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Striptease, With a Wink

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the last decade, Hollywood nightclubs have cranked up the volume on sex. From such hedonistic adventures as the ‘90s club Grand Ville, which popularized the art of seduction with strip shows that appealed to both men and women, to such burlesque acts as the Pussycat Dolls and the Velvet Hammer, sex in the city sells. With the addition of the 6-week-old hot spot Forty Deuce, we’ve now got the cherry on top of this saucy scene.

Created by Deep owner Ivan Kane, Forty Deuce offers one of the sweetest burlesque shows we’ve had the pleasure of viewing. Unlike its raunchy relative Deep, which revels in sleaze with go-go gals and guys bumping and grinding behind see-through walls, Forty Deuce celebrates striptease as an art form.

Located at the former Kane bar in Hollywood, the original site of Small’s K.O., Forty Deuce is a tiny bar with big ambition. Its purpose is to titillate without being crass. The nightly burlesque shows feel like a throwback to a more innocent era. Yes, the girls strip down, but it’s done with a sense of humor, tremendous talent and in remarkably good taste. The costuming conjures up visions of Mae West and ‘40s pinups rather than the prototypical Hustler trash.

It’s hard to not fall head over heels for Forty Deuce’s headliner, an Argentine dancer named Carolina (Car-o-leena). Not only can she dance with an effortless grace, but she does everything with a sense of fun and frolic, making Forty Deuce feel more like an adult version of Farrell’s than something akin to the Body Shop.

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Forty Deuce, designed by Fred Sutherland (who also designed Deep), feels like the after-party to Hollywood’s scene. Despite its size, a teensy 125-capacity, you don’t feel claustrophobic. Essentially, arrive early, grab a seat and settle in for the night. To be sure they reserve a spot for you, call in advance for reservations.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Ivan Kane bar without “some” sleaze. Forty Deuce’s bathroom doors are painted with the clinical words for male and female reproductive organs.

But really, that’s the only overtly garish element to an otherwise classy joint.

Even though Forty Deuce is very modern--case in point, a hydraulic bar that disappears as each show starts so that it can become part of the stage--the club feels Rat Pack-era loungey. It features plush red chairs, a 22-foot runway and a beaded red, white and blue stage backdrop. Deuce’s size works to its advantage, making it feel like a private USO show with you in Bob Hope’s seat.

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Performances are scheduled for 11 p.m., midnight and 1 a.m., and the dancers are backed by Joey Altruda’s winning jazz combo.

Although the club just made its debut in June, it has already attracted such regulars as George Clooney, Vince Vaughn and Nicole Kidman, who’s been tapped to perform at an upcoming celebrity charity striptease. (Va-va-va-voom!)

Kane, who grew up in New York, named the bar after his childhood nickname for 42nd Avenue. His next moves include opening a Deep in Las Vegas and a Forty Deuce in New York.

All we can say is: Let the good times roll.

Forty Deuce, 5574 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, (323) 465-4242. Open Wednesdays-Saturdays, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. 21 and older; $15 cover nightly.


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