Stripping OffWould I go down in your estimation if I told you I’ve been to a strip club?
I was protesting all the way. But some devoted Durbanites were showing me the nightlife and they wanted me to see everything. And at a club like this, absolutely everything is what you see.
Durban must be some sort of meteorological anomaly: it’s a city that swelters during the day but really only heats up after the sun goes down.
It usually begins when my forehead starts to glow as I relish a delicious mutton bhuna at my favourite Indian restaurant on Musgrave Road.That’s always been my hottest Durban nightspot - but these party animals planned to show me what I’ve been missing.
Scene One was Billy The Bums in Morningside. Bums sounds terribly down-market, but the owners claim it stands for Basic Up Market Socialite.
I’m not entirely convinced. There are acres of cleavage on show, if no actual bums, and the party atmosphere is jazzed up by funky barmen shaking cocktails as people squeeze past each other slowly to check out the talent.
We ordered a bottle of wine and drank it at the bar – there’s no chance of getting a table unless you stake your claim very, very early. I was settling down to enjoy some people-watching, but my pals had other plans. It was time to eat, and you need elbow room to do that.
Scene Two saw us cruising down Morningside streets so crowded that we had to park several blocks away and walk back to Spiga d'Oro restaurant.It was heaving just as much as Billy’s, but one of my group knew the owner, and a table miraculously appeared. Two would have been better, because the men ordered the house special of a massive pan of prawns to share. Plus salads, pizzas, wine, water jugs, bread and fingerbowls.
We were piling the used dishes under our chairs and growing ever fuller as the table grew emptier. Spiga d'Oro is family-oriented, and even at this late hour there were lots of children running around while their parents enjoyed a welcome chance to behave like adults.
Post-dinner drinks came at Beanbag Bohemia, crammed with an arty mixed-race crowd in a bizarre building that branches off in all directions. It’s a National Monument built in 1885, and they made people smaller in those days, I realised as I ducked to avoid a doorway.
There was a DJ dancing in his own little world, a couple of ladies gazing into each other’s eyes oblivious to jealous glances by the men, and hip hordes of movers and shakers. I sipped my drink in innocence as the others hatched a secret plot to give this out-of-towner a grand finale.
Ladies – have you ever ventured into a strip club? No, me neither, but the Wonder Lounge was scene four on this evening of adventure.
It’s a weird looking place from the outside, kind of round and nondescript, belying the action going down inside. Curiosity was suddenly submerged by a lack of courage, so I released an exaggerated yawn and made the party-pooping suggestion that maybe it was time to head back to the hotel. Besides, I muttered, why pay R100 to look at women half my age, half my size and twice as pretty getting naked? Ok, make that three times as pretty.
Women get in for free, so my objection was overruled. We ventured into the darkness, with lights illuminating a blonde on stage doing a slow dance with only a pole for company. All the men wanted to be that pole.The women were gorgeous, of course.
"She looks like a really nice girl. So outgoing and friendly" one friend said with genuine admiration. I followed his eyes and saw him watching a 20-something doing a lap dance. Of course she’s friendly – you’re not going to make big tips in this game if you’re an unapproachable ice maiden, I said, feeling distinctly like an unapproachable ice maiden.
But you know what – I enjoyed it. In fact I was fascinated. By the women who do this for a living, and by the men who get their thrills from watching. It was like a party where half the participants are wearing nothing more than a G-string and a smile.
We left long before the sun came up again, and I reckoned the day would be a mere 30° while the night to follow would be an absolute scorcher.