It's not even 11 p.m. and already the line outside Opera is wrapped around the building and into the parking lot. Across the street, the bouncer at Koo Koo Room comments, "It's herding cattle. $10. $20. All night long, every Saturday night."
The suited-up men and corseted ladies managing the crowd work off a list of five priority items that help them choose among the throngs of plaid-shirted boys and bedazzled girls begging to get in. Men in striped polo shirts are sent right back to Buckhead, but bachelorettes go straight to the top.
"If it's a bachelorette party [we] get them out of the line and to the front," says Opera's general manager, Rusty Greene. On an average night the club hosts 200 girls for such parties.
It's the oldest trick in the book, but after watching one guy slam directly into a parking meter after being distracted by a group of pink tiaras, it obviously still works.
And Opera is a well-oiled machine. The glowing brides-to-be arrive decked out in a veil, a pink tiara or a sash. Bouncers slap VIP bracelets on their wrists. The girls dance through the door as pretty ladies in trendy black dresses hand them plastic flutes of Andre. The betrothed are in giggly, pink heaven as they enter.
Then they see the pole.
Last year, Greene attended a Vegas convention and noticed the best clubs had multiple levels on the dance floor. He immediately ordered lighted platforms and installed stripper poles wherever it made sense — such as dead center of the main dance floor.
"It's not really OK for girls to go to strip clubs," he says. "But get enough drinks in her and every girl wants to get on the pole."
Truer words have never been spoken.
Opera does not discriminate against age, size or beauty; if someone can pull herself up on the platform, she can dance. So throughout the night, girl after girl pull themselves up to drunkenly gyrate under the club's Phantom of the Opera chandeliers. The DJs ply their audience with remixes of Journey, Bon Jovi, Black Eyed Peas and Madonna, each complemented by a light show complex enough to cause a grand mal seizure.
Along the perimeter, men creepily stare, accepting shots from the girls working the crowd out of fear that they might lose their vantage point if they go to the bar.
Upstairs in VIP, a bachelorette from Roswell is rolling 20 deep. She's in hot pink and her friends wear black in mourning. Watching them drop it like it's hot, a pretty 27-year old named Mikka whines: "I feel like the big sister. I'm totally baby-sitting." At that moment she turns and yanks the bachelorette back from some guy who's explaining why marriage isn't a good idea.
Downstairs, a thirtysomething bachelorette from Lake Lanier huddles with her friends. "I feel kinda old for this," she admits. She's wearing a veil. It appears to have pictures of the male anatomy hanging on it.
Out front, a girl in a sash with blinking lights clings to her gay best friend, clearly annoyed as they hop into a 1991 Toyota Camry. Nearby a Spanish-speaking party waits on its ride as the bride-to-be chows down on a fresh gyro. Another bachelorette stumbles by, tiara crooked, holding onto her friend and vodka soda for dear life.
Eleven bachelorette parties in total.
Later in the night, rumors circulate that Lil Jon has arrived. On cue, Usher's "Yeah" hits the speakers and suddenly it's a real-time PoleLaTeaz class.
But then one falls off.
"We carry them out all the time," says Clarence Hamilton, Opera's assistant general manager. "But most of them aren't getting married the next day so there's some recovery time."
Hopefully the emotional hangover isn't as bad as the vodka one.
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