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Making the Connection

The defining moment came on a Tuesday night at The Quarter. Clusters of men and women milled about and intermingled casually, but the night was young.

A stunning, raven-haired woman named Jill explained that she and her friends hang out in bars "to get out of the house, regroup, find interesting people." Pretty much the same reasons anyone does anything. "We do want to meet some substantial people," she continued, "but we don't go home with strange men."

No one goes out specifically to get laid, or so it seems. We asked, and apparently all the people crowding into Dallas-area bars just desire a good old-fashioned thoughtful conversation.

Of course, there's a caveat. As Troy Cannon, a bartender at Eight Lounge points out, "When girls start feeling safe and secure, they start getting uninhibited."

Ah, yes. So many of those good old-fashioned talks devolve into breast-flashing, crotch-grabbing, lurid-dancing free-for-alls. All men contribute to the discussion are lame pickup lines and more drinks, throwing money around with an ease that would send our editor into one of those fits where beads of sweat pop up on his forehead.

We see it every week when we turn in our expense reports.

Yep. Singles expose bare flesh, lay down wads of credit and stagger home in shame the next morning, just to "meet" people and get to "know" them. So where are the best places to accomplish all of this?

Well, the place of the moment is Lush, a sensuous lounge/dance club/extravaganza on Lowest Greenville. "It's sexy," a woman drinking at the bar told us. "The lighting, the curtains, the effects--it's a very sexy atmosphere." A jam-packed, elbow-bumping atmosphere as well. When we pulled up at 10:40 on a Saturday night, a veritable mob milled about outside, hoping for an opportunity to enter. Inside, we watched a 20-something Uptown type bounce from woman to woman in a clearly sincere attempt to meet and converse. A couple of times he approached a target, failed and turned immediately to her friend.

"Guys live their lives on nine out of 10," says Adam Salazar, bartender at Republic and Sneaky Pete's.

It's a numbers game, in other words, a nondiscriminatory process in which guys sling out lines in every direction, hoping that one woman will take the bait. Sorta like when Republicans appeal to minority voters. But, Salazar warns, that method has little chance of success in a more sophisticated, less crowded setting. "A lot of little things have to happen: comfort level, lighting, consumption of alcohol and timing."

"The pickup lines and all that, they're not necessary here," agrees Phil Natale, bartender at Sense.

Ah, Sense. It's a great bar featuring comfortable surroundings, dim lighting and aggressive women. We've been grabbed, prodded and lubed at Sense--and all without buying anyone a drink. Yet the place is more convivial than rowdy. "People come to talk, to have a good time," Natale says. "To define our guests or our vibe is difficult." We attribute Sense's success as a pickup bar to its status as a members-only club, which weeds out the numbers players and the desperate types. Women feel safe and...well, you know.

"And also," Natale points out, "it doesn't hurt that, even if you're unsuccessful, you'll have a good time."

If not Sense, hang out at Dragonfly in the Hotel ZaZa. Normally, we drink at the bar. But the presence there of a woman...um...whom we perhaps may have slightly offended one night caused us to opt for a table.

We used our editor's name that evening, so we're pretty safe.

From our table, out of the line of fire, we watched as women entered the room in pairs, eyeballed the crowd and sidled in the direction of the most likely clusters, indoors or out. Again, in a more upscale and relaxed space, women become more assertive. Female inebriates sometimes splash in the pool, for instance.

"If you can't get laid at ZaZa," Salazar contends, "you're doing something wrong."

Spike in Mockingbird Station is another comfortable place, frequented by SMU kids and young professionals, with a smattering of 40-year-olds. Management removed a couch from the premises after several slobbering couples found it convenient for a little public display. "Kissing and everything is fine," says owner Ben Dai, "but that dry humping thing..." When staff members catch people in the act, they refer to it as a "Code 69," by the way.

Yet the elbow-to-elbow places still work if you're looking to, you know, meet someone for a little friendly conversation--on a couch, perhaps, or in a dark corner. Bartenders at Eight Lounge caught a woman stripping down in the VIP area. Reports from other bars include acts of penetration.

"With the darkness, probably everybody's doing shit they shouldn't," says Chris Moler, bartender at Candle Room.

Candle Room is the prototype of an upscale meat market. No one really arrives until 11 p.m. It's dimly lit, but elegant. At Eight Lounge, men often stake out spots facing the door, well in advance of the first female customers. Yet the bar caters to women, with glass ashtrays, a brushed stainless steel bar surface and Cantoni furniture. On the other end of the spectrum, Duke's in Addison exists as part biker bar, part sleaze pit, part beer joint and part destination. And it all seems to work. Farther north, Carson's combines volume, desperation and tackiness. And then there's Memphis, a perennial hot spot.

Options vary depending on the night as well. On Tuesdays, for instance, cheap margaritas at Primo's fuel the midweek fun in Uptown, and people spill from there to The Quarter and eventually over to Republic. The Dralion--or rather, Drae Lounge at The Dralion--is building Tuesday potential, although the men on our visit showed signs of desperation, with shoulders squared toward the door, heads glancing.

One incident to report from Dralion: A member of the Burning Question crew accidentally drank a red apple martini and grew breasts.

Kismet has become a pickup haven on Tuesdays, thanks to a dinner special next door. Women dine on $2 tapas, wander over to the bar to continue the evening and burst into spontaneous PG-13 dancing. "It's the perfect break in the week," says Dierdre, a regular.

One downside, says Shelly, also knocking back drinks at Kismet, "The guys here are lame. They're easy to fuck with."

Wednesday is a difficult day for perversion. Give Zubar a shot.

Thursdays belong to Cool River in Las Colinas. The "ladies night" crowd pulls in at 6 p.m., offering one of the few opportunities to take care of business before Seinfeld reruns come on. If sitcoms don't do it for you, Nikita plays soft porn on its monitors Sunday evenings. Don't overlook Slip Inn, where a couple once flipped over a table to hide their carnal activities--although bartenders tossed them out before they could complete the deed. Or Javier's, Sneaky Pete's and the Barley House. Seven reopens at the end of August to bring back some overnight action. And for those with the stamina--meaning people under 30--insomnia parties at The Clubhouse are a last-ditch option.

For those over 30? Well, as Jill explained that fateful night at The Quarter, "Once a woman hits 30, she has a vibrator. She doesn't need to get laid."

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