Long gone is the seedy life I allowed myself to fall into
Long gone is the seedy life I allowed myself to fall into
I stopped writing months ago, I couldn’t find the humor, I couldn’t write about the problems. Working in the field was overwhelming and I realized I was worth more. I started calling out sick time and time again, not willing to put on the outfit and the smile and deal with the crap.
I found out that a customer I despised was a pimp and half the girls working the pole were indeed prostitutes, selling themselves for a few measly bucks and compromising their integrity and humanity.
I was fired, and I was happy. My tale is not over, I still seek employment. I now know my worth is more than tips and tits. Even facing money struggles and financial issues I realize that my dignity is valued far higher than anything that job could offer.
I still fight my prior employer, and I still face an uphill battle. I have taken the steps towards a federal lawsuit and I hope that things settle before my name can be splashed across the papers but regardless of the outcome I will survive. I will not lay down and die, I will continue on as a whole human being worthy of respect and kindness.
Finance may not be an option to me anymore but I will find a passion, a job and my sense of self worth that I lost along the way.
He sits in the bar day after day, he drinks coke with lemon unless she is here. When she comes he buys bottles of Cristal. They play pool, she yells and jumps around, occasionally working the pole when she gets bored.
“He used to be nice, he used to talk. Now he sits in his corner and sulks at the bar. Almost never tips.”
The other bartender explains his story to me.
“His mother died, I don’t think he even had money until she did. Now he comes and spends it like a fool. You know he bought her a car.”
I don’t need clarification on who, the short haired pixie girl with pole skills could be the only one referenced.
It’s Thanksgiving night. I left my family and my mothers warm and welcoming house to drive over an hour to put in my booty short time at the bar. Odd characters I’ve never seen occasionally walk through the door but the night is essentially dead. He is here, sitting in his corner nursing his coke with lemon. I am sad that even on a night spent with family and friends he is here, she is not.
As I walk outside for a cigarette later in the night he is there outside smoking. I start a conversation and learn about his woes and sadness. I try not to pity the man but his story leaves me sad and concerned. The other bartender was right, he had no money till his mother passed and now that he has money he has no friends and no family, they all abandoned him once she died. He moves to my corner and continues to nurse his coke with lemon. He buys me shots and I pour myself “vodka” from a bottle filled with water I keep under the bar. I charge him for premium top shelf and feel awful that this is how I’m operating even on a holiday. I have a register minimum and dammit I’m going to have to make it somehow.
I’m not sure what I said but he angrily leaves the bar during our conversation and moves back to his old section. About an hour later the other bartender comes to talk to me.
“I told him about her. I told him that every time she gets him to buy a bottle of Cristal she gets a hundred dollars. She’s supposed to split it with the bartender who served her but she never does.”
I’m not sure if her confession was out of care or spite.
“I told him that she gets paid even if she’s not working or on shift. He needed to know, he needed to understand.”
I’m taken aback from the honesty, this place is built on lies and illusion. My only concern was that she told this lonely man on Thanksgiving when he had no place to go but a gogo bar to feel at home.
I get a text two days later, the other bartender has been fired. I’m not sure if it’s because of her behavior or because she was honest. Sometimes honesty doesn’t work in your favor, especially if you’re operating on lies and illusion.
She’s slightly chubby, but she wears it well. A classic hourglass shaped girl with braces and brown hair. She works in knee high stockings and carries around a teddybear bag. With her lack of make up and outfit choices she looks like she’s trolling as jailbait but the girl cleans up on the floor. Far more attractive and far prettier women struggle for their ten dollar lap dances but this one just waltzes in and out of the private room with and endless stream of men in tow. At first I chalk this up to extras but at the end of the night I find her in an area of the club I didn’t even know existed and we have a nice chat.
At one in the morning a customer is asking for our shot girl, who happened to be giving massages that night. I was sent downstairs to find her, I didn’t even know there was a downstairs. Beyond the kitchen entrance, down the metal stairs, past the oddly placed washer and dryer unit and walls of walk in freezers there is a corridor to the left. At the end of the corridor there is a room marked “Dancers Only.” I open the room and at first I am shocked at how clean it is, nice and brightly lit my eyes take a minute to adjust. There are showers, lockers and private toilets. I say hello with a slight stutter because I am so taken aback that something so nice exists in such a dumpy establishment. Then I wonder why the girls don’t spend more time down here and why they insist on changing in our dirty upstairs bathroom with the broken window and toilet stall that doesn’t lock.
Braces is the only girl in the room. I see she’s changing and go to leave her in peace.
She stops me with her words.
“Those guys, you know the ones who were throwing money all night, those brothers. Well the younger one took me in the lapdance room and tried to take my bottoms off. He told me he was gonna ‘stick it in’ and offered me 400 bucks.”
She looks sad and tired which is a far cry from the young and vibrant jailbait look she sported all night.
“That’s how you get an std. I know these things, I’m a medical student. You ever seen pictures of stds? I have this one picture where the guy’s genital warts were so bad they spread to his hands, it’s disgusting.”
I nod in agreement and remind her to keep her head up and tell her to end her dances when people cross the line. She is allowed to be in control.
“It’s okay his brother was nice. We have a date.”
I suppress my desire to shake my head or say no out loud, as I know the girls often date the clients and I think it’s a horrible idea.
“Yeah he was really nice, we’re going to a diner to get food.”
I wish her a good night and leave the dancer sanctuary to strip off my corset and shorts to change in to comfortable clothes for the ride home.
“What do you do?”
The question is posed so often when meeting new people, you ask names, and niceties but always somehow take the conversation to that almighty question. People do this so they can formulate a quick and easy judgement on those they do not know but are conversing with. What people do in this day and age seems to define them more than who they are or who they want to be.
When I was working in finance the answer was simple, I work in financial services, and people would draw their own conclusions about who I was. I must have been smart because the industry is so difficult to break into, I must have been driven because if I wasn’t I probably would have given up a long time ago, I must have been well off because people don’t work in financial services because it makes them feel good about themselves, and last of all I was proper a proper woman with a proper job who lived a proper life. Nothing about my life outside of financial services was proper, I am the daughter of an artists who lives in NYC nightlife. I party hard, play harder and don’t often times make apologies for any of these facts. Now the answer isn’t so simple, I bartend, somehow it doesn’t have the ring or respect that financial services does. When pushed further I answer that I bartend at a gogo bar and that seems to reflect even worse on who I am and what my character is.
Last night I met up with a friend, an ex-coworker from my time in an office, a wonderful person who is near and dear to me and someone who judges me not for what I do but for who I am. He introduced me to his friend who asked the loaded question. I answered and when pressed further answered again. It wasn’t until much later in the night when this individual realized that I was a friend to my friend and not some girl picked up late night in a bar for fun and sexy times that I was asked how I knew my friend. Once I explained that I knew him from when I worked with him in financial services did the demeanor of this individual change drastically. No longer was I an easy lay but I was now a real, actualized and “whole” person. The attitude of “fuck this slut” was dropped and a deeper conversation emerged. I’m getting used to this treatment and will probably continue to experience it as long as my purpose is slinging overpriced drinks in overexposed outfits. I hope to come to the point where I can be bigger and more calloused about how people react to my confession.
I have made an executive decision. The more I work at the gogo bar the more I understand what a cash cow these establishments are. Once the house fee is covered the club makes at least a grand before the clients even start spending their money. Dancers paying for the privilege of forking over 50% of their lap dance take. It damn near seems like legal pimping. Bottles of water cost 6.25, as do mugs of soda and three liquor mixed drinks are upwards up 15 bucks. If you want cash we don’t have an ATM, but what we can do, is at a 15% surcharge, give you a cash advance. That 15% goes to the house.
At these rates it’s hand over fist and the money keeps coming. I do believe the only paid staff at the club are the managers and the DJ, even the bartenders work on tips alone. Bottles of liquor are counted once a week to ensure that bartenders aren’t giving away drinks, making generous pours or slipping the till money into their tip boxes. Cameras are placed all over the bar, not for our safety, but to monitor us, to watch us work and to make sure we don’t fuck over the house. Even though the house fucks us over as much as it can.
The only non-money making venture at the club seems to be the food which is, in some cases given away for free (thank god for that free buffet because I am always positive that I will be able to afford a lunch!)
Being the ex-business woman I am I look at the business side. Massive amounts of cash are walking through the door every night and I’m sure only 1/3 is declared. That’s the beauty of cash business, no receipts, no records, no check stubs or credit cards. This is why when I was in Anti-Money-Laundering I did not allow these type of businesses to open accounts with my firm. Too risqué, too shady, too likely that mob money or drug money was slowly getting laundered by the slow churn of cash and ass.
Now, away from the “morality” of white collar business I ponder the best way to make money moving forward. I can fight and scratch and try for justice in order to re-enter a world of minimization and marginalization. Or I can keep my eyes and ears open and eventually open my own den of sin. The pimped becomes the madam and I think I’m okay with that
I learned the Maynard Keynes theory in high school. That good old graph of supply vs demand and the price you can dictate based on such numbers. I learned about IPOs on the job and after market sales on the trading desk. I understood these concepts and after immersing myself in numbers and bottom lines they made perfect sense. Those in power at the club may have skipped those lessons because it seems when it comes to the gogo more is always better.
I sat on the ice chest and surveyed the scene. A dead gogo bar on a cold Thursday with a few patrons slowly sipping beers and girls desperate to make a buck. The club doesn’t pay the dancers, they instead pay the club for the privilege of writhing on stage and in the laps of random men. It seems that the way the club is handling the economic downturn is to simply fill the club with as many dancers and bartenders as possible. Even the sign out front advertises that they are hiring bartenders and a tri-weekly Craigslist ad trolls for dancers.
If the money doesn’t walk through the door then the money can crawl on the stage. This makes sense to a certain degree because money is money and people need to be paid regardless. But this model harms business more than it helps.
Gogo bars are places of illusion, pretty women who vie for your attention at the cost of a few dollars. Women who approach you, who make you feel special, who are there to be your fantasy. Part of the illusion lays in the elaborate ruse that somehow YOU are special and that these women want you.
As a patron walks into the club the girls start buzzing and lipstick is fixed. They swarm the poor schlub throwing themselves out there for that lonely dollar or perhaps a well earned ten spot. Too many girls just makes the place seem desperate. You aren’t special because you are YOU, you are special the only person there. It ruins the illusion, you are just the wallet that provides the dollars and the sad hustle of the dancers seems pathetic and needy.
I left early last night, there was no money to be made and as I thought of the tip-out I feared I would even be in the hole. The girls sulked and slunk around trying to make the best of a horrible night but in the end I asked nicely and left. It was better to cut my losses than stick around for impending boredom and debt.