Last Bastion for Bad Boys
by Jack Corbett

Washington Park's Jewel Box before becoming Deja Vu

With its chain of 55 clubs Dejaís Vuís success is undeniable.

Recently the Deja Vu club in Springfield, Illinois bought the Jewel Box in the St Louis Metro East, renovated the inside of this already glamorous club, and embarked on a massive advertising campaign.

Meanwhile top managers from the Springfield team relocated to the St Louis Metro East to get the new Deja Vu club into hyper gear. The general opinion out here is that in the anything goes adult scene of the Saint Louis Metro East the Deja Vu recipe for success would meet its Waterloo.

Compared to most adult clubs in the United States Deja Vu is all about complete nudity. Many non Deja Vu clubs are primarily drinking establishments where dancers ply their trade Much of these clubís profits come from alcohol sales. In most of the Indiana clubs dancers are compelled to wear pasties and nudity is not an option. Out of 55 Deja Vu clubs nationwide approximately 49 are juice bars. However, full nudity, is the norm. So if given the choice between offering full nudity or being allowed to serve alcohol because of "Mothers for a More Boring Nation" dominated state legislatures and city councils that will not allow nude dancing where alcohol is sold, Deja Vu usually opts for full nudity.

Take a look at "Showgirls" Deja Vuís homegrown magazine. Its pages are full of fully nude pictures as risque as anything found in Penthouse or Hustler Magazine. So is its web site which has a fully nude members only section. This magazine also has a Legal Briefs section as well as articles that focus upon the latest litigation affecting our rights to freedom of expression including sexual expression.

Deja Vu has been wildly successful at parlaying mensí obsessions with fully naked beautiful women into a very profitable chain of strip clubs located primarily in cities that do not allow alcohol sales to coincide with fully nude dancing. However Deja Vu has been criticized for fostering an atmosphere that is not conducive to dancers and their customers getting to genuinely know each other because of quotas many of its clubs impose on the girls for the number of soft drinks and private dances they can push on their patrons. Which is the major reason why the local feeling is Deja Vu would fall flat on its face in the St Louis Metro East club scene where the drink of choice for dancers is straight tequila and where close relationships often develop between the girls and their customers. So I set out to do my own investigation which meant meeting with the new Deja Vuís top manager along with the top managers in charge of the areaís upper scale clubs that I viewed as Deja Vuís primary competition.

"Here we have the best of both worlds", said Mike Parker, top manager at the new St. Louis Metro East Deja Vu. "We can do well off our alcohol sales because the Metro East clubs are allowed to sell alcohol and have completely nude dancing." I salivated at the prospect of having my cake and eat it too as I relished the thought of having some of the prettiest women in the area getting tanked with me at Deja Vu.

"Mike, I heard certain clubs being criticized for not fostering maximum dancerĖcustomer interaction."

"Here we donít pressure the girls," said Mike. Itís entirely up to them who they want to spend their time with and how much. In fact we are presently utilizing only one of our two stages which gives our entertainers more free time to be spend with the customers," Mike added. "This also makes them really want to be at their best," he assured me, "since everyoneís attention is focused upon that one stage and the girl whoís up there."

"You are entering a tough market, Mike. You have PTís which is well established and the Platinum club which is a well managed operation not to mention a number of smaller clubs in the area. How do you plan on competing?"

"The one thing we think we do better than any other club organization is to offer men pure entertainment," said Mike Parker. "Most clubs just turn on the music, start pouring the alcohol, and let the girls hit on their customers. We have a whole series of events such as regularly featured entertainers, our amateur night competitions with cash prizes and our "Showgirl of the Year" competition to be held here at the our new Metro East Deja Vu with $10,000 in cash money and a featured layout in "Showgirl Magazine" going to the winner.

With 28 ounce macho mugs at $2.00 apiece on Tuesdays at Deja Vu does Jack Corbett need a neighborhood tavern when he has a place so close by with beautiful women around him? Several nights later sitting at the bar in the Platinum Club, I thought about what Mike had said about the new Deja Vu offering entertainment better than any other club in the area could. Over the years the Platinum club had gotten to be one of my favorites out of all the clubs. The clubís whole atmosphere was about letter perfect with the music at just the right volume level, and the main bar being smack right in the middle of the room which promoted maximum social interaction between customers and dancers. The illusion was of the whole place being in the round although it really wasnít. I was being entertained by my beer and watching the kaleidoscope of light activity along the mirrors all around me in a 360 degree arc of blinking lights. Just ahead of me was a twenty-foot tall pillar stretching up high to the ceiling this pillar adorned with strings of little blue lights as it jutted skyward to meet up with four other strings of lights traversing the ceiling above me like an obelisk built to deify the goddess of stripdom.

Upstairs thereís a full 360 degree balcony where the DJ sits in his perch high above the crowd. Every tune he plays has got it. Iíd leave but I like the DJís music too much. There is a glassed in VIP room with its own bar on that balcony with a magnificent view of the main bar and stages below. Thereís the little hot tub alcove which has three little tables around the hot tub each table having a bush on top of it with little blue Christmas tree like lights around it. Then thereís all those lights upstairs. A genius put those in since they create a fantastical vision of Christmas on a warm summer nightís beneath the stars.

That genius is Frank Marcella, the clubís General manager who started managing the club over ten years ago. The manís the epitome of competence. "What do you think about Deja Vuís claim that it offers entertainment better than any club in this area?" I asked Frank.

"I wish them all the luck in the world. Thereís plenty of room here for all of us. Here we want our girls to take their time with the customers. Weíd like them to spend an hour or two with them and make feel important. But itís really up to the girls to make their own decisions on who they want to spend their time with."

At the Platinum Club a man can eat as he watches his favorite entertainer. Like the new Deja Vu the Platinum Club schedules features although not as often. Whereas Deja Vu tends to showcase the biggest names in the industry, the Platinum Club might gamble on lesser established up and coming features. However, it must be kept in mind that the sex stars of the future are the young, hard working, hungry features who have simply not been around long enough to have won widespread acclaim in the adult entertainment press.

My last stop in assessing Deja Vuís competition in the St Louis Metro East is PTís where Iím meeting with corporate director, Mike Ocello. PTís has four clubs throughout the St Louis Metro East, another in Indianapolis, three in Denver, one in San Antonio, one in Memphis, and one in Louisville. For twenty-seven years PTís has enjoyed a well deserved reputation for excellence, but although all eleven clubs are owned by PTís corporation, not all of them bear the PTís name. Here in the St Louis Metro East the PTís clubsí parking lots are often full. Each Metro East PTís club strives for a different segment of the market. For instance, Roxyís over in Brooklyn attracts a fairly young crowd and tends to get a bit boisterous, particularly at night. Diamond Cabaret which is generally regarded as the elite of the elite for the Metro East clubs has a much quieter atmosphere that is targeted at well heeled businessmen. It has an outstanding lunch and dinner menu that is on a par with some of the finest restaurants in the St Louis area. PTís over in Centreville is renowned for its Saturday night couples gatherings billed on the PTís web site as: "These are the nights every swinging couple waits for."

Like Deja Vu, PTís can claim its share of special events such as the Saturday night Couples activities at the Centreville Club, hot tub parties and topless car washes. I asked Mike Ocello what the PTís philosophy was to differentiate it from Deja Vuís concept of a club offering pure entertainment.

"Face itóitís the allure of naked women that gets men to come into these clubs," Mike explained. "But if thatís all itís about we are going to lose them after they come in here once or twice. Naked women is just the lure. What itís really all about is human interaction. Todayís American society is so cold. Our clubs offer a safe haven where a man can sit down and relax with a pretty woman and not risk having his ego crushed. Providing the opportunity to have fun is our clubsí paramount concern.

Mike had a look in his eyes that reminds one of a man whoís got religion in his soul. Sparkling with good humor there was something more----a look that said hereís a man who believes in what he is doing. That everything Iím accomplishing and the organization Iím part of is good for humanity. Mike continued: "What itís about is making a man feel good. Giving him a good evening that he will remember and making him feel good about himself." I couldnít agree with Mike Ocello more. It is, after all, the unique ambience of the clubs coupled with high energy fun that is ever changing in its countless forms that keeps me coming back. No other bar or night club can match them and you can take that to the bank.

Which brings us back to Deja Vu again. Mike Parker, the manager at the Jewel Box, claims it can provide better entertainment than the other clubs in the area. Yet I had been compelled to remain longer at the Platinum Club than I had intended because of the clubís music. Frank had told me that it was the clubís policy to encourage dancers to get to know their customers better than your average club in the area. Although Deja Vu has numerous features on its calendar, Platinum and PTís also have features. The PTís organization has been scheduling special events that keep its customers coming back while it seeks to provide a safe haven for men that bolsters their egos.

Okay....so thatís the story behind the business philosophies of Deja Vu and its competition. The allure of naked women, the magnet that gets men into the PTís club, who keep coming back because of the social aspects of the club experience is more than just a lure at Deja Vu. Itís not just the means to the end but possibly the end to itself. Whether it actually is or not unquestionably, Deja Vuís been wildly successful at following its recipe for success. Whether the new St Louis Metro East Deja Vu can compete successfully is another story.

To succeed Deja Vu must either make inroads on other clubsí business or convince potential customers of giving up other entertainment options for a trip to its club or both. With its heavy advertising on radio and the printed media and its special promotions Deja Vu is as expected going about things in a big way. Since the St Louis Metro East offers the Deja Vu chain the unique opportunity to offer full nudity and alcohol, thus getting the best of both worlds its investment in the Jewel Box should prove to be a profitable one. When I asked Deja Vuís Mike Parker how he liked the area, he grinned and said: "Itís truly the Last Bastion for Bad Boys. A man can go to the Missouri side and watch a hockey, football game or go to a top level concert, then in less than fifteen minutes he can be back here in the Metro East gambling, hanging out in strip clubs until 6 a.m., or staying out all night at other types of bars like Pops" (which stays open twenty-four hours a day). This authorís verdict is that Deja Vu will only add to the widespread choices the area offers. It should garner increased business from both the St Louis side as well as other states while actually increasing the traffic into the so called competing clubs since it will enhance both the size and attractiveness of the Adult Entertainment Magnet by bringing old customers back to all the clubs while it at the same time creates new customers through the sheer scale of its advertising and featured events. After all, the need is there that the product (strip clubs) satisfies like nothing else can. As PTís director, Mike Ocello, so eloquently put it: "What itís really all about is human interaction. People in this country are so cold today. Our clubs offer a safe haven where a man can sit down and relax with a pretty woman and not risk having his ego crushed. What we offer more than any other single thing, is fun." When I left him, I knew he had brilliantly encapsulated the essence of what clubs should be all about.

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