In this late in coming age of Me Too and Times Up with its bright spotlight finally illuminating the grossly unfair plight, flat out abusive treatment and mentally crippling objectification of women in our society, it would only occur in my twisted brain to be the appropriate time to write about strip clubs.
Now before you draw a permanent reflexive-response connection between my name and spinning tassels, sparkly pasties and dental floss sized g-strings, let me back up a minute and make it 1000% clear that I have always thought woman were equal to men. I have been called a great many things from ‘annoying’ to… well… ‘really really annoying’, but never have I been called a sexist… ever!
Both sexes have their superior points and both have their far worse points. Our diversity helps makes us the same. It’s our unfortunate dated cultural collective past that propagates the myth of inequality. Since I was raised to think that neither is better than the other, I have treated all my female ships (partner, friend, business, relation…) without thought of superiority on either side.
Yet despite all of that, I have no problem with the existence of strip clubs. Then again, I have no problem with EZ Quickie high-interest loan stores that infamously prey on the poor, liquor stores that indirectly destroy livers and lives, casinos that bankrupt those that can least afford it and McDonald’s who has been slowly expanding waistlines, dulling taste buds and destroying stomach linings with pink slime burgers for generations. We are a free society and if I don’t want to walk in the door of any of those places, I don’t have to.
Although I don’t have an issue with strip clubs, I rarely go. I understand the negative psychological, sociological, financial and societal consequences for both the patrons and the performers but that’s not what keeps me away. I just don’t have much patience for glitter, the smell of $8 a bottle perfume, bad loud music, grossly overpriced drinks and manipulative mindless small talk with people whose only goal is to extract money out of my wallet and into theirs. I have no problem with naked people, but I have seen plenty in my life already and it’s just not worth all the nonsense to see a few more.
I was a Freshman in college when my buddy Mike and I along with my then-girlfriend all went to a strip club for the first time. It truly was more of a curiosity thing. The dumpy small town Florida Panhandle club did not cater to the cream of society with its dingy floors, cheesy mirrored walls, sequined curtains, low ceiling and a tiny scuffed stage with a smudged-up pole in the middle. The dim lighting did not help improve the looks of the establishment, customers or entertainers. There were some young military guys from the local air force base but most of the other patrons were kinda old and crusty. That said, I still felt strangely grown-up like the first time I gambled in a casino or the first time I ordered straight whiskey in a bar or the first time a doctor examined my prostate.
Later that same weekend my girlfriend’s mother gave us old some scary used mannequin heads she was going to toss out from the back room of a beauty college she had just purchased. They had realistic eyes and overly permed burnt-out fake toned blond hair. Because of the numerous similarities, we named the heads Heidi and Brandy Alexander after two of the more bimbo-sh strippers we saw the night before.
For years, Brandy and Heidi were used for numerous pranks finding their way into refrigerators, car backseats, beds, hung from the ceiling and hidden in an attic. They made it to Vegas on the rear window shelf of a cranberry red Cadilac, been used to play tug-a-head-war with my dogs, and much to my wife’s chagrin, one even made it to my wedding as a surprise gag gift opened during the reception.
Speaking of my wedding, the night before the ceremony my best man Mike led a large group of my family and friends on a multi-stop wacky semi-impromptu bachelor-ish party. When he brought the whole motley group to a local strip club, my Sister incredulously asked ‘what’s next, a cock-fight?’ One of my lesbian friends seemed very interested in where the dancers got their boots and clothing, while some of the more conservative folks looked at the experience as a sociological study. At the time, I protested against going in but in hindsight, it was pretty amusing to watch members of my family uncomfortably mill about ignoring the obvious for our 20 minutes stay.
Many years before that, I had a business associate that adored strip clubs and we definitely went to them more times then I’d like to admit to. It was during those years I learned I had a preference concerning those places No surprise that I hated the big sleek glossy clubs with hoards of pushy fake-looking women that appeared to be almost permanently laminated with a mountain of make-up. Instead, I was attracted to the more oddball burlesque-ish strange places where people watching was the real show.
Atlanta’s Clermont Lounge in the basement of an obscure flophouse hotel is a crazy odd experience that is hard to rival. With its bizarre surroundings, colorful clientele and strangely-diverse significantly-older tattooed more full-figured dancers, it is half strip joint half carnival freak show. California’s Jumbo Clown Room is as odd as its name and apparently, 30 years is still not enough time to unsee what is etched into my brain from the one in Guam I was taken to.
Truth is, I’m all big talk when it comes to these places. I am far from being a prude but I just don’t enjoy going because I have a hard time shutting my mind off as my brain wanders. I start wondering why and how the dancers ended up there. What led them to this and where will they be in a dozen years? Who is taking advantage of who? Is it degrading or empowering? Is it really any worse than the female barber showing a bit more cleavage to get more tips? Is it warping Men’s opinions of woman? And where do morality and ethics fall into the equation? Is there a difference between a stripper, exotic dancer and a burlesque queen? My head spins with all this nonsense and it’s just easier not to go.