I used to be hot: an ex-stripper appreciates her body (then and now).

 

The dressing room walls were vibrating with each thump of the baseline. After a quick garter and lipstick check in the mirror I pulled open the door and headed for the stage. As my eyes adjusted to the smoky darkness, my brain played catch-up to the sudden shift in volume while I sauntered past the customers. The audience would never know I wasn’t down with the DJ’s song choice because like every good sales pro, I worked the problem.

Trotting up the four steps to the stage, I navigated my six-inch stilettos onto the neon flashing Plexiglas. My hips curved around each thumping beat, and my smile served as a beautiful mask of my internal disdain. I was not a fan of 80s rap group 2 Live Crew, but no one would ever know. After the performance I gave, the crowd really did think: me so horny; me love you long time.

Stripping is the ultimate sales job.

“God, you’re such a bitch – you have zero cellulite.” Shayla whined as she spanked my ass at the bar. “Great set, doll.” She sized my body with her Cheshire gaze. “I hate you.” Her smile was wickedly salacious.

“What?” I laughed off Shayla’s digs in-between deep breaths, still recovering from my Oscar winning performance. I played along, pretending to understand. “Oh right, thanks!”

Strippers are sorority sisters without midterms. Instead of libraries and lecture halls, our campuses are cigarette smoke-filled bars with 2 for 1 shot nights, yoked-up bouncers and horny DJs with drug connections. But no matter the layout, we have each other’s backs – and never miss a chance to throw out a good dig in the name of envy. Shayla was in her late twenties and carried faint traces of cellulite around her hips, but to me – she was a Godddess.

Later that night and alone in my apartment, I broke out my mental measuring tape. I inspected each body part standing naked in front of the mirror. It was true. Unlike my face, my 22-year-old body was casualty-free; spared from the damage of the rare blood disease I was born with, leaving my face covered in deep-seeded crater-like acne scars. My stomach was toned and flat, my B cups were perky and my backside was solid and plump. I knew my body was ‘stripper worthy’, so why didn’t I feel beautiful? On the heels of being labeled Freddy Kruger in high school because of my scarred face, being envied was foreign to me. Anyone looking at me through a complimentary lens immediately tossed me in a sea of uncharted territory. I was desperate to catch Shayla’s life raft that night in the club, but there were too many leaks in my self-esteem to believe I could.

When you’re young and peppered with wisdom from anyone older, it serves up nothing but reminders that we still have time. The delicious irony is that nobody in their twenties truly understands the concept of youth being on our side until it’s gone.

It’s been twenty-five years since receiving Shayla’s cellulite-free comment, but far less time since I truly appreciated it. In the blink of an eye, my rock star life style of the rich and famous lost and shameless morphed into middle-aged responsibilities of the tired and gracious. Gone are the days of peeling off my day-glow lingerie for dollar bills and using my body as the ultimate entertainment sales tool. I can barely remember being cellulite-free and my fleshy stomach these days – it’s so lovely, it could give Buddha a run for his Rupee. But I’m happy. I feel beautiful.

The road to self-acceptance for everyone is as unique are their story. Paved with personal landmines and life rafts, it’s a wonder any of us make it through. My body has carried me, as I have her. We’ve made the trek to the other side of Victim; through childhood abuse, young adult disrespect and most recently, the Universe’s health tests. My body and me are still here. Bruised and scarred, tired yet strong. Weathered and full of stories. We are each other’s hero.

 

Christine Macdonald

Dreaming is Free

48037634-cachedThis post title has ADHD written all over it, but stick with me. I’ll keep the loquaciousness to a minimum. If you’re Googling “Loquaciousness” don’t feel bad. I overheard that word at a party and couldn’t wait to use it in a sentence. Then I realized – I was that L Word. And hilarity ensued. You should’ve been there. I killed.

But back to this post.

When the hell did mid September happen? Shit. I have things to do. A book to finish. Power meetings with influential networking hipsters who can change my life by signing on the dotted line after accepting my hilarious pitch of my oh-so-fabulous story.

Dreaming is free, people. Just ask Debbie Harry. Please Google her too, kids. And do yourself a favor – dance naked to Heart of Glass at least once in your life. Alone in your room is fine. But not in front of any mirror. Just dance. And while you’re at it, blast “Dreaming.” Because it really is free.

What made me think of dreaming out loud tonight? I’m glad you asked.

A couple of hours ago I received a text message from an old sister-friend from our home town of O’ahu, Hawaii (let’s call her B). She and I both live in Southern California now, but have not seen one another in nearly 20 years, can you believe? We reconnected through the marvels of modern technology and plan to meet up soon for a long overdue brunch. But back to her text. I was matter of fact-ly very tongue-in-cheeky mentioning to her that I had a book to finish because I’m dreaming big – her reply was priceless and one I just had to share:

“Don’t stop until it’s done! Then dream up another dream – that way you’re always livin’ the dream.”

It’s been a while, but that quote is so her. Beautiful. Positive. Inspiring. The depression, diseased part of my brain thinks she’s a bitch. I happen to adore her. I win.

B has always been this stunningly beautiful light, and her energy is equally pure and real. Whatever she’s on, I want some. I kid. Those drugs days are over, kids. I know she’s high on life and love. B just reminded me I’ve gotta get me some of that – clinical depression be damned.

If only snapping out of a dark space of wanting to evaporate were as easy as reconnecting with a beautiful soul. Sometimes staying in touch with loved ones, even in the thick of isolation reminds us how much beauty there is in this world. The fact is, when wrestling with clinical depression some days that actually does work. Other days, not so much. Sure, there are medications that help kick-start our serotonin and dopamine receptors, but even that sometimes isn’t enough.

Today was hard. I mean really tough. Because of a morning trigger (something superfluous other than that it hit a button I’ve been trying to avoid), I found myself in a downward spiral of despair that only the fantasy of not wanting to live surrounded my psyche for the better part of the day. Was I ever in danger of taking my life? No. But here’s the thing about clinical depression. There’s a huge difference between not wanting to live and actually taking the steps to assure you don’t. One of my favorite authors, Auguesten Burroughs maps it perfectly:

“If you believe suicide will bring you peace, or at the very least just an end to everything you hate – you are displaying self-caring behavior. You are still able to actively seek solutions to your problems. You are willing to go to great lengths to provide what you believe will be soothing to yourself. This strikes me as optimistic.”

I cling to these words. They are my life raft even when I’m the one puncturing the holes and I feel myself sinking. I remember – most of us with depression don’t really want to die. We just don’t want the pain.

Dreaming is free.

 

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This is my blog. Please check out my website for book excerpts, old school stripping photos, press and more.

Christine Macdonald

Review of Tonya Kay’s Pinup Pole Show (From a Retired Pole Gal)

Before the ink stamp on our skin was dry we were escorted down a vast multi-level staircase trimmed with floor-to-ceiling crimson velvet. With each step in my flesh-colored leather stilettos, I imagined my toes dressed in red ruby slippers. As a former burlesque stripper about to see Tonya Kay’s Pinup Pole Show, I felt a bit like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Of course my alternative universe was much sexier than Dorothy’s – but it still felt like I was going home.

My friends walked a couple of steps ahead of me and I pulled back to marinate in memory. A personal prelude with each step on the proverbial yellow brick road. This was my first time at Tonya’s show, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. The only thing I knew for certain is that once I saw the dancers on stage, my middle-aged self would be transported back in time. Stripper poles and spotlights? No DeLorean time machine needed for me.

As I reached the bottom of the staircase my left hand traced the railing. With my vintage rattan purse tucked under my arm, I lifted the back of my right hand blowing on it gently. I loved the artwork chosen to validate entry to the show. An over-sized black ink trace of a pinup model complete with platform heels and a ribbon-tied ponytail that tickled her perfectly curved booty. The stamp was so big, biker tattoos would take note. This slightly smudged beauty mark nearly stretched out to my knuckles, but I didn’t care. This is no accident, I thought. Tonya’s show is all about Rockabilly, Classic Cars and Burlesque. Singularly cool in their own right – but together – Larger Than Life. 

Once arriving downstairs in the showroom we made our way to the bar. I became flushed the moment I spotted an impossibly handsome 20-something Taye Diggs doppelgänger on the serving side. He flashed his dimples and I returned his serve with some serious eye contact and a smirk. The weight of the temporary false lashes tracing my eye lids began to distract me during my paltry attempt at flirting, but I kept with it as best I could. He was either totally creeped out or flattered. Probably both.

I can’t remember what I said exactly, except I know I placed our drink order at some point. As Hottie McHotterson worked his magic at the well, his boyish face reminded me of my age; yet somehow I was bathed in acceptance within the space of our banter. This kid knew how to work it.

Me (left) and the beautiful Leslie Buckley.

Our table was front and center to the stage and I grew more excited settling in to my chair. As I checked my smartphone, assuring it was on silent-non-vibrate-don’t-bug-me mode – I wondered. Why was I so self conscious at the bar – and why didn’t I flirt more, the way I used to when I was a showgirl? Was it the mere fact I was dolled up (and not in my PJs) on a Saturday night that threw me off my game? Or was my inner stripper-vixen truly retired along with my feather g-string and 22-year-old metabolism? I took a sip of my champagne and let out a comfortable sigh thinking about one of my many mantras. This made the thought of hooking up with a dude young enough to be my son straight up ridiculous.

“If a guy doesn’t know the hardships of untangling a cassette tape with a number 2 pencil, or pulling his car over to flip through a Thomas Guide, they definitely won’t know me.”

My friends raised their glasses in celebration and I’m suddenly reminded why I’m there. I was ready to see some beautiful, talented, bad ass beauties perform a burlesque and pole dancing show.

The lights slowly dimmed and I surveyed the room. Packed house. Good sign. Within seconds, The gorgeous Tonya Kay herself stepped on to the stage; and not in a bitchy, Do you know who I am?! kind of way. In fact, her demeanor was quite the opposite.

PPS7Tonya is the epitome of cool without trying to be. A natural performer with a kick ass sense of humor and a body that doesn’t quit (being a trained dancer working professionally for 26 years will do that). She welcomed the audience with open, impressively toned arms (fueled by vegan living) without any vibe of entitlement. Her unique combo of poise and moxie made it clear she owned the room. It was Tonya Kay’s dazzling retro world full of creativity and sex appeal – and we were happy to be living in it.

From the moment Tonya introduced herself and her captivating pole posse – three darling ladies so lovely in their own right it was hard to focus on just one – the audience was all in.

With Monica Kay, Candace Cane and Heather Lou (coincidentally, all vegan beauties as well) in Tonya’s corner, the energy of the room was off the charts.  The entire audience was happily on board with the realization that what we were witnessing was a unique collection of performances that reminded us –  dreams can be realized.

Pinup beauties? Check. Rockabilly vibe and classic cars on display? Done. Pole dancing? Beyond.

As a former swinger of the pole myself, long before clear platform heels were invented (six-inch metal spiked heels, kids – Google it), I gotta say I was more than a little impressed. Pole performances were never my forté (cocaine addiction and athleticism don’t work – go figure) but this – this was a whole new art form.

I shot this on my *iPhone (*amateur video, go easy) as I basked in the enjoyment of it all.

It’s one thing to ‘work the pole’ – quite another to choreograph performances where burlesque dancers morph into acrobatic ballerinas. Their only partner, a floor-to-ceiling rod of steel while they make it all look so damn easy (it’s not).

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What filled the space within the 70 minute show was pure magic. Part vaudeville, burlesque and retro fashion that takes you back to old Hollywood glamour. Part slapstick comedy in heels (not to be outdone by one stellar performance in roller skates). Every number was impeccably styled and choreographed, sprinkled with sex appeal, dipped in pure talent.

PPS1

Tonya’s show is more than a burlesque performance. Through creative, sensual and sometimes laugh out loud moments (don’t get me started on Tonya’s auto mechanic number) her and her pole posse take us on a journey of epicurean entertainment. None of them take themselves too seriously on stage, which the audience not only picks up on but appreciates. There were whistles and laughter throughout the night, which is easy to believe when you get your tickets (reasonably priced ranging from $15.00 – $40.00) and see for yourself.

If Tonya’s show is an amusement ride, the audience is transformed into wide-eyed children in roller coasters that instinctively throw up their arms, woohoo!-ing in wonder, watching these beauties command the stage and pole with effervescence, strength and style.

It’s been over twenty years since I walked away from the stripper stage. My knees aren’t what they used to be and both sesamoids (bones inside the ball of my feet) are shot – literal fragments are waiting to be surgically removed (sexy, right?). I may not be able to move the way I used to, but damn if I don’t still have a blast working my inner Fosse and Reinking when I try.

That’s the thing about aging dancers. Our fire never burns out.

It’s not just dancing, either. Any artist will tell you – the life of  creating something from nothing is not so much a choice as it is a calling. Whether through a camera lens, musical instrument, words on paper, air or paint brush, or our own bodies on a stage or pole – our creations are born from places deep within our soul. We cannot breathe without them.

But here’s the coolest thing. You don’t need to be an artist to appreciate Tonya Kay’s Pinup Pole Show. All you need is admiration for beautiful women, a taste for something truly unique and classic – and the desire to be part of a genuinely entertaining evening.

We all have a story; our own specific taste in what moves us. Personal flavors we satiate on. They help us get through this thing called life – electric word life – it means forever – and that’s a mighty long time.

Toyna Kay’s Pinup Pole Show is perfectly seasoned, leaving you satisfied yet wanting more. A delicious feast for the senses. What better way to help make our journey that much more enjoyable.

Thanks Tonya and ladies ~ I’ll be back for seconds. 

*For more information on Tonya Kay’s Pinup Pole show visit her website http://www.pinuppoleshow.com. 

Christine Macdonald