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SHOW REVIEW: Lucy Fur/Exotica-Go-Go
Kick-Ass Cabaret, Yet Portland Barely Shows An Ankle (Dante's)

By: Ramona Denies

Portland, Oregon is the kick-ass place it is for many reasons: political liberalism, support for activism, and a thriving youth culture among them. It is therefore unfortunate -- especially given the last item -- that social extroversion usually isn't included in that list.

Let's be honest with ourselves.

Trying to coerce a crowd of Portland hipsters to break it down on the dance floor is like suggesting to Boy George Jr. that he and Saddam just get together and have a nice, healing cryfest-someone will still come out standing, but it won't be the emcee.

Lucy Fur is aware of this. She doesn't hold out hope that one evening she'll look up and see her entire audience shaking and breaking like they've just plugged 20 nickels into the Avalon Dance-o-rama. But she would at least like a reaction.

Lucy Fur is the regular hostess of Exotica-Go-Go, Dante's Thursday-night themed cabaret. Together with the rockingest DJ in town, DJ Gregarious, Exotica-Go-Go is a weekly extravaganza of super-hot Go-Go girls, crazy costumes, tunes that make you go "Hmmm?," and a crowd of the not-so-usual suspects.

Preparing such a sensory feast obviously requires not just a great deal of forethought, but imagination as well. I caught a few minutes with Lucy Fur between numbers during Exotica-Go-Go's War and Peace themed evening on January 30th. Lucy Fur talked with me about her hopes for the event, and her ambivalent feelings as well.

"This is my first foray into a weekly show, and I'm kind of at a crossroads," she said, perched on a plush upholstered stool near the window. In keeping with the evening's theme, Ms. Fur wore a camo jacket overher hot pants, a soft-shell military issue hat and.shiny black go-go boots.

"We're trying to appeal to hipsters as well as the dance crowd, but hipsters are notoriously slow to come to anything," she added, wryly, as DJ Gregarious slipped Blue Oyster Cult's "Go Go Godzilla" into the mix.

It was true. The cabaret crowd seemed dominated by skate-punks and straight-laced couples possibly lured by Dante's lushly romantic blood-red interior. Several large groups of men sat near the stage, rapt as minimally-dressed provacateuses go-go'd to DJ Gregarious' inspired selections. Several dancers allowed patrons to slip dollar bills into strategic bits of clothing - a sight more familiar at, say, Union Jack's or Magic Garden than at a prominent downtown music venue.

The difference, then? As Carrie-a dancer with Exotica-Go-Go for over two years-put it, "It's not like I'm fully covered, but I'm not here to strip! It's about providing a fun, flirty atmosphere."

Lucy Fur uses the word burlesque to describe the kind of show she's putting on. She's qualified to make the distinction; the gorgeous Lucy Fur has played many leading roles in Portland's nightlife. She's been holding down a regular gig as a dancer for Mary's Club since her final year at Lewis and Clark, produced last year's pin-up calendar, and is currently featured as Exotic Magazine's "Kick-Ass Stripper of the Month."

"I would actually date the start of my burlesque career to my involvement with Kitty Diggins, who used to put on fabulous go-go nights and cabarets. I go-go'd with her for about a year before branching out on my own," Lucy Fur explains, "I enjoy both stripping and the burlesque; I approach the first as a job and the second as a hobby."

Lucy Fur may be somewhat disappointed by the relatively underwhelming reception the evening has received given the enormous response to other cabaret events she has produced in recent years. And granted, it would be hard to think of another metropolis more likely to embrace a regular cabaret act than Portland, a city of undeniable sex-positivity.

Lucy Fur has proven to be an uncompromising advocate in the fight to maintain Portland's famously licit licentiousness.

In the past, Lucy Fur has masterminded such mega-events as February 2000's highly popular "20th Century Underwear Revue," a fundraiser for the Portland Area Privacy Alliance (P.A.P.A.). If you recall, P.A.P.A. was that unlikely alliance of escorts, lingerie models and exotic dancers that effectively forced City Council and mayor Vera Katz to swallow an ordinance aimed at quietly and firmly regulating adult businesses out of existence.

It is therefore unsurprising that Lucy Fur is playing a visible role in City Hall's latest attempt to stymie those that would shamelessly sell sex for a living.

"I have spoken at City Council meetings before with DANZINE (a nonprofit organization by and for the sex industry) in response to their attempt to force lingerie club workers to apply for invasive safety endangering permits," she said.

"The new efforts to regulate the industry find me on the fence; on the one hand I think that it is probably a good idea for minors to not work in a bar-especially naked-but on the other hand their rules regarding how a dancer touches herself seem too open to interpretation and most likely just an excuse for the OLCC to shut down clubs for their own reasons."

With such activist endeavors, a budding photography career, event production, modeling work (most currently Lucy will be featured in a 3-D slideshow event by photographer Jimmy Vapor at the Seattle Little Theater March 15) and her regular gig at Mary's, Lucy Fur has multiple outlets for her intelligence, energy and imagination. So what more could a levelheaded woman like Lucy Fur realistically expect from her weekly burlesque at Dante's?

Lucy is not hesitant in her response.

"I like to think I bring some cheesy, light-hearted, sexy fun to Portland, which can tend to take itself WAY TOO SERIOUSLY. With Exotica-Go-Go and Disc Jockey Gregarious I have found the perfect mix: cool music that even the hipsters will like with silly, sexy go-go dancers."

Check out Exotica-Go-Go every Thursday at Dante's after 10pm. Dante's Cafe & Cocktail Lounge is located Downtown at: 1 SW 3rd & Burnside between 3rd and 4th. You can call them at: (503) 226-6630.

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