Thursday, May 17, 2007

My first shift

My first "real" shift technically was a day shift, from 2-6 pm, where there were maybe 14 customers for the duration and I only made 80 dollars, 40 of which being from 2 lapdances, the rest being stage tips from my two stage shows. During the day the dancers were a lot nicer, older and a little less attractive. There were more old, rich men who were loyal to their favorite dancers, and a lot less competition. Had it been busier, I can definitely see how it would be possible to make 300/shift, as the men tip better and have more money. This was just a warm up shift.

My first real night shift was a Monday night. I went in thinking it wouldn't be that busy, as it was a Monday, however, I was wrong. I got there around 7:15, got dressed and was on the floor by 8. I danced my first set five minutes after which definitely helped me get in the mood. Ones and fives spilling out of your garter is just incentive to keep going. I found the first customer who gave me eye contact and sat down next to him and introduced myself. He was a businessman who had just come in town for a dinner meeting and didn't feel like driving all the way home so he got a room at the ritz carlton and a wad of $20s to get dances all night. He bought dances from me in sets of 2's. I would talk to him for maybe 10 minutes, and then he would ask for 2 dances, I'd dance, he'd give me $40, and then we'd talk again, repeat. I sold him 8 dances within 2 hours and made $160. I honestly don't remember who else I gave dances to, I was so elated that my first customer was so awesome that no one else mattered. I also sold a VIP room to a drunken russian who only wanted to talk about how much he wanted to kiss me and how he's a lifeguard and from russia. I made 100 dollars for sitting and talking with a drunk for 30 minutes fully clothed. When he found out he couldn't touch me or kiss me he wanted nothing to do with me and the only thing i had to focus on was keeping him distracted for 30 minutes so he wouldn't get angry and demand his money back. Even though he couldn't touch me I think he had a good time talking. Before I knew it, the night was over and we were changing in the dressing room. There were so many women from all different backgrounds. I was the youngest. There were a couple dancers who had babies, a couple dancers from broken homes trying to make money to get a car, an apartment, to go to school, there were a couple students like me, and of course the typical stripper who just wants to make money to afford clothes and purses and expensive things, with no real goals- the lifers. Some dancers were friendly with me, others barely talked and kept to themselves. I was absolutely mesmerized by a certain dancer, not your typical stripper look- short dark hair, small breasts, punk looking.. but her stage shows and lap dances were amazing. She didn't shake her ass, she didn't do anything lewd or obscene to get tips, she purely danced, and she was fantastic at it.

I made 400 dollars after tip out my first night, and drove home very happy.

The Audition

I found a club in my town. Probably not the best idea as the town is like a fishbowl and you see people you know everywhere you go. It was a full-nude, no contact club. I had never even seen the inside of it before I went into audition. Saturday afternoon I got all dressed up, shaved everything, lotion, perfume. I called ahead and asked the manager if I could audition in half an hour, he sounded like sandpaper. He said to bring a swimsuit or lingerie to dance in, so I told him I'd be there. I cautiously turned into the club, making sure no cars I knew were in front of or behind me to see me go there. I parked around back, and stayed in my car for a good 5 minutes convincing myself to go in. Then I crossed the line into the world of stripping, and didn't turn back. It was dark in the club, a girl was on stage wearing 7 inch platform shoes dancing to some hip hop song. The two girls at the door told me to go straight through the employees only door and take a left. I did, and met the manager. He told me that I'd have three songs to audition to, the first song I would dance completely clothed, the second, take off the top, and the third be completely nude. This made me a little nervous, but I knew I could do it. I sat behind the stage and watched the other girls for awhile, and then when my name was called up, went for it. I was so nervous I don't even remember what songs were playing. I made 17 dollars on stage, despite tripping over my g-string taking it off and almost falling out of my amateur 5 and a half inch heels. I went back to the office after my audition and the manager told me I was hired, and that I could either start my first day on day shifts, or go straight to the night shift because my audition was one of the best he had ever seen, considering I had never danced before.

I thanked him, got dressed, and left the building.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Beginning

Hello Babylon,

Many of you will never get the chance to unveil what goes on behind the makeup, perfume and lingerie of America's most taboo strip clubs. Many of you will never understand, because from the outside looking in, it's almost impossible. My job and mission is to try to explain it, and make the issue a little more comfortable for you.

I am an average American girl. I grew up in a stepfamily, as the oldest of five siblings, my father having passed when I was young. When I was young, we were low-middle class, but as I grew older we became low-upper class, and although we had more money, my parents were still very frugal about what I was and was not allowed to do based on how much money my parents would give me, and how much I could make working part-time temporary jobs. I graduated early at age 17, moved out and started college, where I absolutely flourished. I attended a major university somewhat close to home, within driving distance, but far enough away where I wouldn't bump into people I knew at the mall or grocery store. While I was in my freshman year of college, I created myself, book by book, essay by essay, friend by friend, night by night into the person I am now. I became completely infatuated with metaphysics, spirituality, religion, the universe, buddhist philosophy, yoga, gonzo journalism, old music from the 60s and 70s like the byrds, bob dylan, the grateful dead and a myriad of other neo-hippie interests. I started attending music festivals, where masses of people would gather in fields for days on end and wander around floating in the music. I became deeply connected with nature, and would go daily to the park to just sit and write and meditate. As a social science major, I became drawn to study other cultures and countries outside my own, and developed an insatiable urge to GET OUT. This urge could not simply be willed, I would not transport myself to Thailand to a Buddhist monk temple, I could not simply teleport to Egypt to tour the pyramids and dig up artifacts, I would never be able to do the plethora of things I wanted to do without money. I tried looking up "volunteer opportunities" via the internet and travel agencies for students to go and live in a foreign country and help with teaching children english or other services, but even these required thousands of dollars to even consider them being an option.

I moved back in the my parents for the summer and the pressure was on to get a job. After futile efforts to get a nice restaurant to hire me with no serving experience ( I had done every job under the sun EXCEPT serving) I gave up, and rested for a week. I went to the park and played guitar in the sun. I went to the beach. I stayed up late on friends porches smoking cloves and talking about my big plans that seemed stagnant and fixed in space.

I had taken a couple women's studies courses the previous semester, and while they preached about being a "sex-positive feminist" and owning your sexuality, being proud of your body, not being ashamed of your sexuality and being sexually active, the books demonized adult industries like exotic dancing. I had always been extremely sexual, starting with my exploration of my sexuality at age 14 with another girl, and losing my virginity my freshman year of high school, much earlier than my peers. I never considered myself a "slut", in fact, I hated that word. Using the word slut just enables men to use it against women, so even in gym locker rooms when girls would get in arguments with me and toss around words like whore, slut and skank, I always resisted. I always knew that women were powerful. We hold a very special energy that we can use to our advantage. We have power; through our words, our bodies, our actions; to achieve whatever goals we truly desire.

And so, it is with that mindset that I made the decision to use my power to my advantage and work as an exotic dancer. I knew that I would never let myself become one of those 40 year old women who was still up on stage shaking her ass, I knew that I could stay grounded and use it as a stepping stone to get myself to a place where I could achieve my goals. I read Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha" and instantly found a parallel, although several decades difference, between the traditional Japanese geishas and the world of modern day exotic dancing.

Geishas are entertainers, used to stimulate the male ego, to provide conversation, to titillate the senses, albeit through very subtle flicks of the wrist and gentle movements that SEEM demure, it was all about the tease. Geishas wore shoes 8 to 11 inches high, that made them seem to float above everyone else, and although it seemed impossible to walk in, they did, with much grace and beauty. Exotic dancers (in the gentlemen's clubs) are entertainers, the first thing a dancer will do upon entering the floor is find a gentleman and strike up a conversation, if the male ego is stimulated enough, the man will ask for a dance, or the dancer will (with class and a demure, coy attitude) allude to a private dance. Like Geisha's shoes, although not as high, dancers wear platform heels anwhere from 5 to 9 inches tall, and perform acrobatics, strut with an air of confidence, and float all over the room. As far as the facade goes, Geishas wore white face paint, except for 2 v-shaped areas of skin left bare at the nape of the neck, to let the men see a glimpse of what was underneath. They wore elaborate kimonos, nipped tight at the waist, and bright cherry blossom red lips, subconsciously indicating to the men that they were desirable. Like Geisha's, dancers wear elaborate, feminine hairstyles, makeup used to indicate that they are healthy and desirable, and costumes or lingerie to help with the act of entertaining. To step into a Geisha's or an exotic dancer's world is to enter a world of an actress. It is a facade, it is power-play, it is sex-positive feminism at work.