Stripper pole

Atlantic City has often been referred to as “America’s Playground,” but realistically speaking, this is a playground that caters exclusively to adults.

Oh sure there have been a few half-hearted attempts to dress it up as “kid friendly” — does anyone remember “TropWorld?” But like a zebra whose stripes run right down to its skin, Atlantic City is what it is. This is a city where vices take center stage, where you won’t be looked down upon for ordering another round of shots at 3 a.m., a town in which even the grand, sparkling majesty of the Atlantic Ocean somehow plays second fiddle to the manufactured paradise that is the casinos.

In this land of slot machines and Boardwalk empires, all forms of sin seem to be not only tolerated, but celebrated.

Except for strip clubs.

They have been here for as long as anyone can remember, but somehow even in a town that relishes being a bit naughty, they still seem to be swept under the rug, rarely covered by the media in any positive sense, and often simply ignored outright. It seems that many would like to pretend these clubs simply did not exist in the first place. But why?

We couldn’t come up with a good answer on our own, so in hopes of getting a better grasp on the situation we headed out to several popular strip clubs in the area, comparing, contrasting and observing to try and get an idea of exactly what everyone is so hush-hush about. Could sex still be this much of a taboo in America?

All dolled up

“It’s not just frowned upon in Atlantic City, it’s everywhere,” says Coby Frier, owner of A.C. Dolls, the popular strip club that sits boldly on New York Avenue. “But it’s really just another form of entertainment, and it goes hand in hand with gambling and having a good time.”

Frier’s club is one of the few that has received a bit of positive recognition, last year it took home an A.C. Weekly Nightlife Award for “Best Strip Club” back when it was under its former name Strip Search.

Hanging with No. 1

Despite the chilly response some have to this form of business, most of the clubs are doing just fine financially.

“We are only open three days a week because we only need to be open three days a week,” says Gary Bozzini, general manager at Stiletto/Lace, a double- sided club just off the boardwalk. Lace has go-go dancers and even a Friday night male revue that runs until 11 p.m. Stiletto is a fully nude, BYOB gentleman’s club. Each are part of a large, regional chain of clubs, but on this particular night we only visited Stiletto.

Bozzini may look imposing to some with his broad shoulders and no-nonsense air about him, but in truth, he is the ultimate host. He greets us with a warm smile and leads us into his club which has a noticeable air of —dare we say it — class.

“You could eat off my floors,” he says, gesturing to the spotlessly vacuumed carpet below. And he’s right, the place is immaculate, with a large runway-style stage that has a revolving door of dancers, each featured one at a time.

“These girls come from everywhere, from all walks of life,” Bozzini says, pointing to a statuesque blond who is getting ready to take the stage. “See that girl there? She’s a marathon runner. She’s competed in New York, Boston … a lot of the stereotypes of the girls all being junkies is just not true. In fact none of our girls is allowed to even get on stage if they seem at all inebriated.”

One thing to note about Stiletto is that while the girls are friendly, for the most part they don’t badger you for lap dances. This is a huge plus and makes for an all-around better experience.

Of course if you do want a lap dance they are here for the taking. And not just from the dancers. According to Bozzini even the waitresses will be happy to take you into one of the many private areas for a little one-on-one time. That’s a unique feature for any club.

“We are the number one strip club on the East Coast!” Bozzini says with confidence.

He may be right.

The family that strips together, stays together

If Stiletto represents the large, cookie-cutter chain-style strip club, then you can think of its main competitor Bare Exposure as a mom-and-pop version of the same thing. That’s not just clever wordplay either.

Believe it or not, Bare Exposure is actually a family-run strip club. Husband and wife team of Tony and Carrie Ariemma have been steering the ship here for 21 years. Recently their grown children have joined the business as well. A family environment at an all-nude gentlemen’s club? Apparently, yes.

“We treat our girls like family, too. We have girls that have been here 20 years and they love us. We really take care of them,” Carrie Ariemma says.

It’s believable, too, as both members of this couple are friendly and hospitable, and each take an incredible amount of pride in their business.

As far as the club itself goes, the key to remember about Bare Exposure is that it is more than meets the eye. What initially appears to be one large room actually snakes around through a labyrinth of VIP areas, elevated stages, private rooms — some with fireplaces of all things — and even an outdoor alleyway that serves as a lounge/passageway to the bar Bullshots, which is also owned by the Ariemmas. Since it’s BYOB at Bare Exposure, Bullshots makes getting drinks a cinch.

The girls here play like a nude version of a trip to the United Nations, and in that sense, you can feel confident that there will be one to your liking should you make the trip. Although they do at times swarm you a bit, each is friendly and none we met came with any of the nasty attitude that often goes hand in hand with your less pleasant pole dancers. If you should desire a lap dance, they can be had for the reasonable price of $30.

An actual decent bit of conversation can be found here with these gals and the gentlemen, or at least one that spans beyond the traditional chorus of “come on, baby, let’s go for a private dance” that can be found repeated endlessly by the talent at some clubs.

And while it may be an uphill battle to try and earn respect as a strip club, indeed there is one group that has come around to the idea as of late — women.

“Back in the day if a woman walked into the club it was shocking. A lot of clubs didn’t even allow it. Now we literally have bachelorette parties coming in in big groups,” Tony Ariemma says.

And if groups of women can find something to like about it, can the moral powers that be in Atlantic City be far behind? Perhaps they are already there, quietly approving after all.

“This country is just very uptight,” Tony Ariemma says, adding. “They all love coming here, they just don’t want it in their town.”

Centerfolds sexes up P’ville

A few miles outside of the glitz of the lights of Atlantic City sits one of only two bars in all of Pleasantville. It’s called Centerfolds, and it just happens to have go-go dancers on stage, but besides that, it’s no different than any other bar you might pop into on any given night.

“It’s more comfortable here,” says William Sanchez, general manager of Centerfolds. “You can sit down at the bar, watch the girls, have a cocktail and relax.”

He is right about that, the bar here is a laid-back scene. The bartenders are as friendly as they come and are more than happy to go back and forth with you joke for joke. A real asset.

It’s interesting to note the difference between a club where the dancers remain clothed such as Centerfolds, as opposed to the others that we visited where nudity is the name of the game.

At a non-nude club they seem to do well based on the illusion that the girls are “gettable.” In a sense it feels like you are just talking to a girl in a bar, albeit one with an incredibly skimpy outfit on, but it’s clothing nonetheless.

Of course this is all a fantasy, because as is the case in any strip club, the interest any dancer has in their customer begins and ends at his wallet. The trick on the girl’s end is making it seem like the encounter is a genuine one.

Casting that spell is not always easy, but if a girl can pull it off for many of the men here, that seems good enough.

BARE EXPOSURE

WHEN: Open 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily

WHERE: 2303 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City

HOW MUCH: $25 Cover charge;

$30 lap dances

CONTACT: 609-449-0999 or go to

BareExposureAC.com

MORE INFO: BYOB, full nude.

STILETTO AC/LACE

WHEN: Open 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays

WHERE: 185 S. South Carolina Ave., Atlantic City

HOW MUCH: $25 cover charge

CONTACT: 609-437-0797,

StilettoAC.com

MORE INFO: BYOB (on Stiletto side); full bar (on Lace side); full nude on Stiletto side

A.C. DOLLS

WHEN: Open 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays

WHERE: 137 S. New York Ave., Atlantic City

HOW MUCH: Cover charge varies; lap dances $35

CONTACT: 609-345-2236

MORE INFO: BYOB, full nude

CENTERFOLDS CABERET

WHEN: Open noon to 3 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays; noon to 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays

WHERE: 201 E. Delilah Road, Pleasantville

HOW MUCH: $20 cover, lap dances vary.

CONTACT: 609-383-0666 or go to

CenterfoldsAC.com

MORE INFO: Full bar, go-go dancers

DELILAH’S DEN

WHEN: 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Sunday through Thursdays; 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays

WHERE: 2405 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City

HOW MUCH: Cover varies

CONTACT: 609-344-5000 or go to

DelilahsAC.com

MORE INFO: Full bar, go-go dancers.

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