Ha! Bet you weren’t expecting that. Shotgun Willie’s isn’t known for its, um, fresh produce.*

But it isn’t not known for food; beneath that giant pistol-topped sign

SWsign

is a marquee that often reads “Prime Rib $6.95,” which caught my eye not long after I arrived in Denver a year ago & got me to thinking it was high time I confront head-on a post-traumatic fear of strip clubs triggered by a bachelorette party in Oklahoma City in the early ’90s, where I saw women I could still picture on their Big Wheels stuffing dollar bills in the tie-dyed thong of a bubble-muscled meathead with a real live mullet—not the ironic gestures theretoward you see today but a frosted blonde business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back. I recall actual whooping & grinding with pumped fists, & then everything goes black.

So I just kept it in the back of my mind, until a recent piece on Chow.com titled “Strip Club Eats” named Shotgun Willie’s among the top 10 in the nation—singling out for special praise the cheese-stuffed, deep-fried, bacon-wrapped shrimp Fernando—& I was finally moved to act. Thus did the Director & I find ourselves admittedly somewhat shyly huddling in a back corner in a room like a pinball machine—all flashing neon &, uh, flippers & plungers & bonus plays—to catch the show, onstage & off.

While it’s true sociological insight can & does flash anywhere humans interact, there’s just something about a strip club that fosters heightened awareness & curiosity about the people around you, starting in our case with the fact that the Director had to be fingerprinted in order to start a tab—a preventative measure, our cocktail hostess explained, against customers who swear up & down to credit card company telereps, their wives standing dubiously by, that they’ve never set foot in the place. We watched dancers of all shapes & stripes &, judging by the head on the 1 in the Director’s illustration at bottom, planetary persuasions, leading us to theorize about the history of strip clubs from antiquity (King Herod’s palace being perhaps 1 of the more notoriously gruesome forerunners) onward through the civil rights era & the women’s rights era to modern-day iconization in pop culture via The Sopranos & Courvoisier-soaked hip-hop videos & pole-dancing classes at your local gym (but not, unfortunately, via the darkly brilliant, all-too-forgotten Cassavetes flick The Killing of a Chinese Bookie). We watched as patrons from various walks of life—wannabe thug, anonymous Joe, hyper-dapper gent—seemed indeed to assume the zigzag ways of pinballs, ricocheting between stages 1 moment, then slowing to a strangely quiet stop as something came over them, moments of faraway self-reflection, tallboys still in hand, bass thumping. (Of what was it I was thinking?, as Stevens so hauntingly overwords it in “Metaphors of a Magnifico.”) Then they’d resume zinging & dinging around. We tried to separate the regulars from the newcomers, the probable misogynists from the hopeless romantics. Shotgun Willie’s seems to draw more of the latter (maybe it’s that name, pretty Looney Tunes as innuendos go—pretty Yosemenite Sam. Heh), contributing to a surprising roomwide undercurrent of, on the 1 hand, respect for &, on the other, protectiveness toward the showgirls, nearly as palpable as the upper current of lust.

Granted, everything seems palpable after a few indifferent but enormous glasses of wine.

But even then, not everything seemed palatable. For obvious reasons I didn’t bring my camera, but as the below clearly shows, our fried mushrooms left a lot to be desired. They weren’t, mind you, actually leaking black sludge—not sure what the Director was going for there—but they were reeking of a recent thaw, clearly prefrozen in bulk.

SW1

The Director’s steak, by contrast, was well done, by which of course I mean not well done at all but medium-rare, which is really all you can ask for, other than for it to not sprout black hair. I assume that’s supposed to be sizzle. As for the next drawing,

SW2

I have confirmed that the figure to the left is not in fact a severely addled Bavarian beer maid but a gung-ho guy’s guy whose penchant for peasant blouses & minis are his business. To his right is a fine rendering of a salad, though not the 1 I had that night, which was pretty light on the lettuce & heavy, heavy, heavy on the grilled chicken & fried onions, cheddar & avocado, black beans & barbecue sauce. So, you know, (y)um.

* Kids’ Korner: How now! There are approximately a dozen double entendres sprinkled throughout this post—some marked by pregnant pauses, or rhetorical devices used to express hesitation for comic effect, some not. Can you find them all?