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The Reluctant Adventurer: Casa Diablo, the vegan strip club

Sunday, September 07, 2014


Here’s a thing that happens sometimes: a woman digs a dude, and he asks her to do something she probably wouldn’t otherwise do, and she chooses to do it in order to appear “easygoing,” or “fun-loving” or “not a total buzzkill.”

That wasn’t the whole reason I went to Casa Diablo, Portland’s (and the world’s) only vegan strip club, but it was part of it. The other part was that I needed to write about it. Oh, and also, like everyone who likes things that are soft and pretty, I enjoy boobs.

A friend of mine, let’s call him “Dave” because that’s his name, needed to entertain his uncle for a night, and wanted some company. Dave and I had been flirting for about a year, but nothing ever came of it.

That didn’t stop me from thinking, every time, “Maybe THIS time we’ll end up making out in a coat closet somewhere.” 

I don’t know why the coat closet factored in, it just did.

Just to be clear, I’ve been to, and enjoyed, strip clubs in the past. I believe that what many of these women do on the pole is unquestionably an art form and should be considered as an addition to Olympic sporting competitions. Their athleticism and muscle control is definitely Olympic-caliber and I would think that with the addition of a pole dancing competition, attendance at Olympic events would skyrocket.

Get on it, Olympic committee. Jesus.

 Entering the Club

Upon entering the club, we were offered the opportunity to see the breasts of the ticket-taker for a nominal additional fee.

Why yes, door lady! I would like the whole experience!

So I paid the additional fee, but was disappointed when I learned that that only gave me access to one breast, which she pulled out unceremoniously for me.

Well, all right. I thanked her for her one-nipple salute and entered. 

The last time I visited the building Casa Diablo is housed in, it was a pirate-themed vegan restaurant. It looks a little different now. It’s appropriately dark, with booths lining one wall and a rack (that’s the term for the seats directly in front of the stage) in the center of the space that extended for almost the full length of the club. There were three poles, so you could choose your dancer on any given song. 

If you want to sit at the rack, you have to put a $2 bill in front of you no matter what, so we went to get our stack from one of the bartenders, all of whom are topless. In the same way I find Halloween disconcerting in some instances (is it fun or appalling that my urgent-care nurse has a witch’s nose right now?), it’s strange to have a topless woman doing things like making change and flipping a cocktail shaker. 

Like the old Playgirl centerfolds where we just weirdly caught the guys fishing or fixing an old Chevy, it’s supposed to be sexy just because they were naked, but for me, sex acts are sexy. Typing my drink order in the register, less so. 

But that’s just me – let me be clear: every one of the women in Casa Diablo, to a person, was beautiful. The majority of them are in the Suicide Girl vein – gorgeous, artistic tattoos and Betty Paige haircuts, and perfectly toned, healthy bodies.

Which I now feel like I have to apologize for saying.

As a feminist, my relationship to porn and strip clubs is an uncomfortable one. I believe strongly that women should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies, and if we lived in a culture that respected them for doing so, it wouldn’t be a problem.

But because they’re so clearly judged by the majority of the population for what they do, the power dynamic that SHOULD tip in the dancers’ favor, tips clearly the other way. (Imagine if aliens landed on earth and the only place they went was a strip club. They would return to their planet under the impression that women are worshipped here, with men struck dumb, drooling and unable to touch them, throwing currency at them for simply moving around in their presence.) 

So I went in to the experience torn. 

The Experience

Dave and I sat down at the front end of the rack and put our $2 on the table. The first dancer came out in a bra and underwear, as they are wont to do, and was less enthused about dancing as she was about doing UNBELIEVABLY AWESOME ACROBATIC STUFF ON THE POLE. That thing they do where they scissor their legs around the pole and hang there, their bodies perfectly straight and perpendicular to the pole, spinning around it? This is where I think those who are able to would imagine what it would be like to BE that pole and have that much power wrapped around you.

It seems a little terrifying, actually. 

I mention this ability to imagine because this is where I fall short with strip clubs, and it seems to run in my family. My brother once mentioned a trip to Mexico wherein a friend of his wanted to visit a prostitute, and my brother agreed, but in the end, couldn’t go through with it.

“I couldn’t suspend my disbelief,” he said. I was running into the same problem.

Because when the next dancer, now completely naked, came to sit at the edge of the rack in front of me, her legs dangling on either side of me, her hands exploring my body, all I could feel was awkward. 

“Cute outfit,” she said sweetly, her breasts three inches from my face. 

“Thanks?” I replied, thinking I should return the compliment. Cute vagina?

I decided not to say anything and just smiled, looking over at Dave and “laughing.” (“Ohmygod, could I be more fun or easygoing? NO!”) In retrospect, it probably looked more like a grimace.

Then, suddenly, she was grinding on my lap, with her hands running through my hair and my face between her breasts.  All I could think was, “I just washed this skirt.”

I know.

Last Thoughts

Let me be clear once again – I generally enjoy having naked genitals grinding on me, but it’s usually prefaced by some drinks and conversation and a general feel for someone’s political affiliation. 

So it was a strange night for me, but not because the experience at Casa Diablo was sub-par. In fact, for the seasoned strip-club-goer, the Casa Diablo experience goes beyond expectations – the dancers clearly take great pride in their pole work and oftentimes offer up some spirited girl-on-girl action that would be totally believable if they weren’t on a stage being paid and I could loosen up, for crying out loud. 

I would definitely take an out-of-towner who’s a strip club aficionado to Casa Diablo; just don’t sit at the rack if you’re not comfortable with coming into very close proximity to stranger genitalia.

Also, if at all possible, don’t be me.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Strip club veterans who like Suicide-girl-style dancers, line-crossing, impressive pole work and thin, golden fries that are crispy on the outside and piping hot on the inside (sorry, didn’t say much about the food. It’s decent.)

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: People who have trouble suspending their disbelief, those uncomfortable with the objectification of women, carnivores.

Details: Casa Diablo,2839 NW St Helens Rd, Portland, OR 97210. Phone (503) 222-6600. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m.

Courtenay Hameister

Courtenay is the Head Writer and Co-Producer of Live Wire Radio, a syndicated radio variety show distributed by Public Radio International. She is currently working on a book that will be released through Audible.com in 2015. Follow Courtenay on Twitter at @wisenheimer

(All images taken from a promotional video for Casa Diablo)


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