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Restaurant Queen Trixie Traded a Future on Wall Street for a Place in Hell's Kitsch-in

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It’s amateur night at Trixies in Manhattan. A transvestite in a tight red dress has just won the $100 first prize. His/her rendition of Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer” triumphed over the preppy blues singer, the Tiffany look-alike, the gospel diva and several other performers, most of whom were booed off the stage before reaching their second stanza. The Gong Show lives.

Outside, a line of would-be Trixters is forming in front of the grimy facade of what used to be Molfeta’s Greek diner. The queue may not rival the crowds outside other New York night spots, but that’s because Trixies has a revolutionary policy: It takes reservations. Dozens of other reverse-chic eateries have cropped up in Manhattan in recent years and become popular—usually for the food. But Trixies offers, in addition to a reasonably priced menu of eclectic dishes(such as chicken pesto and sloppy joes), something that can’t be bottled or fried. Or, for that matter, categorized. The entertainment includes not only the inimitable Mr. Spoons—a 40ish vaudevillian in a silverware-covered suit who taps out tunes with his cutlery—but also the even less imitable Dainty Adore O’Hara, a heavy, 30ish man who dresses like Little Bo Peep and sings country and western songs.

The biggest drawing card, however, is the hostess herself. With her Buddy Holly glasses, three-inch platform shoes and black bra as outerwear, Trixie presides over the orchestrated chaos that makes her place the unique dining experience it is.

Trixie, whose real name is Dana Flynn, was born in San Francisco and raised in Scarsdale, N.Y. As a child, Flynn used to perform for her two younger sisters. “My passion has always been to entertain,” she says. In her high school yearbook, she wrote “See you at my hotel.” After graduating from Cornell with a business degree in labor relations in 1983, Flynn went to work as a broker for Smith Barney. Two years later she bought a seat on the New York Futures Exchange and began trading for herself. With the money she earned on the trading floor, she was able to take over the 10-year lease on a 5,000-square-foot space in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. “The whole time I was on Wall Street, I knew I wanted to open a spot where friends could come and eat smothered steak, wash it down with a Schaefer beer and dance,” says Flynn, 27. “Wall Street was just a good place to learn how to do deals.”

The joint, as its majority owner calls Trixies, opened last January. Flynn had advertised heavily in trendy magazines, and “the turnout was good on every night except Wednesday. Wednesday was a slumber party. I mean a dud, so we decided to do amateur night.” Wednesday is now one of Trixies’ busiest nights.

Flynn, who lives by herself on Manhattan’s East Side, says she’s “the exact same babe” that her Wall Street colleagues knew. “It’s just that the clothes I used to wear after work I wear all the time now.” Away from the joint, she remains on the lookout for talent. “I’m always eyeballin’,” says Flynn. “I get people from nightclubs in Harlem and the boardwalk at Coney Island, from the Staten Island ferry and Central Park.”

Just then “Le Freak” comes over the sound system. Trixie breaks off the conversation and launches into a series of enthusiastic gyrations. Inspired by the owner, many diners take a swig from their quart bottles of beer, push aside their sweet potato fries and leap to their feet. “I had no idea this would be so much fun,” says Trixie. “This is a lot of work, more than Wall Street, but if I had closed my eyes and tried to imagine what Trixies would be like, this would be it.”