Sex, Drinks And Videotape

Can't find love the old-fashioned way? At one new bar, high-tech hookups are just a phone call away

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I'd never asked a stranger to strip for me before. But there was something about being in the Remote Lounge, a bar in New York City's East Village, that made me want to ask a guy named Jesse (dark, sexy eyes) to take it all off.

Maybe it was all the surveillance equipment. Normally, if you want to meet someone at a bar, you have to walk over and deliver your best pickup line. But at Remote, you scope out people using video monitors hooked up to a network of cameras scattered around the room. Then you can push a button next to your monitor to let the object of your desire know that you're watching. Still interested? Pick up the phone and start chatting. If you are like me--and like lots of people I saw at Remote the two times I visited--you just might end up saying and doing all kinds of things you never dared before. It feels safe when only a camera is staring back at you. "Unbutton your shirt," I tell Jesse over the phone.

Is this the future of singles bars for the joystick generation? It's too soon to tell, but it makes sense. After all, we love video games, webcams and voyeurism. And online dating has warmed us to the idea of making digital love connections. "We think of it as a social lubricant that gets people interacting," says Bob Stratton, 42, the former bartender, artist and dotcom executive who opened the $1 million bar last fall with two partners. He says Remote is so successful that they plan to launch an international chain.

On a recent Saturday night, a bank of video cameras above the bar flashes a kaleidoscope of images: women's cleavage, men's butts, couples kissing, faces laughing. My pal Sora and I snag a seat at one of the two dozen desktop video consoles dotting the cozy, cavelike space and push a button to start channel surfing. When we see someone interesting, we use a joystick to zoom in for a better view. Within a few minutes, a message pops up on screen: "Channel 33 says hi! Would you like to go to that channel? Press A if so. Press B to deny them." I press A and pick up the phone. Someone named Adam is calling. He says hi, tells me he's in the back room and asks me to stop by later. Next a Jose from Brooklyn calls for Sora and tells her, "You're adorable." She blushes, then politely blows him off.

I spy a looker on Channel 7 and push a button to let him know I want him to talk. He tells me his name is Lucien; he's 32 and Dutch. Sounds good to me. But when I finally make it over to Lucien's table at the back of the bar, I discover he's married. Also, he has bad teeth. I move on to Adam, who looks better in person than he did on camera, but his brother Alex, 23, is more my type. We flirt; he asks me for my number and wants to take a picture of us together. He pushes the camera button on his console, and the snap is instantly sent to where we can check it out later (along with the 1,649 pictures taken by other Remote patrons that night).

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