Tonight I was determined to make it back to Sue’s. It’s been a long week and I was anxious to get some interview subjects for my project. Plus, I wanted to see what the club was like during the week and get an opportunity to talk to average patrons around the bar to get some background info on how the club works.
So after my 8:00 pm to 8:30 pm nap I forced myself out of bed and started fixing my hair and makeup. My appearance was very important this time; given the boho librarian chic get-up I decked the last time I was at the club, it’s no wonder I didn’t want to talk to anyone at the club, much less could even get someone to associate with me. This time I had to look sexy, but not trashy, almost sexy enough to pass for one of the strippers coming in early for her shift—or at least a girl trying out to be a stripper that had to warm up the crowd before the real show began at 10. I knew blending in with the crowd would be the only way for me to get the dancers to talk.
In everyday life women (and men but women especially) are judged by their looks and their dress, further categorized by their different forms (or lack) of sex appeal. As you can imagine, I’m sensing this is especially true in a strip club, because the virtually the only factor one uses to distinguish strippers from other women at the club serving other roles (such as being a bartender, patron, security guard, hostess) is clothing. At Sue’s, female bartenders could almost be mistaken for strippers, as they walk around in sleeveless plunging leotards with neon zebra prints. Patrons dress however they want to dress, but these women generally look as if they were going to an average bar or restaurant for the evening. Of course the security guard is dressed most conservatively to assert her authority in the club and to emphasize the difference in her role from the performers. And finally, the hostess is also dressed as if going out for the evening for a casual dinner with friends, subliminally telling those who enter that she is not to be a form of entertainment given her relatively conservative outfit, but she still draws patrons in with her good looks and subtle forms of sex appeal.
I scurried around my room like a high schooler getting ready for her first date, picking out the right makeup and figuring out which low-cut sweater would work best to entice the strippers’ attention. I have to get them to like me, I kept thinking. I have to look hot.
Dressed and ready, I head to Sue’s, making sure to have enough singles for the night. To my relief, this time the cover charge was cut in half because I was early and it was a weeknight.
Tonight there were mostly white men in the audience. Old white men—most in their fifties and sixties—out for the night with their bros so they can give each other bear hugs and catch up. Some were excited to see the strippers perform; others were embarrassed. One older gentleman boldly offers me to drink with him and his friends, taking my hand to massage it in his before I even saw him approach me. I quickly turn the offer down, determined to make friends with the dancers, not the men gawking at them.
My determination paid off. I found my first stripper interviewee: a pretty redhead named Ariel*. In between her sets she talks to me, telling me the ins and out of how the acts are set up, who are the most flexible dancers, who I can talk to so I can try out for Sue’s myself. She later introduces me to a regular named J that offers to help me get in for free whenever I want to come to Sue’s in the future. I’m comforted and mildly surprised by their hospitality.
Eleven thirty strikes and I tell my new friend I must head out for the night, thinking to myself I could do a thesis on the operations of a strip club alone.
Goals for the next time I go to Sue’s:
1) Getting contacts of other dancers
2) Getting feedback from female patrons on why they go
3) Try to get into Sue’s for free