There are two places I’ve felt comfortable: the strip club and the academy. The academy—what we with the eggy heads call the general concept of institutions of higher learning—because they are all geeks like me. And strip clubs because they are all freaks like me.
Thee DollHouse, the first strip club of my employ, opened its doors here in Gotham in the fall of 1991. The early nineties were a heady time of stratospheric expense accounts and the brand spanky newness of high-class gentlemen’s clubs, at least here in the North. Apparently, judging from the ubiquitous drawling accents of the exquisitely scented swarm of ex-beauty contestants and ex-cheerleaders and fitness competitors who staffed this club, this industry had been alive, well, and gyrating sinuously in the South long enough for guidance counselors to suggest this as career path to their more pulchritudinous if intellectually limited female students.
Oddly located in the old El Morocco space in the East 50’s, Thee DollHouse was the sister club to Stringfellow’s Pure Platinum, where I also ended up working. Both clubs were “owned” by this very shiny, very tan man whose name escapes me. My memory recovers him as looking a lot like Tony Orlando, of Dawn fame.
Why, you might wonder, the air-quotes around “own.” The land of stripclubs is a Chinese box of illusion. Nothing is ever what it seems, nor, really, do you want it to be. That’s what real life is for. So there is always the “owner,” the man who is paid heavily by some unseen but palpable body to perform the job of ownership. The man who “owned” Thee DollHouse chain, whose name I can neither recall nor retrieve from Google, was in the mid-90’s convicted of trafficking cocaine, extortion, and various other related crimes. Hence “own.”
I came to work at Thee DollHouse through my very best, very dearest friend Becky. She had moved from Boston, was writing her M.A. thesis in community policing, and needed a job to support her sociology habit. She had stumbled across the advert for the club and called me at my crappy job at a video post-production house.
“Come on,” she said, “it’ll be fun.”
I remember sitting on the roof of the building in the scrum of women who were going to be providing the service part of the club—we who were the lowly bartenders, waitresses, hostesses, and so forth. The manager, Randy, who was also oily and overtan and with a big Southern moustache, said, “You may not think so now, but within six months you’ll be dancing. I’ll have you dancing.” And winked. We looked at each other and wondered who would be first.
There is a fierce hierarchy in stripclubs. Suffice to say the waitresses are not at the top. Fortunately, there are still some people below us, but not many. And I knew that my competitive spirit meant that no matter my age or my current state of possessing too ample too pasty flesh, Randy was right. I would dance because I like to be at the top.
But I get ahead of myself. I’m not going to take off my clothes. Yet.
My first night of work, I was giddy with anticipation. I donned my Thee DollHouse regulation uniform of white bustier, tan hose, white g-string, white rose-patterned thigh-high stockings, and white 3-4” heels with eager hands. I applied a lot of make-up. I looked at myself in the mirror. And I was nervous.
The girls really were beautiful. They wore gowns--spangled, beaded, sequined, bursting with color and shiny with light. Their hair was perfect, their nails were perfect, their skin was perfect, their bodies were perfect.
I have to admit, this moment was the first time I’d ever seen breast implants. I mean, where would I? I grew up in the North.
And implants, sometimes, look weird. There are those that look like toilet plungers attached to some rail-thin girl’s chest. There are those that look like an orange in a tube sock. There are those that wrinkle and pucker at the sides like a single-serving brioche. There are those that point in opposite directions like mispositioned headlights. There are some that look hard like Danish modern furniture. Others that are just too high, too improbably tilted up as if perpetually adoring the face of the girl who possesses them. Yet others that are simply too large, too bursting, like fruit about to go rotten.
Still others, though, are gorgeous. Perfect. Inviting. And would make a bisexual out of Laura Bush. And I already was one.
So, yeah, the girls were beautiful, but mostly what I felt was a kinship with the men—and not just because I like them was getting the good down low tingle—but mostly because it was all overwhelming. Too many women, too many body parts, too much tan taut flesh, too many flashing lights on too many pert perfect asses.
And too much weirdness.
Because I defy anyone to come up with anything more artificial than a strip club.
If you’ve been to one, you know the drill—though in 1991 the drill was new and fresh and seemingly devoid of the ennui it now has because of its omnipresence—an earthshatteringly pretty girl catches your eye. She, unbelievably, walks up to you. She smiles. She introduces herself. She takes your nervous hand in her soft, delicate palm. She makes a moment of small talk. She asks if you’d like a dance. You very much do. You spread your legs, and between them she begins a three-to-four-minute seduction to cheesy music. Her clothes come off. She looks at you adoringly. She smiles shyly. You watch to imprint in your head the visual of that gyrating ass, those slinky long legs, those breasts being offered like food. She gets closer and closer, her smiles more and more genuine.
And then she stands up and asks for another and another and another. Until you come to yourself and realize that this…is it. And you’re paying for it. At $20 a three-to-four minute seduction, the fantasy adds up to reality pretty fast.
For some. Others can exist in that state of Andrew-Jackson-fed fantasy for improbable periods. But again, I get ahead of myself.
So mostly, what I felt that night was the weirdness, the oxymoronic premise of a stripclub: That artificiality makes fantasy a plausible possibility.
But then—as anyone does who is thrust into an environment that you can’t logically make sense of—I got used to it.
However when I went home that night—this first night that popped my stripcherry—I was unable to sleep for the bursts of light, of breasts and butts, of men and their hot impatient lust, of mine that wasn’t entirely unlike theirs, and of my anticipation of going back.