The Life of a Stripper Special Bonus Edition 5 Exotic Dancers Confess Their Personal Experiences in the Adult Entertainment Industry Copyright 2012 Romana Van Lissum Published by Romana Van Lissum at Smashwords Cover design: Aqilla Aziz [email protected] Editing: Carnation Smashwords Edition Thank you for downloading this free e-book. Although this is a free book, it remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be reproduced, copied, and distributed for commercial or noncommercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy at Smashwords.com. Thank you for your support. Also by Romana Van Lissum, available at ebook retailers everywhere: The Life of a Stripper (50 Exotic Dancers Confess Their Personal Experiences in the Adult Entertainment Industry) How To Be a Waitress and Make Big Tips (Get a Top Server’s Secrets to Maximizing Your Tip Earning Potential) Disclaimer: These are true stories, and the characters and events are real. However, in some cases, the names, descriptions, and locations have been changed, and some events have been altered, combined or condensed for storytelling purposes, but the overall chronology is an accurate depiction of the authors’ experiences. You may also be uncomfortable with some of the language and content. Dedication This book is dedicated to Marsha, who was an icon in the Western Canadian exotic dance industry, and to all the dancers I have had the privilege of knowing over the past 17 years; the rookies, the veterans, the retired and the deceased. I especially want to dedicate this ebook to the 5 girls who bared their souls to me so that I could expose their experiences and secrets. Thank you for giving us a peak into your world - the crazy, unpredictable and misunderstood business of stripping. Contents Acknowledgements A Word from the Editor A Word from the Author Crocus Larkspur Lotus Six Foot Sativa Snap Dragon About the Author Reproduction Rights, Licensing Statement Acknowledgments My heartfelt thanks go out to each and every one of these girls for opening up to me and sharing their stories. Without your time, honesty and patience this book would not be possible. Thank you to my editor and friend, Carnation, for ensuring the stories were told with grace and, whenever possible, humour. A big thank you to an old friend Aqilla Aziz (or for those of you in the front row, Pleasure) for using her graphic design skills to create my cover the way I envisioned it. I’m also grateful for the unwavering support of my beautiful daughter Kelsey and my best friend and husband of 21 years, Rod. Xo Thank you to my friend and long-time regular, Mr. L who gave me the idea to use the names of flowers. Thanks to you, my dear reader, for taking the time to read this ebook. If you enjoyed it, please share it with a friend. I invite you to freely copy and share this ebook with anyone, provided you do not charge for it or alter the contents. A Word from the Editor I remember my first time on stage. I don’t know what I thought. I guess I was waiting for the fear to hit - the realization of what I was doing. But it was something different instead. The lights flashed and I was on fire. By song three, however, the adrenaline was gone and it had sunk in that soon I would be naked on a stage. For forever, in a way, because once you’ve done it you can never take it back. I didn’t hesitate, though. I pulled my gear off and didn’t look back. I was home. Looking back on that moment now, what feels like hundreds of years later, I’m proud of that girl. She did it. We’ve all done it, and that’s what sets us apart from everyone else. We will all be, in some immutable way, on that stage forever. Dancing absolutely changes you, for better and for worse, but if you’re smart and lucky you will get out with some money, some good stories and only a few battle scars. Editing these stories has been a privilege. I knew it would be interesting, but who knew I would feel as proud as I do of my fellow dancers. Although we are all different; came from different backgrounds and made our way to the stage individually, I see a similar spirit in each one of us, in each of the beautiful wild women I’ve danced with all across this country. It’s this inner strength that makes me proud to count myself among these nomadic, furious, fiery hellcats. Thanks for the stories, ladies. Written by Carnation A Word from the Author For 17 years, I have been a server at a popular Vancouver strip club. Throughout the years, I have always wondered what a girl’s motivation was for taking her clothes off for a living. Is it out of desperation? Can they truly enjoy dancing naked in front of strangers? Is it the money? The attention? What road do these women travel to end up on that stage? Although I’m not a dancer, I feel that it is my duty to bring these women’s stories to a broader audience. During the course of this project, I asked my questions and lent an ear, all without judging or scrutinizing. I feel honored to be entrusted with this confidential information, and to be able to act not only as their storyteller, but also as a confidante and friend. My mission is to do these women justice by helping them find their voice. This book will open your eyes, as it did for me. I apologize in advance for the vulgar language and vivid explanations. The stories are written here as they were told to me. You will quickly realize that the stories are not sugar coated, and you may find, as I did, that some weigh heavy on your heart. That being said, I encourage you to keep an open mind and refrain from judging these women. They are wonderful human beings just making a living. The main question that couldn’t be answered, by myself or the dancers I interviewed, was about judgment. Why are people (especially other women) so focused on judging and criticizing strippers? It’s easy to judge this profession as a whole and not take into account the individual paths that a person takes to get here. Dancers pay taxes (like the rest of us) and most of them work six and sometimes seven days a week. They do make a good living, but in my opinion, they deserve to make the big money. I definitely don’t want to do their job! Most people are convinced that every dancer has ‘daddy issues’ and comes from a broken family. This is far from the truth. As the reader, you have a front row seat to see exactly why these women made the choices they did. It is important for people to realize that ‘strippers’ are just like everyone else. Yes, some of them have an alcoholic father or come from a broken home, but this is also the case in the general population. Many of the girls in this book have parents that are still happily married. In this life, each person is ultimately responsible for making decisions about what they will do, and those decisions sometimes can’t be tracked. Do they end up homeless, wandering the streets high on drugs, or accomplish something with their life such as becoming a doctor, car salesman, teacher, or even an exotic dancer. In the end, you will come to realize that each woman has walked her own unique journey. They arrive from different roads but have all ended up at the same destination - a tough business, full of long days, late hours, rough customers and most of the time, living out of a suitcase. For privacy purposes, I have chosen to keep the dancers’ names (and stage names) confidential by substituting them with the names of flowers. I feel that it is my responsibility to keep stage names and private information confidential because it’s too easy for an unstable individual to hunt down a girl through their agency’s website. Also, using an alias allowed these women to be totally open and give us their insider secrets. You will find that some of the stories have been written by the girls (in The Life of a Stripper. 50 Exotic Dancers Confess Their Personal Experiences in the Adult Entertainment Industry), and the rest of them were written by me after I interviewed them. During my interviews, I spent many long hours chatting with these women (my longest interview was over four hours long!) and later transcribed our conversations, but the girls had complete control of what was published. During the editing process, some information ended up being pulled by the girls or the editor to protect their privacy. I’ve been asked how I picked the girls for the book. It was based simply on which girls happened to come through our bar that week. I also contacted girls I knew who were retired, with families of their own. Some of them chose to participate, but most declined, mainly for their family’s sake. Frankly, most of the retired girls I talked to were happy to leave this world in their past. I hope this book helps you to better understand the exotic dancing industry - and the women working in it - in a positive way. I look forward to you learning about these remarkable women as much as I enjoyed spending time with them and putting this unique book together. It’s been an incredible journey! All the best, Romana xx Crocus When I was 17, I moved from a small town in BC to Vancouver with my boyfriend. The move was a great idea, but it turns out the boyfriend was not. As soon as we moved in together, he changed and became very abusive. I left him, obviously! Since I was young and needed money, I did the first thing that popped in my head and called the local stripper agency - I heard that strippers made good money. Although I had fake ID at the time, the agency didn’t ask to see it and I was sent to do my first amateur contest, where I won first place! After that, I went straight onto the circuit and didn’t look back. My first day on the job, I was a hot mess. I had a blast, but I had no idea what I was doing. I danced to an old song and wore a makeshift costume with a top hat. I could barely walk in my high heels, so I had to take giant steps. I must’ve looked so awkward! When I was finally naked, I remember having this huge rush and thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m really doing this.’ It was one of those moments in life that you will always remember. Back then, the crowds were bigger and much more enthusiastic - which was a lot more fun. I find that a lot of the customers in the audience now have attitudes and seem more catty – almost entitled. I blame internet porn! It makes me feel bad for the new girls coming into the business because they are the ones that will have to deal with it, and figure out how to make money off them. I hate how the industry has become now. Years ago, girls used to take a lot of pride in their looks. They always had their make-up and hair done and they wore elaborate costumes. It was all about entertaining the crowd with big shows and crazy themes. I used to make $75-85 per show which was good money back then, but the industry has changed so much. For starters, there are price caps at most bars and there are no feature dancers anymore. Here on the west coast, I feel that the industry is slowly turning towards the way Toronto is, which is more lap dances and not many stage shows. Everything seems underappreciated which is mentally exhausting. It is very frustrating financially as well - after all the overhead and travel fees, sometimes a girl can make the same amount of money as if she had a regular job. Everyone in my family knows what I do for a living and they are very supportive. They don’t necessarily understand what I do or why I do it, but they don’t stress about it too much because it has never changed who I am. I never got bogged down with partying or drugs. My mom doesn’t completely approve, but she doesn’t make an issue of it. Not too long ago, I was visiting her and out of the blue my mom said to me, “I’m so proud of you. You are so smart and so grown-up.” That meant a lot to me. I don’t have a good relationship with my dad. My mom left him when we were little because he was abusive, so that left her to raise us kids by herself. My dad never helped with child support even though he has lots of money. My father recently tried to be part of our lives again, but we refused him. My background is actually kind of impressive. I have a degree in kinesiology and nutrition but I don’t do anything with it. I thought that I would use it, but for now I am happy dancing. Nobody tells me what to do or when to take time off. In a regular job, I would be stuck working 9-5 and would make less money – no thank you! I tried working as an independent personal trainer, but for all the extra time and effort I had to put into the job, I wasn’t making very much money. Eventually, I would like to go back to school and find something that I am more passionate about. My plan is to work in this industry for only another two years because I don’t want to be dancing past the age of 30. I’ve been saving my money for quite a while and I’m working hard to stick to that plan. The craziest thing that has happened to me in my career is my recovery from a car accident six years ago. I was hit so hard that I flew out of the sunroof and then the car rolled over me. I ended up with a broken spine and a badly broken leg, among other injuries. Two ambulances and a helicopter came to my rescue. I had to have a blood transfusion and I was told that my leg would be amputated. In the hospital before they wheeled me into surgery, they needed me to sign two forms. The first one was saying that if I died, they could take my organs for donation. No problem, I signed the form. The second form said that I gave them permission to amputate my leg. I refused. They said that I would die if I didn’t have the procedure done. “So I’ll die,” I told them. During this time, the hospital had called my mom to try to get her to change my mind, but she wouldn’t go against my wishes. They told her to come to the hospital to say good bye to me. As luck would have it, there was a surgeon from another country that was visiting and doing a lecture at the university. If anyone could save it, it would be him. He agreed to do the surgery, but told me that even if he could save it, I was looking at a long and painful recovery. He made it very clear that I would not be able to walk, let alone dance, for over a year after the surgery. The surgery went ahead and miraculously, my leg was saved. The surgeon had to build up my leg with pins and plates, but it was saved. I was warned that I would have many long and painful months of physiotherapy ahead of me. Before they could even mention physio to me, I was already creating my own personal ‘plan.’ I asked my mom to bring me my make-up, hair straightener and track suits. At 6am every morning, I would get up, get showered, shave, get dressed and put on my makeup. I’m sure the nurses weren’t very happy with me but I refused to lie around in that awful, unflattering hospital gown all day. From bed, I started doing my own exercises and physiotherapy the very next day, even though I was in excruciating pain. I was told to wait and heal for a couple months, but I was impatient and wanted to get back to normal as soon as I could. Thank goodness for my job, because word got around and some of the local strip bars in the city held charity events to raise money for me, which was very thoughtful and helped me more than I can say. My work paid off. Six months later I was walking. I wasn’t walking very well or very fast, but I was walking! I went to see the surgeon for a follow-up visit and the first thing he wanted to know was where was my walker, where were my crutches. But I was walking on my own! He was shocked, and showed me my x-ray. My kneecap had been totally shattered, but my will to walk was too great. To this day, I still have the plate and pins in my leg holding it together. I could have had them removed years ago, but I refuse to. They are a part of me now (and maybe a bit of a good luck piece). Soon after I started walking, I went to Toronto with a girlfriend to see a concert. While we were outside waiting in the line-up, we met a guy who was the bodyguard for many celebrities, one of them being a famous pornographer’s brother. To make a long story short, he introduced us to his boss and we eventually met the famous pornographer. Right after the devastation of hurricane Katrina, the famous pornographer was opening some new strip clubs in New Orleans and he asked us if we were interested in going to work there, all expenses paid. Yes! How could we turn down an offer like that? So the next day, there I was on the airplane with my leg blown up to almost twice its size. I was still not walking properly, but I wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip by. Before my show, I would cram my leg into my boot and tighten the laces to keep it in place. I was in pain, but I was willing to go through it to make this work! While we were there, we made insane amounts of money. I was also offered a spread in a famous porn magazine but I declined. My main concern with doing something like that is that they own your name and can use it forever if they feel like it. I don’t want to be a 60 year old woman with a family and have my grandchildren find naked pictures of me. Because of the car accident, my city’s newspaper did an article on me (using my real name, of course) and printed a picture. Two days later, a bouquet of roses arrived at my home. They arrived on my porch every day, even though it was the dead of winter. There was no card, so I had no idea who sent them. Finally, one night at work a guy came up to me and asked if I enjoyed the flowers. It was a little frightening – here’s this lovesick customer that knows my real name and my physical address. And it gets worse! He followed me to my next booking, which was in the next province over. He started talking about how much he loved me, and that’s when I knew I was in over my head. I told him I loved him too, just to get him off my back, and it seemed to work because he disappeared after that. The last time I saw him was about a month ago. He told me he loved me again and then said, “I can’t wait for July.” I don’t know what he has planned for July, and I don’t ever want to find out. That was strange, but the weirdest customer I’ve ever encountered would be the belly button guy for sure. He would pay $300 for a private dance and you didn’t even have to get naked! All he wanted was to have you sit there and play around with your belly button for him while he watched up close. It was a pretty easy way to make $300 but your belly button was sore afterwards! Another weirdo was the family lawyer with lots of money to spend. He would come in the club and get an hour of private dances, but only with the young looking dancers dressed in school girl uniforms. He didn’t want you to get naked, instead, you had to either spank yourself or tell him stories about spanking. He paid me $400 once for 45 minutes. I only did it once because he was so incredibly creepy. To be honest, I think he might have been a pedophile or something. Sometimes customers aren’t weird, just very familiar. It’s unsettling when you know you recognize someone but can’t figure out how you know them. Once, I bought a cell phone and gave the salesman my fitness business card because he seemed interested in having me train him. A couple days later I was at a club working, and I asked a guy if he wanted a private dance. He caught me off guard when he responded, “Hey, didn’t I sell you a phone? I thought you were a personal trainer!” The biggest tip I ever got was from a guy that said I reminded him of an actress in the movie Pulp Fiction, his favourite movie. Then he handed me $500 and walked out of the bar. I left work early that night! I’m not too sure about the regular customers’ habits because I don’t spend my free time mingling around with customers unless they want a private dance. There’s no point in sitting down and trying to talk to a strange guy just so he’ll buy me a drink. Time is money and unless he wants a private dance, I’m not interested in sitting around wasting my time with him. It takes way too much effort and energy to socialize. I can afford to buy my own drinks. The bars are all great, for the most part, but there is one bar I refuse to work at. It’s a bar downtown that hires almost anyone, even if they look like they just walked in off the street. Also, the bar allows full contact with the girls in exchange for $50 ($15 of it goes to the house). In the private dance rooms, mirrors line the back wall so you can see what is going on. It’s easy to see what the VIP girls are up to… let’s just say that you can have whatever you like for the right price. Besides that, the staff encourages the dancers to drink as much as possible so that the bar makes more money. I feel that part of your soul is gone when you leave there at the end of the week. I have an embarrassing moment I want to share. I was sent up to the Northwest Territories to work a gig once. It’s a boring, freezing cold, isolated, two week gig. There are very few rules; the bartender free pours the booze and the dancer can walk off the stage naked during her show to dance among the customers. It is not uncommon for guys to be sitting at their table with a bill in their teeth waiting for the dancer to come over. One day my girlfriend and I got super drunk, so I forgot to do my usual pre show check. I was so drunk I barely managed to get into my costume, let alone do a check! Every single time I opened my legs, my girlfriend burst out in uncontrollable laughter. I just thought it was her being silly and drunk. I went to the bar after my show and the bartender (also the manager) had poured me a shot and said, “That must have been very embarrassing for you!” I had no idea what he was talking about until I found out later that my tampon string was hanging out the whole time! Something you would find amusing about me is that I am a compulsive cleaner and a great cook. I guess I’m a bit of a homebody, so it’s a little strange that I love camping so much. I love sleeping on an air mattress in a tent that I set up by myself. I don’t mind using a porta-potty either! Three things I won’t leave home without are my cell phone, my favourite pink lipstick and my dog. He goes everywhere with me. My advice for new girls is to respect the industry. You’re just starting out so don’t complain and don’t be a prima donna. Always put on your make-up and do your hair. There are more aspects to this job than just stripping; you have to be the fantasy! And most importantly, remember that it’s your business, not your whole life. Be smart with your money. It won’t last forever. The one thing I wish I knew before I started dancing was to be more guarded because this industry rips you apart on the inside, no matter how strong of a woman you are. I think that a dancer needs to have a day or two of counselling just to make sense of the craziness that we see and encounter on a daily basis. You definitely need to be a strong person to work in this industry. It can beat you up on the inside. Do I regret getting into this business? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. I have been dancing for 11 years so far. I was very young when I got into the business so I didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t what I thought, that’s for sure. I’m constantly amazed at the strength and resilience of the women in this industry. There are single moms that make this lifestyle and schedule work. This job has taught me how to be strong, and how to appreciate all people, no matter what their background or job is. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing. Larkspur I was 21 years old, dead broke and working three jobs. The plan was to make enough money to help my family out financially. One brother was in college and needed all the help he could get, and my other brother was struggling because his new wife, an American, was not yet allowed to work in Canada. I was willing to do just about anything to make some money. At first, I tried nude modeling but the photographer got creepy, so I scrapped that idea. Then I made an appointment at an escort agency, but at the last minute I chickened out and didn’t go to the interview. Next, I tried webcam work but didn’t feel comfortable doing that either. I ended up entering an amateur stripping contest - and loved it right away. The money was great because I won every contest, but money was so tight that my big ‘treat’ for winning was to buy expensive trail mix instead of the cheap stuff. My childhood wasn’t bad or anything, not like people think. I grew up in a loving, middle class home. My dad worked full time and my mom stayed home with us until we were teenagers, and then she went to university. Throughout my school years, I was always involved in sports and music and my family attended a great church. I am a Mennonite (we’re basically rebellious Amish people) so I grew up very religious. I even wanted to be a missionary when I grew up! Our house was very strict on a lot of things. For example, I wasn’t allowed to go to dances at all. My mom even stopped speaking to me for a day when I went to a sock hop. So you can see why the whole dancing naked for a living thing wouldn’t go over well. We have a joke: Why don’t Mennonites have sex standing up? It might lead to dancing! When I first got into the industry, I never actually told my parents what I was up to. I hated lying to them. I am a terrible liar anyways. Living the dual life of a dancer was very hard on me. When my family finally figured out what I was up to, I was relieved. They didn’t take it very well. My dad couldn’t look me in the eyes for a couple of years and my brother wouldn’t speak to me either. My mom told me that she wished I wasn’t born. My aunt disowned me and said she didn’t trust me with her young children, solely because of my job choice. Some of my other family members reacted to me, too. It was awful and very hurtful, but I know that they were just worried about me. They had no concept of the entertainment industry beyond the scummy movie version, so of course they were scared. Other people in my life told me to reject my family but I kept focusing on the knowledge that they were coming from a place of love and they just didn’t know how to handle my choices. To cope, I turned to drugs. After drugs, I went pretty hard with the drinking. The only two people in my family that seemed to be there for me were my sister and my twin brother. They never looked at me like I was a freak. They even offered me a place to stay. I ended up living with my brother rent-free after college, so that I could focus on my career. Today my family and I have an awesome relationship and even my aunt has come around to a certain extent. I have been sober for several years. When I entered the industry I had just become an alcoholic – mixing prescription drugs and booze will do that. Working in a bar was obviously not the best job for me at that time in my life. When I got disowned from my family for being a sex industry worker, I turned to drugs. The only time I was semi-sober was when I was at work because I loved being onstage so much. The drugs were there to deal with my life outside of work! The industry was actually what helped me get sober. When I first got sober, it was too hard to work in a bar. So, I spent some time escorting and also was a dominatrix briefly, before going back to dancing. These jobs gave me the flexible schedule and cash flow to go to meetings and look inward. Some of my biggest supporters were my customers and others working in the industry. Being able to go to work and talk openly and honestly about my addiction saved me. Having my bosses, coworkers and customers show full support and respect was amazing. Such a supportive work environment is simply not a reality anywhere else in life. Even the people in my AA groups said they had never heard of another industry where it was so supportive. The entertainment industry is one of a kind. It provides an opportunity for some very unique friendships with a wide variety of people which is something I really enjoyed. Dancers work closely every week with 1-5 other women. On busy weeks we usually spend up to 12 hours a day together, sometimes also staying at the same hotel or house, so we get to know each other pretty well. When you’re dealing with all the intimate details of getting naked for a living, you end up sharing a lot of experiences and supporting each other. The level of support and openness that happens is fantastic. One thing that surprised me about the industry is how different each girl is. Everyone has their own story. Also I’ve met many girls who don’t do drugs and several who don’t drink at all (and not because they’re recovering addicts/alcoholics, they just never have). My favorite part of dancing was entertaining people! I used to look around the bar for the most depressed looking customer and by the end of my show he would be smiling. A funny thing about doing this job is that it made me realize something I probably should have known - that everyone’s vulva is completely different. I didn’t know! At work there were a lot of naked women (what a shocker, right?) and it’s hard not to notice when you’re doing your makeup and there’s a dancer ‘cookie-checking’ in the mirror next to you. It was amazing to me - they’re all totally different. My girlfriend created an amazing book, I’ll Show You Mine, which essentially has vulva biographies – pictures of different ones with stories and experiences from the women, which I believe is an important educational tool. So many women I’ve met feel self-conscious about how their vulvas look because some men (and women) have unrealistic ideals. I love breaking the stereotypes and misconceptions that most people have about strippers and proving them wrong. I always got a kick out of going to a party and telling people I am an office assistant. Then, at the end of the night, I would admit to them that I’m a stripper. They were always shocked. They would always say the same things - “You’re too nice…smart…etc for that job.” It was gratifying to know that I had opened people’s eyes and helped to dispel some of the harmful stereotypes. In my new office job, I am very aware of ‘stripper’ stereotypes and how they could harm my reputation. I have coworkers that respect and like me, but if they found out about my stripper life, many of them would think differently of me based on what they think a sex industry worker is. They would see only those judgments when they look at me. It’s hard to accept that the people I work with every day could turn against me if they knew about my past, but that’s the reality of working in the entertainment and sex industries. There’s always some truth and basis for stereotypes since that’s how they are created. The hardest myths to dispel are the ones with elements of truth. For example, one common misconception is that dancers all have hopelessly low self-esteem, and that whatever self-esteem we do have is destroyed by the industry. Like many other women and men, I had body image issues throughout my life. I always thought if I looked a certain way, I would be more acceptable and beautiful. The agents basically reinforced those ideas by putting pressure on me to be skinnier. As a result, I became bulimic. Thank God for the interactions with the customers and other dancers that helped me see that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Oh, and everyone has cellulite but dancers just have really great lighting! Believe it or not, the customers are a lot like real life people – personality matters! If you are drop dead gorgeous but have no personality, you will not do as well as a dancer who is okay looking but is clever and fun to interact with. The majority of my customers have been far less judgmental than society at large and for the most part it was very refreshing and healing to be around them. Another misconception is about the customers who utilize our services (who they are and why they’re there). There’s this idea that they must be addicts or are looking to prey on weak women. My experience has been very different. A lot of people, both men and women, just come to watch the stage shows and have a good time. It is entertainment, after all. When I was an escort, most of them were looking for intimate interaction with another human being. When I was a dancer, again it was the interaction with a beautiful woman; feeling listened to and appreciated by a naked therapist. In my experience, a counselor is someone who knows what questions to ask and is far enough removed from your life for you to be honest. If you can get that with some nudity, shit, why not! The two things that I found hardest to deal with were the agents and the double life. The agents could be your best friend or your worst enemy and often you didn’t know where you stood. If you were on their bad side, you didn’t always know why. I do understand that they had to navigate making both the bars and the dancers happy, which is a tall order. But from where I stood, it seemed as if they were playing games and it was very hard to deal with because I essentially felt that I couldn’t trust the people who were scheduling my work. That is not a safe situation, financially or physically. As I said, the double life was difficult to manage. I had to lie to so many people all the time. Sometimes when I used to get asked what I did for a living, I would just avoid the question. I would joke around and say I was a sniper or some other crazy profession, then quickly change the topic to something else. Because I lost friends and family members when they found out what I did for a living, it was always a struggle deciding how much to tell people. It was such a hard thing, always lying or telling half truths about what I did for a living. And it is a hard job to hide because we work 6 days a week, up to 12 hours a day and often out of town! It is possible to work just day or night shifts in town, but I like to work and travel so I usually chose the long and out of town shifts. I wouldn’t work at a bar if the staff allowed a customer to make me feel unsafe or disrespected. I also wouldn’t work at bars where most of the other dancers allow customers to touch them during dances because then the guys would think they could touch me and I just wasn’t comfortable with that. (Even though I had done some escorting, I always kept the jobs totally separate.) For a few years I blacklisted my favourite bar because I found out that the guys from my dad’s work went there on the weekends and would talk about the dancers on Monday morning. I didn’t want him to ever have to wonder whether they were talking about me. There was one bar where I wouldn’t use my car once I got there, to protect it from vandalism by the jealous girls in that town. Girls can be difficult to deal with since they are often rude and hateful, or way too friendly. In the bar, some girls get a little too excited to see you and think that because they’re female, the rules don’t apply. They try to touch you while you’re onstage and then get offended when they are asked to stop. I remember one woman that was shocked when I didn’t let her smack my ass! There’s another misconception about dancers, that if there weren’t any rules, we don’t mind being touched. Guys will often try it in private dances when they know there’s no camera. They will pressure you by saying there’s no way to get in trouble because no one will find out. But what they are forgetting is that camera or no camera, trouble or no trouble, maybe we don’t want to be touched! It’s been very rare that I felt at risk while in a bar. Most of my scary experiences have been as a result of travelling alone. For example in one tiny town where I was alone in a supposedly empty hotel, I clearly heard people brawling under my window and the sound of children’s footsteps running up and down the hall. I never believed in spirits until I went on the road! I will never forget the time I got caught in a snowstorm on my way to Alberta. It felt like a scene from a bad horror movie. The little town was made up of only a restaurant, a small motel and a corner store. There were a few houses and trailers surrounding the town but they were not visible at night. There was only one other car at the motel, the front desk guy was drinking, the phones in the rooms didn’t work and the cord was cut on the pay phone. There was no cell service, the restaurant was closed and the corner store clerk looked like a character from Saw. I didn’t put the club on my steering wheel that night since I slept with it next to my bed! I also shoved the fridge against the door. I tried to gauge whether or not I would break my legs if I had to jump out of the window in the middle of the night. That place was the worst! The creepiest customer I had was in Winnipeg. Dancers in Winnipeg do something called ‘jamming’ which means that in one day, we’ll do shows in up to ten bars around town, so it’s not completely unusual for customers to drive around to different bars to catch their favourite dancer’s shows. While I was working there, I had a weird guy with headphones and glasses follow me to all the different clubs. He seemed a little ‘off’ and possibly even high. At one point in the night, he was kneeling at the edge of the stage. I looked over and saw a fountain of coins pouring out of his mouth! Afterwards, I counted over 30 coins! How did he ever fit them all in his mouth and why? I appreciated the thought behind the gesture, but man, it was weird! My regular customers have been so wonderful and supportive. I remember when I was a rookie and two customers took me to lunch and shopping for new dancer shoes. They knew that I was broke and they didn’t expect anything from me in return. I will never forget that kind gesture. An odd gift (although very thoughtful) I received once when I was working out of town was a homemade lasagna. I hardly knew the customer and I probably shouldn’t have eaten it but it smelled delicious and it ended up tasting delicious too! The biggest tip I ever got from a customer was $100. Customers have always loved my stage name and often ask me how I got it. Well, just after high school, I saw a movie with my three closest girlfriends. Each one of us identified with one of the characters, so at first I used the name of that character. It ended up sounding too much like another name that I didn’t like, so I started looking for a new name. I wanted a sexy cartoon character. A dancer and a DJ ended up suggesting the same name within two weeks of each other, so I took their advice and used it. Every dancer has had an embarrassing moment or two. During my first week dancing, I didn’t realize my set was over. I just thought the DJ was turning the stage lights down really low for my naked song to make me feel more comfortable. I was confused because I didn’t remember picking that song to dance to. Half way through the song the DJ realized I was still onstage and he told me over the microphone that my show was over. Embarrassing! My second most mortifying moment is pretty typical for a dancer. Two words: tampon string. I don’t remember if I forgot to tuck it up or it just didn’t stay tucked. But I took off my panties, looked in the mirror and there it was! It was so embarrassing because I had to pretend to finger-bang myself to tuck it in. After that I made sure that on the week my period was due, I worked in a bar with stage mirrors in the ceiling so I could check as I took off my thong without the customers noticing. I have had a few weird moments at work. Once, I ran into some guys from my church in the parking lot of a strip bar and told them it was alright with me if they went in. I didn’t realize I should have specified that it was NOT to sit in front row for my show! Also, in that same bar there was a regular that used to come in quite frequently and he looked just like my dad. I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I was spinning around the pole and I almost fell off the stage! After that, I had to scan the bar for him before my show so it wouldn’t freak me out! Another night, when I was working my office job but still dancing at night, I had some of my clients sit in the front row. I just took off my glasses and treated them like anyone else, and they never clued in. They told me I looked a lot like someone they knew! There were some other customers who I think knew, but they didn’t sit at front row. They just walked up and tipped me with a smile, and never mentioned it! My advice for new girls coming into this business is to listen closely to the girls that have been there before you. Anything you can imagine, they have been through it and can help you through it too. Also, don’t ever push yourself to do more than you are comfortable with; it’s just not worth it. Your boundaries may change over time (mine did) but if it’s your boundary in that moment, honour it, and make it clear to those around you. The one thing I wish I knew before getting into this line of work was the importance of keeping up with my taxes and to treat my job like a business. There is positive and negative in the sex industry, as there is in every job. Nothing is ideal. No job, no direction, no family. Consider your last relationship for example: it wasn’t all good, but it certainly wasn’t all bad. Often we have a need to classify something (a person, profession or relationship) as good or bad because it helps us feel safe. It’s also what closes our hearts. I don’t regret getting into this business because it freed me to be who I really am. It gave me training in sociology and psychology. I would never be where I am now if I didn’t do it. I saw so much and my world view expanded as a result. Being involved in the sex industry has enriched my life, not diminished it. It’s made me into a more compassionate, accountable and intuitive person. It never ceases to amaze me how strongly people react to the fact that I am a sex industry worker. They will get to know me; learn all about me, but as soon as they get a hold on that one small piece of the puzzle it changes their entire perspective. They’ll completely forget everything else they know about me - I will cease to be me, and become a thing, an ‘other,’ a dehumanized sex worker. I am not ashamed of what I did for a living. In fact, I like telling people because it challenges their prejudices and opens their minds. I have a regular speaking engagement where I talk about my experiences. It’s important for me to get my story out there, because the more we talk about the many different aspects of the industry, the more we humanize sex industry workers. And the more we humanize any demographic, the more we humanize ourselves. There’s a saying that nothing is ideal, it’s how you deal. I’ve learned to deal with life by listening, by hearing and valuing others’ experiences whether I agree with them or not. We are all in different places for different reasons, and the best thing we can do is support each other and try to understand. I retired from dancing in 2011 and have been working full time in my new career. I am also involved with sex industry advocacy work and love to help out in my community in other ways as well, including coordinating fundraisers. ~ ~ ~ If you are interested in getting in contact with Larkspur for a speaking engagement or to find out about her talks, please contact Romana at [email protected] Lotus I was going to college back home in Southeast Asia, and I was working as a teacher’s assistant to make some extra money. The professor I worked for had a business on the side and he hired me and some of the other students to sell tickets. Turns out, the tickets were phony. He sold $38,000 in counterfeit tickets, so the Asian FBI got involved. That was the beginning of the end for me. I had sold 50 tickets, which was way more than anyone else since my English was pretty good. Because of this, everyone thought that it was me pocketing the stolen money. I explained my side of the story to the FBI and they advised me that I should leave the country during the court case as my life could be in danger. They told me I had two weeks to get out. Since my dad is Canadian, he got me my passport and my boyfriend bought me a plane ticket to Canada. I arrived in BC with only $40 in my pocket. I had a relative living in Southeast BC, so I went to live there. I had no job, no friends, and no money, so I just helped around the house with cooking and cleaning. I was very bored and lonely, so one night I got drunk by myself in my room. In my lonely drunken state, I went on the internet, found the stripper agency website and sent the agent an email. When he called me back three days later, I had no idea what it was about at first! We chatted on the phone and he invited me to do an amateur contest in town. The next day, I had my bag packed and I hitchhiked my way there. I found a cheap hostel to live in and got a job as a cook. For three weeks, I worked as a cook in the day and then took off in the evenings to do amateur contests. During my first amateur contest, I signed up with the agency. Meanwhile, one of the other girls that sold the tickets with me (she had sold 12 of them) was having big problems. Someone broke into her apartment and put three cobras in her bed! The following week, she got in the car with her six year old daughter and as she pressed on the gas pedal, a cobra came out from under her seat! She ended up sending her daughter away to keep her safe. She told me that if these people find out where I am, I would definitely be in danger. After I heard how crazy things were getting, I got my mom and my brother to move to another town and avoid old friends just to be safe. Even with that precaution, I still had trouble. Someone from back home contacted me and threatened to hurt my mom – he even had her new address. He said that he would tell my family what I do for a living if I don’t send them money. I sent him a few hundred dollars to keep it quiet. My childhood was different than most of the other dancers I know. I grew up traveling with my family (I was in five different schools when I was in the first grade). When I was younger, my parents wanted a divorce but it wasn’t allowed since it didn’t even exist in my country. So they separated, but didn’t officially divorce. When I was 13 years old, I decided I wanted to live with my dad because he continued to travel, and my mother had stopped. We were more like best friends instead of a father/daughter relationship. He made me more street wise by showing me bars when I was 14 years old. Because of my father, I saw many brothels and strip clubs at a young age. It was his way of showing me how bad they were and he didn’t want me to fall into that trap. My parents never sheltered me. Because he made such a point of trying to keep me away from this lifestyle, I have not told my father what I do. No one in my family knows what I do for a living. The first day on the job was brutal for me! I was late for my first show and then I got my schedule mixed up so I ended up missing a show. I was nervous of the other dancers because I didn’t know if I could trust them or not. Also, I was very critical of my body, so I was terrified to get naked in front of all those people. At one point I was crying on stage because I thought that I was going to get fired or fined. In the end, nothing happened to me, but it was a day I’ll never forget. My least favourite thing about my job is dealing with lots of drunk people and the fact that I am always getting propositioned for sex. It also sucks when you are sick and you can’t go home. You have to make the best of it and continue dancing. The best part of this job is learning new pole tricks and the fact that others pay to watch me perform. Also, dancing is a good workout and the money is good. I know it sounds strange, but dancing has actually increased my self-confidence. I refuse to work at certain bars because I don’t feel safe there. One time at 3am, some people were trying to get into my room and that scared the hell out of me! Since I’m not an aggressive person and I don’t like to fight back, I would prefer to stay away from the clubs that I don’t feel safe at. The scariest experience I had dancing was one night after an amateur contest. Because I won, I had to stay behind and do one last show at the end of the evening as an encore. Since I was the last girl to leave, my ride had left. I decided to walk to the light rail transit station to catch a ride home. Earlier, I had a problem with a big drunk guy who was trying to solicit me for sex. Of course, I told him no. But when I left the club, he was out in the parking lot waiting for me! I usually carry a little knife in my sleeve but I knew that a little pocket knife wasn’t going to stop a big drunk guy like this from harming me. I started to run, and he chased after me, grabbing at my hair. Just as he got a hold of me, a car pulled up beside us and the driver yelled at me to get in. I leaped for the open door. I wish I could have felt relieved, but I recognized my rescuer immediately – he was another creepy customer from the club. I knew I was in trouble when the driver said he loved my name (since all my boyfriends were a lot older than me, I picked a name that was quite controversial). I tried to get out of the car but he wouldn’t slow down. Then he asked me how much I would charge him for a private dance in his hotel room! I declined, but he kept pushing it. I started to panic but kept my cool. I pretended to play along, and told him that I would go to his hotel room to perform the private dance. First, he had to take me to the station since I had to drop something off for a friend who was waiting there for me. I hopped out of the car at the destination and took off! Another wild story was this rich guy partying one night at the local bar. He asked me how much for a private show, then handed me $500 for a half hour of dances. He sat down and a couple minutes later he fell asleep! I let him sleep, then woke him up when the time was up. He actually asked me how much he owed me! I said he already paid me, but if he wanted to, he could pay my $100 bar fee. He paid it for me. Funny thing was that he said I gave him a good show! My best regular spent $1000 on me in one night. The club said that I broke the record for the most amount of money a customer paid a dancer in private dances in one night. The biggest tip I ever got from one customer in one show was $250. I have been offered a trip to Cuba and dinners, but I only accept money. The weirdest customer is the sock guy. He buys your old pair of socks for $10 and then gives you a new pair. The weirdest thing I’ve seen so far is a mother/son duo. They came in the club already drunk and then drank even more. They were hollering at all the girls on stage, and then the son encouraged his mom to try the pole. She did, and she also stripped naked while her son cheered her on. Not a pretty picture! My embarrassing moment is not as bad as some that I have seen, but it still made me cringe. I am very keen on trying new pole tricks, so I am always trying new stuff during my shows. While attempting a new trick in a busy bar full of customers, my foot slipped and I fell on my head. In my embarrassment I managed to kick over someone’s beer. The guy wasn’t angry, though. He laughed and even tipped me! Something that surprised me about this industry is how different it is compared to the industry back home in Southeast Asia. Back home, being a stripper means something entirely different. The girls back home walk around the club with a number on their hip. The bar pays them a flat fee or $250 at the end of the month, instead of the Western Canadian model of paying the girls for their stage shows. Here in Canada, the girls also make money by selling private dances or relying on tips, whereas back home, the girls just sit and talk with the men, or it is very common for them to be hookers on the side. For the record, I personally don’t know of any dancer that has sex on the side for money. In Canada, at first I thought that some girls take dancing too seriously, but now that I see how much money you can make, I understand why. Back home, a person is thrilled if they make $1000 a month. Here in Canada, your income is only limited by your hustling skills. I am very lucky, and send money back home to my mom and younger brother a lot. Something you would find shocking about me is that I am an extreme cat lover. When I was 12 years old, I had 21 cats at one time. Three things I won’t leave home without are my phone, passport and money. I am not ashamed of telling people what I do for a living, if they ask. If I try to hide it then that means I am ashamed and then they think I do something dirty. I tell them that although I am a dancer, I am not an airhead and I don’t do drugs. My advice for new girls coming into this business is to save your money! Have a separate bank account and put aside 10 percent of your earnings in case you need it. I wish I knew to keep my receipts for tax purposes. I also wish I had saved more money. When I started dancing, I didn’t have a bank account, so I sent most of my money home to my relatives instead of saving. I was 19 years old when I got in this business and have been dancing for only four months. I will only be dancing until mid-June of this year. Then I am off to Australia where my boyfriend will be paying my tuition so that I can go back to school. I do not regret getting into this business because it hasn’t changed me yet. I know that if I worked in this industry for much longer, it would. Six Foot Sativa My first experience with dancers was when I was 18. My friends took me to the nonalcoholic club (which is why we could go at 18) and bought me a private dance. I loved it, and started talking to the dancer. She told me that she was going to school and she seemed like a super nice girl, not at all what I had expected from a stripper. She also mentioned that the club offered dance classes. The very next day, I signed up for four of the dance classes. Within minutes of the first class, I knew I could do it. I started working as a VIP girl at that same club two weeks after being a customer. It seemed like a great job to me. People often ask me if I was ever molested or had any inappropriate sexual attention while I was growing up. Not even close! My parents split up when I was seven years old, and that wasn’t easy, but it had nothing to do with me becoming a dancer. I had danced since I was little and loved doing it. My family knows what I do for a living but they are not supportive. I don’t really care what they think. We don’t have a good relationship; we don’t even talk. My first day on the job, I did almost 25 private dances. Back then, the bar was always busy. I remember when guys would line up outside the VIP rooms, especially on busy nights, like Fridays. They were always my best day! It was great while it lasted, but after the economy tanked, selling dances became very competitive. Some of the dancers got creative and started dancing in a raunchy sort of way. Their new ‘dance style’ involved grinding around with more contact on the customer. I refused to dance like that, so selling dances became almost impossible. For a while, I was able to rely on my regulars, but even they couldn’t resist the grind. Within a few months, most of the customers expected high mileage dances and were also sniffing around for a discount or extras. That was it for me, I hit the circuit. I didn’t mind the change, (actually I enjoyed stage dancing) because my favourite part of this job is definitely the dressing up. I get to try all kinds of makeup, cover myself in sparkles and wear beautiful costumes. I also love the performance aspect and the fact that this job keeps you fit. It’s a very creative job, too. I loved choosing my stage name. I started with a single name until I went on the circuit, then I changed it to something that sounded more badass! I also added a girly object as the second part to my name. Whether you are on stage or selling private dances, the most difficult part of this job is dealing with customers. It’s always complicated and usually frustrating because of all the rules. Also, I can’t stand rude people! I hate when customers say weird shit or make rude gestures. Another pet peeve of mine is when guys come into the club with body odour. It’s repulsive. Go home and shower after work before going to the club if you stink! There is no shortage of creepy guys out there. One guy came in the club so much that he managed to befriend all the staff. Because of that, us girls thought he was harmless. He even knew all the staff members by name. One day an email came from the club explaining that this guy was no longer allowed in the club and that if we saw him outside the club it would be best for us to avoid him. I guess they had been notified by another club about this guy’s antics, and it turns out he was a total stalker. It was creepy as shit since he drove me to a friend’s house one night. I’m so glad he didn’t drive me home or else he would know where I live! I still shiver when I think about it. There have been some other close calls, like once I was staying at the club’s dancer house and had some unexpected visitors. Someone knocked on the door one evening, and when I looked outside I could see three drunk guys lurking around the doorway. One of them was yelling at us that this was his mom’s house, and they were all pounding on the door so hard that I thought they were going to break it down. I was terrified so I called the club and had them straighten it out. It turned out that the guy’s mom was a previous tenant from a while back. One of the most horrifying things I saw at work was another dancer break her neck during a show. She was doing an upside down pole trick and her foot missed the pole. She slipped, came crashing down onto the stage and hit the back of her head, breaking her neck. She actually got up and finished her show because she was in shock, but as soon as she walked behind the curtain she collapsed, unable to move. An ambulance was called and they had to take her to the hospital on a stretcher. As a dancer, we get gifts from time to time, some of them being our favourite - money! The biggest tip I got was $700 over two days, all in fifties and hundred dollar bills. The weirdest gift I ever received was from a bum that came into the club all the time. He used to bring cheap jewellery and dirty stuffed animals for the dancers. The nicest gift I got from a customer was a costume. I was walking with him in the bar when we ran into the costume lady. She held out the costume and said, “Don’t you think that she would look great in this costume?” He bought it from her on the spot! I’m lucky that I haven’t had anything really embarrassing happen to me. The only thing that makes me uncomfortable is when there is a dead air while I am on stage and the DJ is not around to fill the pause. Awkward silence! In this line of work, a girl is bound to run into someone she knows. I have had friends from high school pop by the club unexpectedly a few times. Surprise - I’m a dancer! They were shocked to say the least, but after a few drinks they were tipping me and we were all laughing. They were probably the only people in the club that night that knew I can change a fan belt! Actually, I’m pretty good with mechanics since I can also change a serpentine belt, timing belts, brakes - you name it. I have even changed a transmission on my own. Three things I won’t leave home without are my cell phone, fake eyelashes and weed. I am not ashamed of telling people what I do for a living, but I’m a realist. I know that people may judge me or think of me in a negative way. I am more open to telling young people, but young or old, everybody has a stripper stereotype in their head. Even I didn’t realize what great girls I would find in this industry. The only thing I know now that I wish I had known before I started was how hard this job is on your body. People never think of that! My advice for new girls coming into this business is simple – don’t be a bitch. We are all doing this job together so don’t act like hot shit. We’re all good people and there is no reason for any dancer to hate another. It’s been a wild ride, three years so far. I don’t regret it one bit. I love this job. Snap Dragon I was 17 when I started hooking at a massage parlor. In order to leave the business (and my pimp), I had to go into hiding. I met a girl at a rape relief house I was staying at, and she turned me on to stripping. We were both underage, and trying to make some money. I heard that you could make $30 an hour dancing. I did some math and figured that a girl could make some pretty decent money, but I thought you had to be a gymnast or have dance background to be a stripper. Still, I went to check out the club and the agent hanging out there told me I should give it a chance. Since I had no job and nothing to do, I found myself on stage the very next day. While I was dancing, I became someone else. I became this fantasy woman, and it made me feel so beautiful and desirable. The audience clapped and cheered for me; I never felt that before. Men took notice of me. Every time I hit the stage, I was fearless for those 15 minutes. Being on stage was the ultimate high. Off stage, I was just me. I heard the same thing from the other girls. Looking back, I feel that I had a very positive introduction to the industry. My family knows about my time as a dancer, and they are not supportive. My parents told me that I was a no good dirty whore. My mom especially can be so hurtful. She says things like, “You are the child I used to have,” and “you might as well spread your legs for a living.” Sorry mom, already did that! Needless to say, we don’t get along at all. I admit that I have daddy issues and mommy issues. My childhood was no picnic. My dad was mostly absent from my life, and when he was around, he filled my head with empty promises. When I was 13, my best friend’s father got me really drunk and then raped me. I was unable to press charges because there was too much alcohol in my system to do a rape kit. I was also raped and molested by daycare workers when I was very little. I just look at it this way: it is what it is. I can’t spend my whole life feeling sorry for myself. I started dancing when I was 18, and danced for 11 years, on and off. Even though I am now retired from dancing, I still work in the bar industry. I am currently managing a bar in Northern BC. I am also enrolled in school to become a human services worker. My goal is to work with teens with mental illness. There are so many special kids out there and everyone gives up on them. I know this because I was one of those kids. Today, I foster teenagers in my home to make sure they don’t have to live in abusive situations. The reason I take in teens and not the younger ones is because the little guys are too hard to let go of when they are placed in a permanent home! When I was still working in the industry, the only thing I remember hating was Mondays. I was always anxious doing my first show of the day on Monday because I was worried that I would get fired. Although I never had it happen to me, I saw it happen to other girls around me. They used to fine girls for anything they didn’t like. For example, when I started dancing, you had to cover up your tattoos or you got fined. Nowadays, tattoos are allowed. My favourite part of being a dancer was the camaraderie with the other girls. However, there have been times where I didn’t get along with another dancer. For instance, there was the girl who greased up the pole on purpose after her show when she knew I was on after her. I was furious because dancers have no benefits to fall back on if we are injured at work. I was so mad that I pushed her down the stairs. She got a taste of her own medicine that day. Lucky for her, she wasn’t hurt, but her ego was bruised as a result. She learned her lesson and left me alone after that. I have lots of memories and crazy stories from my dancer years. So many wild customers and crazy bookings – there was even a haunted club. I refused to work there because it was seriously terrifying. Taps and lights turned on and off by themselves. There were knocks on the door when there was nobody around. One time, I got to go up into the airport tower with some regular customers and bring in an airplane. It was a small airport and the guys were right there to tell me what to do, but it was still a pretty crazy experience. For a while, I teamed up with some of the other girls and we did a traveling show. We loved it because we were very close friends. At the last minute, we had a newer girl join and after a few weeks on the road, we noticed that she had a real stinky pussy. We would all fight amongst each other because nobody wanted to be her partner. We tried to boot her out of our group, but there was no replacement because we were so far from home. It was so bad that at one point, we gave her flavoured lip gloss and told her that we were all putting it on our pussy. It didn’t help her problem, and she became the butt of all our jokes. Eventually, she got kicked off the team after the agent told her that her show price was cut. She didn’t like that, so she left. We all breathed a sigh of relief! I remember when I was a rookie, on stage at one of the local clubs, and there was an old guy in overalls sitting at the back of the room. I would be surprised if he had more than three teeth in his head, a real inbred looking country type. As soon as I got naked, he stood up and yelled, “Let me see the meat locker that God gave youuuu!” I had never heard anything like that before so I bent over and grabbed my lips. I flapped them and yelled back, “Not too much meat to my meat locker!” He thought that was hilarious but I was fuming. He’s lucky he didn’t sit near the stage because I would’ve kicked out his last three teeth! My rookie year was totally crazy. I was young and dumb and thought I knew everything. One night, I was invited to a house party and had a few beers. Everyone was sitting in the hot tub and begged me to get in. I didn’t know why they were so adamant about me getting in with them until I looked and realized it was an orgy! I got out of there as fast as I could. My most embarrassing moment happened the first year I was working. I was walking on my hands when my right arm locked and I fell on my face. The fall broke my nose, and I even had to get three stitches. There were some ambulance guys in the crowd, so they were able to help out. It was awful – there I was buck naked, blood everywhere, with these guys trying to help me, my music still playing in the background. My other embarrassing moment happened when I was on my period. I think every dancer has a similar story, but here goes. I had just put a tampon in before I went on stage, but because my flow was really heavy, it bled right through. I didn’t think it was that bad, but apparently everyone in the bar could see the leakage. The bar manager ended up firing me because of that! SORRY for being a woman. I’ve gotten many gifts over the years from customers, mostly flowers and champagne. Once I had a regular that worked at a hotel and he spoiled me by giving me the best room, always stocked with the best wine he had. He just wanted to have sex with me, but I never gave it up. The nicest gift I ever received was a gold necklace. My ex-husband was so jealous when he saw it that he ripped it off my neck. That’s the down side of receiving these beautiful gifts, they are too nice. My ex could never have afforded to buy me something like that, and it really pissed him off. Expensive gifts can cause a lot of problems at home. My best customer lived in the Okanogan area, so whenever I was working in town, he would come by the club and leave me a $1000 tip! He was a really nice old guy. I’m not sure what happened to him, he might be broke by now. The biggest tip I ever got from him was $3000, but there’s a reason why he gave it to me. I would do this show where I wore dominatrix gear: fishnet stockings, thigh high boots, and a tight leather one piece costume – it was quite the getup. I completed the look with my favourite bullwhip. Customers that remember me will also remember my trusty whip. My regular in particular loved this show. I would whip the stage as hard as I could and yell at the crowd to do my bidding. That night, my whip caught his hand by accident, slicing it wide open! He needed stitches! I was mortified but he just laughed. Right before he left, he slapped down three $1000 bills on the stage and said, “Honey, this is for you. You made my life!” The only thing I could figure is that it was a story for his friends. What a wild guy. I never really mingled too much with customers, so I don’t have any creepy stalker stories. I kept it out there that I was married, and customers knew that I stayed faithful to my husband. I usually spent time by myself in my room or hung out with some of the other dancers. My ex-husband was not a great influence in my life. I was 16 years younger than him, yet for the majority of our marriage, I supported us financially. He didn’t like to work and he sat on his ass a lot, so I was stuck paying for everything. We did porn together for a while, but he got tired of that. Our two beautiful children are the only positive thing that came out of our time together. In the end, the reason I quit dancing was for my children. My son (who was seven at the time) asked me why I was away so much. At the time, I was working three weeks on and one week off, which, looking back, was too long to be away from them. I blurted out that I was a flight attendant, and would try to be home more often. That same day I quit dancing. I realized being away from them so much was no life at all, and having to lie to my children was even worse. Within the hour I called my agent, cancelled the rest of my bookings, and never left my children again. It was like a wake-up call, and I am grateful that I heard it loud and clear. My advice for new girls coming into the business is that youth and beauty only gets you so far, so get an education that you can fall back on. The hotter you are, the faster you fizzle out in this business, so be careful because you can be last year’s model very quickly. But when you’re hot, use it to your full advantage! The one thing I wish someone had told me is that the money doesn’t last forever. I do not regret getting into this business at all and I am not ashamed of it. This job has given me some of the best memories of my life. One of my best friends is another dancer I met while working in this industry. For me, this was the right choice at the time although it may not be the right choice for everybody. This is not something I would want my daughter to do for a living. About the Author Romana Van Lissum, a native of Karvina, Czechoslovakia, has been a fixture of the exotic dance industry and community in Western Canada for over 17 years. She plans to continue in her current position as a server in a popular Greater Vancouver strip club for as long as possible. As an accomplished horsewoman and long-time animal lover, Van Lissum competes in 25 and 50 mile endurance rides and loves to spend as much time as possible training her horse on the trails near her home. Van Lissum is an advocate of treating all animals with kindness and respect. She also enjoys yoga, meditation, reading, travelling and spending time with her wonderful friends, her incredible husband of 21 years, and her beautiful daughter, Kelsey. Van Lissum’s first book, How to Be a Waitress and Make Big Tips, is available at howtobeawaitress.com. She can be contacted through her websites, howtobeawaitress.com and thelifeofastripper.com. Reproduction Rights, Licensing Statement You have the author’s permission to redistribute this book to anyone, provided you share it at no cost and do not alter the contents. You have the author’s permission to reprint the entirety of this book, or any excerpted portion of this book, on your blog, website or social media platforms, provided you credit the author and include a live hyperlink to Smashwords at http://www.smashwords.com and a link to where readers can download their own free copy at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Van+Lissum If you’re an educator, you have permission to reproduce and distribute this book in its entirety in either print or digital form as part of your curriculum or educational materials. If you advertise this resource within the context of your marketing materials for your curriculum, you must mention that this book is also available for free download at www.smashwords.com. In no instance may you create the impression that someone must pay you to receive this information, even if it is included as a free benefit within your paid conference or educational materials. In no instance can your use of this book be portrayed to your customers or clients as an endorsement from Romana Van Lissum of your products or services. If you love what you read and you want to read more, please purchase your ebook copy of, The Life of a Stripper. 50 Exotic Dancers Confess Their Personal Experiences in the Adult Entertainment Industry at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/148151. This book is also available for purchase at http://www.thelifeofastripper.com, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.
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