Bettie’s First Time
My first day story is terribly boring. It’s boring because I insist on telling the story about what I do now, as opposed to what I used to do, mostly because I can’t really remember my first first time. It’s also boring because it was a bit boring. This is why I recommend that no one age past 21, you should all look into that.
I was 20, and I had just come off being burned out by the sex trade in general. I’d done escorting, massage stuff, the private dance studio thing, and I’d tried stripping but realized that while I do like to see men act stupidly, I am not as public as I wish I could be so it would never work. I also have zero pole technique, and zero motivation to get any. I would have been terrible! So, I did what any 20 year old does when faced with a really serious career change:
I took to Craigslist.
It’s not as awkward as it sounds. At that point Craigslist still had a really good Erotic Services section, and instead of posting an ad, you still had the option of responding to the ones men posted because it was still free. Men would say what they were looking for, how much they were looking to pay, and you could send 2 emails in an hour if you wanted to; because there were so many people using the site, the odds were high that someone would be looking for you, and that is how I got my first fetish client.
Foot Fetishists are a mercurial bunch. They really need your feet to be what they were expecting, the thing they’ve had lodged in their minds all this time, or they get disappointed. I would venture to say all fetishists have this, though, because often a sex worker sees a man (usually) after he’s had whatever fetish he has for 10, 15, even 20 years without someone to act on it with and in all that time the fantasies have only grown and turned into this perfect scene where things go just right and they leave satisfied, only reality isn’t like that. Most often, while they do generally leave really appreciating the experience, there is usually something that wasn’t like their imagination (and they tell you so), and that creates disappointment. Sometimes there are guys who are willing to let that perfect scene transform though, and those are the guys I really love.
This foot guy was one of those guys.
We arranged our meeting in 3 emails and 1 phone call. I think I was the first person he ever saw, because his excitement was the kind I only feel with people who’ve never had anyone affirm this part of their sexuality before. I showed up at the hotel wearing this amazing yellow wrap dress I bought at a vintage store somewhere, it looked like a Diane Von Furstenburg from the 70’s but it wasn’t, it was a knockoff. I had on these amazing brown pumps with an open toe, and when he opened the door he commented on them without even making it obvious he’d looked at them. He had six $100 bills on the coffee table in his suite, which blew my fucking mind because I didn’t understand why an hour of touching someone else’s feet was even worth that much, but I was also unwilling to question him about it. I went into the bathroom and washed my feet (just in case), pulled myself together, and took a seat in the middle of the room, and he worshiped my feet. It was all very slow and he seemed to get great pleasure from it; I spent most of the time trying not to laugh because I have sensitive feet. Afterward I asked him “Why do you like this? I mean, feet are kind of odd looking.” And he answered “Well, we all find beauty in different things. This is my thing,” which was an answer I have applied to my work ever since.
The traveling businessman with the foot fetish changed my life that night and he probably doesn’t even remember me.
Bubbles’ First Time
I didn’t know my first day would be my first day. I knew I was going to apply for a cocktailing job at the nearby strip club, having grown tired of working in the restaurant where I’d been illegally serving alcohol as a 17-year-old. Now that I was 18, I could work in a bar (this remains the law in Texas today, as far as I know).
I walked in, picked up an application from the doorgirl, and was told to wait at a table for the manager to come speak to me. I’d never so much as met a stripper before, let alone been in a strip club, and I remember looking at the girls on stage and quite clearly thinking, “Oh, hell, is that all? I’d much rather take my top off than waitress.” By the time the manager came over to talk to me, I was already leaning towards stripping.
“You’re applying to waitress? Where have you been working?”
“Downtown, at La Cucaracha. I wanted to ask, though, are you also hiring for dancing?”
“Always. Are you interested in that, too?”
“I am interested.”
“Well, come on upstairs, then.”
We went up to the business office, a pretty mundane, fluorescent-lit room, and he had me basically flash my boobs as an audition. He gave me a regulation thong, since the club was topless only, and told me to come back at the start of the night shift with the highest heels and shortest dress that I owned. I came back with what were then towering 3” heels that I’d worn at debate competitions, and a velvet minidress I’d bought on the high school theatre trip to New York.
I’m pretty sure my first set was something like Nine Inch Nails “Closer” and the Revolting Cocks’ cover of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” after the DJ asked me what kind of music I liked and I probably said, “Oh, the Grifters, Pavement, the Oblivians,” causing him to say, “OK, alternative.” He also said, “Now, you’ll remember me forever, because I’m the first DJ to put you up on stage!” I’m sorry to say that while I remember that line, I can’t remember one single other thing about that guy.
Let’s see, I was incredibly intimidated by all the hot women in the dressing room. I’m sure I was an unbelieveable mess, and this was at the peak of the polished 90s stripper look; none of this cut-up wifebeater shit — these girls were all rhinestones and theme costumes and big hair and nails and sassy attitude. I had NO clue. They were pretty nice, overall. One world-weary vet said, “Don’t do this too long. I’ve got to quit, I’ve been dancing too long.” “How long have you been doing this?” I asked. She sighed, “A year!” But I could tell she wasn’t the kind of girl you listened to because she was wearing white heels with a black minidress, and that was just so tacky. I saw fake boobs for the first time that night, and I could totally tell they were fake. Back then, dancers actually wanted fake tits that looked natural, whereas now the goal is to look fake.
I can’t remember exactly what I made that night, but I remember it was at least twice as much as my best night waitressing, and here I am, all those years later, still on the pole.
Kat’s First Time
I first met Flora at the Starbucks inside the Safeway on 39th and Powell. She had suggested this meeting place, and I was just thrilled that someone wanted to meet me anywhere about potential employment. My last job was a pretty sweet gig (to a 20 year-old) making espresso drinks for Cirque du Soleil performers in their five-star restaurant tent, but alas, the cirque left town and I found myself jobless.
I came across Flora’s number through the (now long gone) adult employment section of the weekly paper. I was looking for an erotic massage parlor. I had a hot mess friend from New York who briefly worked at one long enough to buy a new laptop. That sounded pretty cool to me. When Flora explained to me that the ad was for a strip club with no alcohol, I guessed I could try it, even though I knew even less about those than New York City massage parlors.
I got to Starbucks first and decided to sit down and look like I was waiting for someone, as I was too broke to buy anything. Flora showed up in a brown velour tracksuit, as was the style in 2003. I was wearing gray pants that my mom had told me made my butt look nice one time. I was young enough that I was still wearing clothes from high school. Flora gave me a form asking for my basic information and for a stage name. I timidly asked if I was hired and was relieved when she answered something along the lines of, “Sure, whatever…”
When she handed me her card, I was thoroughly impressed. Not only did she have a business card, but it also had a little vignette of her butt on it. The photo was black and white, with just her butt tattoo in color. The title said, “Classy Ass” and the bottom read, “Bringing Dancers Together for the Future.” I didn’t understand what that meant (still don’t), but that didn’t stop me from feeling hopeful for the future anyway.
When she found out that I had ridden my bicycle to Safeway, Flora volunteered to pick me up for my first shift: a Tuesday mid. She pulled up in a new gold Mustang with a vanity plate that was a popular Missy Elliot song from the ’90s. Except someone must have beaten her to it, so the “O” was a “Q.” She explained her plan to me as we drove to the club. She was going to pay off the Mustang and finish real estate school and then she was out forever. I got to witness her last year and a half before she became a realtor. She was the best hustler I had ever seen, hustling her very hardest on the homestretch before retirement. She was also a prostitute, but it took me a few months to realize that.
The second two strippers I had ever met in my life were Dragonfly and Colette. They were coughing in the dressing room, which was heavily blanketed with smoke. “Oh yeah, once in a while, some of the ladies have been known to smoke a little marijuana…” Flora said, winking at all of us. I had never worked anywhere that blatant pot smoking was allowed. About oh, less than 20 feet away, on the other side of the bathroom wall, was where the owner lived with his significantly younger ex-dancer trophy wife, her tiny dog, their toddler and his extensive collection of taxidermied exotic animals. It was all animal skin rugs and angry bears standing on hind legs in there, but it would take me a few months to learn about that, too.
Dragonfly was a waify blond girl who had a penchant for middle-aged black dudes. For a while she was driving a minivan with a chain link steering wheel that an incarcerated boyfriend who believed age was only a number had temporarily loaned her. She volunteered to give me a ride home once. She charged me $10 and we had to wait in the parking lot first for what seemed like hours before her drug dealer showed up.
Colette was a beautiful black girl who belonged somewhere with a modeling contract in hand, not the juice bar by the airport. She’s the one who taught me how to hide a tampon string and how to get the thing out (“You just push kinda like you’re gonna take a shit!”). She got pregnant about a year after that first day. I ran into her a few years ago at a different dumpy club. She gave me a big hug, but didn’t have time to talk before going to do a masturbation show in a shack in the parking lot. She looked tired, like several lifetimes had passed.
I was incredibly intimidated by the three real strippers as I modestly changed into the outfit that Flora had been kind enough to donate me. (Something must have told her that all I owned was cotton underwear.) I looked at myself in the mirror and felt soft and pale and out of place in the sparkly two-piece. I also felt very hairy. I had shaved in anticipation of my first shift, but not nearly as much as I should have. Dragonfly and Colette were watching me, stoned. I could tell that they agreed by the way they were staring.
My first actual set was a blur. All my sets that day were a blur. I do remember carefully studying the other girls. I was so impressed by them, even the lady who danced to “Sailing” by Christopher Cross. She did pole tricks that made the song beautiful poetry. I listened as she told the other girls about how she finally bought a tanning bed for her house to save money. I felt even paler and poorer than before.
My favorite part of the day was when all the dancers went in on a pizza. The delivery dude showed up and the girl on stage dropped everything and screamed across the room, “Hey, save me some, okay?! I’m HUNGRY!” It was like the guys at her stage were invisible as soon as there was pizza involved. That’s basically the moment when I got it.
Catherine’s First Time
When I started dancing I was 24, which I consider pretty old in stripper years, at least for a beginning. I started a few months after losing a “good” job that paid badly, editing a lesbian magazine. At the same time, my alcoholic long-term girlfriend abruptly dumped me and embarked on a journey to Cambodia to find herself. I was disillusioned about women, gay culture in general, and what I had always believed to be my dream job. I thought it was a good time to try something new.
Strippers had totally fascinated me for a while. They seemed sexy and magical and only sort of real humans, and I couldn’t imagine that they grocery shopped and slept and waited in line at the DMV. I wanted to transform my awkward, clumsy self into one of the sparkly girls onstage, mostly because it seemed like something I could never really do.
I bought a pair of super tall Lucite stilettos from Daljeets on Haight Street, and a ridiculous fringy black two-piece that I thought might fit in at a club. My roommate and I practiced sexy-dancing around the kitchen to Top 40 music (she was living vicariously), and I took a pole dance class in the Marina where I was the only girl who wasn’t part of a giddy, giggling bachelorette party. After a few weeks of pacing around and almost going for it, I finally called the Hustler Club for an audition.
I invited a group of five of my friends, guys and girls, to come out with me to my audition. It seemed more fun, and I liked to pretend that I was so unashamed of my body that it didn’t matter who saw what. One of my college friends had since become an expensive hooker, and so I recruited her help to make me look presentable. Looking back, I’m not totally sure if she was on my side, though I admittedly gave her very little to work with. I abandoned the fringe outfit first for a silver tube dress (thank god she at least vetoed that), and then for a vintage-ish polka-dot lingerie set from Victoria’s Secret. I put dark eyeliner around my eyes and put my hair in a messy ponytail, which I thought looked hot but definitely didn’t. I had a very limited supply of girly stuff and no sense of style. My friend assured me that the ponytail was fine, as was my Courtney Love-circa-’94 makeup, but she was lying.
A group of five of us went out to a bar in North Beach to hang out before the audition, and my nerves started to kick in. I got mildly wasted on tequila and began to second-guess everything, but before I knew it I was at the club talking to a manager who told me I could audition if I’d get dressed and meet back up right here in ten. I told him my name was Natalie, and I was called Natalia the rest of the night.
I remember very little of my stage set, mostly just the feeling of stepping up there the first time and feeling like no amount of dancing around the kitchen prepared me for the reality of getting naked in front of strangers, and worse, my friends, who I suddenly felt really dumb about inviting. My friend Dave had owed me $130, so he tipped it to me in $1 bills during my set so that I’d look popular. I remember that, and basically nothing else. I knew I danced too fast and looked awkward and felt ridiculous, thought I could do a full split but discovered mid-song that I couldn’t, and whipped my hair around a lot in a way that was way too violent to be seductive. I was sweating a bunch at the end. I don’t remember but am guessing that I probably danced to “Rag Doll” by Aerosmith, because I think I danced to that every single day at the Hustler Club until I learned that it wasn’t rude to request your own music. It took me a while to realize how much I despise that song.
My friends wanted to tell me good job at the end, but we all knew that it wasn’t good, or hot, or anything less than embarrassing for everyone involved. They were sweet though, and tried not to act too shocked when I told them I had actually been hired. The manager at the time, Fred, apparently would hire any blond girl at all, even if she danced and looked like she was in a hair band. Four years later, I have a big wardrobe of real stripper clothes, a pole installed in my apartment, a big-girl makeup collection, lots and lots of money, and permanent nerve damage in my feet from wearing fucked up shoes. Thanks for believing in me, Fred.