By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Kayla looks surprised and a little shaken, but maintains a professional demeanor.
Then Ray Hill walks onstage and stands in front of the celebrities. He's wearing a paper red-white-and-blue top hat. Photographers and camera crews bob and weave at the foot of the stage. I had been warned by some in Houston that Hill was a spotlight hog, but his speech was brief and contained few references to his own colorful past as Supreme Court victor and local talk-radio gadfly.
"I'm here to protect your right to have a good fuckin' time," Hill announces with gusto. The hoots and foot-stomping soon die down.
"The do-gooders are smoking the wrong stuff," Hill continues. "They talk about protecting the children. I don't see any children in this room. No kindergartners snuck in here."
"Shake the titties!" screams a young Latino with a shaved head and goatee. Since Ray Hill looks like a padded A at best, I'm assuming the gentleman has directed his comment to the women behind Hill, who stand with frozen smiles.
"I want the world to know we're not ashamed of being adults!" Hill says. "And we don't want other people making our decision for us. We've got voter registration cards here for anyone who isn't already registered, and we encourage you to fill one out."
"I vote for titties!" the young Latino hollers at Mr. Hill.
In 15 minutes' time, Hill and his celebrity supporters are off the stage. Some of the performers sit behind a table to sign ALF programs and glossy photos; others take to the dressing room or to the V.I.P. room upstairs to wait for Kayla Kleevage and A.J. Crowell to summon them for individual performances.
As the evening rolls toward midnight, I notice that some of the dancers--XTC's house girls, not its invited superstars--will, for a handsome tip, shake their bottoms in private dances for seated audience members. They mimic the phenomenon known as lap-dancing, but close inspection reveals that they never touch their audiences of one. There's always at least an inch between her body and his lap.
The tippers have been emphatically instructed to keep their hands off. As an extra incentive, beefy, pissed-off-looking XTC employees keep watch just a few feet away.
One young man with black hair and glasses stares serenely as a young naked woman shakes her hips in his face. He appears to be in a stupor.
He sits hard and motionless in his seat like it's about to be ejected through the roof of XTC, his arms planted firmly on the rests. In one hand is a half-finished beer, in another, a dog-eared voter registration card. I try to peer over him and see if the card has been filled out, but I can't see though the cigarette smoke and flashing lights.
The dancer finishes her mini-performance with a thrust of her round bottom aimed squarely at his face. The only sign that he's even registered this flourish: The wrinkled voter registration card becomes a small, crumpled ball in his fist.