What makes our city so, well...Portland?

Is it our award-winning roses? The fact we design the best running shoes in the world? Or is it because we have more brewpubs than Milwaukee? Probably not.

Take one look at the number of jack shacks, escort services, dirty bookstores, sex clubs and stripper bars featured on everything from matchbook covers to Willamette Week's own website (wweek.com). If you didn't know better, you'd think we were addicted to our base desires. Which, like it or not, we probably are.

That's why, during the most commercially love-obsessed time of the year, we thought it was high time we got to know some of the local folks who make carnal pleasures their business—or want to make it their business.

We contacted a cross-section of people in Portland's version of "the industry": everyone from a "regular" guy who owns his own sex machine (and claims to have "serviced" at least 75 women with it) and a male stripper wannabe who doesn't have quite the right stuff to make it on the stage of one of Stark Street's busiest queer bars to a trio of Portland's most down-to-earth "ladies of the night." And, oh yeah, one "john."

If you're able to get past all your own hangups about who-does-what-with-whom-and-why, the following profiles provide a revealing peek into Portland's real XXX files. —Byron Beck

Machines of Loving Grace

Is the future of the adult industry sitting in your neighbor's basement?

In the basement of a ranch-style house not far from North Interstate's MAX Line, four feet from a work bench littered with screwdrivers, glass jars filled with nails and an enormous can of lube, sits a 50-pound, $2,500 machine that was designed, built and sold to have sex with women. It's called the "Thrillhammer."

"After I saw three women get off like a rocket at Cape Canaveral, I thought, 'Cool...I can afford that,'" says Randy, a 55-year-old ex-machinist and bondage lover. He flips a switch and the machine, in essence a souped-up, pump-action vibrator on steroids, lurches into action.

Now all he needs is somebody who wants to go for a ride.

While the fever dream of a "sex machine" is hardly new among BattleBots television-show aficionados and James Brown fans, to most people the idea of a collection of metal parts, pistons and rubber that can bring a woman to orgasm countless crazy-making times still sounds like something out of a porn version of Blade Runner. But since the late '90s, sex machines have actually become a real, live adult-business proposition. And one of the small hotbeds of sex-machine ingenuity and use? Portland, Ore., the town some say—in terms of sexual freedom—is the San Francisco of the new millennium. It's a city where men like Randy shell out big bucks for the ultimate home entertainment system and women, like Theresa "Darklady" Reed, throw parties featuring the metal monsters as interactive parlor games. According to Adult Video News, Sex Machines 8, a $20 video produced by Portland's own Homegrown Video, is the 35th-most rented Pro Amateur adult title in the nation, a category that includes more than 600 videos.

It's not just us: Suburban home tinkerers across the United States are creating toys with names like "Monkey Rocker," "Ultimate Ride" and the less euphemistic "Fuck Rogers" in their garages. Entrepreneurs like Seattle-based inventor Allen Stein, who built Randy's Thrillhammer, sell "luxury" retail and custom machines online to busy businesswomen. Since 2000, thousands of individuals paying $29.90 a month have logged on to Cybernet Entertainment's fuckingmachines.com to eyeball a hardcore library of more than 160 graphic hours of women exploring this final sexual frontier in iconic porn settings like barns, dungeons and the bathtub.

Now, the trend is poised to penetrate the mainstream consciousness. Powell's is currently displaying stills from photographer Timothy Archibald's startlingly charming new book, Sex Machines. The book pokes fun at this geeky-kinky lot, but it also does them the honor of presenting their lives in their own words. Shockingly suburban images, like a sunny, cluttered kitchen with an electric sex machine crafted from old pasta-maker parts sitting on its linoleum floor, often speak louder than the interviews themselves.

Archibald spoke at Powell's Tuesday night, offering a slideshow of the everyday people he interviewed and photographed on a two-year road trip through this small sexual subculture—including Portlanders. On his City of Roses pit stop, he photographed Ruiin, a 20-something goth rocker who posted pictures of his machine-in-progress, the "Holy Fuck" (ungodly marriage between a small Halloween-style wooden casket and a dildo), on myspace.com's kinky cousin tribe.net. He also introduced readers to Carl Geers, the webmaster/photographer behind machinemaidens.com, a flowery, pink sex site that features a handful of Portland models being pleasured by an Erotichine. That's a sex machine created by Advanced Medical Robotics, a shadowy, now defunct, Portland-based company that declined Archibald's repeated pleas for an interview because of its owners' affiliation with mainstream engineering companies (one of which was rumored to be Intel).

In terms of subjects for the book, "there was no other city that delivered as much," Archibald says, regarding Portland's ripe machine sex scene. "There's something steamy about Portland."

But the woman who may have introduced the greatest number of Portlanders to sex machines was not included in Archibald's book. That's local sex writer, "Portland Masturbate-a-thon" party creator and former Libertarian state-Senate candidate Theresa "Darklady" Reed. She's had a sex machine at every one of her five annual masturbate-a-thons, a series of sexually adventurous charity parties that generally draw more than 250 participants each year. And the machines are popular—she's planning to feature six machines at her bash this May.

"I think that this is one direction that the sex industry is going," she says. "Masturbation is something that people always enjoy doing. It's healthy and low-maintenance."

Portland's first machine test drive may have come five years ago, when Reed invited sex-machine inventor Stein, who is also prominently featured in Archibald's book, to plug in an older, nearly 800-pound version of Randy's "Thrillhammer" at one of her private house parties. "When the thing started up, the whole house vibrated," she says. "It was like there was an airplane in the side room."

Another woman present that night has her own memories of the event. When "Miss Pink," a 52-year-old counselor and Darklady party volunteer who lives in Southwest Portland, encountered the "Thrillhammer" at that '01 party, it was lust at first sight.

Miss Pink, who by her own admission looks like a "mom who shops at Albertsons," says she rode the machine because she was "so intrigued." "I just didn't want someone to break it before I had the chance to try it out," she says. "[The machine] is so intense that it can be too much and desensitize the whole 'magic part' area." She remembers her first ride, with Stein playing "driver" in front of a crowd of Darklady revelers. "After I was finished, I stood up and had very wobbly knees. I walked over and grabbed the back of [Allen's] neck and gave him a big smooch," she says. "When somebody makes you come that hard, you just don't not give them a smooch."

Mechanized love does not come cheap. The average price of one of Stein's machines is $3,000. Custom models featuring everything from in-seat cameras to aromatherapy can top out at $10,000. Then again, bargain-minded shoppers can pick up a Fucksall (a modified, handheld reciprocating saw) at extremerestraints.com for $169.95.

Back in Randy's basement, the "Thrillhammer" doesn't look nearly as imposing as its intended use makes it sound. A hybrid of a padded weight bench and a split-leg gynecological exam chair attached to a pistoning "Female Gratification Device," it's upholstered with a double layer of shiny, silver material and squeaky, easy-to-clean plastic. Its headrest adjusts for comfort. Sitting in its soft, padded embrace, legs akimbo, in Randy's fluorescent-lit basement, is a lot like being at the dentist's office—except there's a veiny, 7-inch dildo attached to a small, black, metal box staring back at you instead of a wallscape of the Grand Canyon or a Hawaiian beach. Which, yes, is a bit unsettling.

Randy works a fresh Trojan condom over the tool. "Just lock it down, lube it up and you're good to go," he shrugs happily. Fiddling with the knobs on the Thrillhammer's controller like a kid with ColecoVision, he demonstrates how to control the air flow to make the machine pump harder or softer (he says most women prefer a medium setting). Next he cranks the knob to control vibration, demonstrating its 10 settings, which range from "nice and gentle" to "could mix paint." When the vibration is set on high, I curiously touch the black box. It jitters so hard that I pull my hand back, numb, after about five seconds.

"I can turn a woman to pink Jell-O with this machine. They are exhausted from orgasming," Randy says proudly. "Afterwards I sometimes leave it on 'gentle vibrate' and then throw a blanket over her. In the BDSM community, that's called 'After Care.' It's like meditation."

He's had practice. The 55-year old gentleman claims to have pleasured more than 75 women, from their mid-20s to their 60s, with this portable machine, either at local BDSM parties, at Darklady functions or in the subterranean playroom we're standing in right now. He says he's never had an accident with the machine, perhaps due to the fact that he's a big believer in the use of mass amounts of lubricant—hence the huge can of ID Glide—a substance which creator Stein agrees is the most important ingredient in creating a smooth, safe ride.

The motion of the machine is remarkably gentle. A lazy tha-whunk, tha-whunk sound fills the room each time it pistons in and out like a miniature, horizontal oil derrick. Contrary to the idea of sex machines as an rough-trade turn-on for men who dig seeing women pushed to an alien sexual limit, the "Thrillhammer" in action just kind of looks like the Invisible Man having sex with his invisible girlfriend.

It's sweet in its own way.

The romantic mood is broken as Randy, ever the machinist, starts critiquing the machine's metal frame and its lack of an adjustable stroke mechanism. He might as well be talking shop about a hot rod. He hasn't made a machine himself yet. "I've got all kinds of ideas about how to improve my machine, but I'm restoring my house," he explains. "I've got a million things to do."

The figure behind many of these exchanges is Stein, who invented the first Internet-controlled sex machine in 2002. He and his toys may be the best proof that sex machines will become a more prominent feature of America's sexual landscape.

Stein's words tumble out faster and faster as he describes his brave new world of sex: 3-D goggles, pay-per-minute video conferencing where surfers can pleasure porn celebrities from their home computer, as well as new toys for men. He's got a stroke machine in development that can provide eight to 300 strokes per minute—hands free. Stein is also receiving calls from associations that work with disabled people. "[Machines] allow people to have a sexual relationship with their significant other," he explains.

But in the end, will all these advanced sexual marvels threaten to replace the good, old-fashioned, horizontal human tango? None of the parties involved find it likely.

"I hope [sex machines] won't be a meat replacement," Stein says. "There's a good energy exchange that happens between two live people."

Author Archibald thinks the passion for invention and discovery are at the crux of these machines, rather than just getting off. "The idea that you can make something yourself...it's part of the American dream," he says. "Thomas Edison made the light bulb. Steve Jobs created the personal computer. These things didn't come from the lab at Hewlett-Packard. It came from a guy messing around in his garage."

But maybe the most hopeful vision provided for the future of sex machines was articulated by Portland's own Miss Pink, who says she's planning on spending her Christmas bonus on her own secondhand sex machine just to, ahem, "take the edge off dating."

"Just because you haven't found your special someone doesn't mean you shouldn't get off. When those hormones start going, middle-aged women start thinking about sex as much as 19-year-old boys," she says. "[Sex machines] should be mass-marketed. You should be able to buy one at Sears. Next to the lawn mowers." —Kelly Clarke

Get an eyeful of Tim Archibald's Sex Machines this month at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-4651. Check out Portland's 2006 Masturbate-A-Thon at www.masturbate-a-thon.org.

Naughty Girls Need Love, Too

Off-duty tales from Portland's sex industry.

Three local sex workers share the stories of exactly how they got into the business of pleasure with WW.

"I don't think that a single mother with two miniature pinschers is a fantasy. It's reality, which is what these men want to escape."

Escort Gretchen Stark (all escorts' names have been changed here) was voted "Northwest's hottest BBW" on the Craigslist Review Board (see page 29). Being a Big, Beautiful Woman can make for tough marketing, but her popularity is partly due to the fact that "I am able to female-ejaculate, and this drives the men wild." Gretchen, 43, worked as a hospital-unit coordinator at Providence Medical Center for five years but says, "I don't think I will ever go back to a legit job." Now she makes anywhere from $75 to $200 an hour and finds time for hobbies like making dog jewelry out of Swarovski rhinestones.

Single for over a year, Gretchen posts personal ads titled "Escort seeking an understanding mate" and has gotten promising responses. In the meantime, she's focused on her 16-year-old son and two dogs. She leads two separate lives: "Even my best friend doesn't know what I do."

Gretchen wakes up at 8 am just like any office worker: "I place my first ad at 10 for a noon hookup.... Between dates, I clean house, pay bills and buy supplies [such as condoms from Planned Parenthood]."

Gretchen sometimes wishes she could go further with her clients: "I have two single fathers who I get together with, and the chemistry is unbelievable. But I know better." Most singles might feel caution toward rushing into bed with someone new. In Gretchen's case, sex is a given, intimacy a taboo.

"I am the naked Martha Stewart."

Paris Love, 36, requests a coffee date at the Woodburn Company Stores and tells me how she got started in the business.

"My husband was a stripper until 2001," she says, but he quit because "if you're dancing for women...they really like to abuse the guys."

Paris and her husband, Will, met in 1997 when she was a waitress in Portland. He play-stripped for Paris at home, and she encouraged him to go pro after attending some all-male revues. He took the plunge, and after a few years of increased cash flow, she wanted to try it, too. I ask her if the couple would have dated if they'd met in a strip club: "No way! [As a waitress] at the Refectory, I was just myself doing my job. As a dancer, you don't get to be yourself. You're a party girl. I couldn't date a client."

Paris, who estimates her annual income at around $70,000, is building a nest egg and investing in her husband's landscaping business (Will's post-sex industry career). Her new burlesque troupe, Risqué Cabaret, debuts at Stars Cabaret in Salem Feb. 25.

What's the hardest part of making a marriage work in the sex industry? "The odd hours. He complains that we never get to have breakfast together!" says Paris. For a couple who used to publish a now-defunct swinger's magazine [The Playground], it's sweet how, well, normal they are. Her idea of romance is decidedly non-risqué: "All we did last Christmas was heat up some frozen pizzas and sit on the couch watching movies all day."

"The men who pay me for sex have treated me more kindly and with more honesty than the men that I've loved."

Anna sells her wares through Craigslist's erotic services, advertising herself as 29 even though she's a decade older. When her former company outsourced her computer-technician job to India and a bus crash left her with back injuries, she went into escorting. The accident also inspired her to go back to school and dump her boyfriend: "I vowed to get on with my life and try to have as much fun as I could. I said, 'I'm gonna be like a man.' I saw how much more sex they were having." She gave Internet dating a try, and when someone she met through Craigslist's personals offered to pay for sex, she agreed.

Anna discovered that men seeking casual dates online and those seeking escorts often had the same mentality. She still juggles sex work with attempts at dating, which has caused problems: "One guy tried to out me when he connected my personal ad with my pictures on erotic services. He posted all over Craigslist saying, 'Don't date her, she's a whore.'"

Sometimes, the crossover works in her favor: "A guy that answered my ad...I didn't charge him. I wanted to have sex because I wanted to." Anna is open to dating someone from her college, because, the biophysics major says, "When I'm at school, it's a different part of me." As for her future plans: "I have a lot of respect for marriage. That's what I've always wanted, but the men in my life didn't live up to it." She admits to having heavy doubts about security in relationships, and disbelief at the idea that a man would support her financially "just because I'm married to him," but adds, "I'm trying to build myself so that I'll have something to offer someone." On the intersection of work and love, Anna comments, "Sexual pleasure is important, and love is important. Ideally, they go together, but sometimes you have to outsource."

—Mary Christmas

The Hobby

For one Portland "john," sex ain't about the rush, it's about the review.

Midnight on Wednesday, Jan. 11. Steve and Becky started kissing as soon as they entered Steve's Northwest Portland apartment. Becky, who is 6-foot-2 in heels, removed her shoes so she could better reach the 5-foot-7 Steve. Clothes started to hit the floor.

Minutes later, the pair was naked on top of Steve's bed. Becky reached for a condom. Soon the pair lay drenched in sweat on Steve's white sheets. Becky rolled over and looked at Steve.

"Oh my god," she said. "That was so good."

Steve smiled. He gave Becky $200, and she left.

Almost immediately, Steve sat down to his white Apple laptop.

He logged onto the Craigslist Review Board (clreviewboard.org), a website where regular "hobbyists"—the going name for johns—review the women they solicit. He spent about 45 minutes describing his experience with Becky, comparing the sex to a ride at a theme park. (Steve's and Becky's real names have been changed for this story.)

"She's, well, unbelievable at her art. Great kisser. The best French I can remember having in a long time (which is really a bold statement if you don't mind my saying). Form and application dead spot on, marvelous," he wrote. The word "French" in the prostitution business refers to oral sex.

"The rest is a bit of a blur," he continued. "Like going on a roller coaster for the first time. You don't really remember anything specific, but you know it was a great ride. And it was."

He finished the review by describing Becky as "highly recommended."

Steve, 34, with tightly-cropped dark hair and a craggy, angular face, is a very active hobbyist, and has spent more than $10,000 on prostitutes in the past three months.

But he is equally active writing about his exploits, having placed more than 40 reviews of Portland providers in the same time period.

The CLRB started in January 2005. It was established not by Craig Newmark, the San Francisco Web guru who created the worldwide phenomenon called Craigslist, but by a Seattle man who wanted to provide a review service for hobbyists who frequent Northwest prostitutes. Prostitutes, who are known within the business as "providers," offer themselves under the "erotic" tab of Craigslist, but the reviews of the women show up on the CLRB. (Craigslist leaders say they were unaware of CLRB's existence.)

Traffic on the CLRB has nearly tripled of late; posts by registered users have gone from 10,000 to 28,000 in the past three months. The CLRB now serves Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix and New York, among other cities.

Think of the CLRB as an eBay for sex. There are junior, regular and senior members, people who earn their rank based on the number of reviews and posts they make to the site. Each person operates with a codename. Reviews can make or break a provider who frequents Craigslist or advertises herself in the "gallery" section of the CLRB, and they can determine how much she charges for her services. If a woman gets a series of good reviews, she can raise her price to upwards of $300 per hour—the going rate for top service in Portland.

The members of the CLRB communicate in a language that is unique to the prostitution business. Just like the term "French," other terms such as "full service" and "girlfriend experience" replace more vivid language, and they help muddy the waters of a potential prosecution.

There is no one in America on the CLRB who pursues the hobby with more vigor than Steve. He has produced more reviews in a shorter timeframe than anyone in the country.

Steve says his motivation to write the reviews initially came from spite: He thought most of the reviews on the CLRB were lacking, so he decided to show the guys how a review should be written. This, of course, earned the ire of some of the other CLRB hobbyists. They thought he was showing off with both the length of his reviews and the number of women he was seeing. Now, many of the men on the board have come to rely on Steve.

Until recently, Steve was engaged, but he ended that relationship just before taking up the hobby. He says his fiancée demanded too much, talked too much and spent too much of the money he made in a local Portland business. He says his pursuit of the hobby is a direct reaction to his past relationship, not to mention a reflection of his addictive personality. For now, Steve wants female companionship and sex, but with no strings attached.

The CLRB and similar websites such as the Erotic Review (theeroticreview.com), Portland's Hottie Tottie (hottietottie.com), and Seattle's Review Board (thereviewboard.net) represent an evolutionary step in the prostitution business. Each of the websites offers either a discussion board or private chat room for the hobbyists and providers. The CLRB and a few other sites take this a step further: They offer private chat rooms for just the women or just the men. This feature allows the individual groups to unite. Members of each group can pass along private information, discuss the police, share the scuttlebutt and, on occasion, fight with one another.

Ad placements on the erotic-services section of Craigslist have increased 110 percent in the past year, commensurate with the overall growth of traffic on the site. The leaders of Craigslist deny that they knowingly support the prostitution business. They say it is impossible to tell what a woman is really advertising in an ad, and while they support "escort" ads, they regularly remove ads that clearly promote prostitution. In the prostitution business, escorts typically differentiate themselves from providers by claiming they offer only companionship, not sex.

The Portland police, Steve and others who frequent the CLRB disagree with the leaders at Craigslist. They side with a vice officer in Tampa, Fla., who was recently quoted as saying "escort" or "erotic" services are the "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" wing of the prostitution business. Law-enforcement officials estimate that up to 90 percent of escorts working in America also offer sex. New escort and erotic services ads appear 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on Craigslist. (At the beginning of this year, Willamette Week removed its escort ads from the paper, though its free online classifieds still host an "adult services" section.)

On Friday afternoon, Jan. 13, Becky reappeared in Steve's life. His cell phone rang, and Becky was on the other end. She then propositioned Steve for a return sexual encounter.

When Becky was 14 years old, her mother dropped her off at the circus, hoping she would join it. By age 15, Becky was a provider in Alaska. That same year, she had her first arrest in Las Vegas. Becky has been in and out of the business for more than half her life. She says she likes Steve because he treats her well, he can perform without Viagra or Cialis, and he does not ask her to indulge in any sexual fantasies; Steve just wants plain ol' sex.

Since Steve and Becky's last encounter, the CLRB community has grown even closer. The women and men communicate so often and well that they decided to get together and meet one another. The party was held at a McMenamins pub in Northwest Portland. There were so many young, attractive women groping older, unattractive men at the event that it did not take the staff long to figure out who they were.

Steve says he is now at the end of his nearly nonstop hobbying run. He has not only slept with a large portion of Portland's young providers, he also does not want to "go Mick Jagger," as he put it, and lose all connection between sex and intimacy. From now on, he intends to dabble in the hobby. He has no interest in finding a girlfriend.

—Seth Clark Walker

Suicide Boys Can't Strip

Portrait of a freelance-writing wannabe exotic male dancer.

"I'm just going to take my clothes off and make a little money—how hard can that be?"

I ask myself this question as I lock up my old-style road bike outside the Silverado, the gayest strip bar on Southwest Stark Street. It's a little chilly, because I just spent the past hour and half shaving my entire body—genitals included. This, I have been told, increases the chances that my debut at the club's amateur night will be a success.

But first, some background: At the ripe age of 19, when I couldn't find a job my first summer in Portland, I considered becoming a male stripper. Two and half years later, I still find myself wondering what it's like to be a fully nude dancing object of desire. Stuff like, how much do you make your first night on the job? And how do tippers and other strippers treat you? And how much does a glittery, jockstrappy thingy cost, anyway?

I figured I was at the right place to answer these questions. I once did Silverado's Karaoke Night and got hit on by every other guy in the room, so I just assumed showing them my penis would be pretty lucrative.

I had already made a "research" stop at Silverado, where I asked "Hunter," a dancer who's been there for three years, about the weekly "amateur night." When I asked him if I should shave everything, he said, with a sniff, "I would."

The next day, I meet up for coffee with Emma, a stripper I know from college who has danced at a Southeast Portland strip club for more than a year. I want her advice on shaving and dancing.

"Don't wear leather, and don't ask too many questions of the other strippers," she tells me. Her other recommendations: get miniature bikini razors and rub Mitchum brand underarm deodorant on the place my pubes used to be to curb razor burn. After my meeting with her, I buy a G-string and cock ring ($18 total), go home and shave, and head to Silverado.

I shotgun three Olympia tall cans, which, like the cockring, is a measure to make sure I don't choke. The stage at the far end of the bar and the cage in the middle of the club are empty when I walk in, but soon the club will be filled with (younger) men dancing for (older) men, as well as an occasional bachelorette party or fag hag.

I'm greeted by a tall, braided bouncer who tells me I'm right on time for Tuesday's amateur night. He seems nice, so I'm only a little nervous when he runs off with my ID, and I chat up the remaining, smaller bouncer, who tells me some of the club's experienced dancers will be performing in addition to the first-timers. But the "talent level" isn't too high: "There are guys who have been here for years who pretty much stand around," he says.

After the bouncer comes back with my ID, a shirtless, muscular man named Imer approaches me and tells me he hires the dancers at the club.

Oh yeah, he also tells me he's not going to let me dance. (Later I find out he's lying—he doesn't do any hiring; he's just another stripper.)

"All of our dancers are really muscular," he says.

Frustrated and a little bit freaked out, I try to explain to Imer that I offer variety: The Suicide Girls have built an industry on alternative looks, so why can't I make a few bucks on them? Plus, I don't plan on standing around.

"We don't offer variety," Imer says, "we offer fantasy." I have no luck convincing him that different people have different fantasies, so I insist on waiting for Stanley, the emcee with whom I hope to plead my case. I'm still confident: I take a seat at a table, making sure to have good posture, something Emma advised me would be profitable.

When Stanley shows up, he asks me and the other two amateurs to take off our shirts—in the middle of the bar—and pose for a Polaroid. I welcome the opportunity to demonstrate my confidence, leaning seductively toward the camera, unlike the other two more built (but in one case, freckled, fat-faced and ugly) would-be strippers, who simply flex. Stanley takes the photos downstairs to the club manager, and I'm struck by the fact that I'm obviously more prepared than these goons. Emma told me to have an "I can fuck anyone I want" attitude, but these guys seem more confident in their ability to lift people than to dance for them.

The smaller bouncer comes out and gives some paperwork to Freckle and friend, but tells me, "We're not going to use you tonight."

Huh? Wasn't this supposed to be the easiest gig in town?

I ask to talk to the club manager, but wind up instead having Stanley take a picture of my most muscular body part—no, not that—my cycling-toned legs. I plead with the manager, who rises from his lair to let me dance a couple of songs. But, in a few minutes, I'm back on the street, hairless and humiliated.

Not wanting to have shaved for nothing, I start calling around to find another club with male dancers.

My phone calls turn up an audition for the next night at the Viewpoint in Northeast Portland. Before my audition, I speak to Brandy, a woman who has danced at nine clubs in town over the years. She tells me, "It's super-easy to get a job as stripper if you're a girl. As long as you're pretty and fit and can kind of move on stage, they'll find a shift for you. But there are only a couple of places where men dance, so they're super-picky."

Brandy mentions that the Viewpoint likes "props and kitsch," so I bring some costumes and music. I end up dressing up like a '70s rocker and lip-synching to the Stooges' "I Need Somebody" while stripping to a G-string for a pair of managers. As my routine starts, I'm desperate to make an impression, so I place my shoe on the female manager's table and demand, "Untie it."

The managers say they'll refer their notes to the choreographer, but that I would have to develop a more elaborate routine, citing the example of a sexy magician show involving volunteers and sex toys. If I do get the job, they say I'll make up to $500 on a very good night, and never less than $80. These numbers are comparable to what Brandy said she makes; unfortunately, the Viewpoint runs its male revue only two nights a week, and I assume I won't be dancing there, because their staff has continually blown off my calls for the 10 days following my audition.

But encouraged by my Viewpoint experience, I return to Silverado, tell them I'm a reporter, and ask what evidence they have for believing their customers only want to see muscular men get naked.

Stanley insists that the muscular dancers get the tips and claims it's not worth his trouble to fill out paperwork for an amateur who's going to want to take off after one song or—worse yet—try to persuade the club to keep him around even though he doesn't make any money.

Of course, the Viewpoint, which hires dancers of any fit physique, often reaches capacity when their male revue performs. But Stanley argues it's a different business when you cater to a gay audience. At Silverado, he says, "these queens have seen everything...they're kind of fickle. A muscular man is the fantasy guy, I guess."

His logic is a little fuzzy, but, if I'm not mistaken, he's defending one stereotype with another: saying that older, jaded fags don't get tired of buff guys as fast as they get tired of suicide-guy twinks like me.

That said, I've learned my lesson. I used to think, "If things get desperate, I can always strip." But in the business of stripping, women (and club owners) still rule.

If I had actually needed a gig like this, I guess I would just be a stubble-cocked parking attendant right now.

—Jason Simms

Randy's "Thrillhammer," which features a "Female Gratification Device" designed by Portland's Advanced Medical Robotics, was purchased in 2003 at the urging of Miss Pink—she's Randy's ex-girlfriend.

Allen Stein's sex-machines site, www.thethrillhammer.com, features the chance to "drive" a sex machine via the Internet while a woman in Tampa, Fla., "rides" it—$5 a minute if you wanna drive, less if you just want to watch.