The water was choppy and colder than I was used to, but on this triple-digit day there was no debate.

“It’s too hot”

“Right!?” He was faced-down on his towel, but the beads of sweat on his back agreed.

“I’m going in.”

I stood up, brushed the sand from my palms and pranced my completely naked, out-of-shape ass in front of everyone on the nude beach and walked.

As my body floated with the current, my belly and me had a moment. I laced my fingertips across my navel and exhaled with determination to get back into stripper shape. Fine – as close to stripper shape as a middle-aged broad can get.

“You just have to get all the way in, then it’s awesome!” I was thirteen, bragging about how I had the balls to brave the cold (it only took the afternoon to submerge myself completely).

Once I was swimming, my eyes surveyed the people along the shore. It didn’t matter that my body wasn’t perfect. That a crowd of strangers saw my cellulite and buddha belly in motion. I was comfortable in my skin. I wasn’t happy with my body at the moment – but holy fuck – I was happy.

A swell lifted my body – and the water mirrored my breath – sighing with me in the realization of just how far I’ve come. Continue reading


A safe kind of high: My unexpected relapse

You would think after fifteen years, my memories of “rolling” and free-falling inside myself would be strung together on a distant, blurry line, for which I am older and wiser living clear on the other side. For the most part, this is true.

I can’t remember my last night taking Molly (we called it ecstasy, or “X”), but it’s been so long, my cravings are nearly non-existent. There are times when I allow myself to enjoy a memory or two – and those flashes in my mind are always wrapped in a glittery bow of reckless abandon, stitched together with youth and frivolity. These warm and fuzzy emotions are always balanced by the harsh realization that thanks to a solid five-year, six-pill-a-day habit, my brain is now permanently damaged. My docs and I have a good thing going now, with regular maintenance of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) therapy. It’s a pain in the Continue reading


Music and Chair Shows: Reflections of a retired stripper

Navigating six-inch heels on stage with smoke in your face takes practice. Sporting a smile while dancing to Me So Horny in those heels, and you’ll need cocktail.

One of the unique challenges I faced during my ten-year career as a stripper was pretending to like certain types of music. Like suffering through a bad date, you realize something isn’t your taste but you smile politely and muddle through.

A typical Saturday night set on the main stage was shared with three other women, each providing the DJ with very specific song requests. I was always the Enigma or Nine Inch Nails girl with an occasional PJ Harvey thrown in for good measure. Pair that up with the Bel Biv Devoe and Naughty by Nature chicks and let the muddling ensue. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate a little Ice Cube with my INXS; I just didn’t feel sexy dancing on stage with them. I always felt like an extra on MTV’s Beach House.

My personal taste in music was a bit more edgy and alternative than what was played on mainstream radio. In classic narcissistic fashion, I took full credit for introducing the local Continue reading

Vacation Part Two: Stripper Reunion

Vacation Part Two: Stripper Reunion

There’s nothing like balancing out a whirlwind sexcapade with some overdue girl time during the same vacation. The fact that the girls were once strippers 20 years ago? Well, that makes it even better.

It doesn’t matter if you were college roommates, volunteered together in the Peace Corp, or worked the shower stage together in Waikiki, to reconnect with old friends is a true gift to the people we’ve become. We see our [younger] selves in their eyes, and through walking hand-in-hand down our memory mazes, we tap in to the part of our spirits we thought were long gone.

Freedom tastes sweeter the second time around.

As former strippers, there’s a perfect storm of brass balls and naïveté we young gals possessed. We knew enough to balance the tightrope of mischief and debauchery, but not enough to realize there was no safety net below.

To reunite with my stripper sisters last week was nothing short of fabulous. We marinated in Continue reading

Musical memory: who was your first concert?

Musical memory: who was your first concert?

There’s something about being in the presence of live music that provides such a gift. As audience members, we allow ourselves to get lost within the melody, riding the waves of each instrument, feeling the energy as it seeps into our blood. With every drum beat, guitar riff, base line and lyric – we soak it all in. What’s theirs is suddenly ours, wrapping around our hearts, moving our bodies to the beat of extraordinary creation. Live music is so raw and real, never duplicated in the exact way you experience it, which is what makes living in the moment, and sharing performances of your favorite musicians priceless.

It doesn’t matter if the venue is small (my favorite), or the size of a football field, the energy among audience members is palpable – even before anyone steps foot on stage. And when they do – when the space is illuminated and that very first sound fills the air, we all feel it – the collective first musical kiss. Our knees get weak and butterflies turn to thunderous applause and cheers.

On the heels of a Billy Idol reference regarding last week’s post (with those crazy 80s photos), I thought this would be a fun question to answer.

Who was the first person (band) you saw in concert?

I’ll go first.

The first (supervised, with my mom) performance I saw was Stevie Wonder, at age 13 in 1982. He rocked that piano out like no one’s business; so much so, at one point, he actually fell off his piano chair. He quickly recovered, and finished the show with the most insane rendition of “Boogie On Reggae Woman” I ever heard. To this day, I can’t keep still when hearing that tune.

My first (unsupervised) concert was a triple threat of musical goodness: Cheap Trick, who opened for The Police, who opened for Continue reading

Happiness For Sale?

Happiness For Sale?


It’s what we all work for. What we need to provide for our families. Not having enough keeps us awake, and having too much is a dream. We take it for granted, disrespect it, even gamble with it. And these days, it doesn’t come easy.
When I was a stripper, I made great money. I lived large in a luxury high-rise apartment sporting panoramic views of Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean. Waikiki was the backdrop to a lifestyle I milked with every VIP pass and full moon limousine ride. I took taxis everywhere, enjoyed monthly facials, weekly massages with manicures, and hundred-dollar haircuts.
I wasn’t kidding about the limo rides. I had a driver named James (his real name) on retainer for monthly full moon excursions around the island. My friends could set their watches by James pulling up to the club at 4:00 am, and in addition to a handful of strays (lucky tourists; right place, right time), my friends and I would sip champagne and act every bit the Rock Star Stripper Posse until sunrise. James was paid well and never complained once about standing by while we skinny dipped in the warm glow of the Hawaiian sunrise. Go figure.
But I still wasn’t happy.
Did I have blissful moments wrapped in laughter and comfort? Yes. Was my life one big party, full of excess and adventure? You betcha. I was also living on a hamster wheel full of denial, self-loathing and warped sense of security; my drug use perpetuating the mastery of camouflage.
No amount of money would change the fact that even I wasn’t fully aware of how far I was falling.
The older I get, the more I find myself nodding in agreement to age-old phrases like “you get what you pay for” and “money doesn’t buy happiness.” But back then, far be it for my twenty-something brain to realize – you really do and, it really doesn’t.
Here’s the thing about clichés – they exist because there’s considerable weight to their words.
When I was raking it in, I really did get what I paid for. I welcomed a life of escape and fascination, not realizing then that I was forking over top dollars to anesthetize my pain. I was able to numb myself from what I needed to work through by creating chaos of grand proportions.
Ten years in to my rock star lifestyle, I realized something. I was creating more darkness with my unhealthy choices, which then compounded to the pile of shit I already needed to deal with.

Nothing was going to make me happy, if I wasn’t happy with myself.

There is a woman I see at the office every day, and she is never without a smile. Sometimes I catch her humming a tune or even whistling as she pulls her cleaning supply cart. We greet one another with a smile in the ladies room as she refills the paper towels. She is a lovely reminder that you don’t need wealth to be happy.

As for me, I live paycheck to paycheck now. There’s nothing fancy about my home, and I certainly haven’t hung out in a limo for a while. I see a therapist regularly and she’s helping me on my journey to my most authentic self (how very Oprah). I am working through my childhood traumas and learning to love everything about me, flaws and all  – because that’s what’s real.

Sure, I wish my purse strings weren’t as tight these days, and I kick myself for not saving my stripper money. But my life is progressing exactly how it’s supposed to. I am still here after two overdoses, not to mention countless choices I’ve made to put myself in harm’s way. My guardian angel is the coolest, and I owe her at least seven of my lives. And when you think of it, you just can’t put a price tag on that.

“Money alone isn’t enough to bring happiness . . . happiness is when you’re actually truly ok with losing everything you have.” ~ Tony Hsieh 


What If Monster

What If Monster

There is a monster in all of our minds and she’s a total bitch. She smells of self-doubt and cynicism. She is the sassy girl who knows you are but what is she. She is never far when we are taking steps to follow our dreams.

I attended a conference call today titled “How do you know when you have a book?” I sit here marinating in my notes from the call (not to mention my slight embarrassment as I asked a question and could not stop talking in nervousness), and am in deep thought.I know I sometimes think too much.

Even before today’s phone debacle, writing my memoir has opened up questions that are not always easy to answer.
What makes your story different?

What is your universal message?

It seems these days that memoirs are the new black. Everyone wants a piece of the literary pie and thinks they deserve the freshest slice. But what if your story has been told before…and told really well? What if nobody is interested?

What if
What if
What if

The answers to those questions are simple: because there is only ONE me. Just like there is only ONE YOU. Don’t let your monster take over your dreams. We have come too far.

Here is the part where you tell me: how to you control the monster in your head?

Fascination St.

Fascination St.

Fascination Street: A Dream Journal Entry.

Kevin and I were parallel parked next to a cliff in what seemed like an empty piece of land off the Hollywood hills. We were in separate cars. He, in front of me and I was parked directly behind him. The scene below was bustling with the typical energy of big city afternoons preparing for the night. Street lamps and storefront signs began to open their eyes while the sunburned horizon melted in to its haze. The air around us was still.

We spoke to each other while sitting in our driver’s seats with the windows rolled down. We each had our wallets on our laps and were counting out loud the money we had saved. We were excited and happy.

I saw her spring on to Kevin first. An amped up girl armed with a long black cane with a metal tip. The cane looked more like a prop than a weapon but we knew what she was using it for. She slammed the roof of Kevin’s car and pierced through his open window on the driver’s side. Neither of us screamed, but were surprised enough to jump a little in our seats. I sat in my car watching every move she made through the window. She leaned in over Kevin, peered in to his car and noticed me watching her through his rear window.

Suddenly I was the one who was nose to nose with this girl. I looked in her eyes and noticed thick false lashes were caked on, like they had been worn far too long. Her dark hair was thick and long and her bangs covered most of her face.

“You are really pretty” I was unafraid and wanted her to know I could see her through her mask of make-up. I held on to my wallet, almost waiting for her pull it from my grasp.

For some reason, our little friend did not take our money but she waved her cane in our personal space long enough to remind us that she could have.

After she walked away Kevin and I heard the voice of a hiker in the distance. We assumed he was a social worker or police officer who knew this girl. “She is just looking for a place to sleep tonight”. He assured us we were out of harm’s way.

Kevin and I remained in our cars but shared a conversation through our smiles, letting the other know we were okay. We still had our wallets and took comfort in knowing we did have a place to sleep, a place to call home.

After closing our bedroom curtains together getting ready for bed, the ground began to rumble. The rumble morphed into a shake and almost as soon as it began, we saw coverage of it on the nightly news. Another jolt quickly followed. Having already lived in southern California ten years, I was used to earthquakes but they still made my heart thump a little heavier. I looked at Kevin, now sitting on the bed watching the news coverage and could see he was unaffected.

Kevin fell asleep and I found myself walking down the hill in to the city streets. I dressed in an old stripping costume and made my way through the crowd, under the lights looking for the club.

The tiny hot dog stand was still across the street and the old Vietnamese man who owned it remembered me. The humid air coupled with his musky cologne carried me back to a place that was hauntingly familiar yet comfortable.

The view after walking in the dressing room reminded me of what I imagine any college dorm room would be like, but with much more sequence and make up. I caught a glimpse of myself in the smudgy mirror behind the door and noticed I was wearing purple Velcro rollers in my hair. The other girls stared at me but I was unaffected. I was confident in knowing I was retired and in their eyes, an old housewife. Why not work the angle and make the rollers part of my shtick?

I had a vague memory of songs I wanted to dance to so I quickly made my way up to the DJ booth before I forgot them. The booth was perched above the stage like a tree house and I needed to step up a ladder to meet the man in charge of the music. A stout, handsome African America man with a shaved head greeted me. He wore a navy blue t-shirt, flip-flops and khaki knee length shorts. He was smoking a cigarette, sitting on a tattered mahogany bar stool with hundred’s of CDs surrounding him. I didn’t want to disturb his chaos but wanted at least one song to call my own on stage so I extended my hand.

After telling him my name I placed my request. “Do you have Fascination Street by The Cure?” It suddenly occurred to me I was older and he may not know who The Cure was. After a little mind search behind his eyes, the DJ nodded and spoke.

“Oh yea, yea, yea, yeeeeaaa, I got that one”. He seemed cool enough to show his appreciation for my taste in old school alternative.

Before I waked on stage I noticed a barrier blocking the entry steps.

“Oh!” My voice turned up a notch in surprise. “This is… new”. I spoke to anyone who was listening and could explain this metal contraption to me. It reminded me of what you walk through when you go to Disneyland.

“Oh here, we have a new way to track how many girls we have a night”. I heard a voice within the thick wall of smoke in under the DJ booth at the foot of the stage. He was a pale, lightly bearded man who looked like a cross between David Caruso and Dog The Bounty Hunter.

“Let me take care of this for you”. He placed two quarters in the machine and guided my steps through the carrousel. My hips felt the clicking of the stripper counter. It felt like walking through a time machine. I took comfort in knowing Caruso Dog liked what he saw, hair curlers and all. It felt good to think, after all these years I still had it.

Assuring him that my special performance was just a one-time thing, I looked back over my shoulder. “Thanks. I won’t be here every night”. He just nodded and took a drag from his cigarette and walked away.

Before I started to dance I heard the introduction to Fascination Street. The base guitar pulsed through my veins like an old lover coming back for more. I forgot how much I loved this song. The base was soon welcomed by electric sounds of the guitar and I before I knew it was off, floating in a sea of melody and movement. Standing four feet above the crowd, beads of sweat responding to the neon lights, my body along for the ride. My head swayed in unison to my hips and my eyes closed to breathe each pulse of the notes. I could feel the crowd watching me. Apathetic to the money or my competition on stage, I continued to float down Fascination Street. Fucking awesome place to ride.

Hearing the DJ’s voice shifted my presence some. I expected to hear the familiar rumble of a baritone voice mixed with radio-type exuberance so I didn’t stop dancing all together. What I didn’t expect was what he called me.

“Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for…Christineeeeeeee”.

Christine? CHRISTINE??? How did he know my real name?

My mind traveled out of myself in to the DJ booth and suddenly I realized I introduced myself as Christine. I was used to having people “give it up for Stephanieeeeeeee” not “Christineeeeeeeee”. I felt completely off my game. I tried to move but was frozen so I looked around the room.

There were two other girls I shared the small stage with. One wore a white leather bikini with shiny rhinestone studs and the other was in all black. The girl in black had heavy bangs and day old false eye lashes. As soon as I passed her by on the runway I knew she was the same girl who tried to scare Kevin and I up on the hill.

I could feel her drug induced energy so I stayed out of her way. This was her territory and I remembered she needed to make money to find a place to sleep that night. My plan to steer clear backfired because when she noticed I didn’t pay her any attention she immediately approached me. We were standing next to the pole and the song was coming to a close but still loud enough to fill the silence between us. She spoke first.

“It’s you,” She was trying not to laugh at the sight of my Velcro curlers.
“I think you are really pretty” I was telling the truth. She didn’t thank me but I could tell she was happy to hear the compliment again even though I knew she didn’t believe it.

She kept working on stage, and I tried to stay out the way of both girls. My head ducked under a couple of times and I was almost hit in the head with a six-inch stiletto. I laughed inside knowing that my rollers would provide some protection.

The next song on stage was En Vogue’s Something To Believe. It’s a very slow, strut-worthy song and perfect for stripping.

Still feeling out-of-place after hearing my real name over the loud-speaker, I decided I was ready to leave. Before the song was over I took off my shoes and made my way down the side steps next to the back bar. I stood there anticipating the familiar throb of pain that rushed from the balls of my feet through to my heels. No one noticed I got off stage. I took a moment with myself to observe the crowd.

Aside from the new girls and customers, the bar was exactly the same. The room was still dark, filled with cigarette smoke and smelling of stale beer. The music was still played way too loud and the dancers all seemed way too skinny.

Carrying my stilettos across my shoulders, walking with bare feet on the dirty carpet, I couldn’t wait to leave. I looked down to my right thigh to see how much money I collected. Only a couple one-dollar bills lay flat under my garter and I didn’t seem to care. I was going home.



It’s been nearly fifteen years since I worked as a stripper. I’ve remembered many dreams from drug use to abusive relationships. This is the first dream where I woke up feeling a sense of enlightenment.

I love that I wore curlers on stage and my real name was announced. I feel empowered knowing I was not afraid of the girl who tried to scare Kevin and I up on that hill. The fact that I complimented her twice, through her mask of pain makes me realize I am coming full circle.

The girl on the hill with the cane, the same girl on stage with the day old false eyelashes was me. I needed to tell her no matter what, she was beautiful. I woke up this morning knowing that it was true.