Chapter 7: My Photography – Here, There, Her.

A birth certificate shows that you were born.

A death certificate shows that you died.

But pictures show that you LIVED.

Photography:  Definition – Writing with light.

My other love… photos. Being on both sides of the camera is amazing.  

If I could figure out a way to have writing and photos pay the bills I WOULD.  The only way I’ve seen that work is with adult sites. 

Here are a few of my favorites…

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I was supposed to do maternity photos for this girl, but she had her baby while I was on the road. She hired me to do her baby pictures instead.

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England. Clearly. Lived there for a while, fell in love with it.

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Speaking of British, Miss Rachel. I love shooting all kinds of people and Rachel is really comfortable in her own skin. That’s the most fun kind of person to shoot.

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Pregnancy pictures are something I truly enjoy capturing.

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Philly by day…

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Philly by night.

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Homesick Luchadora. She’d been in a hardcore match the night before and her forehead was still cut open.

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This girl was also the worst roommate I’ve ever had in any foreign country and the most self-centered person I’ve had the displeasure of sharing any part of my life with.  She was a Mexican-American luchadora with a substance abuse issue…it was pretty common for her to lurch into our tiny, shared studio apartment around 5 am, step ON  my mattress (yeah, I was on the floor), flip on the lights and wake everyone up. All 4 of us.  She brought suitcases that her cat peed on to our  non air-conditioned studio apartment in Mexico…we all had to suffer the ammonia stench of cat piss that punched us in the face every time we walked in the casa du jour.

And then there was working with her. She was utterly dangerous in the ring, because she couldn’t remember anything past the lock up.  She hurt my knee in the USA and then hurt me again in Mexico when I was nursing an injury, didn’t want to cancel the booking last minute and had asked her to be careful. But that’s her…full of adrenaline and only out for herself.  I’d imagine there’s a lot of ‘her’ in entertainment  but I suppose I should consider myself lucky to only have one roommate like this.

Centerfold model Leslie Wells. We were in Vegas for a shoot where everyone took turns with the camera that day out in the middle of desert. A large chunk of the photo shoots I’ve done have happened in the middle of the Nevada deserts. When I retire, I can help the mafia find all the good burial spots.

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Pro Wrestler & Actor JD Maverick/Jordan Danyluk.

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Salzburg, Austria. You know…where Mozart lived.  In German, the “burg” in a town or city name means “castle”.  So, if you’re in Marburg, there’s definitely a castle there.

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Miss Olivia then…and Miss Olivia a bit later, discovering how delicious a table really can be.

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Boston. I lived right here, in Kenmore Square, for quite a while while putting myself through both Killer Kowalski’s Pro Wrestling Institute and NESOP – New England School of Photography – at the same time. It was brutally expensive, but worth it… if not just for the experience alone. I loved that you could take any class at all there, at any time, because tutors and random workshops were plentiful. Boston is one kick ass city and my second home, after Philly.

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Speaking of the legend, Walter “Killer” Kowalski… this is him with student Matt who goes by the name Tensai in WWE.

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More former classmates…my first tag partner “Arch Kincaid” and Chris “Harvard” Nowinski, who is currently doing great things in conjunction with Boston University on concussion research. Watch his documentary “Head Games”.  It’s on Netflix.

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Niigata, Japan. A fishing village that was brutally cold when our wrestling tour came through. I could be wrong (and I did try to look this up just now) but I believe we were told this was Japanese point closest to Russia. Hence, the cold. We stayed in a traditional Japanese hotel; (surprisingly comfortable) sleeping mats on the floor, several of us in one room and a communal hot spring bath everyone used.  You can’t really freak out in Japan…it’s considered very poor behavior, so we sacked down with everyone else and took baths in front of strangers. Hey…when in Japan, do as the Japanese do.

I actually came home and changed my entire sleeping after ‘living’ in Japan. I now only sleep on futons or platforms and when visiting others who own soft or crappy beds, I’ll chose the floor.

…But I’ll bathe in a private shower, thank you.

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Sumie Sakai, a professional MMA fighter, wrestler and judo expert. All cleaned up and purdy  for me.

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I think her name was Jade. Stunning girl.

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Snagged a quick shot as we hit our hotel of the French Alps. This was in Grenoble, the town Andre’ the Giant was from…and EVERYONE from there made sure we knew that. It WAS an absolutely stunning village. The photo is nothing special, but the mountains sure were.

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Nikki Roxx. While a hot topic of debate was Mexicans sneaking into America, we gringas were sneaking across the Mexican border for work.

(There was just as much hostility from the Mexicans, too. They did NOT like that Americans were coming in and taking their spots, so it was a very tough work environment )  Lucha Libre Feminil (and CMLL) had us staying/living  in Monterrey Mexico and we decided to shoot on a day off.

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Another of our American roommates, Christie Ricci.  Did you know the “OK” thumb to forefinger sign means “you’re an asshole” in Mexico? Well, you do now.

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Alberta, Canada.  It’s not a special shot, but it IS an especially pretty rainbow. Alberta has a lower tax rate (just %5) than most of the of USA and some of the largest oil reserves in North America. AB residents don’t pay for healthcare, are in a housing boom and have a fuckton of natural resources, keeping their economy in the green —and we will probably attempt to go to war with them over it all in the near future.  Canada is also famous for Tim Horton’s.  Oh, and Pam Anderson.

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Edmonton, Canada at Christmas.

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A shoot with Annie Social in Toronto, Canada. We were up there to do the Carmen Elektra show and has some down time. When I broke my nose in the ring on the walk-through before the PPV (thank you, dear opponent), Annie was the first one there with tampons to shove up my gushing nose. That’s a friend for ya.  Oh, and my wait in the Canadian hospital emergency room? About 18 minutes.  Straightened, cauterized, packed with gauze. They also did an x-ray for my ankle at no extra bother, which was acting up since Mexico. In and out in less than an hour. Take that, US healthcare believers.

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Toronto. A girl who went by the name Ninja.

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Another Canadian photo…pro wrestler & actor JD Maverick.

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Tampa Bay. Clearwater, to be exact.

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The calm before the storm.

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Backstage at the NPC Junior Nationals in Chicago.  Jessica Jimerson and I both qualified in the tall class, were at the same gym in Louisville KY at the time and didn’t really like each other that much until that trip. Boy, she was a blast

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J’adore France! I’ve been in and around France so much in the last 8 years that I feel like I live there part-time…yet, still passionately detest the CDG airport. (Which, incidentally, is the airport with the most lost bags in the world.)

France is a beautiful, amazing, damning, frustrating, delicious country. The people are strong spirited and have a lot of pride, which often gets completely mistaken for snobbishness by foreigners who usually don’t bother to learn the customs. (For example: how it’s extremely rude not to say hello upon entering any shop or place of business.  Fail to do that and you WILL get a cold shoulder.)

Here are a few of my favorite shots from all over the country:

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Paris.

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Clermont Ferrand.

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Marseilles…back when it was still part of France. It’s been hijacked by Muslims now. It’s run down and all the French culture and food are gone in lieu of call to prayer alerts and begging children sent out by their parents.

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Paris.

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Notre Dame.

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On a glass ‘baton’ cruising the Seine in Paris.

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Toulouse.

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La Tour Eiffel…with ‘Peace’ written in every language.

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Josie, a professional wrestler.

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I used to shoot my friend Talia (now ‘Velvet Sky’) all the time. She was my main “guinea pig” for model practice.  This particular photo was ripped off dozens of times, so of all the pictures I have of her, I figured this was the one to share.

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Gym shoots. I’d get the guys to pose for me. This one is pro wrestler “Dirty Money”.  He’s super easy to shoot, because he’s another who is entirely comfortable in his own skin. During the shoot he was traipsing through the gym in nothing but a pair of wrestling trunks…mind you, this was Kentucky…and he didn’t give a crap if anyone stared.

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More unusual photo tidbits: In some cultures, having a photo taken is considered very bad, because they believe it steals their soul.  The Amish are not allowed to pose for photos,  but non-posed pictures are permissible if one is polite about doing it.

Thanks for looking and thank you for posing!

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Chapter 5: My First Meeting With the Big Brass In Life. Pole:1 – April:0

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

“What…now?”

“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.

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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.

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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. “

“A…what?”

“Uh…a stripper. There’s a pole. I’ve been trying to learn how to use it…”

“A what?”

“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.”

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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. 

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I’ve learned a lot from stripping. Three of the biggest lessons:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

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“One thing…one thing leads to another.” -The Fixx.

 

COPYRIGHT APRIL HUNTER. NO PART OF THIS BLOG MAY BE USED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

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Photos-

Black & white headshot: Julie Strain – Patriots Pole: Merika Rock