Have you ever designed a medieval torture chamber for a strip club?

Unfortunately, I can’t show you any photos of the completed project. It would violate standards maintained by WordPress and LinkedIn. Readers will just have to use their imaginations . . . Hershey’s chocolate syrup and all! Seriously, what I observed was a lot of sad men, wasting a lot of money and young women, mostly college students, making more money an hour than they could earn in a day at most jobs.

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

A little under three decades ago, I found myself trapped in my parents house in the burbs of Atlanta, when I desperately wanted to be back on my farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with my herd dogs, goats and sheep. Hopefully, I would also be able to find Vivi in France, so she could live on the farm with me. I didn’t know that she had thought I had been murdered and so had moved from France to Virginia, looking for my body. Her hope that she might find me alive, dwindled each week. You will have to read the Shenandoah Chronicles to understand this bizarre situation.

Meanwhile, my other secret wife, FBI Intelligence Officer Susan Karlson, appeared into my life again to renew our odd, five-year-long, friends-with-benefits relationship. She apparently lived in or near Roswell, GA, because she persuaded me to start attending the 1200+ member Single Adults Program at Roswell United Methodist Church. Susan did not want my parents to know she existed, so we could use Sunday School, church services and the many single adult social activities at Roswell UMC as a cover. In other words . . . I was not desperate to meet a female somewhere, when I began my first architectural design project in Atlanta.

Once I got my computer and plotter moved down to Hot-lanta, I was able to complete some projects in Virginia, but then that money ran out. I had to get some sort of professional employment in the Atlanta Area to tide me over until the situation was settled in Virginia. Low and behold an architecture firm in Buckhead was wowed by my historic preservation projects in Virginia. What they thought was old buildings, dated from the 1920s. I worked with buildings up there from the 1740s through the 1790s! They hired me as Director of Historic Preservation, but then after the Cheetah Club thing, I was promoted to Director of Architectural Design. This naive goatherd had done good! This is my story.

A naive goatherd goes to the big city

My first assignment was lead architect for a bar and restaurant on Spring Street in Midtown Atlanta called the Cheetah Lounge. I was the only senior architect, who was not happily married, so they assigned me to be the point man for client contact. I was to work with the staff to develop a concept for renovations and an addition, plus take photos throughout the existing interior. Most of the actual professional services in the office would be done by our female interior designers, who for unknown reasons, didn’t want to frequent the establishment. At the time, I didn’t understand why marital status was a prerequisite for client contact.

The founder of the design firm told me that he would accompany me to the initial meeting with the manager. We would have lunch with him. Everything seemed normal enough until we walked into the crowded restaurant-lounge. The waitresses were t-t-t-topless! I looked around and saw things like I had seen in movies and on television when people went into strip joints. Geez! This was a strip club!

Less you think me to be a sophisticated man of the world, let’s set things straight. To this day, I have never even sat at a bar. Until that day, I had never been in a strip joint. For most of my adult life, I had lived on a mountain farm, either in North Carolina or Virginia. I had never been with a prostitute. I had been married once. I did not like whisky or beer and avoided drinking too much wine.

What really intrigued Vivi initially was that I treated her like a human with a brain. She had a degree in Early European History (with honors) from the Sorbonne, but wealthy men treated her like a sports car or a commodity. Vivi was convinced that I was a man from the American frontier 200 years ago, who had been transported by a time warp to the present.

In other words . . . Yes, I gawked when I stepped into a large nightclub, filled with scantily-clad young women, age 18 to 25. It is very different in person than seeing the same scene in a movie or TV program.

The Cheetah Lounge’s manager greeted us and showed us to the VIP table. A pretty Latin American waitress with a flattering dress (let’s say) came to our table to take orders for drinks. (photo on right) The two other men ordered cocktails or whiskey. I ordered ice tea. The waitress asked me what I wanted in it. I said sugar. She smiled and said, “Honey, I would love to give you some sugar, but we can’t while on the job. What do you want in your tea? Rum, gin, whiskey or vodka—maybe with a touch of honey and a spritz of lemon?

I was confused. “No, I just want plain old Southern sweet tea.” She looked surprised then added, “Don’t get many orders for plain sweet ice tea, but it won’t take long. You get free refills. Just waive me down, when you need more.” The lounge manager ordered special steaks for my boss and I.

After we finished eating, the manager told us that he had put together a committee of girls to work with us. Four from Georgia Tech and three from Georgia State. He added that most of the lunch crew were students in local universities. Many of the night time crew were college graduates, who figured out that they could make far more income, with shorter working hours as a strip club waitress than as a teacher. I didn’t say anything, but you can imagine what I was thinking. He suggested that we tour the facility, while the girls were finishing up with the local businessmen there.

Sad men wasting a lot of money

It was explained to me that our waitress was one of the many girls there, who normally went fully clothed. The manager asked her to give me a special welcome to the Cheetah Lounge. All of the female bartenders were fully clothed. Generally, but not always this was a message to the customers that these ladies were either “taken” or only interested in meeting a potential boyfriend or future husband. Men requesting prostitution services from them could be thrown out of the lounge.

I noticed that several of the tables were being utilized by middle aged or senior men, who were dining with a Cheetah Lounge girl. Well, I didn’t see any girls eating, other than occasionally grabbing a french fry and sipping a soda. The manager explained that these men paid the 18-20 year old girls $35 to $50 to chat with them, while they ate lunch. That’s $71 to $102 in 2023 dollars. That’s was sad. Were they THAT lonely or desperate to have a conversation with a woman? The manager said that most of these men were actually married.

The men, sitting at the bar were much younger than the men paying girls to eat with them. They were able to talk freely with the bartenders and barmaids without paying a fee. However, the drinks were quite a bit more expensive than one would pay at a conventional restaurant. The young women and college girls would chat and smile with some of the younger, better dressed men, but brush off guys, who looked like hicks or acted crudely. I saw a male bouncer, dressed in a suit, ask one of the men at the bar to leave, after being signaled by a female bartender.

In the center of the large open space was the area that you see in movies and television. On a platforms about three feet off the main floor, almost naked young women were dancing to the music or performing erotic aerobics around a stainless steel pole. Their only clothing was a cloth, wrapped around their waist and private parts, where they stashed money. Men along the edge of the platform were handing them wads of cash.

Young women, with very little clothing, danced around these poles, but I can’t show them to you.

Farther north were booths, where men and women were having drinks or meals together. The manager explained that these were both regular couples off the street and men paying young women at least $100 to give the appearance of being on a date. That’s $202 today. My boss said that these booths were where men typically made contacts for after hours liaisons with the women, that would cost far bigger bucks.

On the far northern end of the establishment was the area where management wanted our services for renovation design. This area seemed to date back to the hippie area and were rather depressing. There were three view areas defined by folding curtains and cheap high school cafeteria type chairs. Men paid $100 ($202 now) to watch “shows” on slightly raised stages, separated by glass from the men.

The central and right hand stages had the glamour of a high school athletics shower room. That essentially was what they were. Pairs of young sweet thangs, wearing only G-strings, would squirt Hershey’s chocolate syrup and whipped cream on each other, then assist each to shower the mess off. Yep, that’s what these men paid the equivalent of $202 to watch.

On the left was the torture chamber, separated from the seating area by an eight feet tall glass partition. It was a floor level and even less imaginative. It had concrete floor, painted gray and plain gypsum board walls painted white, over which someone lacking any artistic talent had crudely painted the outlines of stones. There was a 2″ x 6″ pine board on the back wall, about seven feet off the floor, on which hooks from a hardware store had been screwed in.

The “show” consisted of one wearing minimal black clothing like on our waitress, leading in another girl, only wearing a G-string, by a rope attached to her bound hands. The dominatrix then attached the victim with plastic hand cuffs to the steel hook. She then beat the victim with a cheerleader’s pompom then bound her legs and squirted Hershey’s chocolate syrup on the victim as she uttered fake moans of pain and pleasure. That was it.

First meeting with the staff advisory committee

The manager directed us to a back booth to wait for our staff advisory committee. My boss told him that he had to get back to the office. After the manager was out of hearing range, I told my boss that I didn’t know if I was the right man for this job. I had no experience with designing either night clubs or strip clubs. He told me not to worry. His interior designers had worked on many clubs in the Atlanta Area. All I had to do was take the photos, measure the spaces and get input from the staff committee.

He added . . . corporate executives typically spend $200 or more at lunchtime in the Cheetah Lounge. Professional athletes and rock band members typically spend $500 to a $1000 at a night time visit. Many architecture firms won’t take such jobs, but our firm will make more from this job than we get for remodeling an entire house in Buckhead. If I made the the clients happy, I would definitely get a bonus. The money was needed, but inside my head, I wanted to get back to the Valley more than ever. City life was just not me.

Then, one by one, the members of the staff advisory committee finished with their clientele and walked back to my booth. They were dressed in trashy clothing to please the trashy, but wealthy men, who patronized the Cheetah Lounge, but they were obviously intelligent, charming young ladies. Why would they demean themselves so visibly. The answer was MONEY, but we will get to that in a little bit.

The girls all wanted to know about me first. They said that I was different than any man, who had ever come in there . . . ice tea at a bar & lounge? I told them that I was born in the Okefenokee Swamp in Southeast Georgia (they giggled) but for many years, I had lived on a big farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. (they giggled again) In addition to being an architect, I was a goatherd and owned a famous goat cheese creamery. (they giggled again) I also raised Barbados Sheep with big horns and Toulouse Geese, plus grew gourmet asparagus for restaurants in Washington, DC. (they giggled again) It was clear that they didn’t believe me, but I added that exactly a year ago I had been spreading 75 tons of goat and sheep manure over my pastures. (they rolled in the floor laughing)

The eyes of one of the girls lit up. “Wait a minute! He’s telling the truth! I am from Fairfax County. Three years ago, when I was a senior at McLean High School, I remember seeing a program on NBC Channel 4 in Washington about a goat farmer in the Shenandoah Valley. Was that you? I said, “Yep!”

You were with Chef Julia Child and a pretty French girl at a gourmet food tasting. You won an award and the pretty French lady was constantly making eyes at you. Did you get a date with her?”

I grinned, “Actually, I was on a date with her, but she told Julia Child in French that we were married.”

The Fairfax girl added, “The program then moved out to your beautiful farm in the Shenandoah Valley. You have this big colonial house with fireplace in the living room that you could almost put a bed in. My favorite part was when you yodeled and about 200 goats and sheep of all sizes came flying down from the pasture and surrounded you, like you were their daddy. Could you yodel for us?”

It is impossible to yodel quietly. When I did, half the people in the Cheetah Lounge starred at me like I was the Creature from the Dark Lagoon . . . but my Staff Advisory Committee loved it. No man had ever yodeled in the Cheetah Lounge before.

Well . . . the young ladies were relieved that I was not an arrogant pig like most of the men they had to entertain. I was relieved that they were all quite intelligent and very pleasant to work with. Here is the concepts that we came up with.

Right Mini-Theater – This space would be transformed into a romantic Tuscan villa garden. The girl would wash off the Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup underneath a classic Italian Renaissance fountain.

Central Mini-Theater – This space would be transformed into an exotic tropical paradise. The girl would wash off the Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup underneath a waterfall.

Left Mini-Theater – We would create multiple scenes by removing the fluorescent light fixtures and replacing them with stage spot lights. The Medieval play would begin with sweet, happy priestesses of the Earth Goddess Gaia dancing in a forest meadow. Then evil soldiers of the Inquisition (played by bouncers) would capture them, where they would be tortured, almost naked, on the rack. That scene would please all perverts. In the final scene the Inquisition soldiers are about to burn the sweet young ladies at the stake, when Wonder Woman appears out of nowhere to save the day!

How much money did the college girls make?

It was obvious that the smart college girls received much bigger tips at lunch time than the less educated girls. If they wanted to be in the same income range, the latter category had to make up the difference by brokering paid night time trysts. That’s not saying that all of the less educated girls did this, but according to the college girls, it was a fact of life at strip clubs, which management always denied.

The natural leader of the staff advisory committee was obviously a borderline genius or a genius and also beautiful. She was majoring in a combined degree in Electronics Engineering and Computer Science then wanted to get a PhD in robotics. With the money that she squirreled away in a foreign bank drawing interest, she planned to start a corporation that would design and build robots for industry.

After she got to know me better . . . making sure that I was not an IRS agent . . . she confided in me. The previous year, she had made over $75,000 ($151,000 today) from working 10 hours a week at lunch time, plus going on weekend dates. By that I mean being a paid escort. She knew that I knew what she meant.

She later commented, “I get to go to the best restaurants, Falcons games, fancy parties in Buckhead, ski trips in Colorado, symphony concerts, plays . . . meet rich and famous people . . . last month I sat across the restaurant table from Ted Turner and Jane Fonda . . . but I am only doing what other college gals are doing for free!

Not for me!

Well, I guess if someone wants to sell their soul for money, it is up to them. On the other hand, I had been a squeaky clean, loyal, honest, hard-working husband in what turned out to be a lie of a marriage . . . and what did I get for being wholesome? Being reamed royally by the spouse, who had lied to me. In the mean time, though, I hated living in the city and longed to be back living with nature as soon as possible.

That experience ended by career as a Medieval Torture Chamber Architect.

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