Last week Sandy Banks, in her column, “Cheaters Run on Overdrive,” referring to the recent Tiger Woods and Jesse James sex scandals asked, “how such powerful, high-profile men could consort so carelessly with a procession of B-list porn stars, wackos and strippers. Weren’t their smart, beautiful wives enough?”
As a woman who grew up around strip clubs and is now a strip club owner, the short answer is: No. They weren’t.
But what about the long answer?
I grew up in a close-knit family. Mom was a nurse who often worked the late shift, and Dad, a former highway patrolman, began managing a strip club when I was eight years old.
In the early years my parents spoke about the club as cryptically as possible. “What do people do there, is there dancing?” I asked Dad. It was the 70’s, and I was obsessed with anything disco-related. “There is a stage where people can dance,” he looked down sheepishly while my mom stood there, frozen.
While it began as a taboo subject, it later became a source of pride for my father. Try as my parents did to shelter us, the day eventually arrived when Mom had to work, the babysitter canceled, and we had to celebrate our own version of Take Your Daughter to Work Day.
Dad laid out strict ground rules: We could tap dance on the stage, play Space Invaders in the arcade or drink Shirley Temples at the bar, but we had to stay out of sight in the back office once the doors opened.
We met dancers named Crystal, Amber and Destiny. I could swear I met one named Jello, maybe it was Pudding. But my favorite was Kelly, who looked a lot like our babysitter.
Kelly loved us like her own and made sure two young girls didn’t die of boredom while passing the hours upstairs in the back office. She asked about my cat Coco, complimented my Holly Hobbie doll. We both loved The Bionic Woman.
Dad would fill me in on the dancers’ back stories. Many were single mothers. One even had a C-section scar.
Some things you hear about stripping are true: it’s a lucrative business, and a good stripper can earn more in a night than most of my friends do in a week. Add to the formula single motherhood and limited career options, and it can start to make a lot more sense. It’s the stigma that makes it hard.