OK, so this is the post where I reveal the winner of the contest of guessing where I was working when I met my husband. Only it’s not because it’s getting so long that I’m breaking it into two parts. It’s got a ton of back story so you might want to get a snack….
So there I was….
If you’ve been here awhile, you know that I got out of the Army kind of fast. Not in a bad way, no dishonorable discharge or anything, just that when I had a shot to leave, I fucking ran at it! (Also, if this is the first time you are meeting me, it’s probably going to be weird for you – sorry.)
Leaving like that also left me without a job. I had a little mobile home I needed to move from Sierra Vista to Tucson and my old Mustang was busted as usual. I needed money. My friend Gina (the Corporal/NCO of the Orthopedic clinic across the hall from the Eye clinic where I worked) had a girlfriend named Regina. Regina was a topless dancer. She was all, “Ruth! You should totally come to the work at the club!” I said, “Yea, maybe waitress there.” She scoffed, “The waitresses make jack. You need to come dance.” I said, “I don’t know. I just don’t think I could do it.” She said, “It’s no worse then wearing a bikini most of the time and it’s amazing money!” I said, “Right, because the guys want to see the fat girl in stripper heels.” She laughed, “You are most assuredly NOT fat and you’ve been to the club enough to know that the girls come in all sizes and they ALL make bank.”
She was right.
Being stationed at Ft. Huachuca meant being in Sierra Vista, AZ – a relatively small town. There was one nightclub – a shit-kicker bar called Texas Annie’s and that opened shortly after I arrived from Germany so I don’t know what the soldiers did in SV for entertainment before that! Mostly, even with Annie’s, we’d all head up to Tucson for our weekend fun. It was an hour drive away but still worth it. We’d go there to hit the clubs/restaurants/concerts/whatever. When I hung out with the other women that worked at the hospital, we’d often go to The Biz. Ain’t Nobody’s Business was the lesbian bar in Tucson (remember that on the Meddac Softball Team, I was one of 2 and ½ that were straight). And sometimes we’d go to the topless bars. Also, when I hung out with the guys I worked with, sometimes we’d hit the topless bars. One of the strip clubs was across the street from a regular night club so sometimes we’d do both in one night. Not saying this was a weekly event or anything but probably about a monthly event.
So, yeah, I was familiar with the topless bars and their constituents.
Still skeptical, I said, “What if I can’t make [X number of money that I needed to live off].” She said, “Ruth, that’s… if you work 4 nights a week, that’s just….like, 3 dances an HOUR. If you can’t get 3 dances an hour, then yes, you’re right, you shouldn’t be doing it. But trust me – you’ll be fine.”
Regina put me in a bunch of her different outfits to see what looked best on my shape (turns out, that’s a push-up bra and hot pants that only cover half my ass). She also taught me a bunch of the tricks of the trade. (OK, bad wording, there was no “tricking” going on.) She showed me some moves for the stage and some moves for the lap dancing. She told me that when on stage to discreetly look around and see who was really watching me, that’s the first person to hit up for a “dance” when I got off stage. Same for when I was giving someone a lap dance – she said to pay attention to the guy I was dancing for but when my back was turned to see who was watching me, flirt with them and then go take their money. She said if there was a couple (man and woman) to always ask the woman first if she wants a dance, that way it cuts down on the jealousy and drama and oftentimes they say yes! She said when you finish the first dance, you ask right away, “Would you like another?” and if they said yes, to see if they wanted to go to the VIP area. Regina was the queen of the upsell! What else…. Oh, my favorite, “Be nice. Smile. There are a lot of girls who walk around that club like Queen High Bitch and some guys are into that but honestly… most guys… they have the bitch at home and that’s why they are at the club!” Best piece of advice she gave me!
Regina said being nice was, for her, the hardest part. She started stripping when she was 18 (I think she was 24 when I met her). She had to start at the full nude place because you had to be 21 to be topless, which I just think is weird. From a law standpoint, I get it, the topless bars serve alcohol, and the full nude places are BYOB. I think that’s weird, too. BYOB at a strip joint just seems like a recipe for disaster. She told me that the VIP dances there were in these little booths with a slot to put the money in and glass between the dancer and the patron. She said for the first dance she would be really mild and not even go full nude, then usually, the guy would be all, “Um… I was hoping for something… more.” And she’d tell them, “Oh. You must want the $50 dance.” And when the guy balked at the price, she’d tell them, “Look, put the money in the slot or get the fuck out.” And they’d either pay or leave and she could move on to the next sucker.
After all this instruction and education, she took me on my “audition”. Audition. What a laugh! If you are not morbidly obese, are willing to take your top off, and can walk in those heels without falling, you have the job. I remember being nervous as hell. I remember Regina, bless her, standing at the end of the stage and walking me through the whole song, “OK, now give a butt shot. OK, walk slower. OK, breathe!!” What I remember most about that the first time I took my top off on that stage is thinking, “Well. There’s goes the Presidency.” I get off the stage and Regina hugged me and told me I did great! The manager (a woman named Christina) said I had the job. I went to work and made $60 in the next 15 minutes before Christina told me I couldn’t start right this second and had to fill out some paperwork first. (Oh. Yea. Told y’all I was nervous!) I picked a stage name (Daija which sounds like Déjà vu but is actually a Korean term of endearment that means “little pig” – already not taking this job too seriously, right?) and started the next day.
I started at TD’s West (Topless Dancers - I'm embarrassed to say how long it took me to figure out what TD's stood for). I got a great shift because of Regina. Mostly, with the new girls, they have to work the first shift for at least a couple of months. First shift rhymes with worst shift. It was from 12p-5p and it was super-slow, not a lot of guys and the guys that were there were lifers with no money. Circumstances previously stated (house and car issues) had me living with Gina and Regina and riding with Regina to work so she talked management into letting me work the same shifts she worked – 4 nights a week, from 6p-10p (or later if the crowd was good). When circumstances smoothed out a few months later and I got my house/car back, I moved over to TD’s East because it was a bit closer to my house. Then later, still, I got fired. I got fired because I took a week off to study for finals! Actually, I got permission from a manager but he quit or got fired or whatever and didn’t tell anyone he’d given me the time off, so me and three other college students got fired for no-showing. Then I went to Tens and worked there for the rest of my stripping career.
Yes, they fire strippers. There are so many misnomers about this job, I can’t even begin to tell you but, of course, I’ll try. I did that job for 2 ½ years. I never told anyone where I worked until they got to know me a bit better since there are so many stereotypes about that job. People would get all weird and judgemental about it. What are the basic stereotypes? Well, what first popped into your head? All strippers are stupid and easy and they are all drunk/drug-addicted hookers with daddy issues and fake boobs? That’s usually what people think about.
So let’s address them…
Yes, most of the women I worked with had more issues (daddy or otherwise) then Ally McBeal. Yes, a lot of them had fake boobs – the club would even pay for them sometimes if the dancer was loyal and popular and signed a contract to work there for a certain amount of time after the surgery (kind of like getting college money from the Army, right?). Some were addicted to drugs or alcohol. And yes, a majority of them treated being a stripper like a lifestyle rather then just a job.
Plenty of them were married with kids or in long-term relationships. Lots of single moms, too. And lots of lesbians – by my small calculations about 40% (Regina used to joke that it was the perfect job for her/them – they already don’t even like men!) Quite a few, like me, were working their way through school but some lost their way, blinded by the money and the realization that they could go back to school anytime but their stripper looks wouldn’t last forever. Regina was a hell of a businesswoman – she squirreled money away like a…. well, like a squirrel. She used some to buy her truck but the rest she had tied up in stocks!
And the club wasn’t going to put up with any bullshit. For most of my 2.5 years, I worked at Tens. Tens was a bit strange in that it was owned by a woman and her two sons. She won the club in her divorce and her sons ran it. Does that give anyone else the creeps? But they made money hand over fucking fist and they weren’t about to lose their licensing over some triflin’ girl’s habits or issues. There was always another girl they could hire, right?
If a girl left with a different guy every night, they’d suspect her of hooking and they’d fire her. If a girl was caught high or drunk, they’d can her ass so fast it’d make her head spin. You could even get fired for wearing body oil! The oil gets on the stage and the next girl slips, falls, and sues? I don’t think so!
. There’s a two drink minimum with no bottle of beer or anything else costing less then $8 each! They have their own ATM machine which gives them $4 per transaction! Then there’s the money the club owners make from the girls and here’s where we get rid of another stereotype.
When people tell me that stripping is degrading and objectifying to women, I just smile and nod, not wanting to argue too much about a subject the speaker obviously knows nothing about. All the clubs I worked in (or heard about), the girls are “independent contractors”. We got paychecks but they were pittance checks (kind of like those states where wait-staff at restaurants get less then minimum wage because they make tips). All the girls paid to work there. We paid $5 per hour we were there. So say there’s a minimum of 10 girls per shift and 3 shifts per day, that’s $150 per day the club makes just from the girls working there. These girls who choose to work there of their own free will. We also had to give 10% of our “tips” to the bar and another 5% percent to the DJ (that part always kinda pissed me off as those people were making their actual wages plus tips anyway).
I always loved when guys would try to pull some superior bullshit or tried to act like they were in charge. I’d laugh right in their faces and take their money. The women in that bar ran shit. If we didn’t like a way a guy looked at us, they’d get kicked out.
My favorite example of this was when one day when I was working an early shift (covering that shift for a friend) and it was deadly slow. There were like 10 guys in the whole place and so you had to keep going to each guy for every song, “Would you like a dance?”. It got to be a funny game because it was actually a rule to keep moving and keep asking but there was no one to ask! There were two men in suits, one was not getting any dances but was buying all the dances for the other guy. The other guy was firmly entranced with one dancer so no money to be had there. I kept asking Paying Suit if he wanted a dance, he clearly didn’t even want to be in the building. I’d seen him before, always with a client, always buying them dances, never getting any for himself, always treating the girls like we were so beneath him. Finally it got to the point that whenever I’d ask him for a dance, I’d be laughing when I said it because I knew his answer. Finally, he had enough of me "bothering" him so he looked up at me and said, “Are you pregnant?” with this evil grin on his face. I’ve always had a little pooch-belly and it never interfered with my money-making skills so I laughed and said, “No, just fat, but thanks for asking!” Then I pulled up a chair and laid it down for him with a big smile on my face, “You know, no matter how much money, power and prestige you have outside this building, once you cross that threshold you’re just another loser who has to pay for attention. Or in your case, a loser who can’t seem to close a deal without us. You might want to think about that the next time you feel like being rude.” Then I stood up and, laughing, said, “So. Would you like a dance?” He said no but the look on his face when I called him out about using us to close deals was fucking priceless!
Jeebus this post is getting long! Man, y’all think the Army gave me some stories? This job has its own set of crazy tales, for sure! I’m going to cut out for now and finish next time. But I promise, next time, there will be yarn!
Also, here’s a video to keep you entertained. I think it’s safe for work. The women don’t wear anything less then the average bikini would show and it’s more Cirque de Sol then anything else. And in case you were wondering, I can’t do any of this shit! Never could. There was one dancer who could climb that pole to the ceiling and spin like a monkey. She was a tiny, skinny, overly-tattooed, little thing. I don’t remember her name, I always called her MonkeyGirl. I do remember the DJ couldn’t use the strobe lights whenever she worked. She told me that she had done so much crack in her life that she’d developed epilepsy! Crazy tales, man….crazy tales.
Still own the shoes, Ruth!