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Scratch the itch 

A trusty reporter's lusty junket

When Pope Gregory the Great rolled out the first list of Seven Deadly Sins in the late 6th Century, he ranked them in order of severity. And you know what ranked last? Lust. The least deadly of the Seven Deadly Sins. So, lusty types -- we got that goin' for us. Which is nice. In the centuries hence, Lust has probably become the most popular Deadly Sin.Hereabouts, you can indulge in a veritable cornucopia of prurient interests. Lingerie modeling, swingers clubs, escort services, peep shows, porn video booths, "sensual rubs," Asian massage (with or without happy ending), stores with all manner of adult toys, phone sex, personal ads, street hookers -- all are readily available.

And one of the lusty endeavors of which we have plenty is strip clubs. Titty bars. Call it what you will.

Here's a suggestion: If you find yourself feeling lusty on, say, a Wednesday afternoon, shut down the computer, hang up the phone, put the wrenches back in the toolbox and head out on a strip-club field trip. A friend and I did so recently.

Early afternoon is an unusual time for titty bars. I recommend it. The vibe at our venue of choice was far removed from the cliched after-dark image of wild-eyed fellas climbing over each other to stuff 20s into garter belts.

We shared space with a handful of brooding loners and furtive pervs. The dancers nearly outnumbered customers. That allowed us to have some "quality time" with the ladies. Before you start snickering, reader, this did not include illicit activity. (Management at CL stubbornly refused to budget dollars for "special treatment.")

In the interest of full disclosure, we told the strippers that we were doing some anthropological research, so the dollar signs in their eyes should not get too big. To our surprise, they still hung around and chatted with us. Far be it from me to allege that the women were slinging bullshit, but they did bring out a certain incredulity in us.

"Tyler" was a fresh-faced cutie who said she was 20, had graduated with a double major in two years from a private college in North Carolina, and because she was the daughter of a billionaire, "didn't do it for money, but because it's fun." She incorporated ballroom dance into her show. An artist.

"Jackie," a vivacious blonde with a radiant smile and great pole moves, told me she was pregnant and told my friend she had stomach cancer. He swears he heard her right.

But, of course, you won't be going on a strip-club field trip for the conversation.

During their afternoon dances, most of the women tended to be low-key, more writhing and grinding than gymnastic. In all, I thought they could've put a bit more imagination and effort into the disrobing -- most of them simply shucked off their garments, save for stack-heel shoes. In the nice surprise department, my buddy and I, both staunch fans of natural breasts, were pleased to find a relative lack of silicone.

All told, we found our strip-club field trip a pleasant diversion -- and I kept reminding myself (and him) that I was getting paid to do it.

Let the lust begin.

Strip clubs are fine for a specialized niche of people-watching, but for a more G-rated (as opposed to G-string) assortment, there's always the ever-popular pastime of Bar-Crawling, which allows one to drink and ogle to their heart's content. Among the popular after-hour hot spots that lend themselves to bar crawls are Bar Charlotte, 300 N. College Street (704-342-2545), Ri-Ra, 208 N. Tryon Street (704-333-5554), and Connolly's On Fifth, 115 E. 5th Street (704-358-9070). Of course, there are tons more -- just wander around sampling the wares until you pass out facedown on the sidewalk.

Ladies, start your lustful engines. This summer's slate of concerts will feature a wide range of hunks of burnin' love -- different strokes for different folks, so to speak. First, rough'n'tough Henry Rollins will perform the music of Black Flag on June 11 at Tremont Music Hall (704-343-9494). Then, the band Sugar Ray, featuring sexy lead singer Mark McGrath, will join Matchbox Twenty and American Hi-Fi for a show at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (704-549-5555) on June 29. And finally, legendary rapper LL Cool J, who suavely handled leading man duties in the recent romantic comedy Deliver Us From Eva, will perform with Dru Hill on June 22 in Paramount's Carowinds Paladium Amphitheatre (704-588-2600). Oh yeah, and for those who prefer a different kind of man altogether, the Carowinds Amphitheater will also host Weird Al Yankovic on August 10.

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