There was a long time when I first started working as a strip club DJ when I’d engage in small talk with customers. Almost always it led to them saying “You must have the best job in the world!” It was hard to understand why. I don’t have benefits. Trying to get days off is a daunting effort, and when I have to cover for another DJ I am yelled at for reaching overtime. I’m the whipping boy of management and certain dancers. Then the slow realization dawns of why they think it’s so great: I get to look at naked women all day.
So I wonder what they’d think if they knew they were talking to a fag (well, queer male, in the Rainer Werner Fassbinder/Paul Bowles sense. I’m attracted to women romantically and intellectually, but mostly sleep with men) who remains pretty indifferent to all the nudity. But since I don’t really want to discuss any more with them, or ruin any part of the illusion that comes with the territory, I nod and say “Yup,” then proceed back to my booth.
I’ve worked at two different clubs and there’s not much to the job. I come in, turn on the sound equipment and lights, put music on shuffle and wait out the day until I can clock out, chatting with the dancers or staff when free or not reading a book. I’m not out to my coworkers by any means for fear of being fired. In an industry that hires solely on looks and can fire someone for such bullshit excuses as saying no to a drink when already very drunk or trying to signal a customer over from stage, I’m sure a queer man in a highly hetero male space would cause waves.
Every club has their standard for what music is allowed. The first one I worked at had a terribly strict format. Music had to be from within the past 10 years, no heavy rock (I was yelled at for playing Bush) or rap music, all upbeat and uptempo (I was yelled at for playing Ginuwine’s “Pony,” too slow) and all chart hits, no deep cuts. Where I’m at currently, I get much more freedom and better pay. While it’s still a shitty club/management, I enjoy the freedom and the other DJ’s.
I usually just work days with the occasional night shift. Nothing to brag about, rare are the stories of celebrity sightings and huge spenders on my watch. However, there are moments that make life worth living and the job great. Not many, but enough. I get to play music and try to make women the most money I can, and introduce dancers to music on the off chance they’ll like it. When I play a new song for a dancer and it connects, it’s bliss. Here are some examples of my suggestions actually going somewhere in the strip club world.
“Pony,” Teenager: When I when I worked with Alexa at my first club, her repertoire was as poppy as it came—Pink, Ke$ha, Britney Spears—so when we were talking about songs that might get me fired, I played her this short, jarring bit of electro rock. She loved it and worked it into her sets fairly often.
“Dirt,” Death In Vegas: Sylvia was easily one of the best dancers I worked with. Along with her great looks and personality, she would push the bounds of what she’d like to listen to. For a format that focused on R&B and pop, she liked to rock it out or dance to electronic numbers. This song, with its Woodstock sample and guitars over big beats was a nice way to shake up the monotony of that playlist.
“One Night in Tokyo,” Colder: Autumn is one of the oldest dancers I work with (getting close to 50) but she can work a pole better than most women half her age. Still, she enjoys slower music to conserve her energy. This is a slow, trippy track for her that also pairs well with MC 900 Ft Jesus’ “When the City Sleeps.”
“About You,” XXYYXX: I don’t even remember how I got to describe this song to Ryan. I think it was somehow about what I find attractive in women, and brought up the video. Models smoking weed, in masks, in slow motion. So fantastically weird yet erotic. For a long time when she wanted to hear this song, she just said, “I want to hear models smoking weed.”
“Set It Off,” Diplo: As already seen in a Naked Music Monday, this song does seem to work for a younger crowd, even for those who haven’t seen the video. I played this for a dancer who only did sets to Skrillex and Bassnector, but Tia enjoyed it more so it’s become her staple. Tia is another older dancer who enjoys the song since it makes her feel young and energetic during our typical slow day shifts.
“Dancing Queen,” Maruca & Anastacia/”Jennifer Juniper,” Donovan/”Dona Vitoria,” Quarteto 1111: Kitty is easily my favorite dancer to play music for. She’s very distinct and meticulous in all manner of her dress, music, lights, and dancing, which is more a slow waltz than anything. She has CDs made with the songs in the exact order she wants to hear them, or when it’s slower she will have me play anything as long as it’s old, or weird, or old and weird. I have played her everything from forgotten Britpop to soul to the disco classic “Is It All Over My Face?” This is just one set of many. After telling her about the prominence of English-language hits rerecorded for other countries, I mentioned this Donovan song and the lack of Donovan in the club’s database. I whipped this Latin language trio up for her.
“Oblivion,” Grimes: Keke dances to rock when she knows there will be a crowd for it, but otherwise enjoys music “as poppy as it comes” in her words. While I can only listen to Miley Cyrus and Lorde so many times in a day, being able to introduce her to more indie yet pop-ish acts like Grimes and Sky Ferreira has been a godsend. Fun yet distinct indie fare to help match her personality.
“Optimo,” Liquid Liquid: Anytime a manager takes interest in the music you play beyond “I don’t want to hear that again in this club,” it’s a good thing. He overheard this being played during a break, as it’s an energetic song that seems to motivate deadbeat customers to do something, even if it’s leaving. If I remember correctly, he said it was “good to hear something different than usual,” which I’ll take as a compliment.
So there’s a small sampling of what I hope will be a growing list of tunes. There are always bands I try to expose people to that never catch on (somebody dance to Glass Candy please!) or songs that I know I could never play that I find incredibly sexy like Einstürzende Neubauten’s “Blume (French Version)” but it doesn’t hurt to keep on trying. After all, that’s what I’m here for.