It's near 2 a.m. on a Monday night at the cave-like Hollywood club known as The Martini Lounge, and Toledo is busy making love to a tall blonde in the corner.
It all started when Toledo, a tall, handsome black man who dresses and looks somewhat like André Braugher's character Detective Pembleton on the show Homicide began directing the lyrics of his sizzling acid-jazz song "The Rain" toward the lithe beauty with long, delicious legs sitting to the right of the stage.
"I like my baby down and dirty, sure 'nuff sturdy, in the rain," goes the refrain. Granted, the blonde didn't get down and dirty all at once. At first, she just nodded her head and smiled as Toledo turned his arsenal of charm toward her. By the end of the long, winding song, she was busy humping a leather sofa she'd been sitting on, moving her slim hips from side to side, and coming as close to getting off as you'll ever see in a club.
Eventually, Toledo, '40s-style mike in hand, was standing behind her matching his motions to hers. There was nothing crude about it. Both parties kept their clothes on, but it was a dance of sex all the same. "You got to put it in its perspective," explains Toledo the next day, chain-smoking cigarillos and spouting smoke like an ebony dragon as he talks. "It is what it is right then and there. It's not, 'OK, now let's go home and fuck.' Because then it goes from the fantasy into a reality you have to pay for. So when the show's over, the show's over and I'm gone.
"Then people leave feeling fulfilled and feeling they had a good time, but not feeling like they did something nasty."
You see, Toledo is a gentleman -- a brilliant dancer, singer and showman whose 1996 CD Fishnets and Cigarettes (Moonshine Music) won him universal critical acclaim. His next album, Misfits Lullabye (forthcoming on Scratch Records), is just beginning to gather praise. But it's the stage show Toledo is really famous for in his home town of La-La Land and in the hundreds of gin-and-juice joints it's played in from coast to coast.
Formerly a choreographer for the likes of Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul, Toledo crafts a performance of blistering eroticism with the help of his dancers, affectionately known as The Dames, and his band members, whom he calls The Kats.
The Dames usually wear fishnet stockings and high-heeled shoes and dance duets with the sax and bass players. Legs are spread wide. Feet get kicked up high in the air, and lovely, round asses worth their weight in gold are paraded past the salivating pussyhawks in the audience. Toledo, with the brim of his fedora pulled down low, watches over it all like Big Daddy -- his voice scratchy and stylized, offset by the sweeter vocals of his partner-in-crime Malik Pointer.
Oh, and everyone smokes and smokes and smokes. It fills the Martini Lounge -- their home base and the place you can find The Toledo Show every Monday night -- and filters the light from the scores of multicolored lamps hanging from the low ceiling. But even thicker than the smoke is the combined stench of sweat, cologne and, cooch juice. As The Toledo Show goes into its second hour, the funk wraps around your skull, and you get lost as if in a narcotic haze. That's when the women, fired up by the alcohol, Toledo's vocals and the site of The Dames shaking some raunchy booty, start to act out.
Sometimes, if they're wearing skirts, the panties come off and fly up onto the stage. Other times, they try to mimic The Dames, even though it's harder than it looks 'cause The Dames are all professional dancers. Basically, the ladies in the house get damn aggressive. If they see something they want, they grab it. Suddenly, it's Sadie Hawkins day and the fellas are the passive ones -- not that they mind. They all seem to have smiles on their faces come closing time.
"Last night we did some party," Toledo relates. "And this girl comes up out of nowhere and straddles my mike stand. And I'm singin' and she's doing the microphone pole dance. Then different girls come up and start grabbing me and Malik. It was crazy."
"If I was in my 20s, I couldn't be doing this. Because I wouldn't know how to deal with it. But being that I'm way past 21, the excitement of random fucking isn't what it used to be. One way or the other, you always gotta pay, with hurt feelings or time or something."
Thus when the music winds down after a two-hour set, the blonde is gone and Toledo is escorting his dancers to their cars. But you know, if Toledo had led an entourage back home to his house, the orgy could have started then and there, and he could've been playing "Simon Says" with every broad in the joint. As it is, everyone got his or her fix, and then everyone went on home.
Stephen Lemons is a writer in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to GettingIt.