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Getting to the bottom of the GOP's visit to the wild side

At Voyeur, where the RNC dropped $2,000, there are women with ropes and plastic wrap, but there's no nudity.

April 18, 2010|Steve Lopez

Well, it just seemed to me that somebody had to go check out the Voyeur club in West Hollywood.

Why?

To assess the damage that may have been done to the Young Eagles wing of the GOP.

So I asked West Hollywood City Councilman Jeffrey Prang to accompany me to his town's latest sensation, where the themes are said to include lesbian bondage and sadomasochism. Naturally, the club has been even hotter since the news that a group of up-and-coming GOP donors had dropped by Voyeur on Jan. 31 after a meeting.

"They say it's lesbian eroticism designed to arouse straight men," Prang told me over cocktails before we went to the forbidden palace along with his husband, Ray Vizcarra.

If you missed the story, the Republican National Committee picked up the nearly $2,000 tab for the donors' visit. One RNC staffer has been fired over the embarrassing revelations, which have also fueled calls for the firing of RNC boss Michael Steele.

They get a late crowd at Voyeur. At 10:30, traffic cones were set up on Santa Monica Boulevard across from Los Tacos, and an army of valets and security guards was in place to handle the expected crush of people. It's amazing how much happens in L.A. after my bedtime.

Prang, for his part, offered his full support to any Republican officials who'd like to drop cash in West Hollywood, which he described as a well-managed bastion of fiscal responsibility. He said he'd like to market a "threat to family values" tour that includes stops at Voyeur, the Pleasure Chest, the Body Shop, Circus Books and the Pussycat to help the GOP document decadence in America.

"Absolutely, we want more Republicans," Prang said. "We're a big-tent city."

Not that he needs my input, but I'd add the nearby Beverly Hilton to the tour. That's where married Democratic presidential wannabe John Edwards met with his concubine, the mother of his love child.

At Voyeur, male and female patrons gathered at a velvet rope, most of them in their 20s and 30s. Thanks to Prang's clout, we were led to a back entrance and greeted by owners and brothers Art and Allan Davis. The concept of Voyeur, Art said, is to have women doing things "you want to look at, but you feel you shouldn't."

It was all a little difficult to describe for a family newspaper, but I'll try.

A woman in a glass box was doing a fan dance, or maybe she was dusting, I'm not sure. A woman dressed like an angel, I think, was posing atop one bar and making slow, strange gestures, as if trying to tell someone her bodice was too tight.

"There's a girl in a swing," Art said, pointing to a performer suspended from the ceiling like a naughty caterpillar in a cocoon. "There'll be a girl in a net soon."

Two more women, wearing dominatrix outfits and holding opposite ends of a rope, were doing some kind of mating dance on a long, narrow stage near the entrance, seemingly oblivious to onlookers.

"It's high art that people have to conceptualize to get," said a masked performer named Mia, who also manages the performers.

I was trying to do some conceptualizing but found Mia too distracting. She was falling out of an outfit she called "a bit of 'Clockwork Orange,' " with a top hat and cane, and she was soon slithering around on a stage.

"It's meant to stimulate and shock, to get you a little nervous," said Art, and I was in fact a bit nervous as I wondered what exactly to write on my expense report. Art said he wasn't even aware the Young Eagles had been in his club until the news broke later on. "Maybe we lightened up their spirits a little bit."

While I sipped a vodka and took it all in, Art told me he admired Sen. John McCain and his wife, Cindy, as well. And he's very disappointed in President Obama. I couldn't tell whether he was serious or simply trying to drum up more Republican business. On stage, Mia was doing neat tricks with the cane.

"She's moving art," said Art. "You don't even notice that she's there."

I noticed.

"This must be the lesbian bondage," Prang said as we moved into another room and watched the two women work the rope as if they were trying to invent an R-rated Olympic event.

Prang said that although many conservatives have been known to be a little uptight about homosexuality, some straight men seem to relax their views under certain conditions -- such as when it involves naughty-looking vixens in slap leather and spike heels. I think he may be on to something.

As we took in the sights, several customers came through the door wearing dark blazers and khakis, looking like they'd arrived by yacht.

Were the Young Eagles back?

I tried talking to one of the guys, and a woman in a blazer as well, but they both blew me off. Prang's husband engaged the woman, who said they were on a business trip from New York. She later told me she wasn't a Republican, but she and her colleagues had to check out the place after reading about the GOP faux pas.

"It's actually pretty tame," she said.

And in a way, it was. No nudity, no lap dances and no lesbian canoodling to speak of. I felt sorry for the Young Eagles, who probably wished they'd gone to an old-fashioned strip club.

Just before we left, we stopped at the main stage and watched a scantily clad woman methodically cloak another performer in plastic wrap, like she was a leftover chicken breast.

It might have been high art, but the Republicans could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they'd gone to the Getty instead.

steve.lopez@latimes.com

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