LONG ISLAND JOURNAL;
NEW YORK TIMES ~ Providing the Thrill in Ladies' Night Out
By MARCELLE S. FISCHLER
LATRICIA SISTRUNK, 23, of Copiague organized the ''ladies' night out.'' She noticed the sexy man on the advertisement for Billy Dean's Showtime Cafe, a strip joint, and asked her friends to join her for an evening of bawdy fun.
''It seems nice and dim,'' Ms. Sistrunk said, as if the low lighting at the Bellmore bar on a recent Friday evening would provide a cover from which she could anonymously ogle the beefcakes in thongs on stage.
But when Richard Joseph, 33, a construction worker from Queens known in this setting as Passion, quickly stripped off his army fatigues and a T-shirt revealing a fringed G-string, Ms. Sistrunk jumped to her feet, screaming, dancing and pumping her hand in the air. Mr. Joseph plucked Ms. Sistrunk from the audience. On stage he pretended to lick whipped cream from her neck and somewhere else. The 75 women in the audience howled.
Revues with male dancers who take it almost all off are not new. They have been a gyrating phenomenon for bachelorettes, birthday girls and ladies' nights out at least since Billy Dean, 48, the owner and emcee of the nightspot, got his start as a dancer when Chippendales opened in Manhattan 25 years ago.
The party is open to everyone. But to capture a niche audience, Mr. Dean runs what may be the only strip joint on the Island to separate undraped, undulating physiques by ethnic group and sex. On Friday nights, he offers a ''Men of Color'' show with African-American dancers. It draws an audience of about 85 percent black women. On Saturday nights, white and Latino strippers strut their stuff.
After the women drool over the guys each evening, men file in to see bikini-clad women slathered in hot oil wrestling each other. On Thursdays, the female wrestlers use shaving cream.
''The men of color show is a little wilder because the women that attend the men of color show seem to be a little wilder and a little freer in expressing themselves,'' said Mr. Dean, who is white. But women don't always realize they are going to a demographically selected sex show.
Jackie Carvallo, 23, a white waitress from Islip, said she would attend either but joined her black friend, Ms. Sistrunk, for the evening.
''I think there should always be a mixed show,'' Ms. Carvallo said. ''How do they know who is going to show up?''
Jeanette Hartnett, 21, of Woodbury was startled when she realized her family had unwittingly opted for the black show. ''Do I look out of place?'' asked Ms. Hartnett, who had come to the revue with her sisters -- Danielle, 18, and Cassie, 38 -- to help their mother, Karen, celebrate her 60th birthday. Jeanette said the ethnicity of the dancers made no difference.
''I am not here to pick up a man,'' she said. ''We just want to watch people interact and have fun.''
Mr. Dean said that separating his male dancers by race was simply a marketing tactic. ''That's the way the troupes are designed,'' Mr. Dean said. ''You find your drawing power is coming because you are specifically doing a show for an ethnic group.''
Mr. Dean said that while some white women would come to a black show, few black women come to the white show.
''If you are presenting a cultural background of black male dancers, they are going to attract a female clientele of black women,'' he said. Whatever their race, he said, most women ''choose to come to see men of their own origin. If I'm Italian and I love Italian food, I am not going to go to a Chinese restaurant.''
Not everyone in the audience agreed. Michele Ramos, 29, of Bay Shore was with Ms. Sistrunk's party. While Ms. Ramos was looking forward to the Men of Color program, she thought it was politically incorrect.
''It should be diverse,'' said Ms. Ramos, who identified herself as Hispanic. ''It should be a mixed thing. Everybody talks about diversity and then they are giving different nights for different ethnicities.''
But there were more important things than race on her mind.
''I don't look at the color of his skin,'' Ms. Ramos said. ''We're here to look at the bodies.''
Across the table was Jennifer Cruz, 29, of Lindenhurst.
''The guys at home are not cutting it,'' Ms. Cruz joked. ''Men of color, I'm scared. Once you go black, you don't go back. I have a white, bald guy at home.''
Mr. Dean, 48, was teaching physical education at Half Hollow Hills High School, coaching track in Huntington, modeling and acting on the side when he auditioned for Chippendale's. After six months at the signature strip club, Mr. Dean danced briefly at Escapes, a club in Merrick, then toured the world as a male stripper. With his partner, Rori Gordon, he did fund-raisers along the East Coast with a foxy female boxing revue. In 1987, Mr. Dean opened the first of six local nightclubs that bear his name; the small Bellmore club opened in 1998.
Mr. Joseph, the black dancer, said the women know ''what they are getting that day'' by opting for the Men of Color show.
''There are all types of women,'' Mr. Joseph said, working to put a smile on their faces regardless of ethnicity. ''We aren't trying to be nasty or raunchy. The idea is to get into a woman's mind. A woman gets off mental. She doesn't get off physical.''
Mildred Casillas, 29, of Wyandanch brought her friend Gladys Jones to the show to celebrate Ms. Jones's 25th birthday.
''Men of color, that's my preference,'' said Ms. Casillas. ''We came for the entertainment.''
Ms. Jones, who is black, sat at a row of tables in front of the stage, jiggling with the music. Mr. Joseph hopped on the table, straddled her shoulders and hooked his ankles over the railing behind her, his pelvis thrusting in a frenzy of simulated sex.
''I like it like that,'' Ms. Jones sang out along with the canned music, tucking dollar bills into Mr. Joseph's G-string.
''It's good,'' she said afterward, mopping her brow. ''It doesn't matter if it's white men or men of color.''
Billy Dean's Showtime Cafe in Bellmore is a strip club that caters to the ethnic preferences of its clientele, a move that the owner says is solely a marketing tactic.