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Primp'n Hos

{mosimage} In the span of three small blocks there are nearly a dozen similar storefronts, filled with slutty mannequins in fishnets and clear-heeled platform shoes, and adorned with names like Liquid Dreams, Bed Behavior and Forplay. They are the famed lingerie boutiques of Hollywood Boulevard, colloquially referred to as “hooker shops” by the tourists and locals who pass by. Some storefronts are new; others have been here for decades, greeting generations of doe-eyed, milk-fed girls fresh off the bus from Bumfuck Nowhere. The plethora of scanty-panty pushers made us wonder: Is L.A. really home to hundreds of strippers, or are these shops nostalgic remnants of the formerly seedy boulevard? Or maybe just tourist traps? We toured the shops to get the lowdown.

Tools of the Sex Trade

Owner Sharon Rahim opened Bed Behavior just eight months ago. A costume and lingerie designer who has worked with MTV and for hip-hop artists and pop singers like Britney Spears, Rahim says his clientele is a mix of strippers, dancers, porn stars and club-goers, as well as “lots of couples” who come in mainly for “masturbation tools.” Bed Behavior stocks Frederick’s of Hollywood–type bras and panties, naughty-girl costumes and dildos galore — from standard rubber shafts to high-end, jewel-box-worthy stainless-steel toys. Occasionally Rahim gets requests, like the Fuck-Saw, a dildo with a handle on one end that is used, well, like a saw, and The Fist, a prosthetic hand, wrist and forearm device that is so intimidating every orifice clenches at the sight of it. He also installed an S&M backroom, filled with paddles, whips, prods and chains, and a stripper pole (on sale for about 800 bucks). And if you’re looking for a penis tiara or boob muffin tins, look no further. Bed Behavior has an entire wall devoted to bridal-shower/sorority-girl-hazing equipment. What do tourists think? “Mostly, they want to know if they can take this stuff on an airplane,” Rahim says, laughing. You can — just make sure you put it in your checked luggage. You don’t want to be going through security with a line of shoeless women and children behind you when the TSA bag checker holds up your Fist and asks you to explain. 6507 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 464-6645, www.bedbehavior.com.

The shoe department at Playmates

Shoes Star

The name is kind of gross, reminiscent of both sticky, preadolescent Star Wars sheets and some kind of Paul Oakenfold trance mix. Liquid Dreams is also known simply as Tony’s Shoes. According to John, a manager, the store was first on the block and has been selling “exotic shoes” for the last 20 years. Business was better before Hollywood Boulevard began cleaning up its image, he says, but a fair amount of strippers, porn stars and stylists still stop and shop. Sales manager Paul Avakian tells me about providing costumes for the Spanish version of the notoriously cheesy and gratuitous-cleavage-filled television show Blind Date. While we’re there, Hilary Duff’s stylist pops in looking to outfit her stage dancers with fingerless leather gloves for an upcoming tour. And ever since the whole pole-dancing-lesson craze took off, John says, he gets plenty of closet strippers coming in for thongs and glitter-filled Lucite platforms. (Floor-to-ceiling practice poles for the novice go for about 120 bucks.) But the thing the shop owners are most proud of? “You go around to all the shops,” says John, “you’ll see we are the only place that puts the price on the shoes. [At other stores,] if they see you drive a VW, it’s one price. If you drive a BMW or a Mercedes, the price changes. With us you know if you’re getting a deal.” 6505 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 465-3335, www.liquiddreams.com.

{mosimage}Undress for Less

The brick exterior, the red, green and white lettering — everything about Roma makes it look like a former pizzeria. Lacking the panache and glitz of some of the other shops, Roma seems outdated and a little dusty, like a bargain-basement outlet. It’s the Ross of the group. Roma makes all the outfits, costumes and panties that hang beneath the shop’s vaulted ceiling. Sales manager John says the merch was once made right there on the spot, when business was better, but now production has moved to Burbank. The store has been hawking spandex and Lycra in the same spot for the past 14 years to dancers and hip-hop artists like LL Cool J and even Queen Latifah. And tourists? By most accounts, they come to ogle but not to buy. 6501 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 957-1988, www.­romabikini.com.

Bling Ka-ching

The windows at Forplay are dressed with scantily clad, top-heavy mannequins that gaze open-mouthed at you like models on Spearmint Rhino billboards. Yes, this shop is all about male fantasy. It’s been on the block for about 10 years, attracting its share of dancers with its own line of lingerie and role-playing clothes — everything from sexy scarecrows (who is into that?) to bad-girl cops. With its leopard-print carpet and thick red-velvet drapes, the dressing room looks ready for an impromptu burlesque show or a campy make-over movie montage. And Forplay’s cornered the market in body bling: rhinestone belts, tiaras, necklaces, handcuff earrings — even crystal spider-web halter tops and chain-mail bikinis worthy of any poolside hip-hop or rap video. Bitch bling... yeah, they’ve got it. Christina Aguilera’s and Madonna’s stylists stop in to get some shine and smut for their songstress bosses, while regulars Snoop Dogg and Ice T cruise by themselves to pick up presents for their hos . . . er, I mean girls. 6434 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 464-0362, www.­forplayonline.com.

Clothes Make the Woman

Rather creative window displays featuring mannequins in period pieces — from slutty Victorian to tarty 1940s pinup to futuristic hookers — make the huge Playmates store feel more like a costume shop than the other down-to-business dancer-centric places. Inside, the stock is overwhelming. You’ll find a perplexing silver-scaled mannequin in flight, a wig section, more sequined thongs than you can shake your money maker at, and an enormous selection of pasties and fishnets. There’s even an adjoining shoe store — specializing in platform mules and boots, of course. Karena Danien, the adorable shop girl at Playmates, tells me that along with Avril Lavigne (it makes sense when you see the stock of checkered and skull ties), Beyoncé and Carmen Electra, a large number of trannies shop here. “And they spend money,” she says. The average is about 15 per day; most are street hookers, some are escorts. She can’t always tell the boys from the girls, but she can tell the dancers from the civilians just looking to excite their boyfriends. “You can tell who’s a stripper by the outfits they put together, and they buy thongs in every color.” 6438 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 464-7636, www.­playmatesof­hollywood.com.

Victoria’s Darker Secret

A chandelier drips sweetly from its heart-shaped ceiling coffer, pretty-dainty-frilly bras and panties in candy colors line the walls — Bizzy B is more Victoria’s Secret, and definitely the most female friendly on the boulevard. But there’s an edge too, with vinyl and leather pieces. This is a place women might go to spice up their love life. On the day we went to stake it out, we saw two women pushing baby strollers. There’s something for everyone, from the demure to the raunchy. It feels young and hip and current, filled with hot trends like animal prints, metallic bikinis and polka dots. 6548 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 469-4309, www.bizzybofhollywood.com.

Other Naughty Notables

After a while, your head starts to spin. How many nurse costumes are there? Are wings really a turn-on? Like shopping on Melrose Avenue, the homogenization of merchandise makes the shops blur together. Here are a few more notables:

One of the older places on the boulevard, Z’Gan has been here for 24 years — “before the Metro, before the riots,” says owner Morris Sharaf, to give me some perspective. And the merchandise kind of looks as if it’s been sitting here that long too. But no other place carried silicone buttocks. 6512 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 462-8707.

Know someone with a belly-dancer fetish? Je Taime has all you need. In an effort to set itself apart, this shop started stocking jingly-jangly belly-dancing outfits and saris, Indian oils, incense, even hookahs. That’s hookahs. 6524 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 469-1400, www.jetaimecorp.com.

At Lady Studio Shoes, we’re talking boots — thigh-high, ankle-high, from leather to glittery numbers worthy of Ziggy Stardust. Go-go boots to shoes for “regular girls,” as the salesman calls them. 6500 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 461-1765, www.ladystudioshoes.com.

More of the same at Mr. & Mrs. J — costumes, bikinis, panties — but also a large selection of bathing suits and hosiery. 6620½ Hollywood Blvd. Hllywd, (323) 463-1872.


For more of Rena Kosnett's pictures, click here.


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