There's a bar 'n boogie in the old Chuckwagon down on Midway Drive where I go sometimes for a refresher course in contemporary macho mores.
It's not a big place, but it's usually jammed with people, and for undeniably good reason. The house band. Gabriel, is smooth and nice to look at. comparatively polished though rather limited in repertoire. There's a full bar and the drinks are good, particularly if you get them from the lady bartender in the back corner. The cocktail waitresses — and the bartenders and doormen and bouncers — are attractive and friendly, prices are reasonable, and there's no cover.
Add to this a free all-you-can-eat hors d'oeuvres buffet on Friday and 75c drinks on Tuesday, as well as a Wednesday night "bump" contest, and the place sounds irresistible.
However, if you like to get loose, drunk and rowdy. Spanky's is not for you. There's a rigid, if unwritten code of behavior and failure to comply can leave you stranded in a corner, outcast and outnumbered, nursing your drink and your pride.
The dress regulations posted at the door say only that you can't wear jeans, and you must wear shirts and shoes, no tee-shirts or tennies or sandals, either. That translates as long-sleeved print shirts, nice slacks, polished shoes for men and nice, put-together, not-too much-skin (let's not be vulgar) pants outfits or dresses for the ladies. There's an occasional suit and tie or long dress to be seen, but Spanky's. though pretentious, isn't really that formal.
The social regulations are even more stringent, and it doesn't take long to become (painfully) aware of them.
For instance, no matter how good the drinks, nobody ever gets drunk — or at least not obviously so. Couples pass Certs and Sen-Sen across their tables and relax, assured that they won't even smell like they've been drinking. In the women's bathroom, the air is permeated with perfume, and in the bar itself men stand around self-consciously chewing Dentyne all night long.
This over-concern with odor can be most easily seen on the dance floor, where nobody, but nobody ever works up a sweat. The "bump"is de rigueur, and when the dance floor is crowded (it almost always is. dancing being the first move in the game of love), even the most wary are liable to end up bruised and aching. I worked it out one night that a single person can be bumped by as many as seven people at once and still miss her partner. It could be a very friendly sort of scene, but the rules are that you only bump your partner, so everyone pretends that he wasn't the one who just patted your ass. One of the firmest rules at Spanky's outlines the difference between what men can do and at ladies can't.
The men at Spanky's stand around sipping drinks, talking about their Porsches, and sizing up the "prospects." At times there's a pretty intense meat-market atmosphere, understandable in a place where most men expect at the very least a phone number in return for a dance. I’ve seen ladies literally backed into a corner by men who refused to believe that any woman wouldn't want to (a) divulge her address (b) dance or (c) go home him (not to mention (d) all of the above).
Currently, the line at Spanky’s is, "Will you go to breakfast with me?" and the social scene is just about that subtle. Ironically, even if a woman wants to make a move, she's not permitted to. The sexist barriers are so strong that a Spankyite man would rather go home alone than with a woman who was tactless enough to invite herself along.
A lady must sit or stand conspicuously, looking available but not unpopular (this is perhaps the hardest social grace demanded anywhere), waiting for some man to wander over to talk or ask her to dance.
She must not get involved talking with another woman, lest she miss her chance when he arrives. When (and if) she is accosted, her social reputation for the evening is put on the line.
If a woman says yes to the wrong man. no one else will look her way all evening. If she's lucky and catches the eye of Mr. Right, she presumably won't mind being ignored by everyone else. On the other hand, if she says no, she’s liable to be considered a cold fish and ostracized (fortunately memories are short and one night's cold fish may be the main course another time).
Sometimes, for no apparent reason, a woman will not be asked to dance at all. This drives some to desperate measures — but desperation is anathema to the cool crowd at Spanky's. I saw one young woman dare ask a man to dance. She was given a cold stare and rejected, but another man turned speculative and got as far as the dance floor with he, only to desert in mid-dance. I sympathized with the lady, who got progressively drunker, compounding her error, tripping men in the aisles and gazing belligerently at the dance floor.
Finally, during a break, she got up and danced by herself, collecting quite a crowd around her and dropping her pants to them all. A bit extreme, perhaps, but a valiant gesture wasted on a crowd that refused to understand. She left soon thereafter, and so did I.
Spanky's is one of those places that runs either hot or cold — you can be ignored one night and hassled mercilessly another. The pressure to go home with whatever man bestows the favor of his attention on you is incredibly strong, although I for one can't figure out what’s so special — other than their confidence — about the men I've seen there.
It doesn't seem to be better when you bring a date, either. I've found that the best way to enjoy Spanky's is to sit and watch, preferably with a friend and/or a drink, as the “singles" eye each other hungrily across the barriers of sex and status. It's not always pleasant for a person with any social conscience, but it is — but definitely — educational.