Last week I went home to my precious motherland of Los Angeles to visit family, friends and pops in prison. I was looking forward to palm trees, beautiful weather, driving and my staple Chin Chin Chinese chicken salad. I arrived Wednesday evening and on Thursday spent a day of relaxation at my new-found gem Korean spa. I partook in an hour-long body scrub, a milk massage and dipped into the hot, medium and cold jacuzzis – refreshing. The next day I continued my spa week by getting a facial. My facial went longer than expected and I had a meeting at 3pm. I looked at the clock and decided I could either squeeze in a quickie mani-pedi or get my favorite Chinese chicken salad and Chin Chin’s on Sunset. 20 years ago, I used to work at Playboy on Sunset Boulevard. It was my first job after college. I used to eat that damn Chinese chicken salad about three times a week and I still craved it after all these years.
The first time I went to a strip club I was eight. Dad started managing it the year before and took my sister and me for a day of babysitting. We walked into a cold dark bar, like a movie theatre during the day. It smelled like Windex and stale smoke. He let us dance on the dance floor to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack with the disco lights on, but once the club opened we were shuffled upstairs to the manager’s office. We caught a glimpse of the naked women dancing on stage, holding the pole and swinging around. Dad called them girls. They were adult women to me and had beautiful bodies, all different shapes. I was excited and wanted to see more. I was ashamed yet aroused. My sister and I watched the surveillance videos even though we were told not to. I saw men sitting down around the stage, tucking dollar bills into the dancers’ costumes. The dancers opened their legs wide, swinging their stilettos in the air. I tried to look away but couldn’t. They seemed so happy. Continue reading
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.