My friend Scarlett started dancing about four months ago at a club on the east side of town affectionately known as Budget Strip, or sometimes Chicken Strip. I tried to get her a job with me up north, but the managers gave her the elaborate call-back-later-and-leave-a-message-with-someone-else-which-no-one-will-ever-return run-around that they give girls they don't want to hire. Why strip club managers are so famously devious about this stuff is beyond me. They are dealing with girls who get rejected five, ten, twenty times a night, for a living. But anyway.
So, out to EconoStrip for Scarlett, and I was worried about her. I've never been there, but it's one of the rougher joints in town by reputation, a tough place for a newbie to be thrown in. I'm proud of her, though; she took it on the chin. When she started she was broke as beans and more or less homeless, surfing from couch to couch, losing job after short-term, dead-end job. I've known Scarlett since we were waitresses at the same 24-hour greasy-spoon diner when we were respectively 19 and 25, and it's been grieving me to watch her drift downhill since. But in the last couple of months she's really been pulling it together. She's lost weight, sublet an apartment, and for the first time since I've known her she has plans for a future more than two weeks ahead. Call it Better Living Through Stripping.
Last week she made a big jump up from Budget Strip to the Yellow Rose, a large and relatively upscale club of mixed but venerable reputation. She seems happy there, and I went in and worked a dayshift with her yesterday to check the place out for myself. I found the place fair to middling in atmosphere -- nice cush leather booths, a fun run-way like second stage with three poles -- and largely dead. Dayshifts are about regulars, and hard to break into. I did a dance here and a dance there for gents whose main ladies had not arrived, and then spent a large portion of the afternoon with a hefty gentlemen who told jokes as a sort of neurotic tic. He was the kind of joke-teller who claims the jokes happened to him -- "So my friend asked me if I'd ever eaten out a Jewish woman and I said" -- and even when he told you something about his life it had the rhythm and pacing of a joke, so that only when he got to the end did you realize that he was talking about his divorce and it really wasn't funny at all.
Scarlett spent a large part of the day sitting at the bar sipping whiskey with a cowboy who bought her drinks and didn't buy any dances. She had to borrow $20 to make her house fee in the afternoon, but then made it back up in the last hour or two and paid me back. At the end of the day, she and I made about the same ammount of money, which wasn't all that much. In monetary terms it was a disappointing day. To make it there, I'd have to get back into the dayshift swing of keeping a regular schedule and cultivating regulars and staring at the clock. Blech. One of the these I love about nightshifts up north is how fast they go. You can't beat it.