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To Serve and Project

They're clean. Fresh. Nubile. White. The women who read Elle and the men who date them. They have names like Tish and Gwyn and Kim. And they all want to work at the Baja Beach Club.

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Parents, beware. Your kids may have been standing around a nightclub last Wednesday afternoon telling dirty, racist, sexist jokes. And just to get a job.

These clean-cut, energetic, scrubbed, and well-coiffed young adults were auditioning to be food servers, bartenders, and doorpeople for a soon-to-debut Chicago nightclub, the 25,000-square-foot Baja Beach Club, at the burgeoning North Pier Terminal, where Illinois Street runs into Lake Shore Drive. The club opens August 10.

"I picked up this girl at a bar and she told me to give her 12 inches and make it bloody. So, I gave her three inches four times and punched her in the nose," one guy told us. And the applicants--that is, everyone except for management, various publicists, and the judges--roared. There's nothing quite like a good intercourse joke.

The auditions took place at Baja's sister club, the Tijuana Yacht Club at Grand and Clark, which has been open only a few months. Both are owned by Heartthrob Enterprises, a nationwide chain of clubs and restaurants that expects $50 million in gross sales in fiscal 1989, if you know what that means and it makes a difference to you.

You might think the Baja is going to be a comedy club, with stand-up waiters and waitresses, but no. This was the scene: most of the 30-odd young people (all of legal age, but many just barely) had already been interviewed, deemed acceptable (that is, probably and potentially pert), and prepped for what was to come. Come be yourselves, they were told, tell a few jokes, tell us why you want to work at our new club. Most of all--and in this they all succeeded grandly--be as cute as a gosh darn button and dress like you were raised in Santa Cruz and not Glencoe. In other words, be as rad as possible, see?

"Why'd the rubber bit the wall? Because it got pissed off," said one young woman, a waitress at suburban Oliver's who's desperately trying to crash the big-time Chicago nightlife scene.

And so they came. Clean. Fresh. Nubile. White.

They were judged by a panel of local journalists--me included (I rated them F for fab, U for un-fab, and Y for yuck). We would supposedly glean from their shticks the applicants' worthiness to serve others like us, or perhaps even us, an Amstel Light amidst loud music and penthouse-high pent-up lust. My co-celebujudges included Doc Jones and Shirley Clark from WBMX, political satirist Aaron Freeman, River North magazine's Marie Frances Barry, and Pat Smith from the Sun-Times. In exchange for our expertise we each received a T-shirt, suitable for framing, and a gift certificate.

First they warmed up. The DJ played music and the kids cranked up. They were hot, there was no doubt, demonstrably enthusiastic, and fitted out with as many trendoid fashion accoutrements as possible: colorful Guatemalan friendship bracelets, Nike Aqua Socks, jams (if you have to ask, no matter your age, you're too adult to understand), neon-orange miniskirts, rectangular John Lennon glasses. These were women who read Elle and the guys who date them. They had names like Tish and Gwyn and Kim.

And could they dance! They gyrated, fell naturally into a conga line, then just as easily segued into a tempestuous, temptress-laden cakewalk, complete with sexy undulations.

Finally it was time to tell us their names, why they wanted to work at the Baja--"Like, I just graduated Northern, and, um, I realized how much I really like to dance on furniture and serve people food"--and to give us a hint as to their inner sanctums.

They told jokes about blow jobs, nuns, women, and pigs.

One guy did an imitation of black rap singers. He had the right beat, the right thang, but it was ugly, racist.

Another guy pretended he was on the toilet and had run out of toilet paper at an inopportune time. He did a duck walk, waddling in an imitation trek through his house to retrieve more tissue. "Come on, you guys," he said to his fellow auditioners, "you can understand this, right?"

Still, there were lots of great kids who would add genuine sparkle to the club. They were funny, spontaneous, totally rad.

"I'm neurotic about feet," said Terri Wangler. "I hate toes. Like, I was on a date and I looked down and this guy's big toe completely took up the gas pedal." Said Jennifer Bretz, "That's Bretz, not breasts." And Mark Ward: "If I can't put food on my own table, at least I can put it on others'." David Magden said he's wanted to be Peter Brady all of his life (like, David, who hasn't?). Then he did a dance to the theme song for Gilligan's Island. You remember (and certainly David did): Gilligan, Professor, the Skipper, Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell III, Mary Ann, and Tina Louise as Ginger.

Tish Crumpacker, a recent Indiana University grad, told us that this job would help her move out of Indiana, a most admirable goal. I gave her an F for fab. She then did a song from Sweet Charity with considerable vim. "Can you believe my mother let me sing that in a second-grade pageant?" she asked. Peter Bozic, as tall and lanky as a cornstalk, showed us his Adam's apple, "the world's largest," he assured us. Sure enough, it was preposterously big, like a nectarine. Mat Jacobs, in neo-geo love beads and pink high tops, told a joke--a genuinely funny joke, which he described as "phonetically oriented" whose punch line was "hollandaise sauce!"

They were actors, bartenders at other clubs who could toss bottles around like professional gunslingers, guys with master's degrees in comparative lit, and women in MBA programs, and they were judged on six counts: communication, smiles, energy, enthusiasm, confidence, and observation.

By my calculation, 26 of them would be at Baja opening night, dancing on bar stools, serving up fajitas, dishin' the babes, eyein' the guys. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Tony Griff.

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