Male stripper for ladies night at local bar.
Call Ted at 555-1212.
It was the 80's. Ladies' nights and male strippers were just coming into vogue. This ad was the first indication I'd seen of one in our area. I would have ignored the ad except for two things: I wanted to make some extra money and I was looking for a way to 'meet women' (code word for 'get laid').
I was 23 at the time and working in a packing house lugging beef. It was a union job and paid pretty well. On the other hand, it didn't have much of a future and because I was making pretty good money, I had maxed out my credit cards. I could make the payments OK, but it didn't leave much money for fun, and it would take me years to pay them off at my current rate.
So I called Ted. He told me he was looking for good-looking guys with a good build. I agreed to go over and interview.
I should explain that I'm 5' 11" and weigh about 170 lbs. In size I'm very average. But what I did all day was lift beef quarters (which weighed anywhere from 150 lbs. to 275 lbs.) off a pallet on the floor and hang them on an overhead hook. The hooks moved slowly by on a track and I did this all day. As a result, I had a very impressive set of muscles. They weren't the bulging body builder type, but rather more compact working muscles (around the plant we had a certain contempt for body builders; we thought they were afraid to do any real work because it would make their muscles smaller and more efficient). I was, if anything, even stronger than I looked.
The bar was a strip joint called the Silver Slipper. Ted was maybe 50, about 6' and around 200 lbs. Ted had me take my shirt off. "Not too bad," he said, "but I was hoping for somebody maybe a little flashier, more of a body builder type."
I stuck a hand under each of Ted's arm pits and heaved. His head took out a ceiling tile. "OK, OK, I get the point. Just put me down."
I set Ted back down on the floor. "Sorry," I told him, "but that body builder shit always pisses me off." I explained about my attitude toward body builders. Ted laughed. He actually turned out to be a really nice guy. (This was highly unusual. I had worked for a couple years as a musician and all musicians know that all club owners are ass holes. That's why I didn't hesitate to stick Ted's head through the ceiling tiles. That's how you deal with ass holes. Ted was indeed unusual, perhaps unique.)
"Here's the deal. I'm starting a ladies' night on Tuesday nights. That's my slowest night, so I can afford to give it an extended trial if it doesn't take off right away. I need four guys to go on each hour from 9 to 12. I'll give you a try on the nine o'clock slot. Have you ever done anything like this before?"
"No," I admitted.
"There's not that much to it. Just play some music, dance around, take off some clothes, flex some muscles. Drop in a few evenings between now and then and watch the lady strippers. Do a masculine version of the same thing. You'll get the idea. Pick out some music you like and give a cassette to Brad, the sound guy."
I felt rather weird after leaving Ted's place. I was glad I got the job, but I was also very nervous. I'd never done anything like this before, and didn't know if I could do it. I was also surprised that I hadn't had to audition or anything. I suspected Ted was short of applicants.
The next night, I went to the Silver Slipper and watched the girls. Ted introduced me and they told me what they were doing, how they constructed their routines, and pointed out the things they did that weren't likely to go over with a female audience. One of the girls, her name was Ann, tried to explain. "With women, you have to be more subtle. More suggestive and less overt. No humping motions. Women don't usually get instantly aroused the way men do. If you want to get a woman turned on, the place to touch her is between the ears. Leave them with suggestions of things that might have been."
I left, both heartened and confused. It was going to take a while for Ann's comments to sink in. I went home, put on some music, and started working out a routine. I worked in the basement, partially because there was a stereo down there, but mostly so no passerby would glance through the window and see me. I felt like an utter fool. I almost called Ted and told him I couldn't do it, but I persevered.
Tuesday. I got to the club about 8:00. I was really nervous. Anticipating this, I'd practiced like a maniac all week so that if I had a really severe case of stage fright, I could switch off my brain and function on automatic (that was the plan, anyway). I looked out at the audience. The place was about half full of women of all ages. Some of them could have been my grandmother. Others, I'm sure, had had their ID's scrutinized pretty carefully. Since I was first, I wouldn't even have the benefit of watching the guy before me.
9:00. It was time. The music started and I stepped tentatively onto the stage. From that point on it was all sort of a haze. I pranced and strutted, flexed muscles, discarded clothing, and then it was done. My practice had paid off and I had managed to do it on automatic.
I sat down at the table with the other guys. They did the mandatory back slapping and congratulating, and it did make me feel better. Actually, I hadn't done a bad job, especially considering it was my first attempt. Nonetheless, audience response was somewhat underwhelming, so I felt somewhat of a failure.
Ted came over. "Good job, Dave."
"Well, maybe. I didn't get much reaction out of them."
"Hey, that's normal. Even the guys don't get rowdy during the first hour. Your job is just to get them warmed up and started buying drinks. Don't worry about it. You did fine."
Gary was next. He was slumming from the theater community. He didn't have my build, but he was a natural dancer. I saw how he watched the audience as he moved about the stage, noting reactions and adapting and responding to them. He was able to convey to them that he wanted them, and wanted them to want him. Since Gary was gay, I decided that he was indeed a good actor. After that, things were sort of a blur. I watched Tom and Dexter do their acts, but don't remember much about them except that they were better than me. I got paid and went home.
I worked on my routine through the week and made some improvements. The next week things went better and I felt better about the whole thing. After that, things stumbled along pretty much on automatic. One evening, Ted called me into his office.
"Dave, you're a good guy, and I like having you work here, but your act needs help. You just haven't progressed as much as the other guys, and you don't get the audience reaction they do. Even though you're the first hour, you should be doing better than you are by now. I'm sure you've been disappointed with your tips. I don't want to have to replace you, but something need to be done. Any ideas?"
Ted was right. I wasn't achieving either of my goals. I wasn't making near the tips the other guys were, and I wasn't meeting any of the women either. So why was I here? Deep down, I knew what my problem was. I had no talent. I was not a dancer, not an actor. Gary could convey an interest he didn't really feel, while I couldn't convey something I did feel. Ted was trying to let me down easy, giving me the opportunity to quit so he wouldn't have to fire me. I wasn't quite ready to give up, though. I may not have been talented, but I was tenacious (code word for stubborn to the point of stupidity). On the other hand, struggling against the odds is one thing, struggling against reality is quite another. Even so, I would feel like a total idiot all my life if I quit this job without getting laid even once.
"Let me think about this. I'll call you tomorrow."
I went home feeling depressed. I would either have to come up with something, or quit, or get fired. I sat in a chair, feeling sorry for myself, and drifted off to sleep with the TV on. I woke up about 4:00 AM. There was an old Zorro movie on TV. I watched it, amazed at what a bad movie it was. That's what gave me the idea. I would do what untalented people have always done. I would get a gimmick. I started thinking about Zorro. The mask, the cape, the sword. You could get suggestive in some subtle or not so subtle ways with a getup like that.
In the morning I gave Gary a call. I told him what I was thinking and asked him about sources for costumes. He was encouraging.
"I was going to suggest something like this, but I didn't want to hurt your feelings."
"While I appreciate the sentiment, I could have used the help."
"Sounds to me like you figured it out on your own. I'll give you input if you want it, but you probably just need to let this soak into your brain for a while and it'll come together."
I thanked Gary for the information and called Ted.
"Hey, Ted. I'm changing my whole act. Something totally different. You'll love it."
"Glad to hear it. I knew you'd figure it out."
I spent the week working out my new routine. I wasn't going to do Zorro. I'd settled on something more akin to a dungeon master. I went out and got the stuff I'd need for a costume and spent a couple afternoons at the club practicing. I wanted my new act to be a surprise, so I didn't practice in costume. I spent my time there leaping and tumbling. Although I wasn't a dancer, I did have some experience in tumbling and gymnastics. I wanted to practice on the scene to make sure I really could do what I had in mind and do it without landing on one of the customers.
.... There is more of this story ...