By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
You can't just walk into a strip club; you have to call ahead first. Well, at least I had to call Cityscape in Long Island City to make sure I wasn't gonna get stopped at the door. Most clubs are suspicious of female patrons without gentlemen escorts. (Their two assumptions: wives looking for wayward hubbies or working girls preying on the horny clientele.) I wasn't looking for Mr. Taormino, nor was I interested in turning tricks, but I was planning to bring along a pack of dykes and trannies, so I wanted to secure prior approval just in case.
It was snowing the night my posse arrived, but bad weather couldn't deter our mission. We opened the club's mirrored doors, with their welcoming reflections of the Queensboro Bridge. After I dropped the name of the guy I had spoken to on the phone and we all paid, we were in. I had to pee right away, so I made a beeline for the rest rooms. There, I saw something I'd never seen at a strip club: The ladies' room doubled as the dancers' dressing room. The strippers were all there, pulling pink stretchy dresses from the lockers on the wall, primping and preening in front of mirrors, and buckling shoes with clear-plastic eight-inch heels before scurrying out the door. It was like a DIY documentarypart Nan Goldin photo, part backstage pass to an episode of HBO's G-String Divas Unplugged. I was tempted to stay right there all night.
But my friends and I hadn't trekked to Queens to borrow tampons from strippers: We were there to see the featured dancer of the evening, award-winning adult-film star Chloe (www.chloexxx.com). Chloe is a model porn star, and I don't mean model-slash-porn starI mean she sets the bar high. She's a gorgeous redhead with a great ass and small breasts, and none of her features come courtesy of a plastic surgeon. She's worked steadily in the adult industry for six years, when the average life span of a porn star is 18 months. She's also clean and sober. On top of all her attributes, she has managed to achieve something her peers have not: a cult-like following among female porn viewers, especially dykes.
Maybe it's her unabashed love for fisting and anal sex. Or the new sex toy modeled after a certain notorious body part of hers. (Plenty of porn stars have their pussies and asses molded in rubber and siliconeChloe's got a replica of her fist!) Then there's her smoky voice and long dancer's legs. Her feisty passion in scenes with both men and women. The way her eyes roll back in her head when she has an orgasm so big, you'd swear the VCR was trembling. She is one of a kind, and she did not disappoint our queer fan club, trotting onstage in her custom-made chaps and dancing to Kid Rock's "Cowboy." Later, she signed DVDs and gave one lucky butch a private lap dance that put a smile on her face for two weeks (and counting).
I got my Chloe fix at Cityscape, but it churned up some of the mixed feelings I have about strip joints. When I slide a bill between pushed-together breasts, I can't help but wonder how much of my money goes to the owner of said breasts and how much ends up in the pockets of the Man. And while I'm happy to part with my cash for a nice smile and a good show, there are way too many women who remind me that baring it all is their job, and that lots of people don't like their jobs. This particular brand of employee dissatisfaction manifests itself as a bored, vacant look in the eyes of a woman wrapped around a pole peeling a layer of shimmering nylon off soft skin. She might as well be phoning it in because she's somewhere else entirely. She not only doesn't love what she's doing, she may not even like it, and nothing makes my pussy frown more than a stripper who hates stripping. Talk about anti-erotic.
The next day I was in Boston for, you guessed it, more strippers. This time there were no mirrored doors, no bouncers, no dressing rooms, no poles. You still had to call ahead, but this time it was the men who were shut out. I was emceeing a private event featuring a burlesque show and amateur striptease followed by a sex-and-BDSM party. The spandex and fake tits from the night before were replaced by marabou and glitter pasties as women of all shapes and sizes took to the homemade stage to shake and shimmy. There were femme divas, butch bois, transmen, leatherdykes, queer retro pinup queens, and one of my personal faves: girls with glasses. It was an evening of artistic expression beyond the regular bump-and-grind, headlined by a local burlesque troupe called the Princesses of Porn With the Dukes of Dykedom. They reinterpreted old standards like "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with queer vignettes and campy humor, turning boy-meets-girl stories into butch-meets-femme tales. The amateur performers may have been more nervous and giddy, but their enthusiasm outweighed any lack of polish. Pudgy tummies and chunky thighs were cheered, and there wasn't a silicone implant in sight (silicone strap-ons, now that's another story).