(All pics. snapped on 1/02/12)
After having spent four out of the last eight or nine nights at "Vixens" (my new, favorite, local haunt) - observing, absorbing, collecting and storing info - for the sake of building an informal, mini-thesis on strip club culture and how it is perceived by folks in general (or misconceived, as is frequently the case) - I havta say that I am completely overwhelmed by the influx of thoughts and ideas wreaking havoc on my poor, pathetic mind. Woooaaahhh...
...and because my brain might literally short out, if I spend any more time there gathering data with which to support all my theories (plus the fact that a few of the dancers have begun to look at me as if I'm some sort of skeevy, predatory creeper - for repeatedly coming in and gawking the way I do) I'm curtailing my activities at Vixens...for awhile. That being said, I encourage all of you guys to give Vixens - or your own neighborhood strip joint a shot!
My fascination with Vixens and the subsequent, sudden desire to stage a photo shoot there - were triggered several weeks ago, after a friend and I got the hankerin' to spice up a ho-hum Monday night by spending it at our nearest and dearest West Virginia titty bar. Over the (almost) two decades that I've lived in this area, I've been fairly sporadic in the frequency with which I've made trips to this - my all-time fave Gentleman's Club...sometimes letting whole years pass by, between visits. Each time I go though, I have a crap ton of fun, and always feel a genuine appreciation for the girls who've put Vixens on the map.
The time that I was there with my friend recently though, my take on things was palpably different. Perhaps because of the eternal fire-storm that burns here in my conservative community - over the "scandalous", naked pictures that I post on the internet (woooooooooo) - for the first time ever, I felt this sort of kindred connection to the dancers on the stage, as well as a deeper respect for them not only as performers - but as thinking, feeling human beings, who just happen to strip for a living (yeah that's right...what of it?!) You and I both know that those gals get a bad rap sometimes, which (if you ask me) makes entirely no sense...cuz guess what? They're no different from you, or me, or anybody else...except that what they do for a living takes courage...
I sorta think about it like this: You know how when a person is super nervous about standing up in front of a crowd and speaking, or performing, or whatever? And someone suggests that they picture everyone in the audience naked, or just wearing undies? Well, imagine how terrifying it would be to feel nervous like that, but it's you who hasta get naked...while everyone watching you is clothed...
F'you ask me, the dancers deserve props - not derision for what they do.
Probably goes without saying that I personally, am not a shy person. I mean obviously I'm not terribly modest with my body (dur) - but (for the most part) I'm also outgoing in social situations, and that night at Vixens was certainly no exception. I havta say though, I was surprised (and delighted) that so many of the dancers were willing to chat with me, and answer my string of silly questions - sometimes without breaking stride in their dance routines. Other times though, they would halt what they were doing, kneel down right in front of me, and give me their undivided attention...was really awesome!
...and then just when I thought things couldn't get any better, something even more amazing happened.........this teeny, tiny, spunky, punky pixie - that the announcer introduced to us as, "Poison" - came on stage, climbed the pole...and within seconds the girl completely blew my mind, I kid you not.
What Poison did on that pole was mesmerizing...literally on par with something ya' might see in Cirque de Soleil. I'm sure that it took an enormous amount of strength, but you never would've known it by looking at her face. She kept a softness in her mouth and her eyes, which not only belied the physical exertion that made her extraordinarily graceful maneuvers seem effortless, but also convinced me that she truly enjoyed (possibly loved?) being a dancer at Vixens...
(Ok now, here's where my thoughts start getting seriously jumbled up. Lemme see if I can break this all down in such a way that it makes sense, without sounding preachy...here we go)
Oftentimes I find that when I bring up the idea of going to Vixens, or blab on about my latest trip there - I generally get one of two common reactions: either the person acts all over-the-top, horn-dog hubba hubba...or they roll their eyes, shake their head, and pull some funny face...I'm left there thinking, "What on earth is the big freaking deal?" I dunno...maybe because I've spent so much time with my own naked body - I've become desensitized...there's no shock value for me anymore - in seeing a woman's body in the nude (a man's body either, for that matter). Thing is though, while I am undeniably beguiled by the aesthetics of the human form, I tend to be more interested in (curious about?) what a body can do (by itself, or in conjunction with others)...such an incredibly complicated, and yet simple machine.
Take Poison, for example: while her physique is unquestionably, through-the-roof stellar - it's what she did with her body that was seriously phenomenal...and although the fact that she was (mostly) naked, was an added bonus - she could've done that pole dance in sweatpants and a t-shirt, and I would've been equally as impressed...
I've kind of come to the conclusion that people who are ignorant enough to stereotype...stigmatize...look down on strippers (and others in the adult entertainment biz) - are either a.) following the herd of close-minded, uptight nay-sayers, or b.) insecure about, or ashamed of their own bodies - thus threatened by these women who are so comfortable in their own. Naturally, the easiest way to pump up their deflated egos, is to systematically harsh on what have become - historically easy targets...neat-o.
Instead of being judgmental - why not try remembering that each one of those girls is somebody's child, or sister, or parent, or friend...that they cry when they're bummed out, and laugh when their boyfriend cuts a fart. They wake up with bed-head, watch movies, and eat ice cream. They have groceries to buy, and bills to pay, and tanks in their cars that need gas...and they work just as hard as (or even harder than) the rest of us - to make all of the different ends meet.
But hey, I don't want you to misinterpret what I'm saying here, as being some sort of patronizing petition - urging you all to grant amnesty on, or feel pity for the strippers of the world - screw that! Frankly, I've never seen any indication that the dancers I've watched, feel persecuted in the slightest for what they do. Those girls don't want sympathy, cuz they damn sure ain't victims! They've made the conscious decision to capitalize on a commodity...and on my own much smaller scale, I can relate.
Now more than ever, I hold these women in extremely high regard. Matter of fact, I view what they do for a living with reverence - envy even. Why? Because although publishing naked self-pics on the web is marginally similar, I'm pretty sure that I'm still too chicken to take it all off in front of a live, captive crowd of complete strangers. I gotta say, admitting that I'm a coward is pretty humbling.
As I reach the end of this post, it's clear to me that neither the photo shoot that I was so fortunate to be able to stage at Vixens, nor the pictures that I snapped there that day - produced the tour de force images that I'd so arrogantly (and naively) expected. In a way it was cheating...smoke and mirrors...playing dress-up. I loved the experience, don't get me wrong about that! It was intimidating as hell to attempt "walking in the shoes", on the very same stage - as the dancers that I respect and admire. But a real coup could've only come about, had I confronted my fears and photographed myself stripping for an actual, live audience. And even though I could sit here and blame the club's strict "no cameras/no photos during operating hours" policy on why this is a fantasy that I will likely never live out - truth be told, it's doubtful that I have the chutzpah to actually ever go through with it anyway...
Just a couple more things real quick, before I finally shut my trap...Again I need to say, "Thank You!" to the owner of Vixens, for allowing me to shoot in his club! I was there during off-hours, and the thing that immediately struck me - was how immaculately clean the place was. There was not a single speck of dirt or debris anywhere on the floors...every inch of all that chrome and brass was smudge-free and polished to a gleam...and there wasn't so much as a hint of cigarette smoke or stale alcohol lingering in the air. I'm tellin' you, the guy runs a very tight ship - and it's reflected in the high quality of his club.
Thanks also to the manager of Vixens' "sister" club - The Underground. He was so friendly and polite, just the nicest man really. He never made me feel badly about dragging him away from his post at work - so that he could get me set up with lights, and heat, and the club to myself - for the two plus hours that I shot. Thank You!
And lastly, I wholeheartedly encourage all of my local(ish) readers - to go see Poison perform. You will not be disappointed, I promise. Find her there Friday - Monday nights, 7 p.m. - 3 a.m. (I think). There are so many other girls who I wish I could also mention, but I didn't get permission to write about them - and I don't wanna assume that it's ok. Just do yourselves a favor (or get off of your high horse, as the case may be) and go watch ALL of 'em dance!!!