Valentina: When Old Meets New

This is a continuation of “So this ex-stripper and a gay dude walk in to a bar…” -which is a true story of what went down during a visit to Hollywood, after my TV pilot interview.

“Just one drink,” I promised.

The room was sparse, with just four customers sitting two rows back from the stage. They were nestled in the darkness far enough away from the – dude, I’m standing right in front of you, pull out a buck – seats, but close enough to read the dancers’ eyes, which were hoping you’d still – come up and help a sister out.

I knew the place would be dead, because of the hour. Having just finished dinner across the street, it wasn’t even 9:30 so no surprises there. What did trip me up was the no-alcohol thing. As soon as I noticed the gals on stage were wearing nothing but clear heels and a smile, I remembered – nude bars in California aren’t allowed to sell booze. Come to think of it, I don’t think any nude strip bars in the United States (other than Hawaii) are legally allowed to get your rocks and liver off under the same roof, which I never really understood. I always found it ironic that an 18-year-old could see a naked stripper, but the girls who showed their goods had to be 21.

Back in 1987 when I started stripping in Waikiki, I wasn’t naked, I was only 19. I shook my cocoa-buttered ass for lonely military boys in a *neon g-string bikini. I may not have been taking off all my clothes in the beginning of my nine-year career on the pole, but I was definitely still selling [the fantasy of] sex.

By the time I was 21, I was working up the street on Kapahulu Avenue dropping trou for serious cash – playing in the Big Girl’s club, just like the one Todd and I were visiting tonight.

After a quick trip to the bar (Coke for Todd, water for me), I planted us in a booth smack-dab at the end of the stage. Todd looked so uncomfortable. I promised him our visit would be brief.

“Is this what you expected?”

“I don’t know.” He surveyed the billowy cloud of dark nothingness, as a couple of non-alcoholic waitresses tried to look busy, holding their empty trays.

“You’ve seen naked women before, haven’t you?” I remembered a slap and tickle story of him and a girl in high school.

“Uh huh… ”

I think he was trying to figure out why the hell we were there. I was beginning to wonder the same.

“Hi there!” She was as dark as the room, with a smile that lit up her face.

“Oh, hey!” Todd was more startled, than interested.

“Hi!” I cased her up and down, smiling, trying to peg her story.

“So which one of you do I get to kidnap?” A real salesgal, cutting to the chase.

After briefly introducing herself, she went on talking, but I stopped her politely.

“Oh, I’m sorry. He’s gay, and I’m a retired stripper. We’re just checking things out. Not tonight, but thank you!”

We exchanged “Hey, girl”s, and that beautiful smile carried her off.

I looked at Todd, realizing he didn’t have a clue what just went down.

“She was trying to sell us a dance.” I placed my hand on his knee, feeling maternal.

“Oh!” He laughed, sipping his Coke. “Girl, I had no idea.”

Now I was laughing.

“I know! It’s okay, honey, we can leave.”

“Okay!” No fight from the Gay Peanut Gallery.

No sooner did we agree to bail, than a hot little brunette came up to greet us. She was a dead ringer for Mila Kunis – the other Black Swan.

“Hey you two!” She was tiny and bronze, wearing a gold sequins bikini.  We couldn’t just shine this adorable, friendly kitten, so we allowed her pitch.

After introductions, and explanations of his Gayness and my Ex-Stripper-ness, the conversation still flowed. We learned little Mila called herself Valentina. She announced her name proudly, “Yea, Valenteeena.” Todd and I agreed, it was the perfect name.

When I shared I was writing a memoir, her eyes lit up.

“No way! You’re writing a book?!?  That’s so cool!”

“Yea, it’s taking longer than I thought, because I’m having a hard time re-living and remembering stuff. I was pretty high.”

I peeked over at Todd, who was totally into our connection.

“Oh, I used to party all the time, back home in Chicago, but that was before I started dancing.”

What? No drugs now?

I was impressed.

“I think it’s awesome you’re writing your story. I always think I should be writing this shit down.”

“Do it. Trust me, write as much as you can, because there’s nothing like this world, and every stripper has her own story” I advised.

After the DJ belted out who was next on stage, Valentina and I stayed in our groove.

I asked her a ton of questions about the business side of the stripping world now – and offered up how things were run back in my day. I had to pick up her jaw off the floor when I told her we used to get paid for every set – averaging three or four sets a night – in addition to earning tips on stage.

“No way!” She was shocked.

“I know! I hear you have to actually pay to work now – like you’re expected to give management money, just for being there?”

“Yea, it’s a stage fee. It’s fucking ridiculous. Some nights I have to stay at work just to earn my fee.”

It went on and on. I felt like her house-mom, and suddenly wanted to go to law school to help her fight The Man.

After a short while, a few more customers trickled in. I started feeling guilty – taking up her time – keeping her from making cash, so Todd and I excused ourselves and got up to leave.

As we said good-bye, I told her about my website, and she loved the name.

“Pole to soul.  Got it. That’s awesome.”

After Todd and I left, I realized how much more I wanted to share with my new friend. I wanted to tell her how sharp and real she was, that there’s a life waiting for her beyond the pole. That I knew she had her head on straight, and how excited I was for her future.

I wanted to talk about documentary film-maker, Hima B, and her quest to highlight the injustices of the biz. But it wasn’t the right time. Just as something pulled me into the club that night, a greater force had me leave. Besides, I could tell Todd just about reached his vagina viewing capacity.

It’s been a few days since our interview and I wonder if Valentina thinks about our talk. Has she Googled me, checking out the old-school photos I promised were posted?

I suppose if we’re meant to, our paths will cross again. But if we don’t – and she’s reading – I hope she knows, she has a new Stripper Sister in her corner, who thinks she’s pretty fucking rad.


* That particular link is to my Facebook photo page. Must have a Facebook account, and be logged on, to view. For other photos from my stripping days, check out my website.



11 thoughts on “Valentina: When Old Meets New

  1. Luv the “research” you do for your memoirs, Christine. I’d heard about girls making money per dance sets on top of wages!! God knows so many of us woulda been millionaires by now if only that practice continued! I appreciate that you gotta know when to dole out labor info by finding those moments when dancers will really hear the message. It’s funny-sad that there’s a new generation of strippers who think that everyone had to pay even back in the “olden” days so it’s just a continuation….One day this will revert back to the days when strippers’ labor is valued again. Looking forward to reading more of your story! Hoping that more strippers will empower themselves with money AND labor rights– ♥ ♥ ♥


    1. It is definitely a trip to go back to the scene for me! If I didn’t party my small fortune away, I would have had more money, that’s for sure!

      Thanks for your support – and right back at you.

      Here’s to the days of strippers having real shows – and rights again.



  2. This is such a great story. I feel like you’re turning into a fairy god mother of some sort. 🙂 Spreading the word that there’s “life waiting beyond the pole.” Hurry up on that book, would ya? 😉 I’m dying to read it!


  3. Ha! What a great analogy! It’s so bizarre to realize – I could be their mom (house-mom, fairy god mom). When I feel old, I just smile and appreciate that I’m still alive, and am happy I’m around!

    I’m working on finishing, love. Hardest goal I’ve ever tried to achieve. But I will get there!


  4. Hello! I’m back from the dead 🙂 You know, today was the first time I checked out your photos from your stripper days on your other website?!? You may have been high as a kite, but you sure were darling! I can’t believe the crazy photos of your face surgery…holy shit. I knew you struggled with that, but it didn’t really hit me until I saw those pictures. I can’t imagine anyone having to go through that. xo Lina


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