The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (pt. 1 – Downtown)

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about my strip club days.

I have so much material, but alas, a lot of it is best in spoken, rather than written word. I want to find an illustrator who can take my voice recordings of stories and illustrate them for a YouTube video series. I’ve also given thought to a podcast, but I really like the idea of illustrated videos, in a style almost like Blank on Blank.

I even have a clever title for my series, borrowing from the 1999 movie American Pie, “This one time, at the strip club…”

The title derived from the stories I tell when I am out with friends or at parties and something jogs a strip club memory. Most of the stories I tell are not only hilarious, but some tend to be on the disgusting, “I can’t believe people are that dumb” or just plain wrong side of life. 

But I am not here today to tell those tales, nor I am here to continue my diatribe about Queen Bee – although I do have a lot more of those stories to write. I’ve focused too long on the bad and ugly parts of my strip club days.

 

No, I am here to talk about the “Good Girls” from those days long gone.

 

When I use the phrase “Good Girls”, I truly mean this. These girls stamped an indelible mark in my memory as diamonds in the rough, determined and goal oriented ladies who were there to make money to live and better their lives. They came to work, to make money, and to go home.

These were no drama, low maintenance ladies, most of which went on to live wonderful lives (there are some I no longer have contact with, but I am almost positive they are doing well in life.)

After working over seven years in the clubs, I met hundreds of girls, lived through thousands of arguments, and survived millions of instances of drama – which adds up to a ton of stories and a lifetime of memories.

I’m tired of talking about the negative aspects and experiences which finally drove me out of that world.

 

Instead, I want to tell you about the girls who made me smile and even inspired me.

 

 


downtown-cleveland

Downtown

 

Confession: The Downtown girls are my favorite, perhaps because they were such a big part of my beginnings in that life and world. These ladies helped shape and form my opinions of how a dancer should look, dress, act, and perform. They were classy and sassy. Most of all, they all had the perfect mindset for the business and never caused nor got involved in any of the drama at the club. 

 

At the beginning of my infamous seven-year strip club career, I worked for a club in Downtown Cleveland; I entered into that world with an open mind and heart. 

That first handful of ladies I met included the elegant Ava*, who reminded me more of classic burlesque dancer rather than a “stripper”- maybe I was picking up the energy of her future, as she is a well-known burlesque performer in Cleveland now.

Ava’s a beautiful and curvy goddess, with a classic hourglass figure reminiscent of movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Her style on stage was mesmerizing, especially with her choice of outfits, which were glamorous, yet simple gowns. One could tell Ava felt the music she picked for her stage time; she tailored her moves, as a burlesque dancer would. I loved helping her get ready for the floor, as she was so kind, gracious, and appreciative of everything. 

 

Another voluptuous beauty I met was Gina*. Gina was a tall, bronze-skinned, statuesque woman with a heart of gold. We had an instant connection when we met; we always had fun at work together. I absolutely loved not only her choice in outfits, which had an Alterna-chick/punk slant, but her music also went right along with her stage persona. When Gina left the downtown Cleveland club for another sister club near the airport, I went with her.

Gina also became one of the muses for my photography and art. She was always up for whatever my demented mind wanted to experiment with, be it modern pin-up or my favorite subject: gas masks. I remain friends with her today and am proud of her for the great things she does, like fundraising for Childhood Congenital Heart Disease. She is also a wonderful portrait photographer. 

 

I cannot forget the spunky little spitfire, Kia*. I loved working with her because she always dropped her problems at the door and brought much-needed sunshine to the club with her vibrant personality. I enjoyed getting to know her outside of the club and meeting her son as well.

Kia, along with Thalia (who gets a chapter all her own!) wore these impossibly high boots on stage. I still cannot fathom how these girls not only walked but ran and danced on stage in those crazy stripper heels! She became a towering goddess in those heels, while in reality, she was shorter than me (and I am 5′ 6″). 

 

I’m still in contact with these beautiful, brazen and successful ladies and I thank them for the love, respect, and inspiration they gave me during my first days in the strip club world. 

Then there are the girls I didn’t maintain contact with, whom I miss and can only imagine the greatness they went onto in their lives.  

 

Donatella* was a gorgeous black glamazon goddess, who always managed to make me smile and laugh, even when I didn’t want to. Donatella’s attitude when she came to work was “get shit done” – and she always did. I loved watching her dance on stage, especially to Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back. I miss our dressing room talks, as Donatella was a well-educated and highly intelligent woman.

Donatella encouraged me to get back to my writing, and I am forever grateful to her for that encouragement.

 

Jewel*, Mary Jane*, and Naomi* were three gorgeous young ladies I loved to watch on stage.

 

Jewel was a tiny but mighty natural blonde beauty who made her presence known on stage by being an absolute firecracker on the pole.

Jewel was an amazing pole dancer; you could at any time see her flipping, twisting, spinning and slamming her towering clear plastic heels on the stage during her dismounts from the pole. She went through shoes like crazy – a new pair at least every month, just from slamming her feet on the stage. 

 

If you wanted to meet Spiderman’s girlfriend in real life, then Mary Jane was your girl. She was one of the more reserved girls who looked like the stereotypical sexy girl next door; her down to earth and wholesome looks were just part of her charms.

Mary Jane’s entire look was simple, from her minimal makeup and basic black outfits to her long, natural chestnut tresses cascading over her shoulders; her moves were slow, calculated and sensual. Her natural beauty and simplicity sold the fantasy on stage to the guys who fell for her.

 

I’ve always been jealous of girls with long, full-bodied, curly hair, especially since my hair is thin, straight and stringy. Naomi was my hair dancer. I had the privilege of taking photos of the girls on stage and Naomi was one of my favorites because of the way she incorporated her long blonde naturally curly hair into her dance style.

I have many great photos of this gorgeous, perfectly tanned lady flipping and swinging her hair around. She was also one of the first girls to give me photos of her beautiful children. I wish I could reconnect with her, as she was a sweetheart with a wonderfully huge heart. 

 

These seven ladies are but a small fraction of the ladies I had the pleasure of calling my Downtown work family, however, they were the ones I always looked forward to seeing nightly and will always hold a special place in my strip club memories.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2: Airport Girls, coming soon….

 

*= Stage Name