Pussy Cat Lounge1

My Night at the Pussy Cat Lounge

Pussy Cat Lounge1

“Do something out of your comfort zone.”

How often have you heard this advice?

I think whoever said this meant something like try seeded rye instead of whole wheat, or take the express train and walk 3 blocks instead of sitting longer on the local.

I, of course, took this advice far too literally and went out — I mean, way out —of my comfort zone, not to mention my neighborhood. Once I got to the Pussy Cat Lounge, however, there was no turning back.

It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. Although things did get a tad turbulent in the course of the evening. It began, in fact, on a lovely spring day. . . .

A few months before our story begins, I met a man on a plane on the way to California. I was developing a cold, a bad one, and he had a flask of whiskey (not necessarily a good omen), which he shared with me to help me get through the flight.

Although I told him that I was seeing someone seriously (What? I should be seeing someone unseriously?), we exchanged numbers and back in New York had a very pleasant lunch. He was an ex-cop and was working as security chief at a major midtown hotel. He said that he understood I was otherwise involved, but liked the company of good-looking women, and just wanted to do lunch.

So a few weeks later, on that lovely spring day I told you about, I agreed to another lunch. Since I needed a break that day, I figured that I could make it late and take the rest of the day off. Well, by the time he called back, it was really, really late, for lunch anyway, but I was hungry, overworked, and far too agreeable.

I agreed, therefore, to meet him at an unfamiliar place downtown, left my office and grabbed a cab. The cabbie pulled up to the address I had been given, turned around and asked, just like in the movies, “Lady, are you sure this is the place?”

I wasn’t sure at all: it was a dive called The Pussy Cat Lounge, a bona fide strip joint, with a long, low-lighted bar, and a stage on the left as you entered, featuring a woman doing what looked like the bridge posture with benefits (not physical therapy as I know it), wearing a bad attitude—and very little else.

It’s a not a good sign when the first thing you see when entering a public place is pubic space. And “crotch” is not the first word you think of for a restaurant review.

Do something out of your comfort zone—yes, well this was pretty uncomfortable. So I strode to the bar, wearing a business suit and a confident air, which was a total joke, and asked for the guy I was supposed to meet, thinking all the while that this was a Big Fat Misunderstanding. It wasn’t. Not only was he meeting me here, at this bar in this very unsavory place, he was part owner of the joint, and, as I later found out, not just an ex-cop, but an ex-cop who had been asked to leave the force. Uh-oh.

I bellied up to the bar (what else could a girl do) and pretended that this wasn’t really weird. The bartender told me that he-who-shall-remain- nameless (we could call him He-Who for short) was running late and that I should have a drink on the house. I did. Several. And, lucky for me, they were watered down, because I was determined not to leave (I don’t know why, but this had become a point of honor or something), and I kept drinking. There was no food. Not even a pretzel, unless you count some of the performers.

The women who were doing their thing across the way would come up to the bar between acts, so to speak, and when they found out I was in publishing would tell me their life stories. And interesting stories they were.

One of them was working her way through business school by performing a routine that involved not only whips and chains but also a very severe haircut and scary-looking handcuffs. Boy, was she going to be some strict boss! Another was getting away from an abusive spouse by wiggling her ass for drunken Wall Street types who were only too happy to show their support by shoving ten-dollar bills in the costume she almost had on. A would-be actress took this gig because the auditions for more, shall we say, traditional roles weren’t exactly panning out, and all the directors wanted to do was, well you know.

We all drank Scotch together, enjoyed lots of girl talk, and I told them to send me outlines of the books they wanted to write. Thank Zeus, none of them ever did. I published children’s books!

Finally, my “date” showed up, but by that time I was convinced he didn’t just want lunch. (Duh.) Somehow, before I was too drunk to descend into total madness, I made a phone call. To the new man in my life. The one I was seeing seriously. And without missing a beat, he got the address and appeared on the scene, all Mr. Steady as He Goes, which, lord knows, I wasn’t.

So how often do you get to be a damsel in distress? And then, how often do you get rescued?

Not that often.

I knew that night that my this guy was a keeper. He sized up the situation, he didn’t get upset, and Mr. Plane Person, AKA He-Who, knew that my guy was there, and he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

In the course of that strangely enchanted evening, we saw a woman perform an act that involved fire coming out of an orifice I’d rather not specify, and heard many more tales of woe. And we saw plenty of dough. The performers needed it, the customers paid it: a whole lot of money for a little Scotch, a lotta crotch. No one was complaining, just explaining. It was all very educational. Very educational.

He-Who asked me what it would take for me to get on stage and do my thing, and I said, A million two, cash. I have no idea where I came up with that figure, but co-owner or not, Mr. I-Just Wanna-Have-Lunch wasn’t coming up with that kind of money, so we’ll never know if I would have done it or not.

But if I had done it, what would it have been? (It would have been hard to top the flaming orifice.) And how far out of my comfort zone would that have taken me? And would I be here to tell you this story? We’ll never know—and I’m comfortable with that.

Pat Fortunato is the author of I Can’t Believe I’m Not Bitter: Confessions of a Woman Who Bends the Rules.

3 Responses to My Night at the Pussy Cat Lounge

  1. Just want to clarify one thing: Yes, I was there. But no, I am NOT one of the women in the photo! (In my dreams.)
    The book is available at Amazon and on Kindle. Just click on the link above.

  2. louisec says:

    What happened to Mr. Steady As He Goes?
    Was he a keeper?

  3. Oh, yes. We’ve been together for 24 years!

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