Review: ‘Bare’ Took Me There

netflix-coverNetflix and me, we have an understanding. I’m never judged when I need my Jake Ryan fix and end up binge-watching 80’s classics all weekend instead of running errands. And I don’t think twice when indie film suggestions pop up on my video stream feed, based on my viewing history.

Indie and me go way back. Call it underdog kismet, or simply shared affinity for raw truth. I’m attracted to the underbelly of a story. Those dusty secrets that seem to only reveal themselves outside shadows of blockbuster hyperbole. Any “Feel Good Movie of the Summer”, “Gripping” or “Mind Blowing” promises served up on a marquee of bells and whistles, and my interest is a watered down cocktail during happy hour. I’ll enjoy the flavor, but the buzz just aint the same.

It’s been a while since I felt the warm embrace of indie. And like anything good that you haven’t had in a while, we forget just how much we enjoyed whatever it was that’s been missing – like with great sex or home-made lasagna.

After seeing writer/director Latalia Leite’s movie BARE, I realized just how hungry I’ve been.

It’s been twenty years since walking away from the stripper world, but I never tire of the stories. After reading the synopsis of BARE, I was intrigued:

“A young girl [Sara Barton] in Nevada becomes romantically involved with a female drifter who introduces her to a life of stripping, drugs, and metaphysical experiences that teach her what happens when real life catches up with dark fantasy.” – IMDB

Immediately, I wanted more. How young was she? Was she gay before she was a stripper? What kind of drugs did she take? Of course, I personalized the parallels. I was 19 when I stepped on stage for the first time. I slept with women after becoming a stripper. Cocaine and ecstasy were my drugs of choice.

Not only did BARE answer my questions about young Sara’s journey through the stripping world, it did something I wasn’t expecting. It drew me back into mine.

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There I was, tucked safely in bed – my laptop streaming – and bam! – it was 1987. As Sara (played by Glee’s Diana Agron) explored her new world, I was transported back to my old one.

So vividly, was my recollection. I remembered my hesitant but determined first steps on the flashing Plexiglas stage, the vibrating bass crackling through the speakers, my stage name being called as the DJ stretched out the vowels for emphasis: “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give her a warm welcome! Give it up for the sensational, Stephaaaaaaaanieeeeee”. I could almost smell the cigarette smoke that needed multiple shampoos to get out of my Aqua Net sprayed, Bon Jovi look-alike hair.

I expected to feel a connection after watching BARE, but the intense emotions that flooded through me were a welcomed surprise.

Anyone can tell a story, great writers can make you feel it.

“One thing that I’ve learned, that’s true, is that if you don’t make your own choices in life, the world will make them for you.” – Pepper  (played by Paz de la Huerta)

Natalia’s script is beautifully written and her direction is spot on, bringing out amazing performances (most notably  Dianna Agron (Glee, FoxPaz de la Huerta (Boardwalk Empire, HBO) and Chris Zylka (The Leftovers, HBO). With a subject matter that can easily teeter on campy or trite, BARE’s language is refreshingly honest – never over the top.

In a world where most people throw opinions about sex workers into a pile labeled damaged goods, BARE helps us see things through a different lens. We know Sara. Some of us are her.

Whether you chose a life of g-strings and dollar bills or have been on the fast track in the corporate world since college – BARE’s story of introspection, personal choices and consequence is universal.

As the credits rolled, I took a moment to marinate in the story. My lips curved into a smile. Because of this random indie film choice on Netflix one night – I had come full circle in my journey to the past.

There’s nothing like a great movie to remind you how far you’ve come, help you decide where you want to go, and causes you to simply – think.

Everybody has a story. We are all capable of creating our own reality and looking beyond the horizon. Thanks to Natalia Leite, we know that we are not alone.

To watch the trailer click here:

 

 

BAREPurple Milk Productions – Alexandra Roxo and Natalia Leite

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Christine Macdonald

Don’t I know you? (excerpt)

tmg-gift_guide_variable_2xAs the fourth and final song faded and the DJ worked the crowd for applause, I made my way off the center stage. The balls of my feet were throbbing and I couldn’t wait to release my toes. Beads of sweat tickled the small of my back and my cocaine-fueled heart thumping inside my chest served as a reminder I was alive.

As soon as I reached the edge of the stage I kicked off my stilettos and prepared for my final set in the shower, complete with jet-stream runway.

Still naked from performing, I grabbed the bills and garters from each thigh, threw them in a ball on the floor and covered the stash with my dress. After exchanging non-verbal assurances that my loot was safely guarded by my favorite bouncer, Tuli,  I stepped in the shower and turned on the water inside the Plexiglass stall.

Waving a smile to the audience, I began to sponge up with the bottle of Prell shampoo that was provided by management. Prell gave this cool neon green glow under the black lights. We all looked like The Hulk but with better hair, slimmer waists, bigger tits and hairless vaginas.

The shower stage always drew in a big  crowd. A nude chick, sudsing up with wet hair, strutting up and down a jet stream runway – what’s not to love?

Deana followed my set and I loved her taste in music, which meant I’d have a ball performing my wet-n-wild show while she worked the center of the room. I threw her a smile from my corner, nodding in appreciation as Faith No More vibrated through the overhead speakers. We both mouthed the words to the crowd:

“You want it all, but you can’t have it… It’s in your face, but you can’t grab it!”

Teasing customers was a blast – even more so when the music was rad.

Receiving tips in the shower was different from collecting them on the main (dry) stage. Customers loved slapping the bills on our wet bodies. Never one to disappoint, I always bent over standing on the tips of my toes and my ass in the air, allowing spanks with every dollar bill. The guys took such pleasure in sneaking a ‘touch’; I took pleasure in their cash. Some girls hated the spank-tips but I didn’t mind. As long as they stayed on my ass and didn’t get south of the border, I was cool.

As the final song began my ass-slappers started to thin out leaving me alone to survey the audience. My hips swayed to Fire Woman, by The Cult; another ass-kicking Deana choice. I was all smiles in tune with the guitar riffs until my eyes landed on a familiar face from high school walking through the red velvet curtains.

Mutherfucker.

My eyes bolted off the runway to the dressing room and I thought of running; but my body was frozen seeking comfort in the pockets of my breath. The cigarette smoke-filled air served equal parts drama and suspense and he walked straight toward me as soon as he saw who I was. Pretending not to see him, I spun around whipping my water-soaked hair like I was a back up dancer in MTV’s Beach House.

My world was suddenly in slow motion. The butterflies inside my belly were choking on the reality of his presence.

“Hey, hey… !” I knew he was talking to me but kept dancing.

“I know you. Christine, right?” He pushed.

Christine? Nobody called me that name. Nobody even knew me as her. My stage name was Stephanie; Christine was buried in the chaos that was my life.

Realizing he wasn’t going to stop, I replied with the same volume as the thumping in my chest and the base vibrating the walls.

“Nope. My name is Stephanie.” My voice was shaking and my knees struggled to support me.

“No, it’s Christine. I know you.” His smirk was the same as I remembered.

“Wrong girl.” I said without blinking. Suddenly I wished I really was The Hulk.

“No, you went to Kaiser High School!” He actually smiled.

With unabashed purpose I lowered by body leveling to his eyes. I was still trembling but there was no way he was going to win. Not this time.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. My name is Stephanie. You got the wrong girl.” I looked him square in the face, determined to take back that night seven years ago when I was a 13 year old girl away at camp on the beach.

He shook his head and threw me a smirk. He knew I was full of shit. And I knew that he knew.

As I straightened up and walked away the DJ began to speak and I was saved. I grabbed my towel from the floor, leaving my cash, shoes and dress on the stage. I bolted past him through the crowd to the dressing room.  He tried to block me but I navigated my ass and kept walking.

In the safety of the space with the other girls getting ready for their set, I pulled a breath from the well of my past and began to cry. My body was trembling and I clutched on to my friend Alison, who was lining her lips in front of the mirror. I couldn’t speak.

“What, honey? What is it?” Alison held me close and rubbed my back.

Still, no words.

“Did someone try to touch you?” Her tone was firm, and I could tell she was ready to kick someone’s ass.

Shaking my head no, I opened my locker and pulled out my purse. I couldn’t stop panting.

“Holy shit, Stephanie, what the fuck happened?” She went from pissed to worried.

I dumped some blow on the dressing room counter and snorted.

Alison kept rubbing my back.

“It’s okay sweetie.” Her voice shifted to maternal.

Sitting naked on the stool with my towel draped around my hips, I wiped tears from my face and found the words.

“I saw him.” My breath was heavy.

“Who?” She offered me a cocktail napkin as tissue.

“The motherfucker who raped me.”

 

Christine Macdonald

I used to be a rock star

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I used to be a rock star.

I didn’t tour the world belting my heart out in stadiums, but I worked the pole to the tunes of Guns and Roses and Bon Jovi for the better part of a decade and was treated just as well.

In 1990s Waikiki, strippers were golden. There were no lines to wait in, no cover charges to pay, just champagne kisses and caviar dreams waiting for us to party on the other side of the velvet rope. And party we did.

The glamour drug was cocaine. I always had a bump or two in my purse and would never turn down a trip to the ladies bathroom from a fellow dancer. “Wanna go to the bathroom?” was really code for “Come do a line of coke with me.” When not lounging on the couches, gabbing away in the VIP room of our favorite club, we were always flocking to the stalls.

There were nights spent snorting lines of coke off swank bars afterhours, with famous actors and rock stars in tow. It was common to see girls making out with one another and even more so to see mountains of cocaine in the room.

One night at work, I got to chatting with Teresa, a stunning dirty blonde with sun kissed freckles and green eyes. She was in town on hiatus after touring for Australian Playboy. I was in awe of her beauty.

Always smiling and happy to be at work, Teresa was even more so this time. I sat next to her at the bar as we waited to be called for our set.

“You’re so beautiful.” She swayed to the music, smiling at me.

“Thanks T, you are too!” I was flattered and knew she was high.

“Do that Frank Sinatra thing.” She begged.

One night, long after the clubs were closed, and back in my apartment at six in the morning, Teresa and I were still partying. We played music, and I performed a little one woman show to Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon complete with dance moves. She loved it.

I started to wonder if she was on coke, or something else. She seemed way to mellow; less agitated than if she was high on blow.

“Maybe later.” I smiled and took a sip of my drink.

She leaned in to kiss me and whispered in my ear.

“Do you want some?” she purred, melting with the music.

“Coke?” I pulled back, kissing her on the cheek.

“No, this is H, love. I just snorted some.”

Heroin. Holy shit. I suddenly broke from our magical aurora and took a step back.

“No, hon, that’s okay.” Picking up my drink, sipping and staring in to her eyes, I continued. “I’m up soon.” And I walked away. I was scared shitless.

Heroin was something we learned about in school. It meant dirty needles and strung out homeless people. I had no idea you could snort it, or that people like Teresa – a beautiful model even did it.

Back in the dressing room, I wondered how many other girls were snorting heroin instead of coke. Was this the new, designer drug? Was I considered old school with my coke?

I had one song left before my set. I took my purse, waited my turn for the bathroom stall and placed my coke on the back of the toilet. I chopped each grain methodically but couldn’t stop thinking about Teresa. Rolling up a dollar bill, I placed it under my nose, leaned down and snorted.

How could she do heroin?

I snorted again.

That shit will kill you.

It wasn’t until years later I realized the hypocrisy of it all.

Now, at 42, I wonder about t all those girls I partied with, specifically Teresa. Was she able to get out of the party scene? Was she still as beautiful?

I cleaned up my act long ago in my 30s and chose a new life for myself away from velvet ropes and VIP clubs. But I will never forget the time when I thought I knew it all – high on coke, looking down at people who did heroin. Now, I wrap myself in the comic irony of it all, like a blanket of gratitude and comfort.

Christine Macdonald