Power Strip: An Adult Extertainer’s Backstory

Every stripper has their reasons for choosing that life. Here is a little bit of mine.

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I’ve never been a rule person. Breaking any and all guidelines for being a good kid was my thing. Screw conformity. I’d scale the fence at the exact moment my brain registered the “No Trespassing” sign. If you told me I wasn’t allowed to go there, I’d shoot you an adorable smile, nod obediently, and then do everything in my power to defy you.

Things began innocently enough. As a mischievous pre-teen, my adventures in search of complacency weren’t very earth shattering. Days were spent dreaming of first kisses with Chachi Arcola from Happy Days and thoughts of navigating Rydell High School as both Sandy and Rizzo from my favorite movie, Grease. There were worse things I could do.

Every now and then my exploratory mind served me well. My impressionable brain was a delicious symphony of borderline dangerous adventure and idle curiosity. I possessed the perfect mindset to allow myself permission to experience things I never thought possible despite a brief church upbringing designed by our mother to keep my older sister and me in line. I don’t know where the idea of religion started with Mom. Maybe not having a father in the mix for her two girls swayed her thinking. Instead of one dad to help her raise us girls she’d get the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Not that we were strict Catholics; our occasional Sunday Mass attendance was peppered with the usual holiday events each year. But that was enough. An hour of Mass, complete with accepting the body of Christ on my tongue while being reminded that He watches my every move was all I need to be freaked out. The long drives home served up haunting views from the back seat of Mom’s station wagon. Hypnotized by the shimmering stain glass windows framing the entrance to the church, I always wrestled with the pockets inside my breath.

Church visits stopped shortly after my thirteenth birthday when, after my first and only Confession, I decided the feeling of being wrong all the time just wasn’t for me. Then there was the why. Why I felt the need to confess. And why I felt so guilty.

Even though I was unconscious when it happened, I still thought I needed forgiveness for losing my virginity that night on the beach. I don’t know what I expected to feel after releasing my truth bomb in the confessional, but it didn’t make me feel any better. If anything, the blanket of shame wrapped around my shoulders became heavier. After the priest shelled out my Hail Mary and Rosary penance to absolve me of my sin (and what a doozy, at just thirteen), I walked away and never looked back.

Ever since I learned the difference between pink and blue booties I’ve been curious about my body. As a freshman in high school and shortly after the beach incident, my curiosities about sex grew stronger. One night when I couldn’t sleep, I snuck downstairs to watch an R-Rated movie on cable. After getting lost in this new wonderland of nudity and pleasure, my hunger for knowing the whys exploded.

The next morning with the sun winking through the glass louvers in the bathroom, I sat on the toilet and opened my legs. Like a doctor asking me to say “Ah,” I began to explore myself with my fingers. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to see myself, to visit the birthplace of the moans and pleasure scenes that had captured my attention the night before. So I ran to my bedroom, got my purse and scurried back to the toilet. I reached for the sliding door, ensuring that it was locked, and grabbed my compact mirror.

Holy shit.

I was in awe of that place—that sacred part of womanhood I was taught to never discuss. I loved every inch and fold of her. She was soft, fragile and safely tucked away. But also, I knew she was a force. At some point, I moved from sitting on the toilet to lying naked on the floor. I opened my thighs and held the mirror with one hand, exploring myself freely with the other. My thoughts streamed together on a repeated loop of wow, this is you and a baby comes through here – you can create life! My very own No Trespassing sign.

The more I got to know myself, the more pissed off I became about that night on the beach at camp. I started to realize my virginity wasn’t lost at all, but that it was taken. At just thirteen years old, my No Trespassing sign was broken through without my permission. I wasn’t even conscious!

That’s it, I thought. Never again.

It makes perfect sense that I faked my orgasms during my twenties. With each lover I was an actress, making them think they rocked my world. Even if it wasn’t true, it was my lie and my body.

Stripping was another way I felt control with my body; I’ll show you my goods, on my terms, the way I want to – you give me your money.

It was years before I would confess my childhood secret to anyone but the priest. When I finally shared with Mom about the week I spent at camp and how her baby girl returned home a woman, she was mortified and I felt somehow she blamed me. The blanket of shame felt even heavier. I felt like that little girl being scolded in the Confessional all over again reaching for a life raft in her lungs, waiting for the stain glass on the windows to fade.

After much self-discovery I finally understood I was raped. It took a bit longer to truly believe it wasn’t my fault.

Feelings of somehow bringing it on myself— asking for it—suffocated my self-worth, serving as landmines along the way. But I worked through that wreckage and got out from under the cloak of self-blame.

After nearly ten years on the stripper stage I was done; burned out and ready to find a new life.

At twenty-eight, I moved away from the only world I knew, started regular therapy and began to delve into my own whys. Through much introspection and forgiveness (with myself and others), the blanket of personal shame I wore for so long eventually disappeared. It has been replaced with something much lighter – an extension of me. The new fabric is a delicate blend of strength and self-love. I’ve earned this survival cape and wear it with pride.

Every story inside us from our past is a piece of fabric that makes us who we are. Some parts are tattered and worn; frayed with struggle and defeat. Other patches are threaded so tightly and strong, it’s a wonder we ever survived without them. How cool is it, to know we have.

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.

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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

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