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Stop & breathe the Oxygen

DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wildcat staff writers Lindsay Utz and Lisa Schumaier sample from the new oxygen bar at the Bunny Ranch on Friday night. The bar offers a menu of various oxygen flavors ¸ each with a unique color and effect. Flavors include mango, passion fruit, strawberry, spearmint and the apparently misspelled "canberry."
By Lindsay Utz & Lisa Schumaier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday November 21, 2002

New oxygen bar ¸ Tucson's first and only ¸ at local strip club offers means for ╬natural' high

Friday night was the grand opening of Tucson's one and only oxygen bar Ě and who does the Wildcat send to cover the event? Two silly feminist entertainment reporters. Good choice.

Together, the two of us are assigned to sit and huff the big O. We imagine the prospects of this fun assignment: giggling and taking notes about our legal high. Sounds innocent and non-controversial, right? But there is one catch: Our mountain air resides at one of Tucson's only all-nude girlie bars, the Bunny Ranch.

Once inside, we immediately head toward the bar. Introducing ourselves to the bikini bartenders, they offer us some Liquid Sex. Liquid Sex is a neon-green drink that looks like some substance used to preserve internal organs.
DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tubes of liquid oxygen await customers at the Bunny Ranch. The flavored gas is administered to users through clear tubes placed in the nostrils. The strip club is home to the first oxygen bar in the Tucson area.

As we wait for our neon sodas, we start investigating the oxygen bar, which is basically lined with a bunch of plastic boxes filled with colored liquid, with tubes attached. It's pretty small and casual. We grab a seat at the bar and start snorting away as strippers and their jaw-dropped gapers abound throughout the club.

We did not know until now that oxygen came in different colored liquids. There is even an "aroma menu" advertising the various kinds. We start with the mango, which promises to be "invigorating." After a ten-minute air snorting exercise we try the passion fruit, which guarantees some sort of "cheering," whatever that means. There is also "revitalizing" strawberry, "strengthening" spearmint, and "elevating" canberry. Canberry? Whoops, on the menu, they've forgotten the "r."
DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Staff writers Utz and Schumaier await a $1 lap dance from a nude Bunny Ranch performer Friday.

The cheesecake is disconcerting. Not only does it smell like taxi seatbelts, but cheesecake reminds us of our grandmothers ¸ and who wants to think of their Nana in a place like this? We spot an old man in the corner getting a $20 lap dance from a very young girl. We make a note to ask about their senior citizen discount.

So yeah, this little bubbling bar is kind of nifty. In front of us are four tubes. On a leash that oozes scented air into our eager nostrils, we inhale. We're offered aphrodisiac mints and chocolate bars that are subtly wrapped in "Have Sex Tonight" packaging. We are not ready to stray too far from the friendly bartender and into the naked abyss.

Maybe we're swiveling too fast on our bar chairs, or maybe the oxygen is kicking in. The room begins to look like this: Laser lights, naked bellies, silent porn, more naked bellies, lots of suburban boys, bubbling oxygen, Technicolor sex drinks, dollar bills and even more breasts.

Each flavor comes with some attached effect, and while you should never believe what the product promises, we're actually starting to feel loopy and silly.
DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
The "oxygen bartender" helps a customer with his oxygen tube Friday night at the Bunny Ranch. Customers can consult an "aroma menu" to help them choose what sort of oxygen to select. The menu explains the health benefits of inhaling the gas.

We're bouncing and waving at David, our photographer for this strip club field trip, and whispering to one another that soon we may be ready for a lap dance.

Still, we try to hold on to our professional attitudes as best as we can, interviewing the only dressed woman in the joint. We inquire about this noisy oxygen respirator while inspecting the nosepiece for boogers left over from the last horny college boy. "Do you think they sanitize these?"

"Does it matter? Wow, is that girl really doing an upside down split on that man's lap or is it just the oxygen getting to me?"

On the back of the menu are bullet points advertising oxygen, as if they really have to sell us on this stuff. The nasal enema promises to replenish our body's energy level, increase stamina and endurance, improve sleeping patterns hair and skin, filter toxins from our blood, relieve stress and regulate digestion. We are sold.
DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
A customer who identified himself as "Mike" tries out the oxygen bar for the first time on Friday night at Bunny Ranch.

"Since we are open until 4 (a.m.), a lot of people come in after the bars close, and (oxygen) is proven to help hangovers," said the fully-clothed manager, Lynn.

After the typical 10-minute, $10 binge of oxygen, we sense that our next journalistic move should be to report the only other "natural" element in this overly synthetic room ¸ the naked girls.

"A beautiful thing," an oxygen-induced man chimes in.

So, that gets us to thinking that maybe these stripper places aren't as sleazy as is commonly believed. Maybe the Bunny Ranch is just a place to celebrate the female body. Not, of course, in the Venus sense, an idea that embodies the

ultimate female beauty. This is more of a rub-your-naked-body-all-over-a-shiny-motorcycle kind of celebration.

So, OK, it's not our idea of feminine beauty; but it's obviously someone else's. We're still uneasy and, well, kind of skeptical about this whole scene of explicitly naked college-age girls.

The looks from the men around the catwalk don't help. They're curious and angry that we've invaded their world of spinning flesh.

There is an 80-year-old man in a lumberjack shirt licking his toothless gums as he stares intently at the young blonde dancer. We are starting to think we don't belong.

Yet, some men happily hand us dollar bills, because they want to see girls straddle other girls, like they couldn't just look up at the television monitor in the corner of the room, playing a dirtier version of that same thing.

We begin to wave our dollars like good sports, and ¸ as we continue reminding ourselves ¸ good journalists.

We are here to write an article, but not one that is bogged down by preachy opinion. Three years of women's studies did not prepare us for this. Nor did 20 years of our own nudity.

Assigned to report on a unique bar, we instead document a feeling, one induced by oxygen and visual stimulants. We come out of the bar feeling like we have counted to 10 a hundred times, and are still waiting for clarity.

Energy drinks, aphrodisiac mints, women shaved and pierced, and oxygen ¸ what is the correlation? We come out feeling over-stimulated. On the way to the car, we forget our inner struggle of right and wrong, how they make ends meet and how we make ends meet.

Something said earlier, during our lap dance, stands out to us.

Recorder shoved in her face and her bare chest in ours, the dancer admitted, "I wouldn't say I love this; it's just a job."

The night has ended. Ideas are strip-teasing their way through our minds about the pending article. We can't say we loved it; it was just a job.


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