But I actually think they're pretty fun in a no-holds-barred, I'm-taking-my-clothes-off-in-public-for-money sort of way.
And, surprisingly, I don't mind strip clubs. Even though a friend was convinced I wouldn't be able to "handle" them, in my recent foray into the world of flesh and capitalism, I was, and they're not as seedy as I though.
No one licked my face or sat on my lap or tried to solicit anything from me. The girls did have light-up Lucite heels, high-waisted thongs and back tattoos, but seeing those in real life was sort of magical and validating.
l learned that many strip clubs like to be called "gentleman's clubs" to project an aire of classiness. They turn the lights down low and send cocktail waitresses over to bring your drinks. The girls aren't "strippers," they're "dancers" or "showgirls." And the clubs make valiant attempts to spruce up the décor a little bit. The Brass Ass in Newport added white tablecloths to their tables, and Deja Vu in Batavia splurged on giant red plush chairs.
But even with these touches, they're still strip clubs. The Brass Ass has metallic shredded curtains behind its stage instead of mirrors and a fully-stocked snack machine in the hall just in case you have a Fritos craving after a lap dance.
The perimeter of Deja Vu is lined with tiny personal dance booths. At any time you can just look over and see a naked girl on a table with some dude's face in her crotch.
And both establishments have neon hotel-style carpets designed for black lights, with bizarre prints like repeating severed showgirl legs.
A couple Mondays ago, around 10:30, my friends and I joined eight other Brass Ass patrons and about five strippers, who were just standing around in their thongs and bikini tops glowing in the dark. And it wasn't as "depressing" as some people make it out to be -- maybe because the Ass has a liquor license. (I've recently come to understand the amount of fun you have in a strip club is directly proportional to the amount of alcohol you consume.)
Walking through the doors was really surreal.
You're spewed out into this giant, well-lit empty room that's like purgatory or a bowling alley. You stand there, evaluating your moral conscience under these bright lights, trying to decide whether or not you want to walk down that hall.
The basic dance experience goes like this: Girl puts money into a jukebox, picks her song, gets up on stage with her purse, puts her purse down, starts dancing, climbs up the pole, slides her way back down to the ground (upside down), does some crazy Rap video move with her butt and maybe flashes her boobs. Then she'll walk around the stage, pick up her money, walk back out onto the floor and light up a cigarette.
I have no idea why they have to play their own music or why most of them play crappy Nu-Metal stuff like Slipknot, but they seem to love it. Every time one of the girls gets up to dance, it's like a Spring Break wet T-shirt contest. Her colleagues whistle and shout fun things like "Take it off!" I clapped for one of them.
Sometimes they'll even hold a conversation with you while they're dancing. One stripper asked a chick in the front row if her name was Brandy, like maybe they went to high school together or something, all while she was spread eagle in front of her.
Girls at Deja Vu act pretty much the same, except they're skinnier and fully nude. They bring their purses on stage and dance to crappy music, but their tunes are selected by a DJ. He plays stuff like Garbage's "I'm Only Happy When It Rains." When I see a young naked girl on stage and she's not smiling and I can count all of her ribs, the last thing I want to think about is how her only comfort is the night gone black.
Deja Vu also has an announcer who walks around like a used car salesman shouting things into a cordless microphone like, "Fuck war. Fuck taxes. You know what I advocate? Pussy." He encourages the girls to walk around and sell private dances, claiming dudes can get these VIP deals at "never heard of low prices!" which reinforeces the idea that strippers are people and stripping's a job.
Originally I thought I'd go to these different clubs, interview the girls and blow readers' minds with how smart and down to earth strippers are, how most of them are stripping their way through college and how they thought their job was fun and liberating.
That's not exactly what happened, but none of the girls were dumb or mean -- they were actually nice. And whether naked or not, I'm usually impressed by someone who can suspend herself upside down on a pole using only her legs. ©
Who's Your Daddy
From what I can tell, Greyson (pictured) of Greyson's Male-a-Gram is the most popular male party stripper in Cincinnati. He's danced for five of 15 girls I've talked to about the subject, doing everything from bachelorette parties to birthdays and practical jokes to baby showers. (He dances for women only.)
Greyson (his real name) is a card-carrying member of the NRA, a Republican, a businessman and incredibly charming. And while I haven't had the pleasure of seeing his male-a-gram up close, he did send me a magnet and a photo of himself titled "Cowboy Raw." He's also in my top 16 on MySpace.
CityBeat: How did you get started stripping?
Greyson: I was seriously involved with a woman who was in the business. While the girl didn't last, the job did.
CB: What's the benefit of stripping for parties versus stripping at a club?
G: For one, I prefer private parties since I have control over where and who I dance for. I can choose my music and even decide the tempo of the show based on how many customers there are.
CB: What's the weirdest stripping experience you've ever had?
G: Too many to list just one! Thanksgiving Day strip at the dinner table. Hiding in a closet at Marge Schott's office waiting for the target girl to get there. Getting hit by a drunk driver while dressed as a cop.
CB: What do you love about stripping?
G: I love the schedule since I'm a night owl. I love all the different kinds of people I meet and know. They range from blue bloods to the poorest of the poor.
CB: What do you dislike about stripping?
G: Nothing. Disliking stripping would be disliking myself.
CB: Do you have a favorite costume?
G: Fireman is probably my favorite. Everybody loves a fireman. The only exception to the fireman axiom would be getting on an elevator -- people get tense. I usually just smile and say something like, "Naww. We're just checking the smoke alarms on 9. Don't worry."
CB: Do you have a special "Greyson" dance move?
G: Yes! It involves the phrase "Who's your daddy?" and a whip.
GREYSON'S MALE-A-GRAM is available at 513-533-1022 or www.greysons.com.