I Manage A Strip Club (And Not The Classy Kind)
If you've allowed Hollywood to convince you that all gentlemen's establishments are seedy places run by sleazy dudes, shame on you. They're probably not all like that. But the two strip joints our source, "John," managed were, in some ways, exactly as bad as the stereotype.
In other ways, they were worse.
Contributing To The Delinquency Of Minors Is In The Job Description
Legally, America has mostly decided that people can dance naked for money once they're adults, but they can't drink until they're adult-adults. As we've pointed out before, a big part of a dancer's job is socializing (read: drinking) with the customers, so that puts a freshly minted 18-year-old and those who employ her in an awkward position. Sure, she can get a sippy cup full of grape juice instead, but that's only appealing to a specific type of unappealing person.
So while "no underage drinking" was the official policy at John's club, those are quotes of the sarcasticest variety. "If you have a customer spending big money, and he wants to buy a drink for a 19-year-old who he thinks is going to go home with him, you look the other way," John explains. "As long as an under-21 girl didn't drink to excess, I would see nothing. Especially if the customer was spending money."
Presumably, "excess" had a very flexible definition, depending on how many Benjamins came to chill.
In some cases, feigned blindness became active nudge-nudging. "It was not unusual for me to introduce myself to a customer, assuming I didn't already know him as a regular, and then casually mention to him that I was glad he was enjoying himself, and to thank him for being so generous to my staff. But sir, 'Candy' is only 19, so unfortunately, I can't allow you to buy her alcohol. However, if you want to purchase two drinks at a time for yourself, by all means feel free to do so. Perhaps you and she would be more comfortable at a table in a quiet area, rather than here at the bar, where I am constantly. And when you're ready to leave, I'd be happy to get you a cab. So if said customer would walk to the bar and order 'himself' two shots of tequila, that was his business."
Other Times, He Was Obligated To Be A Voyeur
"Here's the part I'm sure folks are curious about. Chris Rock was wrong; there definitely can be 'sex in the champagne room.' Or some sort of sex act, if not full-blown intercourse." That might seem difficult to anyone who's ever been in one of those things, because they're not as private as most people would think, or like. "For safety reasons, either a bouncer or myself would generally walk through that area once every few minutes to make sure everyone was safe. The dancer would see us and know we had her back. The customer would see us so he'd know that he should behave."
So what Rock meant was "No good sex in the champagne room."
However, "If a dancer wanted privacy to give her customer that extra-special service, she'd indicate to me that she was going to the champagne room for a special. That was code for 'Give me privacy.'"
But privacy is a relative term here, because, "Unknown to customers, these rooms are on camera. So we could still keep an eye on the room without walking through." John assured us that, "it was dark enough in there that I couldn't see any lurid and gory details, but could see if the girl was okay."
Smile, you're on Candy's Camera.
See? It's all about making sure the dancers are safe. Oh, and "It was the established custom at the club that for looking the other way, the manager would receive a gratuity from the dancer of $50. That made me a pimp, I suppose. But $50 is $50."
Customers And Dancers Both Get Screwed
Many strip clubs offer a deal wherein you can buy their own tastefully decorated currency with your credit card so you don't have to bend over for ATM fees (in the biz, they call strip club cash "funny money"). However, "The club charged a 20 percent surcharge," John says, "so $200 of funny money would cost the customer $240. The customer would then be able to get lap dances and pay the dancers with this house money."
Clearly a way better option than getting docked five bucks by Big ATM.
All right, so already the club is using the concept of "sweaty boob fun dollars" as an excuse to take a cut for doing absolutely nothing. Now do you want to guess what happens when a stripper tries to cash out at the end of a long, exhausting night of dancing for shouty drunks having a bachelor party?
"Here's where it got sketchy. At the end of a shift, a dancer who had a handful of these fake bills would cash them in for actual cash. The club would then charge her ANOTHER 20 percent to cash them in. So a dancer cashing in $200 in fake money would get $160 in real cash. So for doing basically nothing more than running a credit card once, the club earns $80 for every $200 in fake money that was bought."
They call it "funny money" because the owner laughs all the way to the bank.
Oh, it gets worse. "In a strip club, every favor or concession costs someone," John says. "You're a dancer and you want to leave early? That's a $10 fee. You're a day shift dancer, but you didn't come in until 2:30? That's a $20 fine. You don't want to take your turn in the stage rotation? Fine, then that's a $30 fee. You didn't make enough today to cover your house fee? Okay, pay it tomorrow, plus a $10 late fee ... these fees can add up. They don't go to the club or the owner. They go to the manager on shift. It's a way for the managers to get a little bonus. It could easily add up to a few hundred dollars a week, all cash. The money went right in my pocket."
Well, shit, that makes the operation sound downright shady. Don't worry, it gets worse.
He (Probably) Helped Commit Tax Fraud Every Day
Strip clubs are still a largely cash-based business. Most people also aren't meticulous about getting receipts for the money they spend there, so reporting these transactions to Uncle Sam is kind of on the honor system. You can imagine how that works out.
"At the end of each shift, two spreadsheets were produced," says John. One tallied up all of the "real" money the club made that night, which would go into the bank. "This was composed of door charges, bar/food, and funny money fees. This was also the data that would go to the accountant at the end of each month."
This is "the best lies contain elements of truth" taken to its logical extreme.
All the rest was recorded in a second, let's say, more private spreadsheet. "VIP room, shooters, and dancer fees ... this was all cash. From this cash, some of the workers were paid: the DJ, security, and door girl. That was about $200 per night. The remaining cash, and this second spreadsheet, were sealed in an envelope and dropped into a safe for which only the owner had the key."
John estimates that this income would typically be around $2,000 a night, which would be about a third of each night's total take. "Remember, the 'special' income went into the owner's pocket," John says. "Once a week or so, he'd saunter into the club, open his special safe, open the envelopes, briefly scan the spreadsheets, shred them, and pocket the money. Beyond that, I have no idea what became of that cash ... I didn't see his tax returns, but it seemed fairly obvious to me that he had no intention of reporting that cash to the IRS." That would kind of defeat the purpose of keeping two sets of books.
The second spreadsheet was so nobody could screw the owner while he screwed them.
And keep in mind, that invisible $2,000 a night was just from the two clubs our source was privy to. The owner ran eight others.
He Wound up "Facilitating" Some Strange Transactions
"We had a regular customer named Steve -- or as he was known to his two favorite dancers, Tinkly Steve," John says. "Steve had a particular fetish he would indulge in every other week or so. He would take one of his two favorites for a bunch of lap dances. The dancer would, upon request, provide a takeout cup of her urine. Tinkly Steve would pay her $200 for the cupful."
"I can't go. Get a couple more $20 drinks to help fill my bladder."
Well hey, for the willing provider, business is business. It was more complicated than it seems, though. "The girl can't just squat and pee in the lap dance area. It is secluded, but not private. Nor did we want to take the chance of it getting spilled in there and leaving a stink. Since the office was right next to the lap dance area, and we kept certain supplies in there, such as takeout cups, it was the logical place for the girl to accomplish this mission."
That ended up being a very wise decision, because, "One day, the dancer came in and said Steve was there, but she couldn't produce the required quantity. He wanted more than a trickle. For what, I did not dare ask. But rather than let the girl miss out on the large tip, I volunteered my services, with the understanding that I'd split the fee with her. Going forward, that became a somewhat standard method for providing Steve with what he wanted. Unless he had some way to do DNA testing, he never knew that the liquid in the cup he took home wasn't from his favorite dancer."
"Hey, throw a little glitter in there to be safe."
Ha, it really is all good fun, isn't it? At the end of the day, the women get work, and customers get to have fun. Nobody's being exploited! It's the free market at work! Yep, let's end the article right here ...
Ah, fuck. There's more, isn't there?
Male Employees Can Demand Sex When Girls Get In A Bind
"The DJ I worked with was a schemer," John says. "He was fluent in Spanish, and being that my club was located near a primarily Hispanic area, we would occasionally get transient dancers coming by who wanted to work while they were in town visiting family. I would have to get the DJ to talk to the girls and explain how things worked. The first time he did this, he came to me and said, 'This girl wants to work, and she said she'd have sex with you if you let her.' I took her up on the offer, because I could. The second time this happened, I was a bit suspicious. I questioned my DJ, and he admitted that he told the girls that they had to put out for the manager in order to work there."
But lest you think John was merely a hapless pawn in this guy's bizarre coercive vicarious sex game, he admits that he played his fair share. If a dancer couldn't pay the tardy fine, for example, it could always be worked out. "Typically, it meant that someone was going to get a blow job. Sometimes me, or I could delegate to someone else, like the DJ, or perhaps a friend who would stop by the club at the right time."
And here we thought spinning tunes for drunks totally ignoring him was its own reward.
But hey, what's she going to do? Quit? It's not like this is anyone's first choice for a career, and the next place might be worse. So enjoy the bachelor party, guys.
Manna swears her Twitter is nothing but good clean family fun.
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For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Things You Don't Know About Strippers (Until You Are One) and 5 Adventures I Had As A Cam Girl With A Niche In Sex Puppets.
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