I guess that I have a “bucket list”, though it has changed and evolved over time. These days I dream of traveling to Sicily to meet my “people”, of finally getting back stage at a Neil Young concert, of having a one night stand with James Purefoy, and of continuing a tattoo that I got in 1996. The artist left an open stem trailing away from a colorful orchid on my left upper thigh, figuring that I would want to add more flowers at some point. Perhaps.
One of the things that was NOT on my radar was stripping at a “gentleman’s club”. No, bearing all at a strip club in Creve Coeur, Illinois on amateur night was never on my to do list. Yet, for some heretofore-unbeknownst reason I found myself dressed in a much too tight animal print “dress” wearing way too high, high-heeled shoes, and swinging around a strippers pole on a Tuesday night in July of 2002.
Maybe it was a dare that I made with myself, or perhaps it was that new breast augmentation that I was so proud of, or maybe, just maybe it was about a 40-year-old woman who still thought that she looked pretty hot, but who was starting to face the tyranny of middle age. Hell, maybe I just did it for the rush and for the attention.
Why would a girl from San Francisco travel all the way to Creve Coeur Illinois to do a strip tease you ask? Creve Coeur? Where is this humble little town? Well, it’s right across the Illinois River next to that bosom of the heartland, Peoria.
It happened that my husband’s mother lived in Peoria, and we traveled there once or twice a year to visit her at her retirement home. Of course, she wasn’t always my mother-in-law. Hubby was married previously to someone for 20 years---the “true” daughter-in-law, and I only started my Peoria pilgrimage a few years before mil’s death. These details may be irrelevant, but I always felt that perhaps mother-in-law saw me as suspect, as sloppy seconds. She treated me coolly, and kept me at a distance for the most part.
There wasn’t too much to do in Peoria, although there was a gambling riverboat parked on the Illinois where I enjoyed playing a little blackjack and sipping on watered down vodka tonics. Then there was the time that I met Dan Fogelberg’s mother. She and mother-in-law played bridge together, and Mrs. F. attended mother-in-law’s funeral. Perhaps this shouldn’t count as a highlight, I mean after all….
What we did get a bang out of was visiting local strip clubs. Once upon a time, many of our travels included visiting each town’s “tittie bar”. I’m not exactly sure what the impetus of these visits were, except that there was the “we might get turned-on” factor, and want to go back to the hotel and, well, you know. There was even the occasional fantasy that we might bring one of these girls back with us. The very thought today sends a shiver down my spine, but at the time, there was something mesmerizing about a naked dancing girl making “contact” with me.
But I digress. I had been toying with the idea of doing a “strip” when I turned 40. I was in great shape, and could still pull it off. This was merely a fantasy, you understand, but it peripherally explains why I found myself on the stage that night with drunken mid-western men throwing one-dollar bills at me.
We had visited Big Al’s in Peoria, and Club Cabaret in Creve Coeur on one of our previous visits---we were at Club Cabaret on their amateur strip night, and I cavalierly vowed to return there one day for my big hot moment of naked wonder.
I really was joking, truly I was. I never intended to visit that little adult store with all of the stripper-wear. It was a wonderland of easily shed dresses and acrylic heeled shoes that were so high, you should have to sign a waiver to purchase them. I didn’t buy the shoes---at least I knew better than that.
It was decided. That evening after we kissed mother-in-law goodnight, we would head back over the bridge to Creve Coeur where I would surely win the amateur strip contest. Never mind that I can’t “strip” dance. Never mind that I have never had a hand on one of those shiny strippers poles, though I’d seen it done numerous times. In fact, I fancied myself like a stripper that I had seen at the world famous Mitchell Brothers in San Francisco. She had stripped to Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them”---slinking across the stage and rolling around on the floor like a wounded sidewinder. If she could do it, then surely I could.
The music. I had to select the right music with a slow enough tempo, but I was drawing a blank. I toyed with the idea of dancing to “Let Me Entertain You”, like Natalie Wood did in the classic film “Gypsy”. No, too kitschy. Better stay away from that. I thought of stripping to the song “Smooth”, that was on Carlos Santana’s phenomenal “Supernatural”. I mean, if there was a song that needed stripping to, that was the song. Fear set in. I knew that I couldn’t dance well enough to do that song justice. Better to leave that for Pink Floyd chick.
Having exhausted my possibilities, I asked the music guy to select something “slow and bluesy” for me. I had hoped that he had a recording of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Riviera Paradise”, but I was disappointed when he didn’t even know who Vaughan was. Okay, then go with the way too long blues number that I had never even heard before. Yep, that ought to do the trick.
My husband sat “ringside”, and I headed backstage to gather with the other lucky contestants and get instructions, the order of appearance, etc. I found the dressing room where I changed into my tigress outfit, checked my hair and make-up, and started waiting for my name to be called. I paced around, checking on my husband periodically. He kept asking me if I wanted a drink. “No, I really don’t”, I nervously muttered back to him. Most people have a hard time believing that I did this stone cold sober. Not a drink or a tranquilizer did pass these soon to be quivering lips.
Finally, my reckoning was upon me. There were 5 other girls, and I was second to the last. The girl who had taken her turn before me was just about finished. She was about 5’3” tall, and weighed in at about 150 pounds---though this is a guestimate. She walked out on the stage with supreme confidence, and I had heard her saying how important this was to her. She HAD to win, because she wanted to be employed at Club Cabaret, and naturally she could use the $150.00 prize money.
She danced up a storm. I have never seen anyone “boogie down” like that portly young girl. There was raucous applause for this soon to be Club Cabaret star, but I wasn’t sunk yet!
Secretly I thought that I ought to win. Wasn’t I the most refined? Wasn’t I the most physically attractive? Weren’t my new boobs just incredible? Bet you would never guess my age…….
My music started, and I walked toward the stage, slowly, deliberately. I have a secret, and you’ll never find out what it is, was my modus operandi. I moved stealthily toward the object of my desire, the phallic shiny pole. I reached out my arm to grab hold, and slowly swung around this maypole. I swung around and around---knowing I would never be able to inch myself gracefully up or down this apparatus. Hmmm. What can I do next? The music was slow and unfamiliar, so I gazed out to the audience, and began wandering around the stage dipping and grinding, slowly removing my cape, then my gloves, and finally, my second skin.
“Oh my god, I’m naked”, I thought to myself as strange men gazed upon me. I moved closer to the edge of the stage to try some of the “moves” that I had seen performed by other strippers. Slowly to the floor I shimmied, and tried to bestow upon the patrons what I thought that they wanted. In turn, these “gentlemen” handed me one-dollar bills, though my generous and biased husband tossed me a fiver.
I awkwardly rose from my prone position musing, “geez this song is slow and long. This is ridiculous.” I continued to clumsily saunter around the stage, hoping that I hadn’t made too much of a fool of myself, hoping that it would all be over soon, wishing that I had stripped to the Beatles “Twist and Shout”. At least it would have been a lively 2 minutes of burlesque.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the music ended. I stood there, some applause thrust upon me. A patron then queried me, “I’ll bet those breasts are real. Are they?” I cheekily grinned back and said, “Yeah, they’re real”. “Too bad the poor schmuck won’t ever get the chance to find out”, I coyly grinned and mused as I hurried backstage to find my street clothes and to finally reunite with my happy husband.
“I can’t believe that I did it!” I said, as I sat back down with him and awaited the news of the evening’s winner. After a short wait, it was announced---the 5’3” and portly, boogieing fool had won the hearts and minds---okay, not their minds, some other part of the anatomy. I had lost, and while I felt a moment of disappointment and insecurity, I knew that I was never going to be crowned the winner on this night. I knew that they knew that my destiny lay elsewhere; that I was an interloper in Creve Coeur Illinois.
I was satisfied. I had done something off-the-wall and completely out of my comfort zone. It had been a true physical and mental high, and this would be something that I could and would recall fondly and with a certain fervor in the retelling.
And I did have my $8.00 in tips. Hey everybody, drinks are on me!