Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House" - Audre Lorde

I am seething with rage.

I'm listening to that Justin Bieber song that's been slowed down 800% so I can remain at least relatively calm, because inside I am screaming.  Here, it sounds like mermaids underwater:,97218/

I thought I worked at a club that for only the second time in my 7 years in this industry actually gave one fuck about its dancers.  They don't.  It's money.  Profit.  Off us.  Point blank.

How disappointing.

The owners of my club had the AUDACITY tonight to tell me the reason to stay off the ledge of the tip rail was because THE GRANITE IS CRACKING.  (The stage itself is recessed, like a pool, and the ledge is about 8" higher.)
I dance on a stage made of granite.  I wear knee pads covered with thick, long leg warmers and socks, hoping customers don't notice.  It's embarrassing.

No, don't tell me to stay off that edge because it's closer to the customers and gives ample opportunity to be sexually assaulted (as if the risk isn't already there,) STAY OFF THE LEDGE BECAUSE THE SURFACE YOU'RE DANCING ON IS CRACKING.



My club has 2 stages and on weekend nights (they count Thursday as a weekend night too, because... why not?!) they run both.  You do your stage set on the "low stage" first, and then the "high stage." This means if there aren't a lot of girls working, you're doing a 3 song set, followed by a 3 song set. ON MOTHERFUCKING GRANITE. 6 songs= roughly 18 minutes. Multiple times a night. Sure, you can ease the burden by doing some pole tricks, but our ceilings are so low, most girls can touch the ceiling in their heels.  This isn't super conducive to lots of pole work.  A lot of work is done on the floor of the stage.

Dancer friends of mine and I have fantasized, in vain, for years, about opening our own club and running it right:

  • The best decor (lots of red velvet, in my humble opinion,)
  • A good stage set up with a surface that is as least taxing on the body as possible
  • 2 poles: one spinning, one stationary
  • High ceilings
  • No house fee or "rent"- just a mandatory tip out to the DJ and bouncers
  • The bouncers are there to protect you solely, and nothing else.  They will be heavily vetted and easily fired for a misstep.
  • VIP area run by women
  • Actually, the entire staff would be women, except for the door and floor guys
  • Cameras everywhere, including the dressing room (it makes theft a non-issue)
  • Good music: Nickelback and anything similar to that is banned. Stripper butt rock is banned.  Motley Cruë, you're not invited to this party.  (I might make a few certain exceptions to this rule, but you will never once hear "Cherry Pie." Not happening.)

Luckily, some of these stipulations already exist where I work, and play a large role in why I stay.  I'm just so exasperated that it's like twisting an arm to get an owner and/or manager to actually GIVE A FUCK about their girls. HI HELLO NEWSFLASH: WE ARE THE SOLE REASON THE ESTABLISHMENT EXISTS.  At my fantasy club described above, the dancers would be on a pedestal, not thought of as more income for the club (by way of house fees and taking a cut of VIP dance prices.)  They could be let go easily, for things like fighting or consistently creating drama.  Or hooking.
I think of prostitutes as public servants.  They do some of the hardest emotional labor there is.  I love them.  But stay out of my club, undercutting other dancers.  If prostitution was legal (as it should be,) I would have no problem running a brothel.  
If a strip club ("gentlemen's" would be nowhere in the title;) like I described existed, women would be running, driving, flying from all over the country to work there.  

Where I work comes up with the most idiotic, harebrained schemes to "get people in the door."  Today, for example, we hosted a meet-and-greet send off for some terrible no-name local act as they prepare to go to Germany to open for Papa Roach. Who. Even. Cares.  I complained about it to a bouncer who is also some kind of manager and he said "there's 25 more people in the building that wouldn't otherwise be here." Me: "But they're not spending. They're not getting dances." Him: "So what? That's on you girls to make that happen." Fuck. You.

The reality of the situation was: none of us started making money until these coked out idiots ("I just wanna do a line off your pussy") and their broke-ass groupies left.  They even tried to hustle US their merchandise.  To add further insult to injury, the club forced us to have one out of our three song sets be something by them. Taking away a creative freedom like that is a big fucking deal to me.  I don't know how to dance to bullshit, generic modern rock.  Maybe that shows I'm not a good stripper, that I can't just plaster on the smile and shake it even though the music makes my ears bleed and my soul cry. I don't care.  Don't tell me I am REQUIRED to dance to something for the entire time these douchenozzles are in the building.
Strip club: "Independent contractor? What? No, you're gonna be signed on as that so that you pay us, not the other way around.  But we'll damn well treat you like employees, and you'll do as we say."

Every other time my work has come up with ideas that they swear up and down will result in piles of money for all, it's pretty much the opposite.  A car show, a "lip lock contest," none of that shit made my wallet any fatter.  At all.  In fact, on days where there's some promotional BS 9 times out of 10 I made less than I normally would, and so did everyone else.

I feel trapped, because the conditions at all the other clubs in the area are exponentially worse.  Do I choose the shit sandwich or the shit burrito? Like, what do I even do?  Leaving the industry isn't an option right now because my rent and bills are too high to support it any other way.  Also, I love what I do, and until I go back to teaching ESL in another country, this is what I'm doing.  This is my life.  And it should be better, nationwide, for all of us.

I want to look into the business model of The Lusty Lady.  The country's only dancer owned and operated cooperative strip club and peep show went under a few months ago, after being open for decades.  I never got a chance to visit. RIP.

What my friend affectionately called "Bieber Rós" has just ended, and I'm still pretty angry, but I do feel a little better.