keen on either grinding against each other or lifting a leg up against the bars for some crotch airing. We wondered about the appeal of the cage and decided to ask Donette, 24, and Bliss, 32, both in white, midriff-baring tops. According to Donette, the two were always in ’em at XO.

“So … why?” we asked.

“We like to be the center of attention?” Donette said tentatively.

“Do guys ever harass you in them?” we asked.

“All the time,” she said. “It makes us mad, and we kick them out of the cage. We don’t like being touched! A lot of times, people ask us if we’re strippers, too.” We found that hard to believe.

When we first arrived around 11, it was dead, but things picked up closer to midnight. The crowd contained the usual club quota of spiky-haired man tribes and skanked-out chicks, of course, but there were also a goodly amount of Asians. We’d never been asked “What’s your nationality?” as often as we were that night (and by often, we mean twice); the first to quiz us was a preppy-looking drunk guy at the bar, who, after asking us to guess his own heritage, revealed that he was half-Mexican and half-Korean before proceeding to spill his story.

“I’m really a big fat dork,” he said. “My friends are thugs, though, so I gotta front. Sometimes, I’d rather be reading, like, All Quiet on the Western Front.

Frankly, we wished all were quiet on the Club Evolution front; the constant thud-thud of the music grew tiresome after, say, 15 minutes. “This music makes me want to throw up,” said Research Assistant Laura, who is usually all about finding new places to dance. “I don’t consider this moving music — there’s no passion to it.” So she fled, and our attention was soon caught by an older gent who was surrounded by a harem of women in identical short black skirts and black, tight-fitting T-shirts, each with a mysterious white logo over one breast. It turned out that Roger was a computer doctor by day and a magician by night (stage name: Dr. B.). Because he’s friends with the owner, he was there to support the opening of the bar. The fembots were his backup dancers.

“So, what does that symbol on the shirts mean?” we asked of the insignia that looked like entwined boomerangs. We wondered (and half hoped) they were part of some sort of kinky club cult.

“Actually, we bought the shirts at Wal-Mart,” he replied, dashing our theory.

“What sort of magic do you do?” we pressed.

“It’s original stuff. I perform a lot at the Magic Castle in Hollywood because it’s stuff they’ve never seen before,” he said. “Not only do a lot of celebrities go there, but other magicians as well. Two-thirds of my show is original.”

“What’s your signature trick?” we asked.

He and a lovely woman with a brunette bob and bangs (whom he introduced as Tonja, his wife and show choreographer for 25 years) smiled. “It’s called the Fire Angel,” he said. “A shipping trunk drives onstage by itself, there’s smoke machines going, the trunk opens on its own power and spins around. The audience looks in, the lid closes, then she pops out,” he explained, gesturing at Tonja.

“Wait, so how big is the trunk?” we asked, still a bit confused.

“It’s got brass legs that are 32 inches off the floor,” he said, indicating with his hands that the box is about 2 feet tall and around 3 feet wide. “A lot of people have wanted to buy the trunk … the reason she’s in it is because the other girls can’t fit in it.”

So, yeah, that was our Saturday night — we were reduced to discussing the dimensions of a box, because everyone else we approached was too lame or pretentious to submit to our smarmy questioning. We wished Dr. B. would pull a David Copperfield and make the bar disappear, but instead, we muttered an incantation (along the lines of “fucking people”) and conjured ourselves out of there as well.

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