Executive Times






2008 Book Reviews



The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them) by Peter Sagal








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Peter Sagal has done the hard work about some vices so we won’t have to. His new book, The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them) reports on the fieldwork Sagal did, often with his wife, to tell the rest of us about seven vices. The writing is consistently crisp, but not nearly as funny as Sagal’s NPR sbow, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Armchair vicarious exploration of vice doesn’t quite have the same pizzazz as the real thing, although after reading The Book of Vice, most readers will want to take a pass on the real thing after learning that what seems naughty is often boring. Here’s an excerpt, from the end of Chapter 3, “Strip Clubs or Sure They Like You, Really,” pp. 97-99:


Our final destination for the evening was Forty Deuce, the lat­est outpost of the New Burlesque empire created by impresario Ivan Kane. As we entered, I realized the club was a strange, black-lacquered updating of that long-ago anonymous rip-off joint in New Orleans. Seats and tables on risers, facing a bar: above and behind the bar, a catwalk stage. We were joined at our seats at the bar by a friend of James's named Dayvid Figler, who was, he told me, both a justice at the Clark County Supe­rior Court and an amateur expert on the "sexual underground." As we walked in, he high-fived a bouncer, who towered over him by a least a foot. "I went to his bar mitzvah," said Judge Dayvid.

We bought more drinks from the equally attractive bartenders—the women were just as gorgeous as they had been at Mix, but here there were also model-level men, so the back of the bar looked like an Abercrombie catalog as hallucinated by a dipsomaniac. Eventually, the lights dimmed, and the packed club roared in anticipation. A wall above the bar, em­blazoned with the Forty Deuce logo, spun around to reveal a rotating dais, on which was a jazz trio playing saxophone-heavy bump-and-grind jazz. And then, emerging from stage left, wear­ing a full cocktail dress and gloves, came the dancer.

With the jazz pulsing and beating and the saxophone wail­ing in a way I thought didn't exist outside of fifties-era pulp fiction, that dancer proceeded to put on a show that had every single person in that bar, male and female, myself included, reduced to animal howls. She removed that dress, piece by piece. She swung from the beaded curtains, upside down. She did the splits—but demurely, her back to us, with a wink over her shoulder. With every garment she removed, she seemed more alive, larger—it was as if the clothing were some sort of restriction on her inner sexual demon.

Striptease wasn't the word—this wasn't a tease, this was the real thing, not some cheap simulacrum. It wasn't sex; it was rarer. Some asshole ran up to her—while she was doing an ex­tremely difficult upside-down move, hanging from a railing six feet above the ground—and tried to put a dollar bill in her gar­ter. The bouncers wrestled him away, and I would have gotten up to pummel the jerk if I hadn't been too busy hooting and shouting. She wasn't doing it for your money.

The dancer, reduced to pasties and panties—but still wearing pasties and panties—bowed, blew kisses, and disappeared. The band, with some last beats of a bass and wails from the sax, swung back into the distance. And for the next hour, until the next dancer commenced her act, the bar just burst with sexual joy. Women danced on tables. Men cheered and danced with them. I would have swung from a pole if I could have found one handy.

Thus, what strip clubs need to lift them above the grind house, make them more than just an expensive housing on a basic mechanism, truly worth the time and money:


Strippers of the world, hear me now: If you dance for money, we will pay you, but you will always be objects onto which we can project the contempt we feel for ourselves. If you want to control us, if you want to make us yelp and throw our bills onto the stage wrapped in our very hearts, you have to dance as if the money doesn't matter at all. We are but men, and we think with our souls. We are all helpless in the face of art.


The art in The Book of Vice will deliver smiles and chuckles, at least if you read it in an armchair.


Steve Hopkins, December 20, 2007



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the January 2008 issue of Executive Times


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