While rummaging through my closet, I found a tee shirt that evoked a treasure of old memories. The tee sported a poorly drawn picture of a scorpion and bore the name of the establishment from where I purchased it: Scorpio. Under the name were the words: dancers, pool and cold beer, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The original Scorpio was an old two-storied building located at Villa and N.W. 23rd, across the street from the Shepherd Mall. The bottom floor had a bar, several pool tables and a dance floor—a wooden structure raised about three feet off the floor. Music played while the mostly male customers shot pool, drank beer and watched the dancers perform on the raised structure.
The female dancers all wore the equivalent of a bikini with no exposed nipples, buttocks or pubic hair. That was downstairs, the action upstairs quite different—at least I had heard. Not everyone was allowed to go there. Nudity in Oklahoma City, at the time, was banned and rule breakers treated harshly by the authorities.
Most of the young men frequenting the bar were baby-boomers. Many, myself included, had survived the dirty war in Southeast Asia, partaken of the many illegal drugs so readily available there, and had visited the nightlife of Saigon and the brothels of Bangkok. Oil exploration was turning the City into a boom town, the young men of Oklahoma, and those pouring into the State because of the boom town prosperity, an adventurous bunch and ready for a change from the ways their fathers did things. The Scorpio was there to provide that change.
I remember the first time the stairway guard allowed me and my friend Mick to go upstairs. I tingled with excitement and to say that electricity filled the darkened room would be stating a stale cliche that didn’t come close to expressing the pure sexual exhilaration constricting my chest and shortening my breath. A Bob Seger ballad wailed through the darkness as a pretty blonde girl gyrated, totally naked on the stage, both exposed and swathed by the reds, blues and greens of a dancing strobe.
Upstairs was a clone to the downstairs with one essential difference—the dancers performed totally nude. Each young woman danced to the music of three songs. They performed their first song, like the downstairs dancers, in bikini-like costume. They would remove their top toward the beginning of the second song, and their bottoms during the beginning of the third song to the captivated attention of every young man in the place.
About this time, the Supreme Court ruled that nude dancing is not pornographic. After having their hands rapped by several adverse court decisions, the City removed its ban on nudity. Nude dancing soon became common in clubs around Oklahoma City, the Scorpio moving to a new location on north May.
Totally nude dancing continued in Oklahoma City until the Supreme Court ruled that cities could regulate activities that the majority of the people did not approve of. I don’t think a vote to regulate nudity ever occurred but the local police began operating as if it had. Oil prices had begun to collapse, ending the oil boom and Oklahoma City’s boom town mentality. Baby boomers were older and most, by this time had their own children. No one much protested the end of an era.
The Scorpio no longer exists, but the building that housed it remains. Ironically, it's now the home of a Vietnamese pool hall and domino parlor. I smiled as I pulled on the old tee shirt, a little too small for me now, but still in good shape. Yes, an era has ended but I still have my memory of the first time I climbed the stairs at the old Scorpio, not knowing what to expect, but spellbound with youthful anticipation.
Born a mile or so from Black Bayou in the little Louisiana town of Vivian, Eric Wilder grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales of politics, corruption and ghosts that haunt the night. He now lives in Oklahoma and continues to pen mysteries and short stories with a southern accent. If you liked Dancing at the Scorpio, please check out his Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBook author pages.