“One of my dreams is to jump out of a papier-mâché cake with frosting on my body for someone’s birthday."
Stepping into the electric interior of the Vivid Cabaret shed some light on the concept of the neon-clad utopian future that so many science fiction movies portray. I tell this to the coat check girl, who laughs at my awe. The club has the city’s tallest stripper pole, a fact I’m reminded of as I see a pair of milky white breasts cascading towards my face. My evening’s tour guides are a shockingly normal couple who’ve been in the smut business since the '80s. I’m treated to as many whiskeys I want as each dancer I’m set to interview is prepped for me. As we walk into the back room, I remind them to talk to me as if I’m just a friend or a non-erection wielding customer. One by one, I’m told about the lives of the dancers of the Cabaret.
Some of the following photos are NSFW.
“I’m from Rhode Island, brought up on a dairy farm, and I moved to New York City, basically to be able to buy some Louis Vuitton and diamonds. Instead of waiting for a man, I wanted to do it for myself. I’m pretty enough."
“The audition process is nerve-wracking, because you’re judged on your body and you’re judged on how you look. I’m very self-critical and I take pride in my appearance. I always want to look good. Not for anybody, just for me."
“I would never date anybody who’s going to let me do this. That’s not a man, that’s a little boy. That’s a dog. And I already have a dog.”
“This character I’ve created pays for my life. She pays for my Upper West Side apartment, she pays for my Louis Vuitton, she pays for my dog’s Louis Vuitton. Somebody once told me I’m like Mother Teresa when I’m not at the club. But here I’m balls-to-the-wall.”
“I’ve sat on guys’ laps and they want to take me away from this, but I don’t feel like I have to settle. I hold all the cards. I have all the power and the men don’t. I get a high from it, I know it’s sick, but I’m addicted and I love it.”
“My best night? I got a $20,000 tip, because he thought I was charming and then he proposed to me in a private room.”
“I would like to be a detective and catch cheating husbands. I could be the decoy, but I’d also be the detective. I’d like to catch those dirty, dirty men. I’d be an undercover stripper-investigator.”
“I have my dream job. It’s kind of silly, but I love it. It’s amazing, because the owners pay for the girls to take pole-dancing lessons. I’m only a level one.”
“I’m Asian and I only shave once a month. I shaved today. I shaved for you.”
“I really didn’t know I’d grow up to be a stripper. I was kind of a wallflower growing up. I liked drawing and being in my own world. When I moved to New York, I wanted to find myself. Being a dancer has really opened me up to everything. I’m myself now and I never hold back.”
“This is the audition process. You go on stage for a little bit. They want to see how you move and how your body flows. If you’re comfortable, if you’re sexy. You have a long dress on and you take it down on the second song and you take it off on the third.”
“Dancing is exhilarating. You should try it. You look like you have a great body.”
“There’s a river in Colombia that’s rainbow colored. Red, yellow, green, blue. People say it’s the most beautiful river in the world and I want to go.”
“One of my dreams is to jump out of a papier-mâché cake with frosting on my body for someone’s birthday. I would love to do that. It’d be so sexy.”
“I’m from West Palm originally. It’s terrible. The weather and beaches are great, but it’s all old people and tourists. It’s great if you’re old and you’ve already made all your money.”
“I started dancing in college and I’ve always liked dancing. I severed my Achilles tendon. I walked through a door and the metal part of a door severed my tendon. I got into pole dancing, because being on a pole takes the stress off my feet.”
“I don’t have any problem being naked. When I’m dancing, I’m dancing because I like it. I dance for me, not that creep in the corner.”
“I do a lot of outdoors stuff. I like camping, kayaking. I’m an archer. Anything physically active, I’m into.”
“My best day ever was on Friday. I was in Mexico and it was gnarly.”
“There are guys who want to lay flat on their backs and have me put on my eight-inch stilettos and walk across them like a carpet. There was this one guy who used to come into this club I worked at. He would go in the bathroom and tie a nylon around his nutsack and he’d put his pants back on. Then he’d take the end of it and trail it out the top of his pants and he’d pay girls and have them tug it. Like, start him up like a lawnmower. For, like, hours. He loved it. I don’t mind stuff like that.”
“I’m not going to kiss anyone. I’m not going to get finger-blasted. There’s no finger-blasting in the champagne room.”
“In ten years? I’ll be laying on a beach in Mexico.”