Where the Wild Girls Are

Sometimes bare-breasted hedonism requires artful negotiation.

Venus Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue Through February 26, 216-631-2727
She could choose any of the girls, but Ashlea Goins, with her made-for-MTV body, picks the first pair she sees.

"Will you guys flash for the camera?" she asks, smiling like a traveling salesman. "You'll get a T-shirt."

One has a California tan and shiny brown hair. The other looks barely 21, her sandy blond locks pinned up in a mess. They're still nursing the night's first beers.

"I've got no tits," the blonde tells Goins.

"Neither do I," Goins fires back.

Goins' C-cup betrays her lie, but the blonde's resistance is wavering. She'll need just a little more coaxing.

"We get a T-shirt!" her friend reminds her.

Apparently, this is enough. The girls are handed tank tops emblazoned with "Mardi Gras Girls" -- the company for which Goins works. The friends awkwardly slip into them like middle school girls changing for gym. They stand together, wearing skimpy white tops and anxious smiles.

"I can't do this," the brunette blurts out, right before Goins cues them.

Both girls lift their shirts and shake their exposed breasts. The grins on their faces mix Look at me now! with What the hell am I doing?, a look made famous by Girls Gone Wild's late-night commercials.

They giggle back to their beers. "I did it for the T-shirt," the blonde says.

A few feet away, a round man with a shaved head and buttoned-down shirt watches the action unfold. His name is James Garrett, and he's among the legion of imitators trying to copycat the success of Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis, who made millions with the painfully simple idea of videotaping topless women.

Garrett's Crossover Entertainment International recently started shooting footage for Mardi Gras Girls, the company's first DVD. On this wintry Thursday night, Garrett and his crew are at Slam Jams, a North Olmsted sports bar tucked between a day-care center and an H&R Block.

Earlier in the evening, Slam Jams seemed nothing like the sun-baked yachts or sweaty French Quarter streets where the girls in the commercials bare all. It was Guytown -- basketball jerseys and visors, Bud Light and pistachios.

But last-minute radio ads attracted adventurous girls in their twenties. Now, after enough shots and beers -- and some subtle nudging by 21-year-old Goins -- the girls seem ready to make this Thursday evening memorable.

As it nears midnight, they gleam with sweat, grinding with each other or with men they've never met. Goins approaches a pair of girls in tight jeans and dark blouses. One has tight curls, the other straight, stylish hair -- both look like sorority pledges. The cameraman lingers nearby.

"Do you guys wanna kiss for the camera?" Goins asks.

"We're sisters," they explain.

Goins doesn't press on.

In the center of the dance floor, a semicircle forms around a blonde in a black biker hat. The camera turns to her, and she dances a sexy look-at-me dance, a striptease without the pole.

Goins motions for her to lift her top. The woman complies, revealing her black bra. Goins urges her to pull down the bra. The woman exposes her small, pert breasts and dances for the camera and the crowd. When she's done, she walks to the bar, a pleased grin on her face.

"Do you know where that goes?" she asks. She has no idea where she'll show up naked.

A few minutes later, Garrett finds the cameraman on the dance floor. "The girls are gonna do a thing on the bus," Garrett says. "Come on."

Goins emerges from the bar holding the hand of a strawberry blonde named Jackie. Outside, the air is crisp and clean. Goins leads Jackie to a shiny white RV.

"You stay with me," Goins says, like a mother shepherding her daughter, as she helps Jackie up the stairs. "You're beautiful."

"Thank you," Jackie says.

As the door closes behind them, Garrett grabs a Bud Light from a pile of beers in the sink and twists it open for Jackie. The four walk to the back of the RV, past tan leather chairs, a wooden table, and cushioned bench. They walk into the bedroom, where a giant mirror reflects the double bed's light blue quilt.

"Why would you choose me?" Jackie asks.

Nobody has a good answer, but her slurred speech provides a clue.

Goins whispers for the girl to take off her top. She clumsily pulls her pink shirt over her head and stands in her bra. Goins hands her a Mardi Gras Girls tank top.

"So you want me to change into it?" Jackie asks.

Goins smiles, and Jackie pulls the shirt over her head.

Now Goins steps closer and gently kisses her lips. Garrett smiles. Girl-on-girl action is good for business.

"Can you show your g-string?" the cameraman asks.

Jackie hesitates, then pulls down her tight khaki pants, divulging the top of her g-string.

"Can you pull them down to your ankles?" he asks.

She pushes her pants to the floor in a crumpled heap.

"Now can we see some skin?" he asks in a friendly, it's-no-big-deal voice.

She yanks down the top of her underwear, exposing the bottom of her belly. The cameraman asks for more, and she pulls them off. Goins kneels behind her, hidden from the camera. She reaches a hand through Jackie's legs and playfully pets her crotch.

Jackie looks like she's ready to leave, but the cameraman asks her to lie on the bed naked.

"I'm not drunk enough for that," Jackie says as she starts putting on her clothes.

"We've got alcohol," the cameraman says. "It's your lucky night."

But Jackie's finished. She quickly dresses and heads for the door.

Garrett climbs off the bed. "She has to sign a release form," he says.

Jackie sits down at the kitchen table to sign a release.

"We need you to read that and -- you're over 21?"


"Do you have your driver's license?"

"It's in the bar."

Garrett asks Jackie to talk into the camera. She recites her full name and affirms that she signed the form. She grabs her beer and heads for the exit.

"You can't take that outside," Garrett says.

She takes one final pull, leaves the bottle on the table, and walks back to the bar.

Inside, Jackie orders another beer, slams it, and pitches her last bottle into the trash can. The dance floor is still packed. Garrett's crew unhooks the plastic "Mardi Gras Girls" banner and loads it into the RV.

It is nearing 1:30 now, hours before Jackie will wake up and recall her Mardi Gras Girls debut. In her hung-over head, the images will likely be a cloudy haze. But on the DVDs and late-night commercials, it will all be crystal clear.

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