Before I became a well-traveled and fairly in-demand burlesque showgirl, (which led to modeling…then fitness competitions…and eventually professional wrestling) I got my feet wet dancing in perilously high heels as a go-go dancer.
Previous to THAT, I had a “real” job. Several. Usually work that barely paid my half of the rent, so I had one or more roommates. Such was the case in this particular story. It went a little like this:
What the shit? I knew something was wrong as soon as I walked through the front door. It was eerily quiet. The roommate was nowhere to be found. Neither was his furniture. I darted to his bedroom and was greeted with bare walls. His stuff was gone from the bathroom. It was interesting to note that of all the things he could have stolen, he’d only taken my aspirin. That mutherfucker had split on the first of the month.
I rang my friend Mike in a panic. A little background: at this point I was barely eighteen, had been living on my own for just a few months and my waitressing hours had been cut to part time. I graduated high school early and was planning to return to college after I’d sorted out what I wanted to do, instead of wasting time and money taking random classes like I’d been. Plus, I wasn’t ready to sit in a classroom any longer at that point. I wanted to be free to do things and enjoy life instead of endless studying. Mike came over with the newspaper and we searched want ads. Everything sucked. I needed the entire rent by the 5th , or face eviction.
One ad caught my eye. “Dancers Make Dollar$”. I pointed to it. He gave me a look, eyebrow raised. THAT look.
“What? What else can I do right now?”
“Are you sure you want to go that way?” He knew that regardless of how wild I appeared, I was pretty conservative on the inside. I never so much as removed my clothing when with my boyfriend. Unwilling to admit defeat and crawl back to my mothers, I was painted into a corner with exceedingly few options.
I located the tiny dive bar in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Salvo’s wanted to bring girls in on Tuesdays and Thursdays to boost lagging business. They had no license for topless dancers, but were related to mafia, so this niggling issue was of no matter. I met three other girls, all of us baby faced, barely legal and 100% natural.
In the miniscule kitchen, Mr. Salvo was cooking authentic Italian food and we’d learn to never refuse, lest risk insult. On that day, the kitchen served as our dressing room. I went out and auditioned behind a row of folding tables with a few dozen or so dubious, dirty blue collar men on the other side near the bar. The jukebox played the same songs over and over. It smelled of beer and cigarettes. I was barefoot because it was the only way I could dance at the time. I wore a bra size 32 A and was sure I was wasting my time. I felt clumsy, terrified, self conscious, bold, my heart was racing. Wearing a peach colored short top and matching thong – the only thong I owned – at the end of the song, I swallowed hard and unbuttoned it, flinging it open. I earned more in that quick audition than I had working a double shift at the restaurant.
I paid my rent. I made friends with the other three girls who worked there. We banked at that tiny hole in the wall and worked as often as possible. We pushed for a third day to be added to our shifts and won Saturday afternoons. The Salvo’s treated us like family. We were invited to Sunday dinners and two of the girls were dating the Salvo boys.
And, then…we were closed down. Someone stopped paying somebody off, and that was that.
Instead of hanging up my g-string and ever the entrepreneur, I employed the two of the other girls to work for me as party entertainment for a while. I took out ads, had business cards made up and we got rolling. We surprised CEO’s in offices, crashed nightclub parties and occasionally did the odd stag party. The money was sporadic and unreliable. The bachelor parties were horrific. If we booked in too late at night, the guys were already drunk, out of control and wanted far more than just dancing girls. We brought in a fourth girl, Wendy, who was a prostitute for these parties. I soon learned that if the guys could have Wendy, they didn’t want her…they wanted the girls they weren’t allowed to have. Getting out of the parties without a huge issue became, well…a huge issue. I wanted out.
I searched for a more reliable (and safer) income. Seventh Heaven was a biker titty bar (think Sons of Anarchy, but more Piney than Jax.) The club…and I use that word loosely…had a tiny stage with a brass pole smack dab in the middle. I scooted around it, trying to dance. Held on to it to do a few high kicks. Accidentally whacked my elbow on it. The pole and I were not getting along.
As I counted my tips at the end of the shift, I watched as a pretty blond from Poland flipped upside down on that pole and hung on with just her inner thigh. She then spun around the pole, still upside down to hover gracefully midway, and step off…in high heels. She was amazing. Impressive. Beautiful.
As an athlete and gymnast, I was intrigued. Could I not learn how to do this, also?
“Can you teach me how to do that? Please?” Her slanted Slavic eyes twinkled. She laughed, which I would soon find out she did often, usually at me…and she agreed.
“You try,” Sascha said.
“Yes. You try. I see.”
I eyed the cold, brass pole doubtfully. It was smudged with fingerprints and God knows what else from the busy Friday night. I glanced at Sascha. She pointed. I was strong. She was skinny. This should be no big deal. I took a deep breath, grabbed the pole and hoisted my legs up…and slid down in record speed to hit the hard, wooden stage. It sounded like when worn out windshield wipers scraped and burned like fire. Stunned, I looked to Sascha, who was doubled over in laughter. And, our lessons began. At the end of the shift when the bar closed, I’d stay after and get pole dancing lessons.
I’d love to say I was an instant success. A sexy whirling dervish in leather lingerie. “Wow, look at April, she’s so athletic and sexy!”
Sadly, this was not the case.
As a matter of fact, I fell. A lot. On my hip. On my ass. On my head. And Sascha laughed. I was not athletic and sexy. I was clumsy and slippery. My tender inner thighs, not used to gripping unyielding cold brass for dear life, were horribly bruised. Purple, black and an interesting shade of green. They were tenderized. And still, I tried.
After some time, I was flipping upside down, spinning, hands free. Or holding on at the very top with just my ankle while my other leg was fully extended and my back arched gracefully. I was amazing, because I had a great tutor. Who laughed at me.
While my technique had gotten much prettier, my bruises remained quite ugly. I covered them up in heavy dermablend makeup to work but hid them under clothing on my off hours.
My family invited me to the Jersey Shore for a weekend. Oh, no. Swimsuits. Mom announced that she and I would be leaving for the beach shortly, to get out of earshot, I learned. While trekking towards the sand on that hot, sunny morning, my mom suddenly turned and grabbed my shoulder, stopping me. “Tell me the truth. Are you a prostitute?”
“WHAT? No! Wait, why in the entire world would you think THAT?”
Her eyes were wide with concern and panic and her fingers dug into my shoulders. “The bruises on your thighs…men…”
“Oh God, Mom! NO!” She looked unconvinced. “OK…fucking hell…OK…I didn’t really want to get in to this, but I’m a dancer. At a topless bar. “
“Uh…a stripper. There’s a pole. I’ve been trying to learn how to use it…”
“A pole? You know…a brass pole? I try to hang off it and spin…it looks cool, but my legs bruise up…are you mad at me?”
“You’re not a hooker? Oh, thank God. That’s all it is?”
“Yes. I swear. You can come to work with me on Wednesday. It won’t be busy; you can meet everyone and see what I do.”
And, she did. She met the bartender, girls and some of the regulars, who treated her with respect. Mom had been a model while attending the Art Institute so nudity was never a big deal to her. It became a family business when I got my brother a job there as a bouncer working opposite shifts as I. The rest of the family wasn’t so keen on my current career choice, but they grudgingly admitted that at least I was open about it.
I’ve learned a lot from stripping. Three of the biggest lessons:
- It doesn’t matter what you look like or how big your breasts are. What matters is your confidence & smile. This is not bullshit. But perky nipples help.
- The word NO is the biggest aphrodisiac in the world to men. Males are hunters by nature and inspired by a challenge. Anything gotten too easily bores them and signals that it’s not worth much.
- You really can hang off a brass pole with just one leg. Who knew?
Eventually, the bruises went away. And Mom would often sit on the floor with me and help straighten out the dollar bills.
….I went back to college and got boobs at age 19, all of which was paid for one dollar at a time.
“One thing…one thing leads to another.” -The Fixx.
COPYRIGHT APRIL HUNTER. NO PART OF THIS BLOG MAY BE USED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.
Black & white headshot: Julie Strain – Patriots Pole: Merika Rock