Hilary and I begin to invest time in seeking the perfect strip club the way some people search for the perfect car. Before our nighttime journey it was intrinsically necessary to spend some prep time in one of our all-time favorite hotel bathrooms. This particular bathroom features a fantastically chic peach powder room lounge complete with Fantasy Island wicker chair in which to relax. Both of us hop up on the marble white countertop and fix our make-up, drink and laugh, pretending to be snotty English tourists.
“Right then…” I began in my best Cockney accent, “it’s like this mate, we are going to ask the dodgy strip club managers all the brass tacks about how much money we can pull in nightly working as strippers, and do we need to dance all the bloody time or can we take periodical breaks, right?”
Hilary picked up the improv doing an accent sprung from the loins of Julie Andrew’s and Basil from Faulty Towers’ love child,
“D-o-o-o they supply us with such costumes and shoes or is it up to us to purchase those tawdry things? What indeed is the word dicky bird? Me eyes look like mince pies!” She finishes coating her eyelashes for the third time. My vodka-induced buzz makes its way into my bloodstream to annihilate my fear. Drinking more and fixing our lipstick becomes our best layer of protection for any potential danger. Personally, I rather look slightly blurry eyed with perfectly lined lips than some girl who is too scared and inexperienced at taking off their clothes for cash.
On one of my many downtown clubbing excursions I remember passing some strip clubs. Turning my head away after getting an eyeful of half-naked women in daylight made me wonder if the pictures outside told the truth. The startled faces with forced sexy pouts of these women led me to imagine their personal histories. I’d think they were all runaways – simple women with no choice in the matter with pimps and abusive boyfriends forcing them to take their clothes off for strange dirty men all day long with no say in the matter. Staring at one particular blonde with her finger in her mouth the thought occurred to me that maybe a small group of them enjoyed being exploited. Could they feel pleasure from being blessed with such sinister fantasies?
My thoughts are interrupted by Hilary’s continuing queries, “ Where would we keep our things and money? Do they take some of our money ?” Hilary applies a thick coat of her signature color Toast of New York Lipstick. Fumbling for the lid the entire lipstick drops to the ground.
“Omygod…ohmygawd!!! Oh ma gaaaadddddd…do you think it’s still okay?” she walks to the stall grabbing a streamer of toilet paper. She imitates Homer Simpson, “it’s still good, it’s still good, it’s just a little bit dirty…but it’s still good.”
I laugh, “Okay Homie, let’s hit Zanzibar first, or the one beside it.” I sling on my suede backpack over my black vintage seventies leather jacket.
“Uhhh…Let’s just get out on Yonge and then we’ll decide,” Hilary adjusts her shiny purple shirt collar so that sits on the outside of her coat, framing her neck in regal club fashion.
Our reflection shows a tall brunette with raspberry lips and a smaller underfed sidekick resembling a young Carly Simon with swingy red ponytail. Swaggering we push open the bathroom door and exit our fine drinking facilities to the sounds of honking horns and early evening weekday ruckus on Yonge Street. In a booze haze my immediate future of stripping brimmed over with infinitely good things, and every one of my actions were executed in lithe, liquidy movements which are finally free from scrutiny by the judge in my head. Wearing boots with a platform heel gives me the height I need, feeling the part. On my adult stilts I step out onto the stage of the street.
Under the red neon glow of the Sam the Record Man sign we head towards a dingy head shop where we remember seeing a strip club. Grateful Dead posters and Pixies shirts are crammed in the window of Flashjacks, and there to the left: Las Vegas Strip.
“Ahhh…Las Vegas, I’ve always wanted to go to Vegas,” Hilary happily slurs. Admiring the mural on the wall leading up to the main entrance, I take extra care in going up the stairs. My eyes follow the peeling flesh-colored paint on the garish cartoon showgirls in a Robins Egg blue bodysuit. Beyond the mural stands a man at the door whose appearance resembles the weather-worn paint. Watching the mound of fur on his stomach peep through his shirt buttons I tell him we’d like to go inside as we’re interested in work. I try to establish stripping from the onset as an honest, ordinary job.
“Great, eeeyyyahhh…so do you’s have I.D?” the door-man asks me through his five o’clock shadowed voice with no surprise or admiration for our quest. Cockily I pull out my Ontario Health Card. He passes it back to me and still with no expression asks for Hilary’s. Being the only eighteen year old I know whose mother still hangs on to her Passport for ‘safe keeping’ Hilary shoots me the look. Immediately, we launch into an improvised dialogue to get the bouncer distracted. Hands on my hips feigning frustration I reprimand her,
“Hilary, I told you not to leave your wallet in the glove compartment.”
“Well, it’s the only friggen place that the damn kids don’t get into!” she exclaims letting out an exasperated sigh after leaning her head into one hand shaking it back and forth. Taking a more self-depreciating tone she continues, “It’s hard to remember things, I’m still a wreck after he walked out on me – you know that bastard will get his!”
The door man rolls his eyes and opens the door. Happy to once again successfully act our way into a better reality, I make a mental note to somehow get her some great fake I.D.
I’m disappointed at the size of the club as it’s really just one big room. Looking up I note how most of the room is lit with pot lights and wall light attachments that resemble the type found in medieval restaurants. Probably the creepiest part is the ketchup-red carpeting that should have been in somebody’s rec-room and not a gentlemen’s club. Looking at the stage I think how it’s only by some demented mind that they’ve decided to not have anything inside resemble a casino, or Vegas, and yet the stage was designed to resemble a carousel –to evoke which Vegas club? Circus?
“Pour some sugar on meeeeeaaaahhhhh!!!!!!!” rings in our ears as we quickly grab seats at a table on stage right. A few men scan their eyes past us, clothing seemingly deeming us invisible. How is it that each of them can sit at a table alone and take this all so seriously? I start studying their faces like those on the subway exchanging glances that aren’t meant to be acknowledged.
Over the music a female voice scratchy enough to convince me she smokes every moment she isn’t on stage asks a fat guy to our right if he, “needs some love, baby.” Turning around I wasn’t sure what to check out first, the chick on stage or the girl straddling the guy beside us. Motioning with my chin I direct Hilary’s attention to the big boned Asian stripper straddling on a man’s lap. If I was the guy I’d be lusting over her extraordinarily shiny long hair. Falling between her butt cheeks, her incredible mane lands in a picture perfect v-shape. It resembles (hair you see in paintings of) those women riding horses under waterfalls.
“Hill…her hair totally reaches all the way past her tush,” I hiss over at her. She looks back at me half-nodding stunned.
“Oh my God, is that a lap dance?” I’d never seen anyone move their butt side to side on a stranger’s lap, so I guess that’s what it was. Whatever Hawaiian Barbie was doing didn’t faze any of the other onlookers or the waitresses who sashayed by with cocktails like it was no big deal.
“So is it?” I asked Hilary expecting her assessment would be much more accurate than mine.
“I don’t know but there’s no way in hell I could do that,” she says. For fear of looking like newbie pervs, we turned back to watch the stage. The Def Leppard song playing reminded me of public school: “take me highah…take me luh-owe….”
Half-posing, half-dancing the skinny, mulletted stripper wraps her bony fingers around the smudged gold pole like tinfoil on a Hershey’s kiss. She reminds me of those rocker girls that I’d see up at Wasaga Beach with a tasseled black leather purse and Guns and Roses tank top.
“Whoa!” We all let out a gasp when she hoists herself upward swinging upside down. Her white pleather boots stick to the pole as she un-clasps her purple bikini top.
“Annie, I really don’t want to hang around here, you?” she asks after the purple bikini top is untied and tossed to the side.
“I want to go too,” I agree pushing my chair back. We move out in the same fashion a Bubby and Zaidy might leave a deli when they’ve been disgusted with the food. Poison’s “Every Rose Has its Thorn” accompanies our exit. The door-man ignores us completely too caught up by a potential paying customer in a red lumberjacket.
“Oh my God. This is 1996 not 1986! Does every strip club play rock hits from the eighties? And I know that girl was giving him a lap dance…Hilary aren’t those illegal or something?” I am seriously worried about the finer details of the job description and decide we need to talk with some of the strippers to get the full picture. Hilary frantically searches her purse for a cigarette to calm me down,
“I hope not. I have no fucking idea, but if that is what that was I wouldn’t work there for anything man. That my friend was totally a bottom feeder place or something. That must be the place where strippers have to transition to hookers fast with their clothes and booze in the same paper bag.”
“Yeah, a greasy paper bag,” I add moving down the street to Zanzibar. Maybe we can expect a more upscale venue judging by the pictures of women in Penthouse-worthy poses, which are designed to entice men into the club. There’s no doorman to ID us, so we hurriedly push open the black doors into the music.
Con’t Next Week: ZANZIBAR & LE STRIP