Now, for something different! I wrote this story four years ago for a Dallas magazine because for some reason stripping and strip clubs received a face-lift over the past decade. That was the reason for the following piece. I knew most of this information beforehand, but our readers had no idea of what a stripper does aside from dance.

Television and the movies have tried to paint a pretty face on the stripping business. Yet, despite their attempts, it is a pig. However, business savvy promoters slipped a dress on it and told everyone it’s beautiful. Still, no matter how much makeup Hollywood and Wall Street put on it, it’s still a pig.

Nevertheless, today there are classes teaching women how to move like a stripper, exotic routines for aerobic exercise, including pole dancing. There are other classes showing women how to be more seductive by using stripping techniques. Despite the adoption of the glittering veneer of stripping into popular culture, the truth is far removed from Hollywood portrayals and the glitz and glamor fade into darkness and battered souls.

Despite stripping’s popularity, there is not a steady path of innocent young girls beating their way to the doors of local strip clubs to become famous. Instead, it’s a steady rotation of emotionally scarred women trying to make the clock turn faster so they can escape the worn stages for a few hours.

If a patron could afford to go to the same establishment every day, he’d notice something. The women who leave the club usually come back to the same club eventually. The women make a regular rotation from club to club and for a variety of reasons. They are hired and fired for everything from drug use and drunkenness to theft and prostitution. This is not a profession women are lining up to get in to, but there is still a line of seasoned dancers waiting for work.

For most of the women working the circuit, it is a hand to mouth existence. They are chronically short of cash. Patrons usually don’t know much about the working of the business and don’t care. Most women must pay to dance at the clubs and that often includes tips for the waiters, bartenders and bouncers, as well as the club’s fee. Still, an average stripper can take home $200-$500 a day if she stays clean. Nevertheless, in a cash business these same women are chronically late with rent, car payments and utilities, doing whatever is necessary to keep the heat pumping.

Any customer who asks a dancer why she is in the business will get some variation of the temporary job story that says she is just in the business until she can make enough money to pay for the next semester of college or to make it back to California or some other place. Lying comes as easy as breathing.

There are some girls who using stripping as a way to make quick money, but they often find it is a lot harder to leave than it was to start. Depending upon the club’s clientele, status and location some dancers can make serious cash if they are in demand, but those dancers are few. Most make just enough cash to spend the next day and run out before the evening is over and have to do it again, despite how much they made. They spend it faster than they make it.

Turnover is notoriously high because the tipping patterns vary wildly. For a dollar tip, many men expect a free hand with the dancer. When it becomes more than the dancer is willing to offer, trouble usually ensues, which includes a bouncer escort to the door. A dancer’s bread and butter come from lap dances, but some men are notorious for wanting to bargain. Needless to say, dancers at these venues leave soon as they find another place to dance.

Management encourages the dancers to mix with customers to get them to buy a drink, which is how the club makes its money. Smart dancers have their drinks watered or drink only fruit juice and never do they leave a drink unattended because patrons often slip date-rape drugs into their drinks. Still, many dancers drink their whiskey straight and for a reason. Most of them are bored and drinking helps the time pass. Unfortunately, drinking also makes them vulnerable. Many of the dancers are already alcoholics while others are on their way to becoming one. Some bring drug addiction with them or pick it up in the clubs as a way to numb themselves to unwanted advances, but the money keeps them coming to work.

Work in the private sector isn’t going to pay a woman without even a GED the kind of money they can make as a stripper. However, there is a catch. Generally speaking, there is nowhere a woman with limited skills and education can make the money she can make at a strip club. Because of the fast cash, getting out is tough.

The business is addicting for those who have no education or other skills. Instant cash and instant spending keeps most of them waiting to work at one club or another. The smart dancers develop friendly relations with a few clientele and keep them as regular customers who often bring them gifts and pay well.

These girls spend anywhere from 6-10 hours a day semi-nude or nude walking about on 6 inch heels. Many complain of back problems, muscle pulls and strains. It’s not hard to understand why so many have drug or alcohol problems. Talking with most strippers yields little real information, except for manipulative talk for money and some outrageous lies.

Interestingly, the masks often fall for those interested in learning something about the girls. Real names are guarded jealously and with good reason. Stalkers are a common problem in the business, but if the dancer decides to talk, it can make the listener wish he hadn’t asked. The common question is “how did you get into the stripping business?” The answers are also common, but the stories are real and contain more information than most patrons want to know.

For a few drinks, a good listener will hear things they never wanted to know. Interestingly, many of the dancers say they don’t care for men and it’s not hard to understand why. Some are lesbians and others are bisexual. Most of the dancers with boyfriends are actually supporting the man in a pimp-ho relationship.

Most of the women come from the lower class and have babies. Some have several children, or have lost their children to Child Protective Services. Plenty have had abortions and some even bring their children to work with them to hand off to another stripper who is changing shifts going home. Many are early victims of adult sexual abuse, rape and slave-like prostitution before they are even old enough to drive.

About 30% of the women will get out of the business, especially the younger and more educated ones, but the remainder will stay until physically they can longer compete. Despite the festive skimpy costumes and laughter in the air, the darkness and heavy makeup are there for a reason, it helps hide the pain.

There are more than 100 strip clubs in the Dallas metroplex ranging from faux upscale to downright sleazy. The crowds differ in all the clubs ranging from a blue-collar manual labor clientele to white-collar business executives and women. Women increasingly patronize upscale clubs because many of their business clients want to go there. Some go just for fun.

Once, women were required to come with a male escort to enter traditionally male oriented strip clubs, but that requirement disappeared when clubs became more upscale and now women frequently drop in for a drink or just to talk with the friends they came with. Plus, dancers are glad to see them as female clientele generally tip better.

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