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.