Too bad I couldn’t have bottled that weekend with my boyfriend, Jake, and carried it around in my pocket for the next month. Every day I convinced myself that either he had forgotten about me and was happily back home with his wife trying to procreate, or he had met another girl as dumb as I was and had forgotten me.
At Crystal Beach, when I wasn’t busy mooning over Jake, I got down to business and put my energies into the new shows. I practiced taking off the new costumes my tailor had sewn for me until it was second nature to me.
The club owner at Crystal Beach was an unlikely person to run a strip joint. He was quiet and made sure all the dancers were safe and comfortable. He was more like a concerned dad, who was watching over his girls and swatting away the bad guys. No one got near the stage while Joe was there. He also made sure none of us drank too much while we were working. He had a rule that we could sit with customers but only at the bar where he could keep an eye on us.
The stage was about five feet off the ground and surrounded on three sides by mirrors. There was a dressing room behind the stage, which made it unnecessary to walk half‐naked through the crowd to go back to our rooms. The shows didn’t begin until seven o’clock and there were four dancers working from then until midnight. The club itself was a little fancier than the others I’d been at in Canada, so far. It even had a patio where people could take their drinks out in the good weather. Mostly couples used the patio. The guys wanted to stay where the action was.
The feature that week was familiar. It was Bobbie Brown, my dance mentor from the first year I stripped. I was so glad to be working with someone I knew that week. Maybe Bobbie could help me sort out my feelings for Jake. I almost cried when I saw her walk into the dressing room on Monday night.
I hugged her and said, “You have no idea how happy I am to see you right now.”
“Tina! What a surprise. I heard you were working up here. Didn’t I tell you it was wonderful?”
“Yes, you did. I love it up here. But you didn’t warn me about the men.”
“Well, I wouldn’t know much about them, would I? What about them?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.
“That they’re gorgeous and unbelievable.”
“I take it you’ve met someone?” she asked.
“Oh, yeah. Don’t worry, you’ll hear my sob story all week probably. How long before you retire?”
“A few more months and I’m outta here. I signed up for secretarial classes at a business school.” she proudly announced.
“You’ll be good at it. I’m so happy for you. How are things on the home front?” I asked, knowing the last time we chatted she had found a woman she loved and had settled down.
“Good. We’re saving up money now for a honeymoon. Not that we can officially get married. But we’re going to celebrate like we are,” she said, smiling wistfully.
For a change, I didn’t have the first set. There was a new girl from the States, who hadn’t been dancing long. Her name was Penny. She was tall and a little gawky. When she finished her show there was barely any applause, until Joe, the owner piped up, “What are you all? Dead? Come on and give it up for the girl.”
He woke them up and Penny came back to the dressing room to get changed. She must have been as tall as Bobbi, who was close to six feet with her heels on. She had strawberry blond hair and a freckled face, which she doused with makeup to hide the freckles. I couldn’t really tell much about her dancing because I was getting ready backstage while her show was going. She had some nice tunes in her tapes, “Who’s That Lady”, by the Isley Brothers, “Tell Me Something Good”, by Chaka Khan, and “Evil Ways” by Santana.
The first time I performed the Fire Show at Crystal Beach I decided to jump in fully, tap shoes first. I’d been stalling and chickening out on doing my fire batons for months. I couldn’t put it off any longer. On Monday night I soaked the batons thoroughly in the fire soup in my room, then changed into the new red shiny jumpsuit with the halter‐top and breakaway zippers on the legs for the show.
I brought the fire batons down and set them in an empty bar glass on the back of the stage while I performed “Venus” by Shocking Blue, “Rhiannon”, by Fleetwood Mac, and “Light My Fire” by the Doors, which I twirled to with the beautiful black chiffon cape. Finally, it was time for “Fever” by Peggy Lee. Everything was going great. I had asked Joe, the owner, to turn down the lights for the last song to accent the effect of the flaming batons.
I’m not going to lie. It was especially exciting for me to show my mentor, Bobbie Brown, how far I’d gotten in this business with my new fire act. When the song, “Fever” began, Joe obediently lowered the lights in the club and I lit up the fire batons with a theatrical flourish, ready to stun and amaze the crowd. They flared up beautifully and I began dancing seductively to “Fever” by Peggy Lee, waving the batons around me as I spun across the stage. That stunning effect lasted about thirty seconds before the cotton balls and burning tape began billowing a cloud of black smoke throughout the club, triggering a silent alarm that went directly to the fire department. I’m assuming it was close by because within five minutes the club was crowded with firemen in their gear.
Joe rushed over to the stage with a wet bar rag, and together we smothered the smoking batons. Some of the firemen opened windows and doors to let the smoke escape. Joe apologized to them profusely and offered them drinks on the house for their fast response.
I may have lost the opportunity to show off for my dance mentor, but Joe gained a dozen new customers that night. I was worried he was going to let me go after that stunt. He laughed it off and told me, “Hey, no harm done. Just don’t do the Fire Show again this week, eh?”
The last dancer to arrive was getting dressed when I climbed down the steps to the dressing room after all the excitement. She was from Ohio and had just spent two weeks at the Roxy Theater. The Roxy was in Cleveland and was known for the audience being allowed to touch the dancers onstage as they gave them tips in their thigh‐high garters. That was so repulsive. I couldn’t imagine having to work in a place like that. As it was, all the dancers were on edge, waiting for Ontario to change its laws on nudity and follow Quebec and B.C.’s foul path.
That didn’t worry Lisa, who was used to working nude. We’d been huddled in the dressing room discussing the possibility of having to lose the G-strings and Lisa piped up, “What’s the big deal? G‐strings barely cover anything anyway and I’m tired of having to shave and worry that I’m going to jail for a stray hair sticking out.”
Bobbie said, “I’ve been dancing almost twenty years and have never had to remove my G-string to get a crowd to watch me.”
“I can do nude. I just don’t like it,” I added.
Penny, being relatively new to stripping said, “I think I agree with not having to worry about going to jail for a stray hair. I’m more self‐conscious about my boobs than my p---y anyway.”
Bobbie ended the discussion with, “To each her own, I suppose. I’m glad to be retiring before I’m forced to go nude.”
With my first show finished in a spectacular way, I had about and hour or so to kill before having to get ready for the next one. I went out and sat at the bar to chat with Joe the owner and grab a ginger ale. As I went to light a cigarette he ducked and teased me, “No! please, don’t burn my joint down!”
When Lisa hit the stage, I understood why she was so eager to take off her G-string to keep the crowd’s attention. She was what we call here in the country, “a big ole farm girl,” with legs like tree trunks and graceless, ropy arms. However, she had a huge bustline that would have looked real, had it not been completely immobile throughout her entire act. She had one move, ball, and change, which she did repeatedly, no matter what song was playing. She reminded me of a horse cantering around the stage. 'Tha‐thump, tha‐thump, tha‐thump.'
She got hoots and whistles for her plastic boobies and continued her show by throwing her short shorts at a member of the audience. Who sniffed them theatrically and pretended to pass out.
When it came time for her final song, she fell to the floor, landing in a heap. We all thought she’d slipped and fallen and couldn’t get up. Perhaps we needed to pool our money and get her one of those alert gadgets for senior citizens.
Anyway, her floor routine was almost obscene, as she stroked her G-string in a lascivious manner and fondled her plastic tits. This got the audience’s attention, as well as the local police, who came in later during the week to check everyone’s ID and immigration paperwork.
She was absolutely giddy that she was getting more attention than Bobbie Brown and even suggested to the owner that because the crowds were obviously coming in to see her shows she should be getting feature pay. He told her that if she learned how to dance and had glamorous costumes like Bobbie, he would consider it.
Bobbie’s slow and sultry method of stripping held the attention of every man in the room, without fondling herself or acting gross. It made me thankful that she had been my first mentor. If I had to sacrifice wild audience reactions to my shows for a little bit of self-respect, it was well worth it.
Plus, I wasn’t in short supply of my own fans at Crystal Beach, who crowded me at the bar after my shows. Mostly firemen. If I had been a better drinker, I would have had no shortage of drinks lined up and waiting for me.
Even with my two newest shows, the crowd favorite remained the Jungle Fever Show. The music was that good. They also seemed to like the chair and floor routines, which got almost as many hoots and whistles as Lisa’s silicone massage show.
Not only was Lisa professionally distasteful to work with, she was also personally distasteful. So high on her sudden popularity, she played both the field and the stands after her shift ended each night. Toward the end of the week, I found myself hoping that she was getting paid for all her extracurricular activities. That was a lot of men to entertain for free.
Her behavior made it tough on the rest of us, as the audience thought we were all giving it away every night. They found it inconceivable that we wouldn’t want to jump into bed with every Tom’s harry dick.
I didn’t quite understand the why’s and wherefores of it, but that week taught me a secret about men. Being the property of another man was the only viable reason a man would accept for being turned down. As if a woman wasn’t capable of making her own decisions about whom she wanted to sleep with.
Penny was copying Lisa’s disgusting moves and hanging out with her at the bar, while Lisa practically gave the crowd hand jobs between shows.
I felt bad for Penny and wanted to give her some guidance. But we had a situation in the dressing room on Friday that made me think twice before trying to help her. Penny was the first dancer up for showtimes and she had dug through Bobbie’s gowns and costumes before she went onstage, trying them on and discarding them carelessly all over the dressing room. She had ripped seams and stretched waistlines, leaving Bobbie with damaged costumes that evening.
It was a cardinal rule of the strip world that you never, ever, touched another dancer’s costumes without her permission. You could get away with stealing moves and music, but you didn’t mess with another girl’s wardrobe. Much like ballerinas and showgirls, whose shoes were sacred.
When I got into the dressing room for my own show and found Bobbie’s costumes strewn all over, I went to her room and let her know. She was livid. All the time I’d known her she was calm, cool, and collected. She could put up with any rowdy, rude crowd in a sophisticated and quiet way. This was more than she could stand. When Penny crawled back down the stairs into the dressing room Bobbie went off on her.
“What the hell? What the hell were you thinking? Do you know how long I’ve worked to have these costumes custom-made for me? Do you have any idea how much money I’ve invested?”
Bobbie was scooping up her damaged costumes and shaking them in Penny’s face. “Look at this! Look what you’ve done. I’ve been working in this business for over twenty years, and this is the first time anyone has ever messed with my wardrobe. You should quit. You can’t dance. You’re fucking ugly and you’re a destructive thief.”
My music was starting and although I wanted to stay behind and protect Bobbie, I had to do my show. Even with the loud music coming from my Singing in the Rain Show, I, and everyone in the place, could still hear the catfight that ensued in the dressing room behind me.
It wasn’t long until the fight spilled out onto the side of the stage. Bobbie, now wigless, her real hair tucked into a stocking cap, rolled on the floor, trying to defend herself from Penny yanking her around. When Lisa got a look at what was going on she had to hop into the fray to defend her new best friend, Penny.
I had to stop. I couldn’t watch and do nothing and let Bobbie get beaten up by those two brutes. I was too scared to jump off the stage and get pummeled by Penny and Lisa, so I called out to Joe for help.
“Joe! Joe! They’re going to hurt Bobbie! Help!”
Joe got a couple of big regulars involved, and they pulled the spitting wild cats apart after getting kicked, bitten, and slapped.
I climbed off the stage to the dressing room and ran out to help Bobbie backstage, so she wouldn’t be embarrassed by being seen without her signature wig. She had scrapes and nail marks on her face and was sobbing.
I ran to the bathroom and wet a few paper towels to help her clean up. I was dabbing her scratches and helping her calm down when the distasteful duo crashed the party and tried to start in on Bobbie all over again. I was so furious my anger bubbled out unexpectedly.
“Get the fuck out of here. Just get out or I’ll call the cops and get you both deported.”
I was so unexpectedly loud and angry they magically backed off. I surprised myself.
I heard Joe outside of the dressing room ordering them to go back to their rooms until everyone calmed down. He announced an early last call and knocked on the dressing room door to check on Bobbie. We let him in, hoping that would keep Lisa and Penny away from Bobbie the rest of the night.
“Oh, Honey. I am so sorry. What happened? How did this start?”
“Penny threw my costumes around and ruined two of them. I’m going to have to get them repaired. No one has ever done that to me before. I’ve been doing this for twenty years. I can’t deal with this new breed of stripper. I just can’t. This isn’t the way I work.”
“Can I reimburse you for the damages? You are one classy lady and I hate to lose you. But if you want to call it quits for the week, I’ll understand.”
Bobbie was still crying, and I could see the resignation in her eyes. She was ready to go home and become a secretary. After twenty years of wowing audiences all over Canada and New York, she was done. What a shame.
A generation of true strip-tease artists was retiring, leaving the rest of us in their wake. It worried me that Lisa’s and Pennies of the new strip world were taking over. Class and sophistication were dying. Vulgarity and money-making were taking over.
Joe made us some tea to take back to our rooms and Bobbie and I sat up talking the rest of the night. She had never broken a contract during her career and didn’t want to quit. However, the thought of having to deal with Penny and Lisa one more night was too much for her to bear. She was a lady, and they were… well, they were not. Bobbie had been in Canada for the past three weeks and was missing her love. She also came from a time when the audience would be awed by the removal of an elbow-length glove. Now they wanted more- much more.
On Saturday afternoon, Joe drove Bobbie to the bus station, and she took off for home and retirement. After she left, I felt more vulnerable than ever, having to work with the disaster team on Saturday night by myself. I brought my costumes back to my room, not wanting them to take out their anger with Bobbie on me. I could just as easily change in my room and use the dressing room only for entrance and egress from the stage.
The gross sisters were elated that Bobbie had left town and were convinced that she had been fired. I stayed in my room until I absolutely had to go down to the club that night for my shows, hoping to avoid any bad blood from the previous night. When I arrived at the bar just before my showtime, I watched Penny mimicking Lisa’s G-string rubbing performance to jeers and whistles.
Great. I had to grit my teeth and get through the night. I really wished Jake was there to give me a boost of confidence. I hadn’t heard from him all week and went back and forth between hoping he was busy working in Whitby and fearing that he had spent the week in Hamilton making babies with his wife. I didn’t even know the woman, but I hated her with every fiber of my being.
I played the fire tape on Saturday night, after promising Joe not to pull out the fire wands again. I did the twirling routine with my new black cape for “Light my Fire,” and after my floor routine to “Fever,” some guy in the back of the crowd stood up, whistling and cheering. The lights were in my face, and I couldn’t see the crowd very well. Well, that was special.
I threw my black robe on in the dressing room, ignoring Lisa, who was changing for her next show. When I walked back through the crowd and got to the hotel stairway, someone put their hands over my eyes and spun me around. What the what?
Something very familiar about those hands. Yep. Those hands had explored every inch of my body and I recognized them almost immediately. Thank God. Thank you, God. I was going to make it through this last night.
“Oh, my God. Oh, my God, It’s really you. You have no idea how much I needed you tonight.”
Jake spun me around and leaned his chin on my mousy curls. I melted as I inhaled his sawdust and sweat scent. I had hoped but wasn’t really expecting him to make the trip all the way down South to see me this week.
“Hey, I missed you, eh?” he whispered into my curls.
“You have no idea how much I missed you.”
“No. I missed you more,” he insisted.
He had rented a room at the Crystal Beach Hotel in case I wasn’t allowed to invite someone into mine. I asked him to take me there, so I could fill him in on what had happened. Then, we transferred my costumes and suitcases to prevent any funny business from the other dancers.
When I arrived in the dressing room just before the second show, Penny had finished her act and was changing to hit the bar and spread herself around the audience.
“Hey, I wanted to tell you I’m really sorry about messing with your friend’s costumes. I’m not like that,” she apologized. “I think I was a little drunk. I just wanted to see if I could be like her someday.”
“Penny, I’m sorry it turned out the way it did. But you can be a lady and still make a fortune in this business. You are not ugly, and you can dance. Don’t give in to easy applause, and I’m not mad at you.”
The Blues Show music began and I spun out onto the stage, finally excited about doing my best that night. “Black Coffee and Cigarettes” reminded me of my week there without contact from Jake. I was lonely and felt forgotten all week. I could so relate to the emptiness of the song. Remembering our night in Toronto when I wore stockings and heels for him made my chair routine hot as hell. I’m embarrassed to admit that it turned me on a little, especially knowing that Jake was really out there somewhere watching. That G-string would need to be burned.
Well, that was a first. It was almost as if stripping had something to do with sex. How about that? I thought I was dancing on Broadway.
When I came down the stairs to the dressing room, I did not get an apology or a kind word from Lisa. Instead, I got a death glare and a threat. “Watch your back, bitch. You don’t have your friend here tonight.”
I ignored her and walked out to the bar, where Jake was talking with Joe.
“Hey, Hot Stuff,” Jake joked. “Joe here told me about your fire act.” They had a nice chuckle at my expense.
“Thanks, Joe. I thought I could trust you,” I chided.
Joe just laughed and shrugged his shoulders.
With only one more show to go, I wasn’t too worried about Lisa causing trouble. My costumes were in my room. Jake was here. I was immune to her attacks. One more show. Just one more show and I was home free.
My next gig was in St. Catherines, at another hotel and I’d soon be done with Lisa and Penny, her student in repulsiveness.
I pulled out the Cabaret Show that Jake hadn’t seen yet, for my last set of the night. Finally, the week with the two disgusting sisters was over and I had an evening with Jake on my mind as I descended the stairs to the dressing room.
“You think you’re little miss perfect and your fucking ballet shit is what everyone wants to see,” Lisa mocked, as she lunged at me with a lit cigarette in her hand. I reached out instinctively to protect myself and twisted her hand backward, burning her wrist.
“You fucking bitch! You fucking bitch! You burned me!” she screeched.
I hastily gathered my robe around me as she blocked the door to the dressing room. She looked like an oak tree standing in front of me until I shoved her out of the way, realizing that I was stronger than she was. All that ballet shit had given me muscle memory and balance which she did not have.
I ran out to the club and went to the bar, where Jake was leaning, talking with Joe.
“Hey, Jake, I think we should get out of here. The other dancer just threatened me.”
Joe took over and said,
“You go ahead and get your things together and I’ll cash out your pay. You put up with a lot this week and I appreciate you and your friend Bobbie.”
About the Creator
G-Is for String is now available in Ebook, paperback and audiobook by Audible!
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