If you know Joburg's seedy underbelly, that knowledge might spread to musky enclaves that no family publication would give space to. Or not. For the uninitiated, there is a first time for everything. I took a trip recently to the Diplomat Hotel, Jozi's version of the House of the Rising Sun.
On entry we were frisked like Afghanis at JFK. After our crotches were thoroughly cupped for any suspicious items (a few chancers with cameras have been tossed out of The Diplomat with black eyes), we ascended the stairs to be met at the top by a sprawl of thick asses, large thighs in miniskirts and faces you would not, ever, bring home to your mother. And, of course, various diplomat-greeting gestures from the micro-minied 'hostesses' trying to make a buck, tugging us in all sorts of directions.
When tugged, sales pitches varied from 'lets go upstairs, I'll give you a doggy' to 'discount if you want two rounds'. My fellow explorer and I looked each other in the eye and headed to the other room, where speakers blared. The blasphemous tune doing the rounds happened to be 'Sista Bettina'; yes, the very same lewd track about strip clubs that had the nation in pretentious disgust around 2004. Closer to the music, a horde of men looked onto a mini stage, every one of them trying catch a glimpse. With some standing on tables for a better view, we decided on the same and mounted the furniture. The first thing in sight was a bikini clad young thing who immediately called one of the drooling onlookers for a full package of Diplomat-style seduction.
The ritual started with the bloke being unzipped, his top removed. Then it was her turn to kick off the knickers until properly skinned. The MC in the background then taunted the naked guy, saying 'you gonna have it or not?' Now this right here was no ordinary strip tease. This was a man challenge. If called upon to do the deed in full view of another 100 or so men, you gotta do it. What a dirty mistress unshielded desire can be. The challenge / dance was preceded by fellatio, courtesy of our vixen, but then every man's nightmare: stage fright. His member could not get up. Humiliated, he put on his pants and left the stage, flacid.
Seconds after the horn dogs had dispersed, post no show, my sidekick tells me he has a camera hidden in his socks, and that we should strategically position ourselves for shots. Clearly a braver man than I, he dared me. The camera was extracted and a hand grabbed his. It was one of the resident vixens, who then bowed her head in front of us and whispered 'I see that camera. If you don't want me to tell the bouncers you should buy me now.' At that point the conversation with self was something like, 'Why didn't I choose a restaurant in Sandton to review?"
The threat was bigger than us. The pay isn't good enough to risk a potential beating by the house heavies. We scrammed before she could cry havoc and let slip the dogs. Does that make us cowards? Less than the Pultizer journalist you dream about? Well, get over it. The reality is cheap and dirty and there's not much to these joints other than the sordid image just painted. Only it's more dirty. More sordid. Less than sexy. More desperate.
Walking the streets back home (and through the cab ride and into breakfast the next day) the thick asses wouldn't leave our minds. Thick asses. Thick asses. It's rough out there, folks.
Illustrations by: Dominique Baxewanos