So, you’re going to Tampa for the Republican National Convention.
Welcome to my home town, which is, to quote the classics, a hive of scum and villainy.
So here’s what’s going to happen. One dark and stormy night (and they will be, if the Weather Channel is right), after the receptions wrap up, a member of your posse is going to say, “Hey, let’s go to one of Tampa’s dozens of strip clubs.”
Yeah. “Dozens.” My home town has the dubious distinction of more strip clubs, massage parlors and thinly-disguised brothels than anywhere east of Bangkok. I’m not proud of it. It’s just a fact of life.
You’ll all be pretty juiced by a long day of convention fun, swimming with cocktails and chock full of protein from a good steak dinner (You’ll never get a reservation at Bern’s at this point, but that’s another story). Spirits will be running very high. Stoked by a day of putting the stick to the Obama Administration and its misdeeds, why not keep the fun going?
So someone will whip out their iPhone and look up the address of the Mons Venus or the 2001 or Scores or the Doll House or Kitty McTitty’s Boom Boom Room. There’ll be a stop at an ATM for a fat stacks…you’re gonna need those 20s, amirite? Your rental car will be pumping with hip-hop. Good night so far, right? Everybody feeling good? “YOLO!”
Outside the club, the parking is jammed, so you’ll valet it. Hey, you only do the convention every 4 years, right? Live large. This is the moment you’ll look back on later.
You’ll pay the outrageous cover and enter the sticky, smoky confines of whatever part of Joe Redner’s empire you’ve had the poor judgment to visit. You and your buddies will then proceed to do what guys do in strip clubs the world over. You’ll hear “Pour Some Sugar On Me” every 18 minutes. Music will pound, drinks will flow.
Judgment? Not so much.
Mostly naked girls with too many tats, daddy issues and incipient drug addictions are rocking noms de skank like Brandee, O-Ra-Ra (“Get it? Like the thing in the, like, sky?”), Chastitee, Raynebow and Vyxen. They’ll bump, grind and give you a few minutes of lurid titillation in or out of the proverbial champagne room. You probably know the drill. You’ve heard about it, second-hand, of course.
There’s a further spectrum of possible misbehavior, but we’ll leave that for now. Frankly, you were hosed the moment you pulled up out front.
This outing with the boys in the steamy tropical night of a late August in Tampa sounded so good on the front end. But this is where it gets sporty.
See, the minute you got out of the car, some folks in a van parked across the street got you on video.
Who cares who they work for? The media? BuzzFeed, prepping for a piece called, “18 Well-Fed GOP Delegates Walking Into Seedy Strip Clubs?” The DNC? Talking Points Memo? MMFA? Some Democratic SuperPAC? OFA? It doesn’t matter. Hell, for all you know George Soros is sitting in the back wearing a mumu, muttering commands to them and smelling of Ben Gay and borscht.
But count on it. They will be there. We live in the era of the tracker, and the ultimate gotcha is guys getting in trouble because millions of years of evolution coupled with our bad judgment about inappropriate women led you to this.
So yeah, they’re watching for guys in rental cars wearing RNC lanyards. They’re playing Spot-The-Delegate and every single face on that video is going to be peered at long and hard. And in the age of Facebook, Google Image Search and good old detective work, they’ll know who you are soon enough.
And inside? Whether it’s from the club making a deal with the same people (a known fact of Tampa strip club history) and providing their video feed, or just an enterprising Democratic intern on the Best Job Ever filming you with his tiny GoPro or phone camera, you and your friends will get captured mid-lapdance. You will remember the fun differently the next morning.
Why? Because the next morning, as you reach for your vibrating phone on the nightstand, the hangover grinding through your head and your guts, it takes a moment to focus. You swing your feet to the floor, staring at the text message from your wife.
“Call me. You’re on YouTube.”
You’re on YouTube because someone has a clever short video showing you and your buddies, backslapping and high-fiving as the valet whisks your car away and the lot of you spend a few minutes paying the doorman of the Mons Venus.
It’s a wide shot, but clear. You, an Alternate Delegate and State Committeeman from State X and the executive director of the state party and a couple lobbyists are clearly illuminated by the neon glare of the club’s clearly visible sign. Oh, the names and titles may change, but it’s you.
The caption says, “Who Are These Republicans Going Into A Tampa Strip Club?” and it’s a cute, crowd-sourced game. Everyone gets involved, and by noon, Politico and Buzzfeed and Talking Points Memo and every Democratic blog and activist is circulating it, creating a giant fecal storm. It takes over a huge portion of news that should have been about Mitt Romney’s ascent to the nomination.
Oh, it gets better. Remember that Democratic intern with the camera inside the club? Yeah. The next video cuts to that part. Destinee Angel is grinding against you and the expression on your face is as pathetically incriminating as you can imagine. A little later in the day, you’re a GIF joke on Reddit and Buzzfeed, and a hashtag game on Twitter. Your personal Google Alert, maybe for the first time ever, is exploding.
So now you’re thinking, “Oh man, have I screwed up.”
But wait…there’s a bonus round. Later that day, Romney’s press people are being badgered by the thousands of reporters about his position on the sexual exploitation of women. The news cycle becomes you and your jackass friends getting lapdances at skanky strip clubs. Bra-vo. The stories then transition into how you represent a deeper, darker side of the GOP and by the next day, folks could mistake you for someone Albanian human smugglers would fear.
And those calls from your wife are now calls from her lawyer. The Committee on Arrangements has revoked your credentials. And your boss back home is texting. And calling. The story never, ever gets any better.
Now, guys, I’m not telling you this because I’m a prude. I’m not telling you this because of my overly developed sense of paranoia. I’m telling you this because we live in an era where digital everything + the Republican Party + strippers is nuclear-grade stupid. And I know Tampa. It’s a party town, and things get out of hand.
So enjoy my home town. Enjoy the parties. You’ll have great meals, Ybor is fantastic, and we’ll all make the best of Hurricane Issac. But please guys, if you must…save the strippers for some other time.
P.S. As for you Democrats in Charlotte? Totally different. Party on.