Monday, June 28, 2010

The Production of Space

Imprisoned by four poles
(to the left, the swively one I hate dancing on
to my right, a drunken customer,
behind me, the mirror,
ahead of me, four investment bankers)
I did sexy-squats, but received no tips.

-Hat tip, Octavio Paz

Yes, LeFebvre might be horrified by my flippant and frivolous blog posts. But here's my nod to him in an attempt to understand the ridiculous, arbitrary, and orthodox ways in which strip clubs produce their social geographies and construct identities all their own.

This is based on my recent migration over to a third NYC club. The first club I worked at, a neighborhood-y club known for it's lax champagne room rules and range of "types" of women, was radically different from my second club, in midtown Manhattan - a commercial NYC strip club catering to a very particular type of "classy" experience (i.e. $11 for a bottled water at the bar). The third club is neither of these, and perhaps having some sort of identity crisis as it tries to package itself as a "classy" club to avoid the inevitable impending gentrification shut-down of local topless bars.

It got me thinking about the specific ways clubs manufacture this notion of "classiness" (and the inherent bullshit, racism, and - as the word classy itself implies - classism) of the process.

Is your strip club a dive? Are you trying to upscale your club and bring in top notch girls and clientele? Follow these simple steps and CLASS YOUR CLUB.

1) Dim the lights. I mean, way the fuck down. The dimmer the lights, the more you can get away with projecting an image of myriad girls without stretch marks or acne without actually hiring them. Also, dim lights serve as a mask for the very same skeezy behavior (heavy grinding, nipple contact) that happens in other clubs without it being easily visible.

2) Put your bouncers in suits and matching ties. At dive bars, the bouncers and customers are barely distinguishable. In fact, at my first club the bouncer used to wear t-shirts that read: "6.9: A great idea, fucked up by a period", or "I support single moms: I go to strip clubs." No joke. However, he did look out for me, even in the absence of being uniformed in a gold tie and secret service earpiece.

3) Have your girls cover up their tattoos. This will look tacky as fuck, largely because covering tattoo sleeves with Dermablend every other day at work is exhausting and not always entirely effective (depending on the ink). Also, there is a chance that a customer will have to explain to his wife just how he got heavy foundation on the front of his shirt. But still! Tattoo-less girls on stage will suggest that they're college-educated, drug free, and worth spending an hour of time with in the champagne-room.

4) Schedule only a small number of black girls per shift. This rule can be modified if the black girls are half white, very light skinned, or can pass for something other than "black." In fact, you might want to give your DJ explicit rules (as did my former club) not to put two black girls on stage at the same time. Don't worry, lawsuits about sexual harassment or racial discrimination don't apply to you.

5) Infantilize the girls who work at your club. Fine them for being late, talk down to them when they don't comply with your rules that they squeeze money out of customers from drinks and champagne rooms (even though you give them no commission for ordering drinks and a very small share of the champagne room earnings), scold them when they chat with the DJ, and limit the amount of time they can spend relaxing in the dressing room while taking breaks.

6) Two words: Fictive Commodities. Karl Pole-anyi would be proud. Find ways to commodify anything and everything in the club. Sell themed g-strings, offer half-price "fully clothed" lapdances at the bar, offer a $2,000 "blue room" (likely a glorified brothel) for those who are above the $500 champagne room.

7) Monitor the girls' whereabouts. Make sure they aren't chatting with the DJ in the DJ booth, that they are sitting at the appropriate end of the bar during slow hours, and that they are on stage for "roll call" at the beginning of their shift. Defiance of these rules can be addressed through scolding, fines, or both.

Follow these simple steps, and you can sit back and relax as Long Island-dwelling finance execs, Columbia University med school professors, and Park Slope-gentrifying artist types patronize your fine establishment!

Yes, the difference between the classy club and the others is mostly smoke and mirrors. Or, more appropriately, no-smoking except in the champagne room and well-placed mirrors to make the club seem more spacious. The $10 Heineken is just as cold and tasty at the dive bar where it costs $4, but the extra $6 you're paying ensures you don't have to sit next to a construction worker or guy in a du-rag, and you won't be disturbed by happy hour guys hooting and hollering at whatever game is on ESPN.

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