"Couples get in first!" a voice bellows from the front of the line. I squint in the garish glow of Boogie Fever's neon sign and survey my options for an expedited entrance. I see women squeezed into floral capri pants like sausage, some dude bewigged in a curly mullet, and an Asian couple with backpacks and visors. ... I turn to a guy whose whispers of gray complement his khaki-shorts-and-T combo. "We can go in together, if you want," he shrugs. I nod and move closer. His name is Mike Kral. He tells of a hockey league that's specifically for those over 40.
"You scored two goals, honey?" I gush loudly as the bouncer approaches and motions us to the line's front. "You were a little over top," my new escort says flatly, and pays the doorman for two.
Boogie Fever's ostentatious entrance is just a taste of the club's decor. Ginormous silver disco balls glimmer like celestial orbs, and strobe lights shoot fluorescent spikes over the crowd. Silver boas normally reserved for Christmas trees dangle from the ceiling.
Mike leads me to the cheetah-print bar, and with fatherly politeness, orders ours drinks. I'm eager to dig the Asians learning to line dance, but stick around for a few songs from Dirty Dancing. Mike paid for our cover and drinks, and it seems poor club etiquette for me to rush off. But what if he wants me to meet his friends and talk more hockey? I groan internally. Yet the moment the bartender returns, Mike smiles, grabs his Michelob Light, and disappears into the dance floor. "That's it?" I cock my head in disbelief.
Incredulous at having met a man at a nightclub whose creep rating is zero, I assess the crowd. Boogie Fever in Ferndale is my introduction to an unfamiliar phenomenon of nightclubs for adults, or, rather, club nights for the life-begins-at-40 set. Here, myriad middle-agers dance self-assuredly to the music of their generation, most with no concern for "club attire," up-to-the-moment fashion or visible cellulite. It's a welcome break from the coked up, Top-40'd, self-conscious runway vibe that pollutes many popular dance clubs.
"The dancing leads me here," shouts a sweaty middle-aged schoolteacher who orders an armful of bottled waters. In front of us, talented stepsters marry ballroom dancing and "the Jitterbug" with shocking agility. One woman wears running shoes under a halter dress; her partner's attire suggests he's straight out of the office.
Inspired by this flush-faced couple, I venture into the sea of arms swaying to "Dancing Queen" and find myself singing along. Babysitters are getting overtime tonight this dance floor shows no signs of stopping.
Amid a gaggle of beer-bellies and balding heads, one guy sticks out like a chicken hawk in church. He wears a crisp, tight white polo against a honeyed suntan, and his even tighter pants leave little to imagine. He notices me watching him, and cries "Ciao be-lla!" over the crowd. "I am Stefano!" Of course you're Italian ... I think, and take a deep breath.
"Ciao, Stefano, sono Laurie," I begin, and his dark eyes widen.
"Ma-parli Italiano?" ("You speak Italian?") He throws his arms up and kisses both my cheeks.
I am interested in an international opinion of Detroit after dark, so Stefano and I shimmy to a corner table. Because he's hesitant with his English, we speak in Italian.
"Do you like to dance?" I ask.
"Da morire," the Italian stallion responds dramatically, his face inches from mine. ("To die for.")
"What do you plan to do in Detroit?"
"Dance, meet people, have fun." Stefano leans in and calls me "Laur."
"What kind of music do you like?"
"Everything. I love music." He crosses his legs and looks me straight in the eye. "When do you want to get together? I'll cook something for you ... Sicilian food?"
"Uh, yeah, maybe..." (My impression is this is Stefano's general approach to any woman with four limbs intact. Call me a woman trading on a cliché, but at this very moment his gig is classic Italian guy.) "So, what do you think of this dance party?"
"It's fun. American women are ... quite nice." Stefano leans in and murmurs shamelessly, "Hey, I could take you for a ride ..." He blows the hair out of my eyes and adds, "in posti che non hai visto mai ..." ("To places you've never seen before ...")
Unable to defuse Stefano's conviction that we'll vacation in Sicily together, it's time to switch gears. I head south on Woodward to Ferndale's Eden, another nightclub hosting a disco ball-themed evening.
As the name suggests, this place lends itself to the allegorical garden theme. Inside, behind platform altars for go-go girls, sits an all-white bar that boasts simulated rain and a fake tree, from which one red apple hangs. Nice. White walls are cloaked in vines of ivy, and glass chandeliers dangle next to disco balls. Along one wall, semi-private beds entice big spenders with bottle service and the option of closing the sheer white curtains. Older men in polo shirts slouch on the edge of their VIP divan like tired spectators at their wives' tennis matches. One of them is the club's lawyer.
Conversation takes a backseat to "Thriller" belted at full volume. Clearly, DJ Ryan Richards is claiming full artistic license with the disco theme tonight. White strobes project polka-dot disks that transform the dance floor into a silvery starscape of slim bodies. The Edenites are a carefully ironed crowd aged mid-20s and older. Two of Ferndale's uniformed "Bar Detail" 5-0 lurk in the corner, sporting shiny badges and identical coifs. I spotted them earlier at Boogie Fever they tell me they're after underage drinkers. Funny, these clubs are the last places I'd expect a minor to sneak into.
I follow the officers' diverted gazes toward the bartendress, or more accurately, to the massive mammaries that reside just below her chin. Her breasts are perilously strapped in a skimpy sequined harness one might call a tank top. Their owner, Jennie Lynn Kimling, has a glossy mane of platinum, a phosphorescent smile and a French manicure. Her lipstick and matching eye shadow are bubblegum pink.
As Jennie makes my drink I notice a train of come-hither blondes slink up from the basement stairs, where a statuesque bouncer stands guard at the top.
"Private party," someone mutters.
Meanwhile, two thick-ankled and mini-skirted fiftysomethings get kicked off the go-go platforms and an island of well-groomed Russian vixens with matching Chanel bags suck drinks purchased by thick-necked boyfriends who hover around them like bodyguards.
One go-go girl is most impressive: Fatima is a tiny, dark-skinned dancer who moves with lithe confidence. Tonight, she takes inspiration from Foxxy Cleopatra black boy shorts and a gold bikini top that she made herself. She shakes shiny bangles and a huge black Afro wig. The 23-year-old has almond-shaped, charcoal-rimmed eyes, a small mole on her nose, and a creamy complexion. She seems to swim onstage.
Suddenly, the DJ nixes the disco theme and Bon Scott howls overhead. I move downstairs, where I discover a club-den of handsome couples I'm told are a swingers. I relish two minutes amid the mingling hedonists before they shoo me back upstairs.
Later, out on Woodward, I run into the mullet-wigged Boogie Fever guy. "I'm dressed as a character from Blues Brothers," he chuckles, feeling an explanation is needed. "You've seen it, right?"
"No ... I think I've heard of it. Isn't that movie really old?" I say without thinking.
His friends explode in drunken laughter. "Man, she killed you!" They shriek, and I'm all apologies. One of their girlfriends turns to me and murmurs, "It's OK. We just like to pretend we're still young."Night Tripper appears regularly in Metro Times. Send tips, quips, whispers and comments to [email protected]