Friday, February 12, 2010

Lapdancer Excerpt #3

"No Comment", Ft. Myers, FL, 2001. Juliana Beasley

In one topless no-contact club in New York City, a fellow dancer in the dressing room suggested I allow the customer to touch my breasts for a minute or two in exchange for a good tip. And so one night I was pimped out by an overly zealous and greedy club hostess and sent up the black-lit stairs to the champagne room with a polite and very drunk Japanese businessman. We were escorted to our cheap cafe table in the corner while the hostess, using the finest etiquette, presented the label of the bottle to the customer. After ensuring her own tip on his credit card, I was left alone to entertain the gentleman. Eye on my wristwatch, I went through the usual routine: fifteen minutes of champagne drinking, party chat, and a half-hour of table dancing and neck massage. As a grand finale, I reluctantly tried out the minute-grope ploy. For two brief moments he touched my breasts. Then with a cheerful grin I said that was enough. It was the beginning of the end before I left that club.

"Stage Work", Las Vegas, NV, 2001. Juliana Beasley

Come with me. I really want to dance for you.

When I discovered lap dancing, I was delighted because my job description was cut and dry—no more conniving for tips. I provided a service and was paid upfront. I had the freedom of choice to interact with customers verbally if I cared to, but my income didn’t depend on me making conversation with men or developing regulars. If they were difficult, I always had the option of turning my back and walking away. Since alcohol is not served in nude clubs, I never felt the pressure to sit with a customer for drinks, which invariably left me with a hangover the next morning. I personally found it less emotionally taxing.

Besides doing the obligatory dance sets—either sharing the stage with other dancers or performing alone—I made the majority of my money walking up to customers and soliciting “private dances”—lap dances—and taking them into “private” areas of the club. Private dances are really not so private: they are often wedged between undulating couples biding for space. During peak hours on Fridays and Saturdays, customers and dancers wait their turn outside the lap dance room.

A lap dance has a beginning, a middle, and an end. First, I would systematically lay down a cloth on the customers’ laps, then grind against their crotches, either by straddling them frontally or by rubbing my buttocks against their groins. In nude lap dance clubs, many dancers carry around personal wraps or leave them in the lap dance room. They lay the material across customers’ laps to provide a hygienic barrier between themselves and rough or dirty pants and unwanted fluids.

"Pregnant Dancer #1", Las Vegas, NV, 2001. Juliana Beasley

In a way a lap dance is like being a teenager again—rubbing one’s genitals against another without actually having intercourse. Customers keep their clothes on. I do remember one unusual occasion when a drunken customer pulled out his penis, and I politely told him “to put it away”—which he did. I felt more like a mother scolding a child than an erotic dancer.

Once in a while the customer was too obese to wrap my legs around, making me feel like a splayed chicken awkwardly bobbing up and down. So instead I would kneel between his legs and rub my breasts against his crotch, mimicking other more well-endowed, voluptuous dancers. This method was also a relief when my hip and knee joints began to fail me at the end of the night. After wearing stiletto heels for eight to ten hours a night, I preferred to do most of my work sitting down.

"Neon Sign", New Jersey, 2001. Juliana Beasley

For several years I worked in a lap dance club where customers were allowed to touch my ass, and at the time it didn’t bother me (sometimes the kneading even felt like a deep tissue massage to sore muscles). In another “hands-on” club in Jersey, which I nicknamed the Inferno, beautiful dancers would fly in from all over the country just for the chance of working a three-day booking where they would make $3000 plus. Because the manager had a penchant for large-breasted blondes, I actually felt fortunate to be hired. But after the three-day stint, burning candles and incense trying to meditate it out in my hotel room, I decided to quit, no matter how great the money was. I couldn’t just smile through it. I was completely enraged by men touching my breasts. I felt out of control, violated. I was relieved to finally find clubs where customers were told to keep their hands braced to the sides of their chairs, bouncers at the ready. I had found my own personal boundaries—every dancer does.

On a conscious level I discovered I could turn myself off emotionally. I then worked on automatic, transforming every man that followed me into the lap dance room into a twenty dollar bill. Sometimes it seemed that the only way I could tolerate the monotony was by focusing on numbers. As I methodically went from customer to customer, I slipped into a mental trance: a rhythmic meditation of counting songs, counting dances, counting singles, counting twenties, counting customers.

I habitually performed the same sequence of moves for each customer, whispering to him in his ear near the end of the song, “Would you like another dance?” Lap dancing had become an intense physical workout and an emotional no-brainer. I felt victorious as I kept each succeeding customer underneath me, knowing that with every gyration I was closer to emptying their wallets—and filling my garter. A positive attitude, a good sales pitch, and the physical stamina to keep hustling until the club’s last call were vital in meeting my nightly goals.

However subversive my job might have seemed to the outside world, for me it was just another day at the office. I provided a service and was well paid. I often compared lap dancing to waitressing in a diner. “Turn and burn ’em” became my personal decree; my earnings were based on bulk rather than on quality. For $20 a song, the key was to keep the customer hard. Or not hard, depending on the customer. After years of dancing, if I were to conjure up one of these customer’s faces today, besides a few memorable regulars, I would permanently pause on the image of a blurred face wearing a baseball cap.

I’m going to give you the best lap dance you ever had.

When the monotony of the job began to wear me thin, and the customers seemed to be getting bored watching me dance five days a week in my “home” club in Jersey, I convinced a dancer friend to hit the road with me. The options were endless—Florida, Texas, Hawaii, Guam, Europe, Japan. The geographical solution was based on the theory that, at least in the short term, being the “new girl” in a chosen club might increase my income.

"Mint Lounge", Miami, Florida, 2001. Juliana Beasley

Many of the dancers traveled back and forth from Florida—like Michelle, who owned several condos near Miami and rented an apartment in Jersey. There I might meet dancers from all over the country and abroad who might convince me to come work at their home club, or who might offer insight into clubs in other cities. The names of good clubs are highly coveted pieces of information. It makes sense to only tell your closest confidante where the money is being made before news runs like wildfire and every dancer in the vicinity floods the club, destroying business for the lucky few who got there first.

"Cowboy", Tampa, Florida, 1995. Juliana Beasley

One February, when the low season in New York set in, a dancer named Kaylani and I took a working vacation to Tampa where high season was just beginning. Driving from the airport, we plugged the driver for valuable stripper information—where the strip clubs were, which ones were the best, which ones we should stay clear of, phone numbers for take-out, and the nearest tanning and nail salons. Taxi drivers, often independent contractors like strippers, are reliable allies in unfamiliar towns. We set up our home base at the local Indian family-owned Howard Johnson, unpacked our makeup, and prepared for that night’s auditions. Within a day or two, we had pinpointed the most lucrative clubs and agreed on the one that seemed the most tolerable.

With every new club came a new stage name. I changed my name as often as I changed the style and color of my hair. Nico sounded too butch outside of New York. In Tampa I was Sophie; in Hawaii I was Jessie; in Reno I was Amanda; in New Jersey I was River—and so on. Traveling to different cities definitely broke up the assembly-line quality of the business (bend over, smile, grab a dollar), but after expenses proved less lucrative than staying home and working at one particular club as a “house dancer.”

Working in Hawaii proved in particular to be a painful experience because most of the house dancers at the club despised me. I was accused of selling dances at half-price and allowing customers to touch me. True, I didn’t socialize much with the other dancers, but you had to be a dedicated hustler to make up the costs of hotel rooms and flight tickets and still return home with some savings. When I walked into the dressing room, conversations would halt. When I finished my dance set on stage, none of the dancers applauded. It was incredibly alienating, but I was determined to stay despite friends in New York urging me to return to the mainland. Eventually I did make one friend, a fellow hustler. And then I left town.

Coming home to a lonely hotel room, I suspected, was not a far cry from what many of the customers on business trips felt—just another hour, sit with the pretty girl until last call, then back to an empty room with over-bleached towels, stiff bedding, and a remote control, dreams and fantasies left behind.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"Lapdancer" Excerpts #2

"Jillian", Mons Venus, Tampa, Florida, 2001(?) Juliana Beasley

The following excerpt is taken from my introduction from "Lapdancer", powerHouse, 2003. Over the next couple of months, I will be reliving my years working as a stripper and the subsequent making of the book.

Please, inform me if the excerpts are too long to keep you involved. If so, I can shorten them. However, I imagine some of you savvy blog folks are used to keeping your eye on the monitor. Have fun and enjoy the dance!


A couple of years after I had graduated from NYU, I began working in a strip club in Queens. It was to be one of many clubs that I would pass through over the following eight years, and it was there that I first encountered the notion of being a professional, business-minded stripper.
Sitting at the juice bar (nude clubs in New York were not permitted to serve alcohol), relaxing between half-hour dance sets, I became friends with Beth, a dancer from Florida with a laugh that you could hear from the stage all the way to the dressing room.

After asking the usual—”Where are you from? How old are you? How long have you been dancing?”—I asked the other predictable question: “What are your plans when you get out?” She told me about her goal to save $100,000 and invest it in real estate and the stock market before quitting. Beth was just one of many disciplined strippers that I got to know over the years who were determined to leave the business with enough money to allow them to retire permanently or start some other kind of venture. Meeting her and discovering her resolve marked a turning point in my dancing career. For the first time I realized that I had the potential of amassing a substantial nest egg—one that unfortunately I felt I would never make as a freelance photographer.

Besides, I was happier having a job where I was able to set my own guidelines and schedule instead of the alternative: working as a photographer’s assistant for a fraction of the earnings, turning in numerous invoices that weren’t paid on time, being yelled at, and taking the brunt for mistakes on photo shoots. I was also tired of carrying around their equipment and running behind them in a sweat. In dancing, I felt like I had regained my self-esteem.

"Dancer with Female Customer", New Jersey, 2002. Juliana Beasley

I named myself Nico, inspired by the heartless blonde German model-turned-rock-icon from the Velvet Underground. I believed her name would provide a constant reminder of the stamina and strength I would need to get the job done.

I created an impossible schedule of self-inflicted boot camp for myself. Totally immersed in the “cult of the strippers,” I lived my life by a timetable and a calculator I kept at my bedside. After work, at 3:00 in the morning, I pulled down the shades in my apartment, counted my earnings on the bathroom floor, and diligently jotted the figures down in my agenda. The plan was to get out of the business within a couple of years. Working eight to ten hours a day, five to six days a week, I was determined to meet the strict goals I had set for myself. I never accounted for physical burnout, the frequent colds and chronic bronchitis induced by customers’ cigars and cigarettes and the clubs’ smoke machines, and the emotional fatigue of staying in character every night.

The stripper lifestyle has its own comforting and predictable routine. Sleeping until 11:00 a.m. (or later, as the week progresses), I drag my tired body out of bed across my studio apartment. A sore body is a reminder of a night well spent, money made, counted, and stashed in forever changing hiding places. Mysteriously browned and callused knees and elbows offer further evidence of my nightly pursuits. Some mornings, I awake still brooding over a night when I have fallen below my average, and berate myself for my lack of motivation on the job or some other possible personal defect that might explain falling short of my quota.

A shower would follow, then a walk into the daylight to a local restaurant where I would sit alone, ponder my future, and reward myself with a sensible non-fattening meal in my trendy Manhattan neighborhood. I hardly had time to hand wash my costumes. They smell of cigarettes, sweat, and the sweet perfumes customers complement me on. Instead I opt for a nap, awake, pop three Advil, and an hour later pick up a double espresso on the run, toting my work duffel bag filled with my best moneymakers—a tight leopard-print dress, a silver Brazilian bikini, a sequined mini, and stiletto heels. One might have thought I was just another ballet dancer running off to a class in the middle of the day.

"Customer #1", New Jersey, 2000, Juliana Beasley

At first it was buses, trains, and taxis; then later, private drivers like Aman, the yellow cabbie who doubled as my therapist, forever bolstering my spirits like a trainer with his boxer before entering the ring. We would make the usual stops: coffees, brownies, bottles of Jack Daniels. Several blocks before arriving at the designated club, I would let out a sigh. No, I don’t want to go. I’m too tired. I’m sick of the men and I’m even sick of the girls.

He teases me, “Do you want to go home?”

“No,” I reply.

Next came Aramis, the crazy-eyed driver from Uruguay who charged less than Aman, but with him there would always be the risk of getting into some sort of collision, like the time we hydroplaned across three lanes on the Westside Highway, hit a marker on the side of the road, and flipped his Suburban. But the price was right and I was determined to keep expenses low, even at the risk of dying next to a man whose conversational skills consisted of “Hi, Nico.”
The structure I’d created for myself was satisfying for the most part because I immediately saw the results of my hard labor. Here I was, an unskilled worker, earning double what my friends in “straight” jobs were making.

I loved the music, dancing on stage, and the instant connections I made with fellow dancers—and at times, even with customers. For eight hours on nights I danced, I was taking a break from my own complex and contradictory life. In reality I rarely dreaded going to work, unlike with other jobs I had had in the past. Dancing felt emotionally cathartic, empowering, and at times just like another creative extension of myself. I developed my dancing style partially by mimicking other dancers and partly through trial and error. I performed five days a week to a normally adoring public. Sometimes it felt like being a rock star, or what I imagined being a rock star might feel like: discounts on hotels, personal drivers, and makeup.

Do you want a really hot dance? You won’t be disappointed

Like many of the dancers I worked with over the years, I started my career in the local topless dive bar, and after a month graduated to working in the fully nude-lap dance clubs and never looked back. I chose working in fully nude clubs over other strip club formats like go-go or topless dancing because it offered the highest cash earnings for what I believed to be the least amount of mental and physical stress.

In so-called “no-contact” clubs, a dancer makes most of her money not only by being well dressed and dolled up, but ultimately by her ability to be a good conversationalist. The most beautiful girl in the club isn’t necessarily the one making the most money—it’s the dancer who is patient, covertly demanding, and capable of laughing at even the crassest jokes.

In these clubs, dancers make their money table dancing, swaying between the legs of a customer, and, employing the classic stripper move, tossing their heads around and showering their long tresses or hair extensions over the heads of the mesmerized. Supposedly there isn’t any physical contact. Yet different clubs have different sets of spoken and unspoken rules. One club might have a hands-off policy, with a bouncer watching the customer’s every move; another club might allow customers to touch more liberally. Rules existed to be observed or disregarded, depending upon the individual dancer and the management.

"Couch Dance", Philadelphia, PA, 2001, Juliana Beasley

Another variation is the champagne room, or the VIP room, in which the dancer or cocktail waitress convinces the customer to buy a bottle of champagne and spend a “private” hour in a room often full of other couples hidden discreetly behind fake plants. One night at a club in Manhattan, I spent eight hours in the champagne room with three different customers. By 10:00 I was on my third bottle of Mo√ęt, and I was trashed. I staggered to the men’s room and asked the attendant if he had any suggestions for topics of conversation, so I wouldn’t appear too lifeless.
Prices in the VIP room are invariably high, and the dancers make their money on a small percentage of sales and tips. By the end of the hour I often had difficulty convincing a customer to tip me $100 when he had already doled out $300 plus to the club for something inevitably less than he had expected. I got sick of listening to an hour of often dull sexual fantasies and clumsy advances, then being subjected to the humiliation of begging for uncertain tips.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Excerpts from "Lapdancer" #1

Titles Posted Later Today

I thought it would be fun to take the next couple of months to revisit my first book "Lapdancer", as I have a new book called "Juliana Beasley/ Sete 2010 coming out in the spring this year.

The following is a short story taken from an interview that I did back in 1999-2000 with a manager from a strip club in Monsey in Rockland County in New York state. The owner told me that I would have to work there to photograph there.

Some of the following photographs have never been published before. Look for more writing and pix in the weeks to come.

I dance a set of 20 minutes, rush to the changing room, grab my Contax, attach my heavy Quantum battery to the side of a g-string that would begin to sag from the weight of it , and hit the floor. In in a half hour's time, I have to play producer, convincing customers to let me photograph them with dancers, collect model releases and snap shots. I hear my stage name over the speaker, "Now, performing Nico!" I dash back to the dressing room, put away my equipment in my duffle bag and reapply my make-up and run back on the stage with a stellar smile on my face.

“The Million Dollar Question”- John

I started out working as a bouncer at a place called Erotique back in the early ’80s. It was the first big club to come into the area, a big strip club. And it was not nude. It was just topless, and there was no alcohol and no lap dancing. Then I went to another club called T & A. Again, no alcohol, no lap dancing. I came here in the early ’90s, and it was totally nude. And so the girls were up on the bar getting their money and stuff. And then one girl came up to me and said, “A guy wants a lap dance.” I had never heard of it. So I went back to my boss, and he knew less than I did. And so what we did is, we put about six chairs towards the back of the club and said, “These are chairs you can lap dance in.” And at that time we told the girls to charge ten bucks per song, and we would get three bucks out of it.

And it got so popular, it was like a mad house, the line to get in and sit on these chairs. And the funny thing was, they did it in front of everybody else. Nobody got shy, nobody was embarrassed. Me, I would have been embarrassed with an erection with a pretty girl sitting on me and everybody else gawking. Because at that time you did have people leaning against the posts or whatever, just looking at the customers with the girls. And the girls didn’t seem to mind—and they were pretty girls.

Eventually my boss, he got this idea. We took out part of the kitchen and we turned that into a lap dance room. We put like little cubicles up, with no doors because we wanted to see what was going on, and made like eight to nine stools. And then the girls were charging twenty-five bucks, and we would charge the customers five dollars just to get into the room. It just took off. People were coming here not to see the girls on stage, but to do the lap dances. And I always said lap dancing is probably going to put prostitution out of business. And what I meant by that is if a guy comes and gets a lap dance and he puts on a condom and if he does spill a little bit, it’s not going to get it on his clothes. Now there’s a plus; you call that safe sex. I think that’s what a lot of men look at it as. They’re not going to take any disease home. They’re going to come to a place like this and if it happens, it happens—you know, if they have an orgasm. Then they go home to their wives.

I’d never heard of it until we started doing it about nine years ago. I’m sure it happened before. But I think since we started doing it, word-of-mouth got around and now all the other clubs around here are doing it. And we advertise: “The best lap dance around.” And that’s what really works for us. We’re known as the club with the lap dance. We used to be called “Up Close And Personal”—the way the girls got on stage and got up in front of the guy. Believe it or not, some of these guys spend thousands of dollars a day on getting lap dances—a day.

Now we’ve even got VIP rooms in the back, where the guy can go in a little private room. There’s cameras in there. And these guys are paying a buck and a quarter [$125] for a half-hour, so they can get a private lap dance with a girl. It’s amazing. It really is.

They don’t know I have cameras back there. I have two different cameras, one an infrared—they think if they turn the lights off I can’t see them. Because let’s face it, I got to support my wife and kids. And knock on wood, I’ve never been shut down or raided. And a lot of clubs that have total nudity and the lap dances and the private rooms and whatever, they’ve been shut down several times. And we haven’t because of that security system.

The girls go back there. The guys tell them stories about how they like their wives, the position of them when they’re making love. Because I have sound on the cameras, too. And the guy will say, “You know, my wife likes it when she gets on her knees and this and that.” And the girls, you know, they talk back to the guys. Some of the guys like to be insulted. They like to have a girl put her high heel in their balls, you know, stuff like that. Some guys are just really weird. They don’t want to get off where other people can just walk by them or whatever. So the private rooms are worth it to them. And some of these guys are like bankers, or big shots in computers and chemists and all this. They come in, they have women’s clothes beneath their own clothes. So they undress; they got a woman’s bra on or whatever. And the girls spank them a little bit on their rear end. Things like that. But no sex goes on. Some guys don’t even want sex.

Several times I’ve caught a guy taking out his penis. And I have a buzzer back there. I hit the buzzer, and send the bouncer back there; he tells the guy the dance is over and he has to leave. I tell the guy he can come back another day. But if I catch him again—which has never happened—he’s out for life.

Don’t forget, I used to bounce before I became a manager. I was a bouncer out there for about three years. And what that means is, I was right next to the customers. So I had relationships with customers coming in and talking about sports, about wives, kids, work, etc. And a lot of guys who came in, I got to be close with, to talk to like once or twice a week. Some guys even came in three or four times a week. A lot of guys just like to come here to get away. I’ve been married seventeen years myself and I can understand…well I can’t understand spending that kind of money on these girls, but I understand when they say they want to get away for a while.

I get to see and hear why they really come here. A lot of guys get into an argument with their wives; they walk out, and they go to a bar and drink. The next thing you know, they get drunk, they go home, now they’re getting violent about it or whatever. Here, it’s a juice bar. So when some guys get into arguments with their wives or whatever, they come here, they see a pretty girl. They know they’re not taking a girl home. The girl will make the guy feel like he is royalty. You know, “Hi, honey. How are you doing?” A guy could be a fat slob with no teeth in his mouth, you know, somebody a girl wouldn’t take a second look at. But if he came in here and he spent a couple of dollars on a soda and paid the admission to get in the door and tipped the girl a couple of dollars, the guy would be treated like he was Brad Pitt.

And so he spends a couple of hours in here. And when he goes home, he feels like he’s taken ten, twenty pounds off his shoulders. He comes home and he’s in a much better mood. He speaks to his wife in a much different tone. Maybe he makes love with his wife that night because he came here and got aroused by the pretty women. And he doesn’t tell his wife where he was. Because if he ever told his wife, his wife would call him all kinds of names and think he was coming here and whoring around and whatever.

It’s just to get away where nobody else knows you—not your boss, not your wife, not anybody. And you come here and because you have a couple dollars in your pocket, you get treated like you’re the boss. You know, “Could I get you a soda?” “Hi, honey. Can I get you a match?” “What’s your name?” Every girl comes around to you asking your name. You know, they’ll listen to your story about what’s going on. And even if it sounds like you’re completely wrong, the girl’s going to tell you you’re completely right. And that’s what you really want to hear. It’s sort of a therapy.

I’m not a therapist. I’m not a psychologist. But you know what? I would think—let’s say people that rape girls—I’d rather have a guy come into a strip bar and get a couple lap dances and whatever and go home than go out looking for a pretty woman and raping her. You understand what I’m saying? That could help them also.

There’s a whole bunch of really good reasons why clubs like this should be allowed to operate and offer lap dances. Because some guys…let’s face it, there’s some ugly guys out there; their grooming is not…they smell or whatever. And these guys can come here and get a beautiful woman who would never give them a second look, who give them a lap dance, wrap their arms around their neck and whisper in their ear. It’s almost like a date.

Don’t forget, some of these guys are not married. They will probably lay in bed for weeks at a time while they save up their money and think about, “Wow, I know Vanessa’s going to be there on a Wednesday. I’m working overtime this week. Let me go there and see my baby.” They call them regulars.

These guys get thinking that they’re the only guys in these girls’ lives, know what I mean? They send them flowers, candies, Christmas gifts, all that sort of stuff.

I sit back here with my two bosses and sometimes we’ll see a girl in the lap dance room with a guy, and he’ll put like twelve hundred dollars on his credit card. And our question will be, “Well, Jesus, he’s back there for all this while, why the hell doesn’t he just go down to Atlantic City and get an escort?” I don’t have the answer to that. I really don’t. That’s the million dollar question.

The million dollar question. We often wonder about that around here. Because I can speak for myself. If I was not married or I had problems with my wife, instead of coming here and spending four or five hundred dollars and then going home with a big old hard on, I would probably go somewhere, down to Atlantic City or to New York City, so that I can get an escort that’s kind of classy, and pay the five hundred for I don’t know how long. And then I’m definitely going to get what I went there for.