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Lei Lady Lei 

Here's our special illness-shortened edition of Scene & Herd. Ready? Here we go. Finding myself getting tired of venues where graffiti covers the bathroom walls and where "import beer" equals a case of Amstel Light, I ventured into the heart of the Center City on Saturday to visit a Caribbean-themed party at the restaurant/nightspot LaTorre's, likely my favorite dinner spot in Charlotte (I recommend the Churrasco Colombiano). I had never been in LaTorre's past dinnertime, and wasn't quite sure what to expect. Lines and Leis, evidently. A nice gentleman would let three or four of us in at a time, then make the remaining wait a minute or two. This was a bit confusing to me, as no one was leaving. Why the hold up, both literally and figuratively (the admission was $10)? The Hawaiian Tropic girls, evidently, who proceeded to lei everyone as they walked in the place. It's a given that they always have to smile when placing it around your neck (the lei, that is), and say something like "hold on, I have to lei you before you go to the bar" or something similar. Yes, have no fear, America, Three's Company-like sexual innuendo will never go out of style. Admission bought one a visit to a free buffet as well, though few took the bait, instead choosing to pound cans of Red Bull energy drink and vodka (Aside: what's the point here? Why mix an energy drink with a depressant? Half-drunk, half caffeine high = normal, right?).

The band the X-periment was on hand for the show, and did a nice job of getting the crowd interested by each grabbing an instrument and walking in from the street, which had people following up the staircase, Pied Piper-style. The LaTorre's ballroom is an interesting one; the second floor has winding staircases and a large square cut-out in the floor good for gandering at the folks below. Latin dancing, nightclub-style, was the real revelation. I mean, I've seen plenty of artsy-fartsy foreign films, and Lord knows I've seen a few shows on the E! Network. This was Wild on 5th Street. More girls danced with girls than guys danced with girls. Guys did dance with themselves a lot, and one bar conversation seemed to indicate one of them wanted to dance with me (I respectfully declined). The X-periment did a nice job of getting the hips moving, as they augmented their normal, balls-to-the-wall collage of sound with island syncopation and repetition. However, most in the crowd were blissfully ignorant of the tuneage, happy as island clams as long as the drinks kept flowing and the faces kept glowing. By midnight, I noticed that folks entering had to settle for those cheap kinds of leis you get at party supply stores, not the top quality, silk-flowered version I received. There's a moral in that somewhere. Don't get leid after midnight? The early bird gets the best lei? Hmm. Best to lei it to rest. *

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