By Doug Smith
Ring, ring … “Hi, this is Midnight Mel, how can I help you?”
“I’d like you to come out to my house Saturday afternoon and show off for my wife.”
“About 2 p.m.”
“Yeah, I can handle that.” Click.
I never thought it would be that easy. And it wasn’t.
The occasion was Polly’s splash party for her ladies’ club. It’s something new in her life, the sorority she never had as a girl. They go to museums and tea rooms and theaters. They carouse and gossip. Now she was designated hostess for “Princess Polly’s Wet & Wild Pool Party.” I was specifically disinvited. No men allowed. “Go find a ballgame,” she said.
In 1995, the year of our 60th birthdays, Polly hired me a ’40s swing band; six months later I retaliated with a theater and an actress. We then vowed, “No more surprises.”
Still, 20 rowdy women in crimson hats and bathing suits, this demanded action, say like a visit from a handsome exotic dancer with easy-off wardrobe, unannounced. But to guard the secret, I needed a “go-between” to handle return calls.
I recruited our daughter, our own flesh and blood, to help procure a “hunk” for the woman who gave her birth. “I’ll do it, Dad,” she said, “but I’m not saying it’s a good idea.”
I probed the personals in that Alice’s Restaurant weekly where you can get anything you want. “Exotic Male Dancer, Low Rates.” I got a generic recording and left a message.
Minutes later our daughter called.
“Did you call a dancer?”
“Yeah, just now.”
“He called here. Guy named Ogden. Mostly, he giggled.”
Scratch Ogden. Next stop, the Internet.
A search for “Exotic Male Dancers Buffalo New York” turned up grinders far and wide, but Midnight Mel had a local number. He offered not only “clean, classy entertainment” for bridal showers and bachelorette parties, but also had a gorilla suit for children’s birthdays. Forget Thomas More, THIS was a man for all seasons.
Mel answered. He gave me one price and three options: “Boxers, briefs or thong.” He was all business, as if giving an estimate on siding. Like Lady MacBeth, I screwed my courage to the sticking point, made arrangements (“just the boxers”) and headed to the bank. He wanted cash.
The teller was a stunning brunette in a snug yellow blouse that challenged eye contact. After botching the withdrawal slip twice I stammered “Sorry. I just hired a stripper for my wife’s party.”
“No WAY,” she exclaimed. “Who’d you get?”
“Oh, wow, he’s terrific, very funny and never goes over the line.”
“There was another guy ... ”
“Yeah. My daughter said he giggled a lot.”
“He’s out of control. Forget Ogden. Good luck! Tell me how it went.”
As I left, I could hear her sharing this with fellow tellers. I’d gone to the withdrawal window and wound up baring my soul to the Niagara Frontier’s foremost authority on male exotics. I’m never using the ATM again.
Mel was very inventive. Having lost my directions, he e-mailed me. Polly intercepted it. “Some guy about baseball,” she said. “Wants to know where the game is.”
As party day neared, I had serious second thoughts. I knew these ladies only by name. Their leader once scolded Polly about an e-mail. I tested the waters with a playful remark about the throbbing pool jets. “They’re nice women,” Polly said. “Stop it!”
Dear heavens, what had I done?
“Dear Mel,” I e-mailed on P-Day morning. “My life is in your hands. Please remember that these are well-bred ladies from a different time, not 20-something bridesmaids. Be gentle.”
Then I went into ballpark exile, fidgeting like a long-tailed cat at the rocking-chair Olympics. He was due at 2. My cell phone rang at 2:43. Over a water-logged connection, women were screaming “Thank you, Doug!”
“The dancer wants money,” I thought Polly said.
“I said, ‘the dancer was funny,’” she clarified.
Bobbing in the shallow end, they had looked up to see a police uniform framed in the gateway. “Neighbors are complaining about the noise,” he said, “and you can’t park on the lawn.”
Polly bolted from the water boiling mad: “It’s my lawn, and it’s the middle of the afternoon!” Nonetheless, others were frisking their bodices for keys when he added: “And you are absolutely not allowed … to party WITHOUT A DANCER!”
Off came the shirt and the hat. Now the neighbors REALLY had cause for complaint. Even the buttoned-down leading lady joined in as her subjects danced with him, anointed him with lotion and then chased him into the street waving dollar bills to give him “privately.” One said, “My husband died eight years ago; I haven’t had this much fun since.”
Their only complaint: Mel religiously clung to his boxers. “Doug’s orders,” he told them. He later said it was a treat to work for 20 stone-sober women old enough to know better. Two had taken his business card. I didn’t ask where he kept it.
Against all odds I’d hired a guy with fall-away clothes for my wife and all her friends — and lived to tell the tale. Hope you enjoyed it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the bank.
Doug Smith of Grand Island, who changed some of the names in the above story to protect the not-so-innocent, is a longtime writer, editor and author in the Niagara region noted for his regular baseball column in this newspaper. He and his wife, Polly, who gained local fame as the “Cheap Gourmets,” will observe their 49th anniversary Friday. Readers can wish them well at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Doug Smith
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