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Magic Mike (2012)

You’ve got to be on bath salts if you don’t already know that Magic Mike is the new Steven Soderbergh film about male strippers, based on head hunk Channing Tatum’s experiences in the business. Everyone knows this, and there are no spoilers, really, because we could tell you everything that happens in the movie without ruining your enjoyment. So: Mike (Tatum) brings in newbie Adam (Alex Pettyfer) to Tampa male strip club Xquisite, run by senior stripper/manager/owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Hijinks ensue as Mike crushes on Adam’s sister Brooke (Cody Horn, rivaled only by Sasha Grey in acting ability) and tries to start his own business, Adam gets a case of babystripper hubris, and Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) swings his namesake around. For our beloved Tits and Sass readership, Kat and Bubbles gladly dragged themselves to a screening to give you our stripper-biz-centric thoughts. We’ll leave the analysis to other reviewers, because what we are interested in are the elements that relate to stripping, not Soderbergh’s commentary on capitalism or his orangey color schemes.

Bubbles: How excited were we to go see this movie? I’ll readily admit that we went in rooting for a good time, as did the rest of the audience. It reminded me of being the stripper at a hyped bachelor party where they’d throw money at you and holler at the simplest flex of a buttcheek.

Kat: There were women who got to the theater at 4:30 in the morning and waited all day in 104 degree heat, essentially risking their lives. The excitement in the room was tactile. I thought some penis goggles would have completed the giant bachelorette party sisterhood vibe, but Magic Mike turned out to be such a blast that I didn’t even need phallic accessories to enhance the experience. Not to mention that I would hate to wear anything that would potentially obscure my view.

Bubbles: No kidding. What a visual delight!

Kat: What this movie lacked in plot, it made up for in amazing choreography and tearaway pants. Pants that disappear with a single tug would be the Magic Mike drinking game cue.

Gia Paige After Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On

Netflix didn’t give us permission to use this picture but we think it’s fair use.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On producer Rashida Jones reflected on the mistakes that were made with the original documentary: “I think that many people within the industry felt like the movie marginalized and further stigmatized sex work, which was not our intention at all.” It’s perplexing to reckon her revelation with the litany of pushback the current iteration of Hot Girls Wanted has received.

Released not even two weeks ago, the latest installment of the Hot Girls Wanted brand is already suffering some harsh criticism and accusations from within the sex industry. Some sex workers have alleged that their content was used without their consent and that they weren’t fully informed of Rashida Jones’ involvement. The Free Speech Coalition even issued a formal denouncement. I reached out to the producers, the film’s media contact, and Herzog & Company for clarification and (by the time of this post, 10AM EST) I still have not heard back.

But they weren’t afraid to talk to Variety! In an interview yesterday, it seems the other two producers may have dialed back their sympathy for marginalized sex workers. “Criticism of the series, she [producer Ronna Gradus] said, is likely fueled by sensitivity over how the industry is often portrayed in mainstream media—and that performers who have spoken out against the show may be doing so because they feel they have to. ‘The industry is very defensive about people coming in and shining a light on the industry and doing stories about it,’ she said, adding, ‘The allegations that have come out are probably the result of pressure they are feeling to stand in solidarity with the industry.’”

Gia Paige is one of the performers featured in the series. Her legal identity was exposed in the series and she alleges that the producers used her footage without her permission after she backed out. She was kind enough to respond to my queries via email.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Bathroom Attendant: A Highly Subjective Review of From the Head [2012]

There is a peculiar claustrophobic glory to working in a strip club. The walls hug. The beat of the music holds you in its grasp that is by turns steely and auto-tuned, fuzzy with distortion, jangly with teenage optimism, and tired with oversaturation. The air breathes recycled. The lights flash with epileptic precision. The girls rotate on stage, so many painted ponies. The voice of the DJ booms intermittent like a hawking God, reminding you to tip your bartenders and waitresses. It’s a closed loop, and yet the strip club’s very Möbius nature gives the whole experience a kind of comfort. It may be claustrophobic, but it may also be the only kind of closeness some strip club denizens get.

There are many things about a strip club that George Griffith’s film From the Head portrays accurately, but perhaps the most compelling is the claustrophobia. And yet, one person’s claustrophobia is another’s intimacy, and everything about this film treads the metonymic line between the two states. As the film’s punning title suggests, Griffith set his film in a bathroom. Griffith, who wrote, directed and starred in the film, plays Shoes, a bathroom attendant in an unnamed strip club. He stands sentinel at the washbasin, part conman, part sage, part poet and part priest, and listens as the strip club’s patrons spew their innards, drop their fierce deuces and generally share their secrets. And it’s also one of the few evocations of strip clubs that centers not on the women dancing but on the men watching (Susannah Breslin’s blog of letters from men who go to strip clubs is the other). 

Hump! Amateur Porn in Portland

Three strippers and a well-adjusted boyfriend attend the 7th annual Seattle and Portland amateur porn film festival, Hump!. This was Kat and her friend’s first time attending and the second for my man friend and myself. We learned that we never want to see sex to piano music again, that stop-motion animation can be more obscene than real life, and that Kat’s former coworker wasn’t afraid to be penetrated with a knife.

Standing in the long line outside of Portland’s Cinema 21, I was immediately struck by how chipper the crowd was. An equal proportion of mid-twenties to late-thirties men and women chattered excitedly in the rain. I actually stood on my tiptoes to peer down the block, looking for solo older men lurking in the shadows, but didn’t see any. All six Portland showings had completely sold out and the line of hip young people wrapped around the block. Kat overheard a guy tell his girlfriend that they were at the new Harry Potter movie, which didn’t seem unreasonable given the mob of excited people.

Dancing at the Blue Iguana (2000)

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(via imdb.com)

I’ll confess that Dancing at the Blue Iguana is a special film to me. Over ten years ago, I naively watched this film as research before I finally decided to join the ranks as a card carrying exotic dancer.

“Oh God,” I remember thinking after watching it. “Can I really do this?”

Dancing at the Blue Iguana, directed by Michael Radford, is a moody, winding drama that examines the lives of five strippers working at the San Fernando Valley’s Blue Iguana strip club. Jo (Jennifer Tilly), Jesse (Charlotte Ayanna), Jasmine (Sandra Oh), Stormy (Sheila Kelley), and Angel (Daryl Hannah) have dysfunctional, messy lives but ultimately they can depend on each other and are bound by the sisterhood formed in the Blue Iguana’s dressing room.

The film offers a series of snap shots into the girls’ personal lives. And boy howdy, their lives are a collective train wreck. Jo is the hot-headed drug addict that can barely make ends meet. She vehemently denies that she’s pregnant until her workmates force her to fess up. Later, she enthusiastically lactates on her customers. Jesse is the new girl who relishes in her sexual power but finds it damning when she seduces a struggling musician who reveals himself as an abuser. Stormy, the tortured one, rekindles a secret, incestuous relationship with her brother. Jasmine is the club’s requisite icy bitch. She doles out tough love and cynical witticisms to her workmates but surprises us when we learn that she is also a sensitive poet.

Angel made a convincing case for becoming a dancer. She is beautiful but lonely, well-meaning but ditzy—a classic dancer archetype. A shadowy hit man is hiding in the hotel across the street from the Iguana. Anonymously, he sends her mysterious gifts. When he finally reveals himself, he hands her an enormous stack of cash and disappears forever. This still hasn’t happened to me, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.