Fat Matt's, which used to be called Irene's, was a perfect place for a goth night. Located in Kansas City, Kansas, Fat Matt's is usually a cool, laid-back place that attracts a mix of longtime Strawberry Hill residents and scenesters largely new to the area. So it was a little weird to walk in for Black Moon Monday and see the place transformed into Club Fat Matt's. DJ Maxine Headroom set up in one corner and pumped out the old-school goth and industrial tunes, such as Erasure's "Oh L'Amour" and the Cure's "Lovecats." The room was dimmer than usual, and the pale goth kids gleamed in the black light as they danced.
After arriving around 11 p.m., Research Assistant Erica and I hovered by the bar and ordered drinks. Goth night also coincided with Mexican Monday, which meant $2.50 Tecate bottles. In addition to the beer, the bartender also convinced us to start our night with a shot of grog, the house specialty. Poured from a dark bottle, the banana-flavored concoction came with rules on how to consume it. Owner Joni Bocelewatz told us that it's a "sensual drink," so we were supposed to swirl it before sucking it down. The alcohol-fume aftereffect made me gasp.
Then, in walked Fat Matt, the bar's hefty tomcat mascot. He's an orange stray who meandered in about a year ago and adopted the place. One of Matt's quirks is his penchant for clambering onto car tops, after which he is inadvertently driven away. Recently, he climbed into the back of a pickup. The driver made it home, saw Matt, then had to turn around again to bring him back to the bar. Joni thinks Matt is the reincarnation of his namesake, who ran the bar for 30 years with his wife, Irene. "He's wide," she said of the cat. "Fat Matt died in '98, and he was a big man."
Fat Matt the cat seemed oblivious to the thumping music. He also thought nothing of the whipping, which was now going on in the middle of the room. A brunette in a long, black vinyl skirt gripped the edge of a table and bent over a bit. A frat-looking guy in khaki shorts unloaded onto her ass a small cat-o'-nine-tails whip. Later, I chatted with the whippee, Jennifer, who is one of the coordinators of Black Moon Monday. She said it'll probably be a monthly affair.
She showed me her whips. One cat-o'-nine-tails was attached to her waist. It measured about a foot and a half and was made of wire. Another was a short whip made from soft, black leather. "I let people play with this one," she said. "And [the wire one] stays with me."
I asked her about what went on at fetish shows. She explained that they consisted of skits: some medical-themed, some witch-themed and one based on the Salem witch trials. She said they were "sexy and spanky" and non-pornographic.
Jennifer and a guy named Dustin soon started reminiscing about the goth scene in KC. I asked them about the link between goths and fetishists. Dustin, a 26-year-old with a mop of dark curly hair, compared the two subcultures to a Venn diagram. One circle represents goths who aren't into fetish, and the other circle is fetish people who aren't into goth. The overlap is the sometimes-intersection of the two. Dustin said he's in the former category but understood the mutual acquaintanceship. "We're the fringes of subculture," he said. "We're not going to go to America's Pub."
However, Jennifer said the goth-fetish bond was an unusual alliance, specific to Kansas City. She recently went to a goth convention in New Orleans, and a fetish panel was "totally dissing the goth community," she said. She attributed the closeness of these two groups to the smallness of KC.
From that point on, the night got more random. Erica and I decided to split a $6.50 Grand Marnier margarita. As we drank, the guy with khaki shorts was passing out. On the TVs above the bar, the Food Network broadcast Alton Brown.
Jennifer called me over to her table. "Would you like a picture of vibrating nipple clamps?" she asked. A guy in a black kilt and a ponytail had pulled the armholes of his white tank top to expose his nipples. Jennifer attached the clamps, which vibrated away.
"Uh, how does it feel?" I asked 32-year-old Aaron.
"Good!" he said.
A few newcomers walked in. One was a guy with long, brown hair and eyeliner. Jennifer started whipping him as he bent over a table. She worked the leather whip in a figure-eight pattern over his lower back and butt. She smacked his upper back hard. They moved over to the bar, where he pulled up his shirt. She nipple-clamped him, too. By that time, she had taken off her white, short-sleeved shirt and black tie and was just clad in a black bra and a vinyl skirt.
Later, I talked with Astin, the 25-year-old guy who got whipped and clamped. He described the experience as "relaxing." He's in a fetish troupe in Lawrence, and electricity and hot wax are more his kinds of things. In the meantime, his friend Franki, a cute redhead, came over. A guy standing at the end of the bar was freaking her out. Clad in a sleeveless, white Nike jersey, the guy sported a blond goatee and a close-shaved head. He spouted off in Spanish, and the only English word he threw in was "fuck."
"He's really looking to get laid," Astin said.
"He's creepy. There's always one every time I go to bars in Kansas City," Franki said.
Astin and Franki wandered off, away from that guy. Before Erica and I left, we made sure that Fat Matt the cat wasn't atop the Night Rangermobile.