More striphistory from my stripself. Want to read the whole kit and caboodle? Start down the rabbit hole here, Alice...
In the operation of any stripclub, you need three entities: you need the girls to shake their moneymakers; you need the men with the money for the girls who shake; and you need the folks who organize the shakers and count the money and, if they are owners, laugh all the way to the bank. You also need waitresses and barwenches and a D.J. or so and a housemom and a few guys who walk around with a mop and definitely some hulking dudes in dark suits to keep the peace when things get uppity. But I’m not going to talk about them in this post.
I’m going to talk about the men (and women) behind the curtain. I’m going to talk about the stripclub management.
One thing about stripclub management: you don’t want to fuck with them. Not literally, not metaphorically. Certainly, many chicks did fuck with them in either sense of the word, as well as some doughty souls who fucked with them in the gray area of the Venn diagram of both senses at once.
Which is, suffice to say, really quite dangerous.
I, myself, did not fuck with them. I, myself, presented my strip alter-ego CeCe as the consummate professional. I was always on time. I was always properly improperly dressed. I always had the right hair, the good make-up, the clean nails.
I did not always have the best attitude, but when my attitude did not shine and glitter like a beauty contestant’s tiara, it was more that I was sad than angry or bitchy or snarky or drunk or all of the above. Sadness doesn’t make a girl big money in stripland, but it doesn’t hurt business that much, and so it is tolerated.
I was, as you can imagine, pretty much beloved by my Flash management. I hadn’t been as universally beloved when I’d worked at Thee DollHouse chain clubs, but then I didn’t really have that necessary Southern cheerleader charm, and it was fine.
The Powers that Be at Flash, though, we understood each other. They understood that I was smart and professional. That I was funny. That I was beautiful and could make money when I chose to. That my time there was limited and that I would graduate from the FlashDancer Finishing School for Young Ladies and go on to bigger and better things.
Moreover, even when Flash began its limitedly successful foray into high class, they still understood the power of diversity. They understood that not every man wants a cheerleader. That many men like idea of getting with bitches, witches, freaks, wackmobiles, sluts, intellects, Dommes, princesses, gym rats, bimbos, guerrilla girls, biker chicks, amateur porn stars, struggling artists, divas, and whores, as much as they like the idea of getting with cheerleaders. Maybe even more.
And, yes, Flash’s ludic smorgasbord approach to hiring girls did get homogenized by its half-assed attempt toward legitimacy, but still it remains a club with a greater variety of females real and fantastical than Scores, or VIP, or wherever it is the investment banker kids are going to raise high the charge account these days.
Flash management recognized that you needed to have a stable with many ponies.
I was the muscular, busty, blonde American pony with the high I.Q. and it was a pretty good pony to be.
There were, when I started at Flash, four sister clubs in the FlashDancer chain. And as with most families, these daughters were not all the equal. There was Flash, where I worked; that was the best daughter: she was industrious, charming, well-heeled and lovely. There was New York Dolls, where I worked when I pleased to, near the financial district; she was a bit more downtown, literally as well as figuratively, than Flash, and so she was a bit more artistic, but she was still plenty to be proud about.
And then there were Private Eyes and Shenanigans. They were the less good girls next door. I never worked at Private Eyes, and I was told multiple times how lucky I was. I worked once at Shenanigans, which was located on the East Side—it has been closed, I believe—and I continue to have bad dreams about it.
I worked there once. The nicest thing I can say about it is that it had all the depressing aspect of a neighborhood dive gone wrong. And not in a good way. Also, I think there was a cheap hotel attached to it. My one night of there was perhaps one of the most depressing evenings I’ve ever had that didn’t involve being stood up by a man I liked.
I tell you this all to make one point: nearly everyone else was scheduled by the Flash management to work at the less desirable clubs. I was not—excepting that one lingering bad evening at Shenanigans, if I worked otherwhere than Flash, it was my choice. Nearly everyone else had to work the shifts that Barry, the visible owner gave her. I chose my own.
Nearly everyone else had to work two holidays of the major sets (Labor Day/4th of July/Memorial Day; Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years); I only had to work one.
I totally got preferential treatment. In fact, the treatment I got was second only to the treatment of the girls the owner and/or manager were fucking. These girls, naturally, got whatever they wanted, but they paid the price that often their job ended when the affair did.
Nunzio, the avuncular night manager of Flash, liked me a lot. And I adore him. Still. He is one of the kindest, fairest, nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working for. He respected me; I respected him. Aside from the odd predilection to prescribe aspirin for whatever ails you, Nunzio is/was/will be straight-up goodness in the fashionable suit of an Italian Grandfather.
But, really, it was to Barry that I owe the debt of my preferred treatment.
Barry, the visible owner of Flash, did the scheduling at the club himself. Barry swung the pendulum between being incredibly corpulent and incredibly fit during the time I worked for him, fit…fat…fit…fat. And back again. He liked me, and while he did ask me out in sidelong ways, he never did it in a way that made me feel uncomfortable.
“You know, CeCe,” he’d say while scheduling me, “there’s a gym at the office. You can come by and work out whenever you want.”
Gosh, Barry, thanks. I’d say, I’ll consider it.
And then he’d ask me when I wanted to work, and I’d tell him, and I’d get my schedule and that would be that. (You had to hold onto your schedule. You got fined anywhere between $80 and $500 for missing a shift of work, depending on Barry’s mood, the time of year and other less discernable factors. If you didn’t show and had your schedule to prove that the management made the mistake, then you could avoid the fine. If you called in sick, you still got fined. Most of the time. I didn’t always have to pay my fine, another sign of preference.)
Other girls did not fare well by Barry. One of my close friends, Princess Monkey, whose story I’ll save for another day, was often reduced to tears by Barry. He’d tell her to fix her hair because it looked like a subway rat, or to go and put some make-up on her tired face, or to put on a dress customers would want to pay to see her take off. Barry could be a total bastard.
But he wasn’t to me.
Barry’s story is fascinating. Barry was the ne’er-do-well of his family. His older brother and sister did well in school, got advanced degrees, and generally performed the roles of the good siblings. Barry dropped out of high school and got a job at one of the peep show booth places in Times Square as a jizz-mop boy.
I think “jizz-mop boy” should be pretty self-explanatory, but in case it’s not, Barry was the kid who cleaned the booths of their accumulated spunk after their cavalcades of customers had shot their respective loads.
Barry slowly and industriously worked his way up from being the boy behind the mop to being a daymanager to being nightmanager to eventually becoming the “owner” of Flash. Readers have written me and asked how mobbed up a strip club is. The answer is kind of paradoxical: I don’t know and how could it not be? I mean, strip clubs are hot and cold running cash. Many industries here in the city retain their residual mafia ties—construction, carting, restaurants, clubs. I have a hard time believing that there isn’t some kind of mafia tie to Flash, however slight, but I don’t have any direct evidence thereof.
Or I should say I don’t have much direct evidence, but I’m going to devote a whole post to that.
The only shred of evidence I have that Barry is not the Owner of Flash, and is instead the “owner” is how every Christmas party the troupe of real owners, dressed in ace suits and sunglasses, would troupe in and get treated like Zeus and the pantheon had descended to join us mere mortals.
Barry, though, was pretty interesting, whether owner or “owner.” His meteoric rise from jizz-mop boy to “owner” gave him a hefty quasi-respectability—he even hired his advanced-degreed siblings as managers and gave them a far, far better material life than they would have had in their chosen careers. Barry had parlayed his skill with the mop to a place of control that afforded him quite the life: a full-time driver, a fully historically restored brownstone in Park Slope, a several-hundred acre country house upstate, a private plane, and other amenities to which I was not privy.
And one to which I was: Barry is the largest private collector of erotic 18th century cane heads in the world. As a student of the eighteenth century, I knew exactly what he was talking about when he told me of them. In the eighteenth century, every well-appointed man had a cane. Very well-appointed men had custom canes topped with hand-made knobs of ivory, porcelain, glass or other hard substances. And very, very well appointed rakes, or men who wanted to portray themselves as rakes, had knobs on the ends of their sticks that flipped back to show a scene of carnal debauchery.
Men bending women over tables to fuck them with their skirts up around their waists; women kneeling and sucking men’s cocks; women pinching the bared, pink nipples of other women, dresses in a casual negligence; Often, these scenes were taken from one of my favorite books, the premiere work of British pornography, John Cleland’s Fanny Hill. But just as often, they reproduced some piece of French, Indian or Chinese erotica. Barry, the owner of Flash, has more of these knobs than anyone else on this planet.
He’s the knobbiest.
One time I earned Barry’s displeasure and with it his disfavor. I remember exactly: It was a very busy Thursday night, and I was dancing for a man who was sitting with his back against the wall just as you came up the stairs to the elevated section of the club on the right, near the D.J. booth.
At the table next to us sat Pauly Shore, the Weasel himself. It was the year when then-mayor Rudy Guiliani had begun to get his knickers in a twist over the adult industry here in Gotham, so there was all kinds of hinkiness on the part of the stripclub management to keep things clean.
They were changing the rules all the time. First you couldn’t raise one foot off the ground when you danced. Then you could, but you couldn’t be within a foot of the man when you did so; then you could raise a foot, but you couldn’t touch your g-string, but then you could as long as you were pulling it up but you couldn’t do it if it was Tuesday evening between the hours of 11:00 and 11:43 and the moon was waning…
It was hard to keep track, anyway.
So I was dancing for this dude, and while I was getting close, I wasn’t touching. I was very, very close; I wasthis close, but I wasn’t touching. But I was working it. I was doing the dance of the seven veils; the man I was dancing for would have given me head on a platter, or a head on a platter; anyway, I was working it. The Weez et al were watching my seductive ministrations, and so was Barry. Like a hawk.
When I was done, he called me over and started yelling at me for dirty dancing.
I’m like, what the fuck are you talking about, Barry; I didn’t touch the dude.
But he went on and on, saying that I’d been all over him, grinding and mussing my pussy into his dick.
Which, parenthetically, I had not.
I got sent home and I got crap schedules until Barry forgot about it. He had an uncomfortably long memory. But eventually he forgot and my life chez Flash returned to the status quo of preferential treatment.
And the point of the story is this: management at a strip club is a lot like management anywhere else. It pays to be a favorite, and it sucks not to be.
I’m pretty accustomed to being a golden girl. I’m not sure that it’s a good thing.