The weather was perfect for an evening stroll. I started up Kuhio Avenue with the plan to hail a cab a few blocks in. I missed flagging taxi’s. Waikiki may not be your typical “big city” lifestyle but it’s still the type of place you can walk everywhere and when your feet tire, there’s always a cab to rescue you.
The familiarity started within two blocks of my walk. I noticed a man I used to party with – still passing out Booze Cruise tickets to young tourists. His hair was still long, like he was an extra in a Pearl Jam video. He did a double take at me when I walked by and for a second, we stopped with that “don’t I know you?” look. Not one for exchanging small talk with long-lost acquaintances from my party past, I kept walking.
The taxi dropped me off right in front of Femme Nu. This is the first [nude] club I worked in. I was just 21 when I started working there and didn’t know what to expect 21 years later. The bouncer at the door checked my purse, pulled out my camera and handed me a claim check ticket. As a tourist of Waikiki, I always have my camera in tow. I didn’t even think about taking photos inside the clubs, but it made me happy the security was tight. I worked in a different time where we didn’t have to worry if a nude photo was plastered all over the internet – there was no internet!
Once entering the club I was overcome with nostalgia, excitement and a little bit of fear. I sat at the bar, ordered a vodka cranberry and soaked it all in. The dancers seemed bored, as it was just 8:00 and the crowd was thin. After my second drink I asked the bartender for some ones and made my way to tip the girls.
“I have to support the ladies” I said, as I walked up to each of them smiling.
“Thank you!” They looked at me, smiling, wondering what my story was.
After introducing myself a couple of the gals and I chatted and they were excited to meet someone from “the old days” – someone who had stories.
I told them how different the club was, how the stages changed, the bar was on the opposite side of the club, etc. They marveled in my stories of how we used to dance on this jet stream runway – complete with shower stage and glow in the dark body wash.
I noticed each dancer had a personal pillow and was blown away by the fact that not one of the girls was actually standing up for long. They all knelt down and performed shows for the men on their knees!
“What’s up with the pillows?”
“Oh that started in the late 90s”
“It’s got to be better on your feet!”
“Oh yea – you used to dance, right?”
“Yea – in spiky shoes. Clear platform heels weren’t round back then.” I felt old but proud to be there, sharing my stories. It was nice to show them there is life after the pole.
After chatting a while with the girls I made my way to Club Rock-Za across the street. As soon as I walked in, the door man remembered me, gave me a hug and waived the cover charge. I was then greeted by Yvonne, the owner, who recognized me right away. I was so surprised to receive such a warm reception, and felt a little touched I was even remembered.
The ladies at Rock-Za had pillows too and I sat at the bar in amazement at the floor shows I was seeing.
In both clubs I noticed a lot more body art. Each girl displayed a fair amount of tattoos – something I don’t remember seeing back in my day. They also seemed younger to me, but I’m sure that’s because I am so much older now. I also noticed the lack of drugs. As a long time career party girl, I can usually tell if someone is high. I didn’t pick up that vibe once from any of the dancers. Another difference I spotted right away was the rise of their bottoms. Every gal there wore their bikini bottoms (or panties) very low waisted. I felt so old-school, thinking to myself how high-up-the-thigh we used to wear ours.
After a couple hours and a hand full of drinks, I decided I was ready to leave. I saw what I wanted, met some great ladies and came full circle.
I was surprised I wasn’t more emotional. I suppose it’s because I am at peace with part of my life I no longer feel controlled by. Walking in to my past was comfortable, but walking away felt even better.