Sunday, June 13, 2010
Closing Night at The Lusty Lady
Last night I went down with my friend Ron to the final night of live dancing at The Lusty Lady, Seattle's last remaining peep show.
It was a research trip. Really.
Ron and I are pulling together a solo show about his experiences working the cashier's desk at The Lusty Lady in the late '80s and early '90s. He's got amazing stories about the people--the dancers, the managers, the backstage staff, and of course the customers. As he likes to say it was his dream job--when he was 18.
Final night was a carnival--an early arrival of "Playday," a Lusty Lady annual tradition where the dancers take the place over entirely for the night and amateurs dance with the professionals. The place was filled with a lot of curiosity-seekers. Plenty of women in couples and larger groups, which Ron said was unheard of during its usual times of operation. (At one point a short-haired lesbian couple headed to a back room for a four-dancer lapdance, and exited ten minutes later beaming.) Dancers stood out on the street in swimsuits and lingerie coaxing in passersby, just like they used to do back in the days when First Avenue was filled with porn theatres and stripclubs. Dancers wandered the halls chatting with customers, including old-timers back just for the night, wearing little tags like Ron's saying "Lusty Lady Alumnus." And dancers filled the red carpeted stage ringed by the booths, giving it their all through the glass for whoever was willing to step into a booth and put in a quarter.
The place was packed with the old, the young (lots of students) friends and those who consider themselves family. Film crews would circle around outside, and at one point someone dressed as an Imperial Stormtrooper wandered in. A dancer near the door gave a shriek of delight and ran up to a manager. "Can I give the Imperial Stormtrooper a free lap dance?" she pleaded.
Sweet, strange, erotic, and melancholy. As the night wore on Ron repeatedly flipped between sadness and anger. "I keep thinking I'm looking for someone to beat up," he kept saying. (I suggested the Stormtrooper, and pointed out that even though he'd actually not done anything worthy of a beating, you could say the same for a lot of guys dressed like that in the Star Wars movies. Wrong place, wrong time, and the wrong white armor.) But then his anger would ebb away and we'd again leave the club to get another drink in a nearby bar.
Ron requested the microphone from the young woman at the front of desk, and when she handed it to him he put on in his best barker voice and reminded the customers that a smile is always appreciated and so are the tips. We drifted about and he talked to old friends, strippers who stood with grown daughters that Ron remembered as babies in strollers. He'd stood on the sidewalk minding those strollers while their Moms ran in to collect their paychecks and grab laundry from their lockers. He chatted with the current door guy, who'd brought out the baseball bat that the Lady had recently retired. Ron turned the worn brown wood over in his hands. "This bat was here when I came," he said. "It might be older than I am." He pointed to names and initials carved into the wood, laughing in recognition of old friends. He couldn't find his own name, but as the cashier pointed out, the bat was so scarred, worn and taped that it wasn't a surprise.
All things change--that's the only constant.
More on "My Time with the Lady" in the weeks to come.