Say you'll stay
Spend a lazy Sunday in my arms
I won't take anything away
When I finally got a chance to see Britney Spears' performance at the
the MTV awards for videos they don't show, I thought of a third-tier
stripper: Bored, unenthusiastic and only out on stage because she wants
your money. Mind you, I'm not an expert on strippers, but being that I
am a man (I have the Man Card to prove it), I have stepped foot in one
or two strip clubs. The majority of my trips into these dens of
nekkidness were taken back when Ronald Reagan was president (make of
that what you will).
Strip clubs never appealed to me. Oh sure, my first couple of visits
were fun. I mean, I was 18 and it was legal to hang out in bars--strip
clubs included. However, it became obvious that the strip clubs in the
real world weren't as appealing as the strip clubs in movies. The
strippers had numerous flaws (there's no airbrushing in the real world),
and in some cases, they looked like the kind of people you would pay to
keep their clothes on. You could look, but you couldn't touch. A fair
rule, but if there could be no contact, I might as well stay home and
watch the HBO (this was before I knew about Cinemax). It was cheaper to
stay at home, that's for sure. The beers in strip clubs usually ran a
dollar more than beers in bars. The novelty of the strip clubs wore off
However, there was a friend in my group who loved getting drunk and
ending his night watching women parade around on stage while disrobing
(the dancers, not my friend). There was a cheap strip club not too far
away from UNCG and we sometimes found ourselves hanging out there until
last call. None of us enjoyed it that much, but we all knew that when
this particular friend got his drink on, he could become unpredictable.
We knew if he went to the strip club by himself in his condition, he
could end up beat all to hell by the bouncers, in jail or dead and
stuffed in some back-alley dumpster with a Scrote wannabe going through
So we went to the strip club not too far away from UNCG. Once upon a
time, this club was just a regular college dive bar. Just a hole in the
wall, but it was where all the kids went back in the day. Well, it was
popular during a circuit or two. I'm sure this happens everywhere, but
drinking establishments in Greensboro have cycles where they are the
most popular bar and in six months or a year later, no one wants to be
caught dead in there. Well, except me. I like to have elbow room in my
drinking establishments, thank you very much. Anyway, after this bar
went through the cycle of popularity, the owners turned it into a strip
The strippers were never impressive. They weren't exactly ugly, but they
also weren't the type of women you wanted to see nekkid. OK, after a
couple drinks, you probably wouldn't care. But they liked my friend.
After all, he was the perfect client: drunk and ready to hand out his
money. I watched them perform for him and it was during this era when I
realized that stripping was just another job. These women were extremely
bored and they didn't make an effort to hide it. I suspected some were
making a shopping list in their heads while doing the bump and grind. It
was kind of depressing.
I eventually lost touch with my friends from those days, but in a plot
twist worthy of O. Henry or Rod Serling, I got to know some of the
strippers from the club. I was working at the record store at this point
(good ol' Peaches Music and Video, store No. 36) in my life and was
actually one of the store's assistant managers. In addition to having a
deep catalogue of albums, the store also stocked heavy on the 45s,
current and oldies. The strippers from the club would often shop at the
store for new songs to play in the jukebox so they could work the room.
I forgot to mention earlier that the strip club had no DJ to spin the
vinyl for the strippers. No, the strippers had to stop at the jukebox en
route to the stage and pop some coins into it before they could work
their moneymaker. It was a real class joint.
The strippers, while bored on stage, were friendly and chatty in the
store. One stripper who often shopped at the record store looked like Patti
Deutsch, from TV's Match Game, except she wore glasses
with thick lenses in them. She probably couldn't see the crowd (and I
use this word loosely because the place was never packed when I went
there) from the stage. She was not too bright and often my dry wit went
right over her head.
The one stripper that I remember was the one who used the stage name
Miss Kitty. If she told me her real name, I forgot it. Miss Kitty was a
nice, friendly and energetic person, but she always left me depressed
after a visit to the store. The deal with Miss Kitty was she was past
her prime as a stripper. I never knew her age, but I suspected she was
old enough to have grandchildren. Maybe baby grandchildren, but she was
definitely at the age where she should had considered joining AARP. I
got stuck helping Miss Kitty one day and I made such a good impression
on her, she always sought me out whenever she shopped. I admired Miss
Kitty's spirit. Or maybe she was in complete denial that her glory days
as a stripper had passed.
Miss Kitty liked to test drive the store's 45s before making a purchase.
She wouldn't strip in the record store or anything, but she did go over
to the playing station and do a few dance steps while the song played.
If she couldn't get her mojo working for the song, she would take it off
and try another tune. Sometimes Miss Kitty would ask my opinion about a
particular move. Was it right for this song? Should she do a bend at
some point in the song or should she give a kick? Some of the moves she
tried made me nervous. Not because they were revealing, but rather, I
had this fear of her hip giving out, or her back locking up on her. Of
course, I was nervous she might have what today's kids call a wardrobe
malfunction in the store. I was young back then--early to mid
20s--and I still wanted to have sex in the future. Seeing a nekkid Miss
Kitty might ruin my libido for life.
She often stayed in the store for up to an hour, trying out songs and
looking for the right one to inspire the strip club patrons to shower
her with dollars and applause. It was a living, true, but I suspected
Miss Kitty was addicted to the applause. That had to be why she was
still stripping. She wanted one more standing ovation. Maybe two. But
then again, I can never recall a stripper receiving a standing ovation,
so I have no clue why she was still in the business.
I once got into trouble with the store manager for spending so much time
with Miss Kitty. He told me that I, being an assistant manager,
shouldn't let myself get bogged down with one customer for so long. He
advised me the next time Miss Kitty came in to shop, I should pass her
off to another employee. But I didn't have the heart to do it. I
suspected Miss Kitty was the least popular stripper at this club and I
also had a feeling the other strippers laughed at her behind her back. I
didn't want her to feel rejected by an assistant manager from some
record store. It might be the final straw for her. I had a conscience
back then, and the thought of Miss Kitty ending it all because I
wouldn't help was too much.
After the warning from my boss, I compromised. When Miss Kitty came in,
I would walk with her over to the 45s, get her situated and then I would
walk the floor to see if others needed my assistance. I checked back
with her after a round and if she wanted to listen to a song, I would
stay while she listened to it and did a few steps. No one complained. I
was free of guilt. If Miss Kitty stuck her head in an oven, or swallowed
a bottle of pills, it wouldn't be because of me.
Miss Kitty eventually stopped coming in. I never asked what happened to
her, but I assume she finally quit. Chances were, she was fired. Maybe
she moved on to a community that had more retirees, a place where she
wouldn't be the oldest person in the room.
I forget when the strip club closed. It was after I left the record
store. It eventually became an Italian restaurant that often gets voted
as having the best Italian food in the city. That had to be unsettling
for the strip club's regular patrons. I wondered how many times a drunk
stumbled into the restaurant looking for the stage and the strippers,
waving a wad of bills.
Most of the strip clubs are gone. The ones that do exist around here are
called gentlemen's club. They have a hefty cover, have a dress code and
have enough attitude to deny someone admission. Strippers are called
dancers. The are top-shelf in looks and talents, so I guess they earned
the right to be called dancers. I once went with a coworker to a
gentlemen's club back in 2000. It was my first trip to a club of this
nature since the days of Ronald Reagan in office (again, make of that
what you will). This was her last night in town and she wanted to go to
a gentlemen's club, see some dancers and get a lap dance or two. I had a
good time hanging out, but the club itself was boring. The dancers
still looked like they were compiling shopping lists in their heads
while they danced.
For the heck of it, I asked a passing waitress if Miss Kitty was dancing
that night. "Who?" she asked.
So, in this great land of ours, if you happen to be out at a strip club
and you come across Miss Kitty, be nice to her. Offer to watch her
walker while she's onstage doing her routine. Be discreet in handing her
teeth if she should accidentally spit them out during a difficult
number. Don't be annoyed by the odor of Ben-Gay emanating from her body.
Feel free to avert your eyes while she removes her Depends, but don't
run out of the club in horror. And please, give her a standing ovation,
even if she doesn't deserve one. Miss Kitty needs that most of all. That
and the money, so be generous with the gratuities too.