Culture | May 6, 2022 7:16 am

Wonderland, New York’s New Hybrid “Gentlemen’s Club,” Is Reimagining Adult Entertainment

Strip clubs meet a traditional nightlife experience at NYC's newest nightclub

Sam Urdang (Left) and La Reine, both performed on opening night at Wonderland
Sam Urdang and La Reine, two of Wonderland's diverse group of performers
Courtesy of Hideki Aono

Last year, I issued an impassioned plea for men to embrace strip clubs again. This may seem like a pretty easy sell. After all — as certain lingering gendered stereotypes would have it — what man wouldn’t want to watch women undress in an adult entertainment venue catering to male fantasies? 

As it happens, however, the answer is quite a few of them. In recent years, it seems strip clubs have fallen out of fashion, particularly among a certain growing population of supposedly progressive young men. When I mention strip clubs to most men, they’re only too eager to tell me that they’re “really not that into strip clubs,” and only frequent them — very begrudgingly — at bachelor parties. For the modern, socially conscious man, strip clubs seem to represent a vestige leftover from a bygone era of sexuality, one rooted in toxic masculinity, objectification of women and various other social ills of which most modern men are desperate to steer clear.

The problem, however, is that these seemingly progressive attitudes from well-meaning men are actually kind of whorephobic. Not to mention, those men are unnecessarily depriving themselves of the joy and — I mean this unironically — the art of erotic entertainment. 

Fortunately, Wonderland, New York City’s new hybrid nightlife venue combining adult entertainment with a traditional nightclub environment, may have a solution. In 2022, strip clubs need no longer be seen as either seedy haunts for the old-school and uncouth or obligatory bachelor party destinations. Rather, adult entertainment can blend seamlessly into a modern, gender-neutral nightlife experience.

Interior shot of Wonderland
Inside Wonderland
Courtesy of Wonderland

“The gentlemen’s club model of the past needed to evolve,” says Richie Romero, Managing Director of Wonderland who has also been the creative mind behind nightlife hotspots including Times Square’s Nebula. Romero adds that adult entertainment has become “more inclusive” in recent years. “I’ve been seeing women enjoy the entertainment more than guys lately,” he tells InsideHook. “I hate the title ‘gentlemen’s club.’ I much prefer ‘adult club,’ since it shouldn’t be gender specific anymore.” 

Indeed, at the club’s grand opening last week, my female friend and I were two of many —  if not a majority of — women in attendance.

At Wonderland, which opened last month in NYC’s Flatiron District at 20 W 20th St, guests are treated to a diverse menu of high-octane entertainment — both NSFW and otherwise — in a hybrid environment that combines a traditional club setting with on-stage spectacle. There are strippers and pole dancers, yes — exceptionally talented ones whose athleticism “one-ups the go-go dancing spot of yesteryear,” according to Romero — but guests will also enjoy live performances by fire-eaters, sword swallowers and various other avant-garde artists. 

In short, Wonderland puts on the kind of multifaceted performances New Yorkers might find in variety shows at burlesque clubs like The Slipper Room, but in a nightclub environment complete with bottle service, celebrity hosts, DJs and all the trappings of your traditional nightlife experience. 

“The hybrid model just works,” says Romero, adding that Wonderland provides an inclusive form of entertainment: “an adult experience for everyone.”

La Reine The Thrill Making Sword Swallowing Look Easy on Stage at Wonderland in NYC
La Reine The Thrill on stage at Wonderland
Courtesy of Hideki Aono

Inside the venue, which was previously home to the now-shuttered VIP Club, guests flood a space that captures the high energy, big room NYC nightclub experience in a relatively intimate setting. Wonderland boasts just under 10,000 square feet, with a main stage flanked by 12-foot LED video walls and a second-floor mezzanine. While the square footage puts Wonderland on par with most other NYC clubs, twists, turns and private rooms lend the space a labyrinthine feel befitting the name.

“I like all the different nooks and crannies, which make you go down that rabbit hole of Wonderland,” says Romero. Admittedly, my friend and I, perhaps a little inebriated on the open bar provided at the press preview late last month, had more difficulty than usual navigating our way to the exit — in the best way possible. 

Meanwhile, Wonderland still has a few tricks left up its sleeve. The venue is teasing a private, members-only speakeasy set to open sometime this summer, which Romero says is being kept under wraps: “We’re gonna surprise everyone come summertime.”

In the meantime, I urge you all, regardless of gender identity, to go forth and enjoy some risqué entertainment. Happy post-pandemic clubbing, New York. Have fun, and tip well.