Selling with Sex

Sex sells. The thought of sex catches a man’s attention. If you want to draw his attention, show him a picture of a sexy woman. Even on a t-shirt. Even a sexy mom riding a pipe-fusion machine.

Following are tees from businesses which did just that — put a sexually-stimulating picture on a t-shirt to draw business. Most of them are bars and restaurants, but they needn’t be.

AJ Spurs

This is how it works: you pull into an AJ Spurs faux-Western steak house and bar; these restaurants dot the off-ramps of US 101 from north of Santa Barbara to south of Salinas. The server hands you a menu.

You peruse the menu. You give a pass to the “Twin Peaks” (two bacon-wrapped filet mignon topped with shrimp and shredded lobster) You give a pass to the Maine Lobster Tail.

Instead, you go directly for “The Gambler,” 35 ounces of top sirloin and all the fixings. The Gambler is AJ Spurs’ “eating challenge” dish. Because if you eat the entire Gambler….

…you get a t-shirt. This t-shirt. Yee (yawn) haw. Still: busty cow-girl falling out of her bra while ringing an Old West “Come ’n Get it” bell? And the caption “I ATE THE GAMBLER”? The subtext here is thicker than horseradish.

Which is probably why AJ Spurs changed the t-shirt design. Eventually.

The Lucky Beaver

Lucky Beaver Bar and Burger is a 24/7 steakhouse/sports bar/mini-casino in Stateline, Nevada. Where the casinos start just about one inch from the California border, on the shores of lovely Lake Tahoe.

And no, at the Lucky Beaver you’re definitely not in California anymore. Or this t-shirt would look a little different.

Apparently the Lucky Beaver’s a fine joint for breakfast, burgers, drinks, steaks, and what have you. “What have you” includes the“Horni Beaver Margarita,” a drink called “Beaver on Top” and a massive hot dog called “The Johnson.”

Tourists like the Beaver; locals like the Beaver. The largely-female waitstaff bares much flesh. From the t-shirt you may surmise that the Lucky Beaver is a hit with lightly-civilized young men in their 20s. But I’ll show you a picture. If you didn’t get the picture already. That’s Nevada for you.

I’ve encountered this t-shirt several times in my travels; this was the first one that wasn’t almost completely thrashed.


Selling with sex isn’t all about food and drink. It can also be about hardware and tools. And adhesive tape.

Face it, anything can be sexy in the right light: ask a 16-year-old boy. They don’t even need light. Thirty-five-year-old tradesmen sometimes aren’t much different.

In the American public’s mind, 3M is the kindly old uncle of American corporations. They sell tape, and they’ve been around however; how bad can they be, right?

On that last question, answers vary widely. But it’s clear that kindly Uncle Three-Em will pitch big-breasted cheesecake with the best of them to catch the tradesman market.

Note that the ‘driver” wears high-heeled sandals with her racing suit. 3M printed several t-shirts in this series — hot women, cars, electrical tape — but I chose not to Collect Them All. I have my pride.

Cheese Burger

Back in the ‘80s, two women from Los Angeles visited the tropical island of Kauai. They fell in love with Kauai, but a month of local food left them in dire need of a good cheeseburger. Kauai couldn’t help with that.

Cheese Burger Waikiki t-shirt: cute.

So they started at restaurant in Kauai called “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” It was an instant hit with cheeseburger-starved tourists and others. Several more locations in Hawaii followed, mostly simply called “Cheese Burger” because of a lawsuit by singer Jimmy “Cheeseburger in Paradise” Buffet. There’ve been Cheese Burger t-shirts: cute, cartoony ones. Nothing over the top.

The owners then tried to start a few Cheese Burgers on the mainland. One of them was in Vegas, in a mall on the Strip. Here’s the t-shirt:

Cheese Burger Las Vegas: the Vegas treament.

This is not cartoony. But it’s very Nevada. Hyper-sexualized women make good marketing for a state that’s little more than a giant carnival. A godlike, topless Hawaiian woman worships a giant cheeseburger? That’s just Vegas rules, baby. What you’ve got to do to be relevant.

Cheese Burger Las Vegas didn’t last. Neither did one or two attempts to bring the Cheese Burger brand to California. To Vegas, I think, Cheese Burger Las Vegas was just another gourmet burger and breakfast joint with a cute theme and a few low-risk Hawaiian dishes. The menu didn’t even have Spam.

So: while a Cheeseburger in Paradise may indeed be something rare and special… a Cheese Burger in Vegas? That’s just another cheeseburger.

Little Swiss

By most accounts, Little Swiss Cafe in Carmel serves a very decent breakfast or lunch. That’s more than enough; don’t know why their t-shirt makes an attempt at a sexy Swiss waitress.

An attempt gone horribly wrong, by the way, between the server’s strangely-curved abdomen and her near-demonic smile. It’s a smile that asks, “What if I drained all the blood from your body and replaced it with cheese fondue?”

“Mmmm… how about the scrambled eggs and chicken-apple sausage? “

Johnny’s Bar and Grill

Some people call them cocktail lounges, or clubs, or saloons. To me, they’re all bars. Whether the drinks are mixed or beers the only tipple. Whether there’s one pool table or a dozen.

You pony up. You drink — with friends, for company, or alone when you’re the only company you have or want.

There may be food. There may be ‘tude. There may be social life, or a darts tourney, or a pick-up scene. Or just locals who know each other, or want to know somebody, anybody, because they’re lonely or horny and home is just a bed. And if you buy enough drinks, at least the bartender will learn your name. Eventually.

And there may be a tee shirt, especially if it’s a dive bar. (Although about everything calls itself a dive bar these days.) A bar t-shirt’s purpose is to be worn proudly by customers; but mainly to look somewhat cool, so that the bar looks cool, too. So that you, a stranger, might see the shirt and think about stopping by.

The question is, “looks cool” to whom? If you’re a certain kind of guy, “cool” may be a hot blonde with breasts spilling out of her clothes, a pool cue, and a motorcycle. It’s a kind of visual pheromone; the scenario writes itself in the hopeful mind. And while the promise may never be kept, you never know. And there’ll be beer.

Johnny’s Bar and Grill, by the way, is a venerable small-town saloon in Hollister, California. There’s Monday Night Football on the big screen, dart tourneys, karaoke nights, and probably a pool table someplace.

And once a year it’s invaded by bikers; the whole town is, actually. Call it a festival. I really doubt that bosom-spilling centerfold models visit the premises nightly, but you can dream. They want you to.

Sarah Pale Ale

While this isn’t your usual “sex appeal” tee, the point is that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was first suggested for 2008 GOP vice president candidacy by horny college Young Republicans. The GOP sent a few of their tame beltway pundits up to look her over, and Palin bowled them over with — personality, sex appeal, whatever. It sure wasn’t political knowledge or judgment. Later developments made this quite clear.

But she still has her fans, including one who owns a brewpub on Kodiak Island, Alaska. “Sarah Pale Ale,” and this t-shirt, are currently available for you to buy. Sarah, too; she draws well for appearances and speeches.

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