Friday, September 21, 2012

Strip-o-Graming in San Francisco

In the fall of 1983, I found out that I could make extra money doing  bachelor parties.  The Pink Poodle was still decent financially, yet it was located in San Jose. I had been bored of the suburbs since I was in middle school.  I really wanted to move to San Francisco.  San Francisco: a mini New York, a haven for great cuisine, a mecca of culture, reputable theater companies, great night clubs and an amazing underground music and DJ scene. (Yes, raves were actually around in the 80's.  We just called them underground parties).

There was a company out of San Mateo, CA.  It was called Strip-o-Gram.  It was run by two male strippers/models by the name of Jason and Julian.
Those were their performance names, of course.  Jason was a bit older than most of us.  He was probably in his late 30's or early 40's and was a double for Tom Selleck.  Julian was younger and looked like a young Richard Gere, hence the name "Julian" from American Gigolo.  Julian was known for his act from "Officer and a Gentleman" which would end with him picking up and carrying a female audience member the way Richard Gere did to Debra Winger in the film.  The ladies really adored that stuff. Their office space was beautiful and Spanish style.  Very unlike the rundown club buildings in San Jose.

I had been to a couple of agencies in San Jose.  Both of them took me on but they said I may be difficult to book because I looked too much like a "cute girl" and wasn't sexy enough.  They were right. I didn't get booked right away.  When I finally did, it was for a bachelor party.  I remember the girl they booked me with; her name was Angel.  Her face seemed so hardened and she rarely smiled.  She had great hair.  Farrah Fawcett hair.  When she did smile, she looked a little like Farrah.  It turns out she was only a year older than me.  This scared me because I didn't want that hard look or attitude towards life happening to me.   The party was awkward.  There was hardly any  furniture and it was a bunch of guys standing in a circle in an uncompleted house in the Santa Cruz mountains.  They weren't the most welcoming.  The vibe was intimidating.  Nothing too crazy happened, but I knew this company wasn't for me.

Jason and Julian welcomed me with open arms.  They loved my look and said it would be great for the G rated gigs they got a lot of requests for.  They would get these great gigs for birthdays, events and performances that were just meant to cheer someone up, play a joke on them or surprise the heck out of them.  A lot of these smaller gigs would require that we play characters. I was often booked as a candystriper.  Other gigs, I would be an applicant for a tech firm, a health inspector, a police woman, even an insect exterminator!  These events would require us to just strip down to a bikini since the places we were booked were usually public and the audience both male and female. This wasn't considered "un -PC" or sexually demeaning to women at the time.  The women seemed to enjoy it as well.  I was getting booked so much that it was difficult to keep up.  I was making incredible $$ and getting a lot of recommendations.  I did bachelor parties occasionally.  I never felt completely comfortable performing at those parties, but the money was even better.  All of the escorts (bouncers) they booked to go with us actually had real jobs and just did this for extra $$, the opportunity to party and to meet hot strippers.  They were all pretty hot as well.

Within a couple of months, I had enough money to move to San Francisco. One of the other managers of Strip-o-Gram, John , had a great apartment on Church St. in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco.  He needed a roommate.  I was so there.  John was a short, muscular, amiable guy.  He always had at least three women he was dating at a time.  I  got the vibe he may have been bi-sexual, but he never brought any guys home.  It was actually funny to meet his girlfriends.  They all automatically thought I was sexing him.  I had no interest in him that way whatsoever.  One of them, it took her a few meetings for her to truly believe I was not sleeping with him.  This woman was drunk at our place one night and asked me how I could I resist sleeping with him.  I just told her the thought made me throw up a bit in my mouth.  Then  she was mad at me for insulting her taste in men!  Umm, she didn't last long.

Things were so great:  I was living in a great apartment in a trendy neighborhood, making decent money, I was still on my parent's medical insurance plan ( I was 24.  I had one more year.  Yes, they did that back then), I had a part-time civilian job that I got from college placement so I could tell my parents that I actually had a real job.  (It was so boring.  I worked part time for Isotoner, the glove  company.  I was a glorified inventory person.  I had to dress like a model in a business suit to come to work and stock items for these people:-( !  I was also getting gigs as a real dancer.  I met some producers of some underground parties such as the Club A-non and the French Legion from a DJ I became friends with.  These were fun and paid very well!  I popped out of a giant cake at one of them, danced in a cage at a Motown themed party and was a statue who came to life at another one.  I didn't have a study boyfriend at the time. I was liking this.  I had left a boyfriend of a year in the San Jose area.  He was a post hippie-punk rock artist that wanted to move to the Santa Cruz mountains and get married.  I craved the city. That was the end of us.  I relished being single.  I was dating male models, musicians, and hot guys with real jobs.  I was a chubby girl in high school.  I had lost my chubbiness and couldn't believe that I was thought of as attractive.  This was so new for me.

January 1984 came around.  If you are not familiar with the business of strippers, January is the worst time of year to make a living at this.  Bookings were not so abundant. I had been having so much fun partying, shopping, partying, dining out, partying and dating that I had not even thought of the slow season.   In fact I didn't think of the slow season at all.  Partying was becoming a big hobby of mine. (Did you notice this?)  I was never a smoker, but I was doing my fair share of recreational cocaine.  I was cute, so I never had to pay for it.  I always made my payments, so my roommate had no problem with it.  I never really became an alcoholic, mainly because I couldn't drink too much because of my small stature.  It did make a big difference in my personality.  I had lost my attention to detail.  I started showing up late to some of my gigs.  I quit my real job.  My bookers got reports about me from clients stating I looked tired.  Ironically, from all the coke I was doing, I started gaining weight.  (Back then, 5'2", 110 lbs was considered fat.  Not the good kind).  I started getting less bookings.  I started working part time at various clubs. ( I actually won a contest and a job at the famous Mitchell Brother's O' Farrell theater.  Even in 1984, it was too much of a brothel for me to work in).  I also got hired at another dance gig agency.  One of the male models I was dating had a friend who ran an agency similar to Strip-o-Gram.  It was located in San Francisco. They booked primarily male dancers.  I was their token female.  Although I was flattered, I didn't get too much work from them either.  I was becoming depressed.  My energy level dropped.  I dreaded seeing my family down in the San Jose area.  I started to dabble in Xstacy.

Eventually, my best friend, Amber loved coming up to San Francisco from San Jose to hang out with me.  I started going down south to hang with her as well.  She introduced me to a cute boy named Bob.  He was tres' hawt.  In more of a masculine  way than the pretty boys I knew in San Francisco.  He lived in this old house on a sprawling piece of land in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose.  He shared it with another guy named Bob.  They built a big faux beach and called it Bob's Beach.  Bob convinced me that the big city was the source of my depression. He could never understand the concept of paying for parking.  I ended up moving out of San Francisco and moving in with him.  Amber took my place in San Francisco.

This was pretty much the end of the  relationship between Strip-o-Gram and myself and the beginning of a dysfunctional relationship that almost ended in violence.  But I would come back to San Francisco.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Perils of Pole Dancing

(I am so mad right now.  It's hottest day on earth in Los Angeles.....AT THE BEACH!!!  I have no A/C in my apartment, have had too much caffeine to go to a coffee shop and my technology is taking a crap on me!  I don't want to use my laptop because it's scalding hot, my iPad has this site frozen, so I'm typing on a wireless keyboard connected to my iphone.  My cute little iphone just lost half of my post. I'm starting over).

I don't think there are many dancers around that have been dancing on a pole as long as I have.  I don't mean walking around the pole, doing a couple of spins, maybe a pirouette, then sliding down the pole into a split.  I mean leg hanging, upside-down, inverting, cross ankle release...I think you get the idea.

I came in contact with my first stainless steel pole at the end of 1992 in a small club called Richard's Lounge (soon to be changed to The Candid Club) in Sunnyvale, CA.  Immediately, I knew how to climb.  Perhaps not gracefully,but I could do it fast and it was fun.  Within a year I taught myself how to do a few spins,hang upside down and do a cross ankle release.  My big trick was sliding down in that cross ankle release position hanging with one foot. Pretty cool, huh?  Especially for not having YouTube to reference.

The peril was that for many, many years after this, I did the same tricks over and over again, favoring my right side. Fast forward to 2009.  I started taking classes.  I've learned all kinds of things: knee holds, ceiling splits, aerial mounts, flag pole, blah,blah.

I still favored my right side.  Also in the last six months, I've been taking so many aerial classes that I've neglected to work my lower body.  Since the end of March, I found I've been injuring myself (mostly minor stuff) repeatedly.  This had never happened to me before when I was lifting weights and changing up my workouts.

About seven weeks ago, I was dancing.  My music was high energy.  I jumped up and landed on my 5 inch heel boots like I had done so many times before.  Except this time, my left knee felt a bit different. It didn't hurt like hell.  It just felt different, a little weaker. I took five days off dancing to travel.  I felt great when I came back. So I danced again. On my second day, I felt that feeling in my left knee again.  The next day, I took two pole classes and had worked out for an our earlier that day. When I got home, I had to ice my knee for almost an hour. Two days later, I was walking around doing errands in medium heels.  My knees started burning.  This scared me and sent me into a paranoid downward spiral.

The following week, I saw my doctor, chiropractor and a physical therapist.  It turns out I have a severe muscle imbalance from favoring my right side for so many years. I have also been neglecting my lower body (compared to how I use to work it out) for the last year. The good news is:  I don't need surgery.  I just have to start allover with lower body weights, work my hip flexors every day, and learn to use the pole with my left side.  I'm stronger than I thought I was on that side, but I still need a lot of work.

So ladies of the pole:  Please, please work both sides. I doubt that a lot of young women who are starting to work with the pole now will be doing it for the length of time I have.  If you do plan to be a lifer, learn both sides. Do not forget to work your beautiful legs and booty.  Not only can you become weak, but I know a certain famous pole dancer, who although thin and bendy, she seems to have lost a lot of definition in her legs and her booty is almost non existent.  If you are making your $$ by shaking your booty you definitely don't want that happening!

Please be careful.  I've hit my head twice in eight weeks(only one was pole related).  I just got my brain scanned yesterday. My brain is still normal and intact.  I'm very lucky.  I don't want this happening to you pretty dancer ladies.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My Subcribers & the Animal

I just wanted to extend a heartfelt thanks to my subscribers. It feels so wonderful to know that I am able to entertain you with my random musings about an industry that so many people think of as 'tabu', elicit or plain ol' dirty.

My last post was all about what was happening with me presently. Yeah, all about how I was going to take that audition because that solo spot in the recital was so rightfully mine, all mine.

Welllll.....that didn't happen.  I had been dancing and training like a teenage gymnast.  My left knee decided to start burning painfully just a week before my audition.  The few days before my audition, I was seen by a chiropractor , a doctor and a physical therapist.  The good news:  I didn't need surgery.  The bad:  after pole dancing off & on for 19 years and favoring my right side, it turns out I have a definite muscle imbalance .  Also, for the last year I have excelled on the pole so much that I had been neglecting my lower body.  My quads are weak.  Especially my left one.

This depressed me a lot for a little while.  However, I am now on the road to strengthen and center myself.

Which brings me to a dancer I knew in my past . I have mentioned her before.  She is the one and only Animal.  She was the wildest pole dancer I ever knew.  Her method of pole dancing was to grab the overhead horizontal bars, swing on them, let go in a chinese split in mid-air and end in a hard landing split.  No leg warmers, knee pads, stockings or any sort of protection.  Guess what?  She still does this occasionally.  She introduced me to a shot called a Blowjob.  She would down these with her hands behind her back while people cheered.

I was on yelp a couple of weeks ago. I was searching for reviews of the Brass Rail in Sunnyvale, CA.  There was a photo of a woman with wild blond hair, who did look older. She had this unmistakable  warrior look to her face.  Apparently, her real name is Charlotte. I messaged her and asked if the woman in the photo was the Animal.  She got back to me.  I was right!  

We've been messaging each other on yelp.  She is still there at the same club.  She has been a DJ there for 33 years.  She was dancing before that.  She had to have been at least in her early thirties when I started dancing there when I was 26.  She is at least 60 yrs old.

All those years working in what use to be a mid-level club, now a dive for many years.  I wouldn't have been able to do it.  To me it would have been like death.  I was working towards a different career, loved to travel and valued my privacy.  I would imagine after that long in one place, you would no longer be a mystery to any one.  Everyone would be up in yo' bizness!

But there are advantages: the Brass Rail is an independently owned club.  It's been a family business for over 40 years.  They have always offered medical benefits to their employees.  It's located in a somewhat desirable part of California.  They actually serve decent food there.  Workers get to eat gratis.

Animal was a dancer who hung out with motorcycle gangs and didn't have much of an education.  She did have that sexy kind of raspy, deep voice that came from cigarettes & whiskey.  Becoming a DJ was a natural progression.

Here's a toast to you, wild Animal:-)  (Knocks back a Blowjob).