I was reading the stories about strip-club owner Frank Colacurcio recently, and it reminded me why being a stripper at Rick's was the worst sex-work job I ever had.
I only danced at Ricks for a couple of months, some years ago, but I hear it hasn't changed much. I've actually danced at about a dozen other clubs, and they had their good and bad points. But Rick's was the last place I danced, and it was thoroughly and completely bad.
Granted, stripping as a job ain't what it used to be. Once upon a time, there weren't as many venues in which guys could get near naked women. And there weren't as many women who would be strippers because of the high level of social disapproval. Thus, strip clubs made their money off the guys and usually treated dancers as valuable commodities.
Not anymore. Sex businesses are more plentiful and easier to find, and the client's money is spread more thinly. Stripping is less stigmatized, and because there's a persistent belief that strippers make big money just for dancing onstage, more women do it.
But strip clubs don't pay you to dance onstage—you have to sell private dances. And that big money usually fails to materialize. Some women do well, but your average stripper isn't driving a Lexus. Part of that is because strip-club owners figured out that they could get a lot of money from the dancers.
Now, my in-person dealings with the Colacurcios were mercifully few. But I've never met any strip-club owner who did not bring words like "slimy" to mind, and the Colacurcios were no exception. And money-wise, they really put the screws to you. At most other clubs, the nightly "house fee" was the equivalent of one or two private dances. The bite at Rick's was $130—that's more like five or six dances. And you have to pay it, no matter how little money you make. So it's entirely possible to work a six-hour shift at Rick's, gross $260, give half of that up to the house, and wind up with take-home pay equaling about 20 bucks an hour. On a bad day, you can actually lose money. Naturally, this system leads to adversarial dealings with one's management, and tense and competitive relationships with one's coworkers. Given the job expectations, that's utterly unacceptable.
I saved one of my old costumes. It's a V-shaped strip of spandex, just like the one Sacha Baron Cohen wore in Borat, and it's shiny neon orange—except for the (tiny) crotch, where the shine is dulled and the fabric is pilled with darker threads from rubbing it against guys' pants.
Grinding on laps was the least of it. No one ever told me I had to dance dirty, but it was clear that's what it would take to make any money at Rick's. So I packed up my platforms and left. I like being a sex worker, and I'm nobody's victim. But I'll be damned if I spend my time and my talent hustling to pay legal fees for guys like the Colacurcios.