Friday, January 29, 2010

True Story: I Was a Stripper

Friends! I'm experimenting with a new feature here at Yes and Yes - a series of interviews with interesting people called "True Story." I'm got all sorts of intriguing interviews on deck: identical twins, hot shot forest firefighters, anthropologists living with hill tribes, trekkies! Let's kick it off with this super interesting interview with a former stripper!

How did you become a stripper?When I turned 18, my top priority was to "grow up" and become independent as soon as possible. To me, true independence meant never having to ask my parents for money -- though they were more than willing to provide it. I hated the fact that they paid for my car, my college tuition, my food ... I had a joe-job slinging wheatgrass at a juice bar, and I got a scholarship to help with my tuition, but living in Los Angeles ain't cheap. My meager income wasn't nearly enough to survive on, and it drove me nuts. I felt so infantilized and trapped.

Just before my 19th birthday, I saw an ad for an "amateur night" contest at a local strip club. I'd always been a pretty repressed young lady -- perfect grades, respectable hobbies, never so much as a parking ticket -- but something about the idea of exotic dancing captivated my imagination. The amateur night was a few weeks away, so I slowly built up to it ... first I bought myself some 6-inch platform heels, then I practiced walking around my room, then I got myself a lacy lingerie set, then I picked out my setlist ("You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC / DC and "Vivrant Thing" by A Tribe Called Quest).

Finally, the night of my big debut arrived. Standing backstage, I was completely terrified -- not because I was about to expose my body to a room full of strangers, but because I was convinced I would trip and fall! But the moment I stepped onstage, I went into an altered state. Turns out, I was a total natural. I won second place -- competing against several dancers who were far from "amateurs," I'll have you know -- and made $400 on the spot. The rush of adrenaline and exhilaration was indescribable. I knew, without a doubt, that my life was about to shift dramatically.

Tell us about the place where you worked.I stripped for about 3 years, primarily at two clubs: The Jet Strip (Los Angeles) and Ecstasy Theater (Orange County). The Jet Strip was essentially a cozy neighborhood dive bar, but with naked ladies. Most of the customer were "regulars" -- or as they jokingly called themselves, "pathetic losers" (PLs for short). The dancers were exceptionally diverse -- every ethnicity, body type and educational background was represented. Unfortunately, the place was run by a mega-douchebag named Billy -- a red-faced, testosterone junkie who managed the club like an oppressive dictator. I quit after about a year, largely due to Billy's appalling behavior. Most of my regulars followed me to my next club, Ecstasy Theater.

Ecstasy was a female-owned club run by a former stripper. The clientele was mainly businessmen and college students -- an interesting mix of big spenders and frat boys. Unlike Jet girls, Ecstasy girls were polished and "perfect" -- in a very conventional, Maxim magazine sort of way. I worked out 3-4 days a week with a personal trainer and had standing hair, nail and tanning appointments, just to keep myself in Ecstasy-worthy shape. The earning potential was insane -- $700 to $1,000 dollars a night was pretty standard. The downside was that I had to drive nearly four hours (round trip) to work at the club ... driving back home at 4 am and getting into bed at 6 am totally tweaked my sleeping schedule, making it difficult to spend time with friends and family during the daylight hours.

What were your co-workers like?
There are certain stereotypes about strippers: they're all drug addicts, they're all skanky, they're all single moms. I won't lie -- I met more than a few drug-addled slutty baby mommas. But I also met PhD students, professional tattoo artists, fashion models, real estate agents, event planners and hair stylists. The happy, healthy dancers had three things in common: a day job, a savings plan and an exit strategy.
You're a lesbian. Do you think that made it easier for you to strip for men?
You know, I really think it did. For one thing, getting to watch spectacular women twirl around a pole for hours on end was a pretty sweet workplace perk. And unlike some of the straight and bisexual girls, I was able to maintain a black-and-white divide between my stripping persona and my real-life personality. I didn't socialize with male customers after work ... I didn't develop crushes on them ... I didn't dream about them "rescuing" me from my current lot in life. And -- perhaps more importantly -- I didn't despise or belittle them. I could relate to their longing, their loneliness and their desire for female companionship, because I shared those feelings, too.

What were your patrons like?
Hilarious. Beautiful. Generous. Flawed. I picked my customers pretty selectively, and they were all over the map in terms of income level, age and relationship status. Most of them never knew my real name, but we forged deep connections that lasted weeks, months, years. I still keep in touch with one or two of them, believe it or not!

How did stripping effect your ideas about sexuality and commitment?
Stripping taught me that "chemistry" -- for lack of a better word -- can explode in very unlikely pairings. I'm a gay lady, so I wasn't exactly lusting after my male customers, but I nevertheless felt chemically drawn to certain guys: an obese school teacher, a weedy nerd with terrible fashion sense, an elderly gent with a creased face and feathery hair. The "spark" wasn't exactly sexual (at least not for me) but it was something. It was real. To this day, my strongest friendships with men fall into that gray zone between "I want to know you" and "I want to sleep with you." Learning to feel comfortable in that zone, without having to put a label on it, was a big part of my coming-out process.

You have a cool, 'grown-up' job now. How did you get around that time on your resume?
I took a two-year leave of absence from college when I first started stripping, because I was deeply unhappy and had no flippin' idea what I wanted to study. But during that time, I added a number of impressive jewels to my resume: I worked as an assistant producer at an independent film company, got a research grant to study alternative medicine and doctor-patient relationships, earned my helicopter pilots license, read voraciously and developed a writing "voice."

Once I made the commitment to complete my undergraduate degree, I went full-throttle, taking extra courses during regular semesters and squeezing in even more credits during winter and summer school sessions. I wound up graduating with my BA at the exact same time as my high school friends -- even though I'd taken a significant "detour!"

Would you ever go back to stripping?If I did, it would require serious physical preparation! I'm still pretty attractive (at least in my own mind) but my 25-year old "retired-stripper" physique is considerably softer than my 19-year old body. It would be kinda hilarious to stage a grand comeback tour, though ... hmmm ... !!! :)

What advice would you give to ladies who are considering getting into stripping?
Ooh, list time! Here are my top three pieces of sage wisdom for would-be strippers:

(1) Have a specific savings plan and a clear timeframe, and write it down to reinforce it. Do you want to save $30,000 and take a yearlong sabbatical to write a novel? Pay off your credit card bills and graduate from college debt-free? Make a 10% down-payment on a house? Pay for your own damn wedding? All of the above? Whatever it is, stay focused. To quote esteemed financial adviser / rapper Xzibit: "make that money, don't let it make you."

(2) Pay your taxes. All of them. Every year. Really. I can't stress this enough. It can be very tempting to sock away rolls of cash and never declare it to the IRS, but that is a terrible idea. Get an accountant you can trust, write off your legitimate business expenses (hello, manicures!) and pay the government what you owe. Getting audited is no fun, no matter what you do. Getting audited when you're a stripper? Double-plus-no-fun.

(3) Be very cautious about who you confide in. Not everyone will understand your motivations, and some people (i.e. parents) will worry themselves sick. Come up with a believable cover story (ideally one that's grounded in truth) about where your money is coming from. Better yet, get a day job -- even if it's just part-time -- to deflect raised eyebrows and probing interrogations. Or, pull a Diablo Cody and write a best-selling memoir. Either way, be prepared for the potential backlash.

Have any of your ever stripped? Do you know anybody who does? Any (respectful!) questions for our friend?

72 comments

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. This was a great read, thanks so much for posting. It really enlightened me.

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  3. Haha awesome. I'd never have read something like this anywhere else. Nice one.

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  4. I love the concept, the article picture was hilarious! The article was a great read too!

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  5. LOVE IT! Keep the interviews coming please.

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  6. Great idea, I absolutley loved this :)

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  7. This was a great interview, but was it really as great as she made it sound? I guess I'd like to know if she ever had any creepy experiences like men stalking her or trying to hurt her, etc.

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  8. I second Francine's question. I would like to hear more about why our interviewee got out of that career. I love the interview project. :)

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  9. Great new feature, and what a way to kick it off! I don't think I could ever be a stripper (I'm way too shy, and already 27 - past my stripping prime) but it's interesting to think about.

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    1. I'm 27, and have been stripping five years, you aren't past your prime at all! The average age stripper (in Portland, Or where I live) is 19-33, roughly. I doubt LA is much different in that regard.

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  10. Loved this post! Great idea for a series; I can't wait to read more. :-D

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  11. What an interesting series! I don't think I would have the guts to be a stripper. But how interesting that being a lesbian made it easier for her to bare all for men! It certainly is easier for most heterosexual women to change in front of other women, I think!

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  12. "I'd always been a pretty repressed young lady -- perfect grades, respectable hobbies, never so much as a parking ticket"

    "and some people (i.e. parents) will worry themselves sick. Come up with a believable cover story (ideally one that's grounded in truth)"

    How long after you started stripping did it take for you to tell your parents the truth (a month, six months, a year)? In other words, how long did it take before they realized you were not working only a day job to support yourself? What have been the effects of a (temporary) stripping career on your relationship with them?

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  13. What a fantastic, thoughtful interview! I absolutely loved this! And a great idea for a weekly feature! Can't wait to see who will be featured next...

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  14. Oh! Fascinating!

    Okay: Did stripping ever affect your romantic relationships? Or perhaps more specifically, what for you was the difference between intimacy with clients and intimacy with romantic partners?

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  15. Wow, thanks for all the positive responses! Ms. Sarah Von asked me to step in and answer some of your questions:

    FRANCINE: I was a very cautious stripper -- I worked at clubs that had security guards to escort dancers in and out of the building. I didn't share my real name, where I lived, or any "trackable" details about my personal life. I used common sense and trusted my gut when situations seemed a little wonky. So fortunately, I never had to contend with wacko customers, stalkers or the like. I don't know the statistics on stripper-stalking, but I would suspect that it's not a tremendously common occurence? If I'm wrong, please tell me!

    ERIKA FRYKMAN: I left the biz because I wanted to devote myself full-time to finishing my BA -- working the 10 pm to 4 am night shift makes it tough to wake up for an 8 am university lecture! So my "retirement" was a positive progression towards the next chapter of my life -- not the result of a traumatic experience (thank goodness).

    MONICA: I told my parents right off the bat, (rather naiively) expecting them to be supportive! They weren't. And it really damaged our relationship ... at least for a while. But in time, they came to realize that despite my "unusual" line of work, I was still ME -- same sense of humor, same level of intelligence, same passions and pursuits. And while I don't think they'll ever be 100% "okay" with my previous career, we can talk openly (and even laugh) about it now. :)

    ERIN: Intimacy with clients was all about creating a fantasy environment ... intimacy with partners was all about real life! Haha. I was really good at creating a clear divide between the two "emotional worlds." And fortunately, my girlfriend (at the time) was totally fine with my line of work. If she hadn't been, we probably wouldn't have stayed together as long as we did.

    TO EVERYBODY: By the way, sorry for the veil of anonymity -- just trying to respect my family's privacy. :)

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  16. Great new feature Sarah!
    I dont know whether I'd have the guts to strip, but all power to anyone who does. Afetr all, if you've got it flaunt it!

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  17. That was agreat interview. I don't have the courage to be a stripper but I am really impressed with people who do and come out unscathed.

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  18. I love this new idea, Sarah. It's very interesting and way to start it off with such an intriguing interview! And thanks to the interviewee for providing so many details about a job I had so many (false) preconceptions about.

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  19. This was a GREAT idea! Seriously, and I loved the interview!

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  20. Thank you, Anonymous, for answering our questions. It's not a problem to conceal your identity. It is understandable (at least in my mind).

    Thank you, Sarah, for giving us an opportunity to broaden our perceptions. It is wonderful.

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  21. Yes! It's wonderful to read about someone having a positive experience as a stripper. I hate only being fed the negative stories, and being expected to believe they are the only stories. Thanks Anonymous for sharing your experiences!

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  22. Pretty cool story lady!

    Most of the time we don't hear good things about strippers, but really, strippers are people too. So thanks for sharing!

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  23. Great post! I've known strippers (in my law classes, of course!) and it's hard for most people to fit into their little brains that strippers can be quite intelligent, ambitious, healthy people.

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  24. Vivrant Thing is totally my secret stripper song! This band I used to be real friendly with used to play it and let me dance on stage with them.

    Anyway, I've always been somewhat intrigued by the world of exotic dancing. I even flirted with the idea of entering it. I met a girl who was a stripper last year, and I bombarded her with questions, but this interview provided even more insight!

    Thank you!

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  25. Great new feature, Sarah!
    I'm curious and do have a question. What was leaving like? Was there a withrawal that you felt once you retired? Do you miss it?

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  26. This was fantastic! What a wonderful and grounded woman.

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  27. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Alena

    http://grantsforeducation.info

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  28. This really brought something new for me, I haven't come across such an original perspective on this job yet. And I love the bit about pulling a Diablo Cody. :D Why not?

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  29. What an awesome read and what an intelligent lady! It sounds like she probably has enough amazing stories to really write her own memoir, if she wanted to!

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  30. LOL.

    I love how most of these commenters would hate on strippers, but since they're getting a written account of a real-life story from one of us who can actually articulate herself clearly, suddenly it's cool.

    Also, 27 ain't too old to start! I work at a club where the top earners are around 27-32. Women who are older tend to be more comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. Contrary to popular belief, it's not at all about big boobs, blonde hair, and being 18. It's all psychology and confidence. The very top earner at my club doesn't do one damn pole trick, moves slower than everyone else and always keeps eye contact, and has a MA in business psychology.

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  31. ...... For clarification's sake, this is the "Anonymous" who contributed the interview, not the "Anonymous" who posted the last comment -- which was totally right on, BTW. ;-) ......

    KRISTINA: You asked about withdrawal. I have to admit, I do miss the clubs -- the music, the girls, the lights, the outfits. And I do miss the money -- it's difficult to go from earning $1,000 for one night's work to earning $1,000 for 14 day's work. On the other hand, I'm saving a lot on manicures and tanning salon sessions! Haha.

    What I DON'T miss about stripping is having to come up with a "cover story" about what I do for a living. For me, that was a tiresome and emotionally exhausting necessity. Even to this day, I've only shared my "ex-stripper status" with a handful of people. Happily, all of them reacted with, "seriously? Awesome!" instead of "seriously? Get the frick away from me!"

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  32. I have to ask of the first "Anonymous," what makes you think most of us commenters would hate on strippers before reading this interview?

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  33. Brilliant piece, love it.

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  34. Wow! This was a great read, and a very well-done interview. As a fellow "repressed" (I prefer "goody two shoes"), I love the idea of trying out something TOTALLY outside of my comfort zone. However, I've danced quite a number of years (as a ballet dancer, not as a stripper) and I know my talent isn't in dance, so I'll leave the intriguing dance careers to others.

    This was also very inspirational to read. Having the courage to go against what your parents want and against the norm is really hard (I know, I'm doing it myself right now, but in less, er, exotic ways), and it's great to see how other people have gone down similar paths and survived. You have such a healthy outlook as to this particular phase of your overall life - something that you did for some time but moved on from for another chapter of life.

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  35. Really interesting! Never viewed stripping that way!

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  36. Love this article. As a former stripper, I can relate to a lot of her answers (especially re: chemistry with customers - so true). Would you mind if I linked/referred to it in my own blog (about my experiences as a stripper-virgin? Or a virgin-stripper...)?

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  37. As a former stripper for 10 years from the late 80's to early 90's, I appreciate this post!

    I worked mostly in Waikiki, but spent a couple weeks in Los Angeles at Star Strip and The Seventh Veil.

    Love the list here!

    :)

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  38. This series is so great. Wish I was doing something worth being interviewed about!

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  39. Anonymous,

    I know this post was written almost 2 months ago, but I've just come across it and was wondering if you'd be willing to talk to me personally about being a stripper?
    I've been intrigued by the idea of becoming a stripper for a little while now, but never made any serious inquiries because I--like you, it seems--was raised rather "repressed" or at least have no connection at all to such communities. I ask to talk to you, because from what I've read, you seem rather like me in certain ways.

    I respect your desire for privacy, so rather than ask for your email, i'd be willing to give mine...

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  40. I danced for a while and never felt more confident and powerful in my life. I made a small fortune and all my friends were incredibly supportive. Like you, I had a day job (and my parents wanted to support me). I was 19 and going to school, and I had such a great time doing it. I never told my parents - even when I magically had enough money to take a trip to Europe for a few months and actually rent a nice apartment there. I'm graduating now, at 22, and I'm scared of what people in my hometown would think if word gets back to them.. I was never desperate, pregnant, a hooker, drugged out, or any other awful stripper stereotype ..and I used the money to give substance and culture to my life. It's not for everybody, but if it was an acceptable life choice for everybody I would have stuck with it for a lot longer.

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  41. I am really glad you have posted this interview... I been wanting to become a stripper since four months ago when i went to see al old coworker of mine at Taboo in anaheim. I was so anxious because it was my first time at a gentleman club. I went in there and i thougth that it.was not as bad as pictured.. Noe i have lost my job and i have decided that i want to try the stripper thing... and the Ecstasy thearer is just a few miles from my house, but after what you said it may seem like they wont take me there cause i dont looks like a super model... what are your recomendations? I really need someone that can guide me throught this.. thanks

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  42. I'm also a stripper. I worked at 2 clubs for 2 seperate years with about 6 or 7 months off in between to relax, go on vacation and develop a relationship with a real boy, not a customer. It's true!You can make a lot or you can make an average income. It just depends how many days a week you want to work. In the beginning to be independant and move out I worked 5 or 6 days a week. Within 4 months I was able to rent my own gorgeous in law apartment attached to a vintage colonial house with a huge yard. These days I work 1-3 days a week and have some savings to back up on. On average I would make 3-5 hundred a night. On better days around 7 hundred. On really slow days, 200. But i never left broke or negative even when there are no people there (somehow) haha.

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  43. I am also a stripper and it has been one of the best experiences of my life. I've learned a lot about other people but I've learned the most about myself. I've became more independent than I've ever dreamed of, I've saved thousands of dollars, I've paid off my old student loans and I've continued to pay for an education out of my pocket. Stripping has given me a confidence I never knew I could have and really paved my way for a great life. I'm really glad you posted this online because I feel so many people believe every stripper is the same.

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  44. That.k you so much for this post at first I was worried about Becoming a stripier but now it doesn't seem so bad:)

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  45. I've always believed that I was too uptight to become a stripper and, having only been told horror stories about it, thought that it would be best saved for desperation--if even that. But, after reading this, I'm somewhat intrigued by it. Enough to consider auditioning somewhere. College isn't cheap, neither is living on your own. Definitely some food for thought.

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  46. I am a dancer and you can't stay in this proffession forever. She has an exit strategy as every informed dancer should have. I have met a ton of creeps. Hell there men lol. But this job has got me through school while being home with my child during the day and even able to cook, clean and spend quality time with my husband. My exit is December of this year because that's when I graduate and move on to my career.

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  47. This was great. Ive been thinking about going into stripping just like some of the ladies who posted on here. I'm 22 and feel I have what it takes. I definitely have to build up more confidence though. Times are hard and I can't seem to get a job. Its extremely frustrating. I'm not saying I want to live this lifestyle forever but the pay seems good. I have priorities and goals I would like reach. I have myself and family to care for. To give my mom a few dollars would feel good to do. It would really help me pay off school loans and start saving up for the future. Im going to find an amateur night and try it out. Im young, energetic, smart and up for new experiences. Thanks again for the post and responses

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  48. Great post! I am a retired stripper (nude in Waikiki from 1987-1996) and can relate to many things.

    I'm a new follwer. Like your style.

    Christine
    @thatgalkiki

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  49. Call me ShortFatGuy: I see that only women posted! I also loved the story and quietly hoped that this was every stripper's real story. I visited the Ecstasy in OC covering the period (and more including recently) that the interviewee worked there. I would come as a regular and then not go for periods of time. I always had the notion that the ladies hated the guys secretly because they hated having be a certain way to land the guys as a regular customer. That is where the money really is. It would never be possible, but I'm so curious to know if I ever had a dance with her?
    Personally, while the Ecstasy is what it is, I would feel like a creep inside, to a degree, when I went there, or any other place like that. I hate being lied to and, for good reason, every girl had to lie in our conversations.
    I must say, strange as it was, one girl there did help me a lot when my wife of 40 years passed in '08. It doesn't matter if she "played" me or not. I understand the reality between us. My wife knew I went there sometimes and was Ok with it as long as I didn’t put it up in her face. Don'r assume anything as we had a truly great marriage in every way. On behalf of the guys who care and understand, thank you for the fantasy.

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  50. ShortFatGuy again: I was thinking since I was the only guy who posted, unless I missed one, Maybe you feel the need to respond.
    use: ShortFatGuyInOC@yahoo.com if you have a response.

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  51. How did you get your alternative medicine grant?! That's sooo interesting!!

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  52. I'm going to right a story using the info on this page as a reference point. But my story will be totally original. It will be finished in a few days if you want to check it out go to my web page http://bustedonempty.blogspot.com cheers

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  53. I only looked at this because of the storm trooper. I thought the picture was funny and didnt even read the story. But thanks for the funny visual.

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  54. Did you ever come across women who were 30 years old, biological clock ticking away, and wanted to latch onto a customer not only to take all of their money, but for a way out of the industry? I love the girls with the clear goals, and morals... Just a shame that the skanks out there give the good ones such a bad rep!!! And trust me, they are out there and don't care who or what they destroy!!!

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  55. I really enjoyed this article.. I have a fascination with strippers and how they get there and why the stay.. I love to watch them as well..and .. yes I am a female.. I loved that you had such a great plan and knew where you wanted to go... even at 18.. I think it's awesome you enjoyed it as well. I wish we could hear more of the positive so we can do away with the stigma strippers have to carry. The one that tells us " all strippers are sexually abused drug addicts"... I thank you for giving us another view..

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  56. Thank you for providing your story to us. I appreciate it. Over time I have been thinking about stripping on and off. More recently I have deeper thoughts about stripping. Do you have to know certain kinds of dances to be able to be a stripper?? What is the best body type to have when stripping??

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  57. Great cover on this one! It is nice to know that there are girls who enter the stripping industry to grow more, both physically and emotionally. The life of a stripper should be asked from an actual stripper and this never fails.

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  58. I sometimes wonder if lesbians make the best strippers!

    I started dancing at a much later age than you, and after four years I am on my way out. The industry has nothing to offer me - or anyone else for that matter. The income you described has dried up. Strippers average up to $200 a shift, sometimes $300 on a night shift. No more $1000 nights anymore!

    Also, prostitution is on the rise in clubs across the country. One deejay I knew predicted that all dancers would be prostitutes in a few years, and all strip clubs would be "wink and nod" whorehouses. They will continue to claim they only sell "lap dances" but in reality they will all sell a variety of sexual acts. Girls who can't/won't do those things will find other lines of work.

    I know. I'm in the quagmire right now. This is the new reality.

    About strippers as people - you are right about what distinguishes the successful ones from the failures. But nowadays, the number of successful women in dancing is next to zero. There are no more models in dancing - just wannabes, or so-called "suicide girls." Girls dancing through college end up being seduced by the fast cash and turn into full-time strippers. One club manager I knew said the same thing. He also commented that "over half" of all girls are prostitutes. He is correct. Sex acts sell. The "fantasy" does not. It's a dead commodity.

    Strippers who don't sell sexual acts have to sell attention. Most customers are attention starved. Like most strippers.

    And I have yet to meet a single "successful" stripper. Too many I've met are career strippers. They will never get out of the business. Sure, they could if they really wanted to, but the attention and fast cash are strong lures. I've seen girls leave and come back. I've seen them bounce from club to club. But the ones in the biz now, they never truly leave it.

    Stripping gave me confidence and a strong sense of self. I feel proud to have survived it. But getting out is damned hard nowadays. Only the strong are successful, and the fact is, most strippers are just plain weak.

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  59. well i found this to be an entertaining read :) Stripping has crossed my mind more than once (and i graduated RN school and am a personal trainer AND am currently back in university to be a dentist) The big money, absolutely and also because something in my head is attracted to being "sexy" I think id be the most scared of looking stupid. Getting on stage and not having any ... groove lol. Im not the most graceful person and i can't dance at all. Im just not very ... fluid. You'd think id have very good body awareness (since much of my fitness career has been based on redefining myself and my body) but no.. lol nope im still terribly... choppy? when it comes to dancing. I think its from figure skating growing up. too formal. bad knees.

    Kind of an odd question but how does one get a job doing it? do you go for an interview and show them what you can do? thats seems terribly scary.

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  60. Reading all of this makes me kind off nervous , I just turned 18 and im attending college and everything is adding up. I danced ballet and hip hop through high school so I wouldnt be worried about dancing but I just want to dance I would hate to have to sell more than my appearance .

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  61. Great article. I have been stripping on and off for the last ten years. It has given me amazing motivation to remain in great health, appreciate the miracle of my body (natural parts and all), and meet amazingly connected men who are in need of verbal praise. I have finished my doctoral degree, am getting married, and have our first baby on the way. Looking at me on the street, I am a bookish mousy type. I am quiet and reserved at parties. Once your body becomes a tool of the trade, I realized how valuable it is to me, and wonder why in the world women flaunt themselves half naked for free? By no means did I ever have the thinnest physique, the largest perkiest breasts, or gravity defying pole tricks. I did however work hard to be gracious and have a genuinely great attitude. I have seen grandmothers in their late 50's working in Las Vegas and they got it :) I quite dancing to focus on the next mountain to climb. Maybe (with the hubby's blessing) I will return to work for a special one night only performance, he has never had a lap dance ;p ever!

    To the ladies who want to get started, you do not need an airbrushed body. I have seen dancers with no tits, saggy tits, butt cellulite, tattoos, love handles, scars, tuberous breasts, wigs, glasses, kids, etc.

    You will need: to set your boundaries ahead of time, set a monetary goal, keep your private life private (some dancers will sell your info to creepy customers), keep financial integrity by records and taxes, lots of padding in your big heels, keep off your knees on stage, strength to let go of jealous petty "friends" who will gossip about you because they are "concerned", not date customers, a lock for locker, several changes of undergarments (sweating in synthetics can give infection). Never approach a customer who is sitting at the front row of the stage aka tip rail, never approach a customer who is chatting with another dancer...don't even look at him while she is there, approach as many customers as you comfortably can, rejection means customer is broke it has nothing to do with your attractiveness, register your car to an address other than where you live, have a separate prepaid phone and e-mail if you need to contact customers.

    It's ok to be inexperienced, many customers will give you pointers on what is cool and what is not cool on stage. It is work, and it is lots of fun. Music, clothing, primping, road trips with the gals... awww I miss it sometimes!

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    1. Hi all it's me again, I *quit dancing. Obviously, that doctoral degree was not in English. Haa :)

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  62. As another intelligent and grounded stripper, thank you for your sex-positive and women-supporting op ed. The media paints an unfair portrait of us too often.

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  63. First off, let me just put put there that I respect you and admire you so much. I am 22 years old, almost done with college, but unfortunately I am crazy in debt and really want to write in the future. Since I was 14, I always dreamed of becoming a stripper, but going to college to please my parents really took up all of my time.

    Is 22 too late to become a stripper? I'm just a bit lost, and honestly I don't even know where to start. I'm not a particularly good dancer (3.5 years of studying does that to you), but if I took pole dancing classes and practiced in heels, would I have a chance?

    My main concern is that I look so young. Bars often assume my I.D. is fake! I don't know if this is a problem, plus me being a newbie really scares me. But I've been interested in this for so long, that I don't want my naivety on where to start to hold me back!

    Do you or anyone reading this have any advice for me? I would greatly appreciate it, and again, thank you for sharing such wonderful stories!

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  64. My wife was a dancer. She quit when our relationship got serious and ever since I've been wanting her to go back at least once so I could see her dance in public myself. Any advice on how I could convince her to strut her stuff one last time?

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  65. I danced for nearly five years at one of the top clubs in the country. It was not uncommon for us to have about 70 or more dancers working in one night...on busy nights we could have about 100. I was already out of college and married when I decided to take up dancing. I got into it for the money. The age of our dancers were from 18 to about 40, and as I have already said, the club where I worked was very upscale. You don't have to retired from dancing once you pass 25. That is nonsense. Some of the top earners were over 30. Sure, the younger women usually have a broader appeal, but not all male customers want to interact with dancers who are not old enough to drink and that are young enough to be their daughters OR granddaughters.

    One thing that being a dancer taught me is that a big part of a person's attractiveness is their CONFIDENCE. I have seen pretty dancers with low self-esteem who made far less money than other dancers who were not as attractive but whose confidence level was extremely high. I also found that having the gift of gab is just as important as looks are in this business. A pretty girl may attract people initially, but if she's got no personality, most customers will move on to someone else. I also found that many of the men who frequent these clubs have low self-esteem themselves, and they may want a dancer who can put them at ease and kind of take charge of the situation.

    I could not have a day job while dancing because it literally sucked all of my energy on my 'off'' days. My sleeping schedule was 'off'. And I got tired of having to lie constantly to my family and to other people about what I was doing for a living. My husband got tired of lying, too. He was always supportive of me and trusted me, and when I wasn't at the club, I was a total homebody. I have had a hard time finding work after retiring - mostly because I am always paranoid that people will recognize me or find out. Some people do recognize me, and I have sometimes felt discriminated against because of it. Both men and women can be cruel, but women can be especially cruel - mostly because they are insecure.

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  66. This is PART TWO of my comment:
    This is PART TWO of my comment (please read the previous one):

    I hated dancing for the most part. I loved it in the beginning, but then I grew to hate it. I hated the late nights, the smoke, and the atmosphere. Stripping is a very competitive and back-stabbing business. Everyone is out for themselves. The bouncers had their favorites who would tip them and give them a portion of their earnings (I never did) in exchange for hooking them up with customers. Our club had a reputation as being a very clean club, and it really was for the most part, but we did have a few bad weeds here and there. At least four dancers died while I worked there. Three were drug overdoses and one died in a car accident.

    There were some good people there. The GM and some of the house moms, bartenders, and bouncers were good to me, but not everyone there was good as I have mentioned. A lot of the dancers had huge egos.

    In an odd way, though, my 'career' as a dancer helped me to grow up. Yes, looks are important and we all want to look good, but looks are NOT everything. Even the most beautiful women in the world get old. To me, the most beautiful women are the ones who don't know how beautiful they really are. I can't stand people who are obsessed with their looks and with physical perfection. I regret the time that I lost while working at this club. That can never be regained. I have mixed feelings over whether or not it was worth it. The highs that I felt from making money quickly faded each night into sorrow. I rarely drank before I started dancing, but I quickly fell into the habit of drinking to take the edge off. I had to maintain my figure, so I got into the habit of skipping dinner and working all night with no food in my belly except for a piece of candy here or there (our bathroom lady always had candy). I would sometimes order a salad, but mostly I subsisted on alcohol, and I nearly became anemic from this. I regret not being at home with my husband on those nights that I worked there. Thankfully we are still together and still in love. The most precious thing in life is love and good health, and it's not worth losing over money.

    Since I quit dancing a few years ago I have pursued some other things. I am currently taking creative writing classes.

    Dancing is a short-term fix for money problems, but I don't think it's worth it in the long term. That is just my opinion. It has caused me nothing but pain. I personally don't recommend it, but to each her own.

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  67. I am an eighteen year old virgin with lots of intelligence and near perfect grades, but do to certain choices, I recently had a falling out with my parents, resulting in the loss of my college money, car, and any possible income. From living with friends to hopping around on couches, I think it is safe to say I have hit rock bottom. I have been wracking my brain and driving myself crazy thinking of different ways I could put myself through college and do things for myself, but everything in this world involves money and that's something I don't have any access to. I thought about stripping months ago, but I live in a very small town and there really isn't any place to strip. I have considered moving to LA and stripping to put myself through college at UCLA (my dream school). I would love to know what you would suggest to me and where you think I should start my journey. I am a very head-strong and driven individual ,and I'm determined to fulfill my dreams. That being said, I have no problem doing what needs to be done. I can dance very well and my body is in tip-top shape (in my own opinion) and also, I have good looks. Help me out!!

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  68. My wife was a stripper. That's not were I met her but it's what she was doing when I met her. She had great prospects for a career and she gave that up for me. Honestly I wouldn't mind if she went back to it. She won't but I am very proud of her for doing this what more so WHY she did it. That is my interest in strippers - WHY they do it.

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  69. BTW if there are any exotic dancers out there that will talk to me about motivation, I could use some advice on some writing I'll doing for an adult book. My wife doesn't like to take about it much.

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