The general outrage and upset garnered from the recent closing of the local strip joint “The Duchess” is the kind of things that failing business owners hate. “I can’t believe it’s shutting down…no, I was never a patron…but I was happy knowing it was there”.
I went there ten years ago when it was known as “Outbacks”. It was dark and dingy, and it was there that I saw my first and only pregnant stripper. At least…we were pretty sure she was, otherwise that gal was in serious need of an ab-roller and some bran muffins. Outbacks was also the place where I say my first-and only wet t-shirt contest. Three girls: over-weight, under-weight, under-aged and three dudes with spray bottles. Now you could have put a wig on a dumpster and it would have looked better than these three combined. Even the sprayers looked hard pressed to moisten the bra-less cotton clad participants. Watching this like one witnesses a fiery car crash, my face is twisted in fascinated horror. I feel a tapping on my shoulder, and I glance back at a leathery old man exposing a gummy, toothless grin. “See that one right there? The one is the middle? That there is my granddaughter”.
Shut it down.
“You must be so proud”, I say, with as much sincerity I could muster. I guess this girl didn’t take part much in the way of school plays or track meets.
The first time I ever went to a strip club was around my 18th birthday, at a place called “Pinky’s Show Palace” in Alberta. I think I had seen “Flashdance” far too many times, because the real thing was kind of bleak.
One performer, Misty, looked tried, bored, and was chewing gum like a cow does with cud. She didn’t dance, as much as she generally walked around onstage wearing nothing but clear plastic heels. I slumped in my seat. I figured there would be a routine. I always imaged that if ever I were a welder by day and a dancer by night a la “Flashdance”, I would really do it up right. I’d go by Audrey Rugburn, and my playlist would be as followed:
-“One of These Nights”, the Eagles,
-“Crazy in Love”, Beyonce and Jay-Z
-And…because it seems like a stripper essential, “Cowboy” by Kid Rock, but I’d add an unexpected twist, a mash-up with Bob Seager’s Night Moves”.
But the sad stripper at Pinky’s clearly hated her job, and those who gawked at her goodies. For the ‘floor number’, she writhed around on a plush blanket with a unicorn–you know the kind, those sold out of vans on the side of the road with Bob Marley and “Scarface” etched into the material. (PS: Urban Dictionary refers to them as a”skanket”). She hung keychains on her nipples, and stuck posters…in other places and customers would find new and disgusting ways to retrieve these prizes. I thought the whole thing was rather unsanitary. Patrons chucked coins at her nether regions, and her eyes were elsewhere while her naked body was pelted by someone’s filthy change. I just felt so upset as she neatly folded up her blanket so as not to lose a single cent.
If ever a strip joint was visited, it was the “Rendezvous”, it was a popular spot, and always a good time. Around one closing time, after many, many drinks and encouragement from equally drunk friends, I rushed up on stage to swing around the pole.
Props to the core strength of these dancers–for that shiz is not easy.
I grabbed the pole and slid down–“Swing, swing!” my friends cried. “I can’t…it’s too greasy!”, I just slid down the shaft lamely. Once back in my seat, a waitress came by to clear the multitude of empty glasses.
“Hun, I would go wash your hands before you touch your eyes”.
The Rendezvous was close to my one room apartment, a place that had become known as the “Hippie Hut”. In the bathroom…well, in one corner of the room was a shower, in the other corner was a small enclosure with a toilet, and a pink sarong acting as a door. For the longest time there was a poster inside said space of a stripper that had included me in her act.
I was sitting with friends along the bar that wrapped around the stage, the aptly titled “gyno row”. This is not an ideal spot, as the strippers will crouch down in the middle of a set and have a chat, and there’s this rather large part of you that wants to ask–“Does your mother know you are here?” Nonetheless, I’m sipping a gin and tonic, and watching the show, when all other members of the row start pounding their fists on the bar. My G&T dances like a wind-up toy, and rat-a-tats towards the edge, dumping all over my lap. And of course, I’m wearing light covered denim, so that spill is as obvious as motel room stains under a black light. I panic, grab a fistful of napkins, and try to rub out the excess liquid. Some drunken character draws attention to my one arm feverishly jerking back and forth, pointing out that it looks as if I’m doing myself a big favour. I then say possibly one of the top ten stupidest things of my life: “No-no, it’s not like that, I’m all wet!” Hooting and hollering ensues. I was hoping that I could sit long enough for the pants to dry, but clearly, between the rubbing and my inadvertent announcement of particular wetness, I decide to retreat to the bathroom and make friends with a hand dryer. I get up, turn around, and the stripper makes a grab for me, pulling me from under my armpits and dragging me onstage. In a packed club. In my gin soaked jeans. She then bends forward and dips her sweaty, glittery breasts onto my face, like apples into caramel–it was that sticky. And then she gave me a poster, which I then used to hold over my crotchal region as I exited to the washroom. With dryer pants and further cocktails, I saw the dancer later and she autographed the poster, saying something along the lines of having ‘power over men with another word for kitty-cat’. And so, it came home with me, and was placed near the toilet, for all to enjoy.
The Rendezvous eventually closed, and the Duchess was the only place in town where you could get boobs, beers and a burger in the same place. But now that her days are numbered, there is a considerable buzz about the possible importance of a titty bar in a city’s landscape. There are women’s groups that support it’s closing, but there are other types of women’s groups that think it’s a darn shame that these professionals have to leave the province to find work. I can appreciate both opinions, but I hate to think of this next generation of young people who are going to miss out on wonderful memories of gin-soaked jeans, expectant strippers, glittery breast sweat, and the souvenirs you’d get to take home…just as soon as you wash your hands before accidentally touching your eyes.