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Life at TJ's Place
Saturday, March 20, 2004
 
Last night, one of the girls climbed up on the bar, which is strictly forbidden, and tried to dance on the lacquered countertop in high-heels, drunk. All the men at the bar were making whooping sounds and looking up her skirt. I was in the back hallway watching (this is a great place to stand...you are invisible to the people in the bar and can see everything). I was hoping Big John, our bouncer at the door, would do something, but he was busy at the time. Walt was outside attending to a fender-bender in our parking lot. The dancer was April, a black girl who drinks way too much on every shift. She started dancing cautiously on the bar and even from back in the hallway I could see her heels slipping with every step she took. Finally, when it appeared no one else was going to do anything, I went to the bar myself, took her hand and escorted her down. She jumped into my arms and hugged me and I asked her to please never do that again (dance on the bar) and she said okay, then she said, “Kev, you’re so awesome! I love you!” I love you too, April.

Awhile back April walked out of the dressing room to do her set and had forgotten to put a G-string on. She got to the stage completely naked, which I know doesn’t sound like all that big of a deal but it is, and thankfully one of the waitresses noticed and alerted her. She covered her box with her hands and scampered into the dressing room, only to re-emerge 10 seconds later and skip up to the stage. The ovation was thunderous.

Friday, March 19, 2004
 
Spent all night watching basketball at work. Illinois wins today by 19, I predicted (see earlier post) they would win by 16. Watched the game with Wade/bartender and Logan/dancer. Logan is a dancer I could see myself dating. She does not look like a dancer when she’s not dancing, more like a hot college chick. I have reservations about Wade; he is a cocky little fucker and I know he’s beaten up his girlfriend at least twice in the last year. They’ve told me the last time he assaulted her in the bathtub by holding her head underwater with his hands around her neck. I didn’t believe this until I saw Wade the next time and his forearms looked like he'd gotten them caught in a barbed-wire fence. For a week, I thought about ways I could kill him that would look like an accident. Now today I was high-fiving him at the bar as we watched the Illinois game.

Today is my big money day because I DJ the entire day and night. At around 3:00 tomorrow morning, I will shuffle into my house and dump about 250 one-dollar bills onto the floor of my apartment. I will then turn on the television and watch ESPN while I fold and count my money and paper-clip them in $25 stacks. My dog will feel neglected and “accidentally” walk through my pile of money once or twice just so I’ll pick him up and move him out of the way. He is a Norwich terrier and his name is Satch. When I get home after my long Friday shift, Satch, who has been by himself for 12 hours, is ready to play. I’ve had three steady girlfriends in my life, one live-in, family, roommates and friends, and I’ve never found anything better to come home to than a dog that worships you.

Thursday, March 18, 2004
 
Home now. I DJ’d and managed from 3-8 pm today. I ran back and forth from the TV to the DJ booth 100 times, watching basketball. In my pool, I lost the first two games of the tournament, but I’m finishing the day strong. Michigan State is losing to Nevada now. Paul Davis has fouled out and Chris Hill and the guy who wears the headband are ice-cold. The Big-10 now has only two teams left in the tournament.

Walt was my bouncer today. I would like you to meet him. He is 50 years old. He is not big; he’s slender and has a ponytail and mustache. He’s wiry and strong. He was in the military and knows martial arts. He once touched me some way with the knuckle on his index finger just above my upper lip and below my nose. It was so quick. Tap, and I dropped to one knee from the pain. Walt does not like to fight; he knows how to avoid one. He told me once that when confronted with an inevitable fight, the best way to deal with it is a quick, sharp left-handed jab to the guy’s nose, then run like hell. The jab is a shock to the system, disorienting, your eyes water, your whole body recoils. It is simply a 3-second headstart. Walt said, “Don’t ever fight a guy you don’t know unless you absolutely have to. You never know what he knows, or what he’s capable of…or what he has in his pocket.” Walt removes unruly customers quicker and more efficiently than anyone else in the club. He knows how to grab a man, what things on a man’s body to press and bend, without being detected. Men Walt removes from the club go peacefully, sometimes with looks of pinched pain on their faces. They walk on their tiptoes and say, “Okay, okay, okay!” and are out the door. I would pay him $100,000 a year if I could.
 
While I was at dinner last night, I saw one of our new dancers named Tyler in the restaurant. Tyler is 19 and has been dancing for one week. I have only spoken to her twice. She was with someone that looked like a boyfriend, only he did not look like the kind of guy who would have a stripper for a girlfriend. Tyler looked shocked to see me, then she acted nervous and tried not to make eye contact with me the rest of the night. I know she was praying that I wouldn’t come over and say hello. At one point, her boyfriend got up to use the restroom and she looked at me. I mouthed the word relax and gave her a reassuring look and relief spread across her face. She smiled at me and nodded and started eating her food. I had just made a friend. I relived that moment, which was witnessed by only her and me, over and over again in my mind. It may have been the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Everytime I looked at her after that, she was very animated, eating or chatting or laughing. Her new buddy Kev had saved her night. It’s moments like this that make me enjoy what I do. I will protect them all. They’ll smile at me like that, and I’ll see the tension drain from their shoulders and see them breathe, and it all says Thank you, Kev. You are my only friend.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
 
In other news…

I just filled out my NCAA picks and I wanted to list my Final Four before I head out for the night. This will make them legit.

Kev’s Final Four Pix: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Mississippi St. and UConn.

There is a very good chance I will have no teams in the Final Four for a second straight year.

 
It’s St. Patrick’s Day and this is my day off. I didn’t get home this morning until after 3:00 am. We are waiving the cover charge tonight at work for guys wearing green, and we will pour $1.50 mugs of green beer. Last year a kid came in with a neon green condom on his head, wanting to get in free. I did not know a rubber would stretch like that. He had the condom pulled down over his nose and his head expanded like a blowfish when he breathed. We decided to let him in for free and he blew the condom up once again, then let it fly off his head. Everyone cheered.

Illinois plays Murray State Friday in the first round of NCAA tournament. I’m going to the club early to watch the game with Wade, a bartender at the club and an Illini fan, and Logan, who is one of my favorite dancers, a sports fan. She wears ballcaps and college sweatshirts to work. I promised them I’ll spring for pizza. I love March Madness. Illinois is playing the 5-12 seed game, which is the game everyone picks for upsets. Illinois won’t lose to Murray State. We will have big games from Deron Williams and Luther Head, and we will win by 16 points. We will beat Cincinnati the next game with a monster game from Dee Brown and Roger Powell and play Duke for the Elite 8. We won’t beat Duke. If we beat Murray State and Cincinnati, I will predict then that we will beat Duke, but not now. You just can’t call three in a row.

I’m meeting two friends for dinner tonight at Outback Steakhouse. I will have the ribeye so rare it will say “ouch” when I bite into it. My friends, who aren’t allowed in the club by their significant others, will sit entranced the entire night while I eat red meat and fried onions and drink beer and tell them stories about strippers.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
 
I got a phone call while I was in the office by myself yesterday and the club hadn’t opened yet. A woman wanted to speak with the manager. This is usually a mother, and the context of the conversation can be extremely varied. From something like If my daughter dances one more time in that fucking club, I swear to God…to Kelly’s boyfriend beat her up last night and she can’t come in, but she wanted me to call you because she’s afraid you’ll fire her if she misses her shift tonight. Mothers.

The woman on the line sounded young, tired, most certainly dealing with other issues in her life than the reason for this call to me.

“Hello,” she said, then hesitantly, “I just wanted to say, you know, I’m trying to raise my kids and be a good mother and I look in the sports section today and here’s your ad there with a woman who’s almost naked. How do I do it? I mean, what do I say to my kids when they see that? They’re sports fans, you know, I can’t tell them they can’t look at the sports page anymore.”

We run our weekly ad in the newspaper. It is tasteless with a near-naked dancer and lots of suggestive copy. I have nothing to do with them; in fact, I read the sports page myself and I’m embarrassed every time I see our ad, knowing people I know read it too, and think of me.

“I haven’t seen it ma’am.” She wants a fight, but I deal with women every night who want to fight. One of my specialties in the club is my ability to be disarming. “I can understand that it bothers you…I’m not the one who does the ads. I’m sorry if it offends you. I just don’t know what to say about it.”

She says, “I know,” and breathes loudly in the phone. I feel bad and I want to say something profound. I want to buy her a drink and hold her hand. I want to kiss her fingers and maybe we will be lovers. I will liberate her and she will liberate me. We’ll fly to Vienna and hold hands and walk down a cobblestone street, surrounded by mountains. She sounds young and insecure. Maybe this is why I do what I do. “It’s just hard to do this, you know?” she finishes.

“I know…I’m sorry,” I say. “I really am. If it was up to me, that ad wouldn’t be there.”

“That’s alright.” She sounded like she may be crying. “That’s all…thanks.” She hung up.

Monday, March 15, 2004
 
As a manager, alcohol is your number-one challenge. The girls get drunk and do stupid things, like get tangled in their heels and fall off the stage, or throw a drink in the face of a customer, or slap him. Last month, a man tried to tip a girl with a dollar bill kind of low (he tried to stuff the dollar bill directly under the small swatch of material that covers her vagina), and she reached back and slapped him viciously in the face (generally, the dancers are fueled by alcohol and try to do harm when they slap a face, not just use it as a warning). Big face slaps bring the house down. They are loud, they knock men out of their chairs. They usually stop the show, and usually things are resolved fairly quickly. Drunk guy gets hauled to his feet by our bouncers, the dancer is standing behind him yelling things like, “GET THAT FUCKER OUT OF HERE!” looking ridiculous, with a fistful of dollar bills in her hand, wearing a G-string and high-heels, otherwise naked. Anyway, the girl who slapped the guy cut his eye terribly with her fingernail. We took him into the bathroom and it looked as though his actual eyeball was cut and bleeding. I took one glance at it and about passed out. There was blood all over his face and blood now that had soaked down into the collar of his shirt. His buddies finally hauled him away. He probably could have sued us for about a billion dollars, but it was the last we heard of the situation. I suspect, from the looks of the guy, there were several groups and official organizations that would have frowned on him drinking in a strip club. He looked like the kind of guy whose wife or girlfriend would have removed his business had she known he was seeing a strip show, too. So he disappeared, with a bloody eyeball, and we never heard from him again. The girl is still dancing, still drinking, still stopping the music with big whopping face slaps.
 
My name is Kevin and I am an assistant manager at a topless strip club in the Midwestern United States. I will call our strip club TJ’s. It is a gentlemen’s club, and on a scale of 1-10 in terms of classiness, I would give TJ’s an 8.5. That is not to say that our place is like a church ice cream social. There are fights, there is violence at times. Once or twice a week, a man will remove his penis from his pants and try to touch one of the girls with it, usually during a private dance (lap dance, table dance, etc). We all sit about uneasily sometimes when a dancer runs from the dressing room announcing that her boyfriend is coming here to kill all of us. Our club has nearly been shut down several times in the past, once because we had allowed underage guys in the club and got caught, and one time when a 16-year-old had really good fake IDs and danced for two weeks in the club. We used to serve burgers and sandwiches and French fries, but the health department put a stop to that (I was glad--I never ate the things, either...the whole notion kind of grossed me out).

I love to write, and I've done it since before I was a teenager. I'm 26 years old and a college dropout. I've worked at TJ's for about 16 months as assistant manager. Before that, I was a bartender for 6 months. This job is not all it's cracked up to be. I will try to give you a daily glimpse into both my life and life inside a gentlemen's club. It will be mostly fun. I hope you enjoy reading.

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