A while ago I was talking with some people about the pop culture image of the strip club as underworld, and someone asked if I’d ever been afraid in a strip club.
There’ve been plenty of times when I couldhave been afraid, when someone followed me from the club, pushed boundaries too hard, or went all stalkerish. But the lovely thing about the strip club is that you can always walk away from those customers and the bouncers will kick them out for you if they try to follow you around. Or, in the case of being followed, you can just drive to the police station (call first). In over a decade of dancing, there’ve been two times I’ve been really scared, and I guess it’s worth noting that both were in western Pennsylvania. The first was kind of silly, and I’ll tell it another time.
I had just started working in this very rural club, the kind of place where young men show up in packs lugging coolers of beer and sit in folding chairs around the stage. They don’t buy many lapdances, but a good stage set could net a hundred bucks, and in between I could do homework in the cozy dressing room. This was a crazy busy Saturday night, though. The club was standing room only and I was doing lapdances instead of homework. This club had a lot of good upsells available – you know, a twenty dollar chair dance, a thirty dollar couch dance, a forty dollar lounge-thingy dance, etc.
I had snagged a very drunk member of a bachelor party for a lounge-thingy dance. He was really, really drunk. He fell down on the way back to the dance area, and handed me two hundreds instead of two twenties. I gave one back, of course, and told him we could do two dances for the other one. He sat down and, as usual, I asked him to take any keys or sharp things out of his pocket.
“Oh.” An uh-oh look came over his face and he reached into his pocket with one hand, and covered it with the other hand while he moved whatever it was to the floor. I’m a stripper. I don’t ask questions, and I honestly don’t give a shit if a guys got a little coke or whatever. Why should I? But a baggy of coke isn’t sharp, so when I started dancing for him I leaned over and took a look. It was a sawed off shotgun. I’m totally serious, it was freshly sawed off and all rough from the hacksaw. I didn’t miss a beat, just twisted his hands up over his head all sexy and kept dancing.
At the end of our two songs I didn’t offer him another, I just gave him a quick hug and told him I had to get back to work.
“Hey,” he slurred. “You ain’t afraid of my gun, are you?”
No. I’m not afraid of guns. I’m afraid of the drunk rednecks wielding them.
“Don worry. I’m one of the good guys, I’s a red blooded Amerimican. I’m defending your librarty.”
I considered this. What could be more American than strippers and cherry pie? Pin up girls in camo giving pep talks to the troops? Drunk idiots shooting each other?
I smiled and thanked him for protecting my Amerimican Librarty, and slipped away to find a bouncer. The bouncer didn’t seem to care that the guy had a gun. He told me everyone around here carries guns and I should get used to it, but he’d tell the guy to take it out to his truck. A little later I saw the owner, so I mentioned it to him. He was very concerned about a gun in his club, so I pointed the guy out to him as I headed back to the dance area with a travelling businessman who was a little shocked to find himself inÂ A Place Like This.
I got Mr. Businessman all settled in on the lounge-thing, and just as I started dancing I heard the scuffle start to break out. Put The Fucking Gun Down and That Fucking Bitch being yelled by pumped up bachelor party friends.
“Get down!” I grabbed my shocked business man and rolled us to the floor behind the lounge thingy as the first gunshot rang out.
“Don’t worry,” I told him. “It’s just drunk rednecks.” But I was more than a little worried that my patriotic friend might have a bit of anÂ urge to shoot me, since I’d told on him for having a gun. “We’ll just stay right here till the bouncers take care of it, and hey, I’ll throw another song in for free.” I’m all about customer service like that.
My shocked businessman shivered and wimpered for a few minutes, and then asked if there was a back door. There wasn’t. When the shooting and yelling stopped, he tipped me and said he had to leave. I reminded him that the gunman would be out in the parking lot now, and this was confirmed by the front door, locked and being pounded on.
So we did a few more dances, and the next night IÂ auditioned at another club, one with metal detectors.Â