What it was like to work in a Canadian strip club in the 1980s.

Yesterday, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, Anna Smith, mentioned working in a club called Le Strip in Toronto. Today she expands on that:

Le Strip in its heyday

“I was afraid to ask for work there at first. It looked so sleazy.”

Le Strip no longer exists. It was my favourite place in the world to work. It called itself a ‘Private Gentleman’s Club’. Membership was $5 a year and the entrance fee was $10 or $8 for seniors. It was not a bar, but actually a theater.

I had been afraid to ask for work there at first. It looked so sleazy. There was a blurry television monitor on the street which displayed the vague outlines of whoever was on stage at the time and a flight of stairs, covered in worn red carpet.

The guys could arrive at noon and stay all day if they wanted, without being hustled to buy drinks.

We had a proper dressing room with lightbulbs around the mirrors. We used the lightbulbs to dry our panties on. The owner was never there, so the strippers essentially ran the place, assisted by two men who worked the door and the DJ booth.

The ever interesting Anna Smith

Anna Smith in 1980s (or 1880s?)

We had total artistic freedom and were always finding ways to improve our shows. We would dare each other to do ridiculous things on stage. The place was like a second home to us. We could leave costumes there for weeks and they never got stolen and we were almost constantly laughing, exchanging stories about our adventures.

The customers – or ‘perverts’, as we fondly called them – kept asking “What are you girls always laughing about back there?”

It was a daily six hour party, interrupted only by the fact that every hour-and-a-half we’d have to run out on stage and take our clothes off. Then we’d dash down the steps back into the dressing room and demand of our friends, “What happened? What happened?” to find out what we’d missed.

It paid less than most of the clubs, but had advantages.

The other clubs booked us for one week at a time but, at Le Strip, it was a two week booking. It was downtown, close to the record stores, banks, law courts and other conveniences.

As it was not a bar, we were even allowed to rush our children through the back of the theater into the safety of the dressing room.

One time, an extremely elegant dancer named Zelda Scorch was on stage, sitting on a chair, playing with her bra straps. Her gaunt face had been scarred by acne, but it didn’t show because of the lighting. The audience was suddenly startled by the clear voice of a very young girl, who was being ushered through. She had shouted in astonishment:  “Mommy! You’re Beautiful!”

We knew many of the the ‘perverts’ by name.

Anna Smith in the Vancouver bookshop

Anna Smith at peace in Vancouver this year

There was a pair of them who appeared every year with a trophy, like a sports trophy. It was for ‘The Stripper of the Year’.

They would find out who was the newest, shyest young dancer on the roster, have her name inscribed on it and present it to her. I never got one of those, but it was really fun to see happen. The dancer would return from stage in amazement, almost crying, and say: “Look! Look! I can’t believe it! I just got an award! I’m the Stripper of the Year!…”

When I returned to Canada, after an absence of six years, I stopped in at Le Strip, on the way to Vancouver. I thought everyone I knew would be gone, but the minute I stepped through the door I was surrounded by the girls, and the perverts turned round in their seats and called out: “Nurse Annie! Where have you been!”

One of the dancers, Maxine (real name Janet Feindel) wrote a play based on the dressing room conversations at Le Strip. It’s called A Particular Class of Women and it a very good play.

There is a promo for a 2013 production of A Particular Class of Woman on Vimeo.

A Particular Class of Women last year

If A Particular Class of Woman is being produced nearby I usually offer to help with the details. Things that normal people might not get. For example, the fact that we always brought a towel from home to put on our chairs, so as not to develop a rash from sitting bare-assed on vinyl.

Also, if somebody tries to produce the play without Janet’s permission I contact her immediately. She teaches theater now at a university on the east coast. I’m a copyright spy for her.

There was a real spy scandal associated with Le Strip. Not involving the dancers, but one of the DJs.  It’s one of the most preposterous stories I’ve ever heard. It was very, very frightening, even though I wasn’t there when it happened. It involved among other things, a trip to Libya, Neo-Nazis in Toronto, the South African Embassy, the Brandenburg Gate and a leather jacket.

There is more on this subject in this 2021 blog


Filed under Canada, Performance, Sex

35 responses to “What it was like to work in a Canadian strip club in the 1980s.

  1. sherry

    lol i used to dance there many moons ago, best friend owned it for a while, club was an experience for sure

    • Paola

      Hi Sherry I also worked at Le Strip when Ray was the owner I remember Jackie T , Lana. Silvie(French girl) my name was Lola, does anyone know how to Contact Ray/ social media…

      • Brock

        Hi Lola, I remember you well, as I do Angelle and Jennifer. Was Danny (who lived with/took care of Don until he passed away) still DJ’ing when you danced there? He may know how to get a hold of Ray.

      • Paola

        Hi Brock yes Danny was the Dj when I was at the club, but I don’t have any contact with anyone from the club, the reason I ask is because Jennifer and I did some photos for Ray and would love to see/have access to them, thanks

  2. Richard

    I confess! I worked Le Strip for a a short while. I was the fellow in the announce booth, that silver tongued lucky guy who hailed the arrival of Black Satin, Dolly De Milo, Bridgette, Varushka. Recalling Saturdays, there were regulars who formed a small que at Le Strips’ Yonge Street entrance. This Oriental gentleman, an older man, would be the very first to climb the steep set of stairs into the club. It offered comfortable theatre seating, Each performer took to the narrow, eye-level stage for their fifteen minute performance. Refreshments were never offered, My Mother declined any conversation during my Le Strip days, I never listed Le Strip in any job application, The late Doug Henning rehearsed his Royal Alex magic show at a rehearsal hall upstairs .

  3. Jane

    I was one of the children rushed through the theatre to the safety of the dressing room. I don’t remember much but this post brought back some good memories.

  4. Richard

    Months after I quit my announcer gig, my friend and I took our seats in the intimate theater like audience at Le Strip. The dancer interrupted her performance and shouted out her greeting directly to me, Though but an instant, it elevated me before my friend to incredible heights .
    I witnessed a singularly raucous event at Le Strip just once during my short employment there, an after hours party. It was Varushka who tumbled off the narrow stage at this very crowded do. Everyone there kept all their clothes, Varushka was the daughter of a high school principal. The beautiful 19 year old became a stripper for any if the multiple reasons girls take on this type of work with her unique back round.
    Norm the bouncer relentlessly reminded anyone of his Roy Orbison security days. I’m careening towards my 70th year looking back on my Le Strip days fifty years ago with a kind of fondness,

  5. Brock

    I worked at PWDD in St Catharines for 35 years. I attended Le Strip from day it opened in Jan 11, 1971 until it closed Aug 28, 1997 when it closed. After Sept 1 of this year you can reach me at 905-937-8777. I will take any call if anyone has any questions. Obviously I saw nurse Annie dance in the 80’s. I was the gentleman that gave out the trophy every year. I never gave trophy on stage, the trophies were always delivered by taxi and cashier at front would take it to the dressing room. The reason it may have been remembered as being on stage is because some of the dancers brought it out onto the stage. The trophies were purchased from a store in St Catharines. I gave trophies from 1971/72 til club closed. I also gave out 3 “Dancer of the Decade” trophies in that time. Trophies cost 250 to 320 dollars. Here is a list of trophies given out. Candy Kiss was 71-72, Candy was a great dancer. 72-73 was Roxanne, a rather shy and nervous dancer because her pubic hair was really long and I thought it “trophy worthy”. 73-74 was Dianne Da Ville, who had trimmed pubic hair. 74-75 went to Elaine Paris. She was nervous about going nude. Always danced to Elvis Presley songs. 75-76 was Lolita, first black dancer to get the trophy. Only about 20, 110 lbs and very nervous about dancing. 76-77 went to April, black hair and very pretty. Also nervous but liked that job paid well. 77-78 was Linda, blonde hair and shy as well.78-79 was Valerie, she was originally from N.S. and Le Strip was her first club to dance in. The dancer of the decade trophy for the 70’s went to Collette Chante. In 80-81 the dancer was Joy and may have been a friend of Nurse Annie. About 5’3″ and Blonde. Nervous at the start too. 81-82 went to Morgana Rivera, a little more curvy than previous winners with a beautiful smile. 82-83 was Jacky, another black dancer. Also shy when she started. Her husband came to the club to watch her quite often. 83-84 went to Black Magic, who always dressed in black. Nervous at first but soon got very comfortable. 84-85 was Cody Barret aka Foxy Lady , she was an excellent dancer who had danced at club for several years. 85-86 was Morgana Rivera again, first time a dancer won twice. 86-87 was another “Dancer of the Decade” and went to Candice White. Black hair, about 120 lbs who was nervous. Had a mowhawk and even shaved her head. For 87-88 it was Andrea Royce, who looked like adult movie star Rhonda Jo Petty to me. 88-89 was a dancer named Red, brown hair sometimes dyed red. Truly stunning young women. 34 B and a fair amount of experience. When Red danced, every finger had a gold ring on them and a gold chain around her waist. Her belly button had a gold ring and she even had a gold clit piercing. 89-90 was a dancer named Jacky T, long time dancer. Stayed at Le Strip until it closed in 1997.Had breast implants and brown hair. 90-91 was a dancer named Rose, very petite and around 5’3″ and black hair. Shaved herself in a landing strip style. She was very nervous at first. 91-92 went to Mandy, very shy. First dancer I had noticed has pierced nipples. In fact, first poster Sherry was friends with Mandy I believe. My “dancer of the decade for the 90’s went to a dancer named Jacqueline Davis. Very skilled dancer. After that I started bringing trophy to a different club “Whiskey a go go” north of the city.
    Nurse Annie mentioned the pervs who were there every week, even to this day in 2020, I am still friends with several of the dancers and my “fellow pervs” 🙂 If you want to contact any of them, give me a call. The original owner, Howard Devin, has passed away. He sold club in 1980 to a man named Don, he owned in until April 1, 1995. Don is available to talk to as well if anyone wants the point of view of a club owner. His # is 416-533-6192 . Ray Pope bought the club from Don. Ray and his wife both were ex dancers so knew more about what is like to be a dancer. In 1988 I had access to a video camera and with dancers permission and the OK of either Don or later Ray, was able to record quite a few of the dancers, who let me record them for free. These days I’m 73, still live in St Catharines but lost a leg to diabetes . My days there were an incredible time and I will never forget it. Your truly, the perv Brock Watts

    • george sadler

      Hi Brock…I’m hoping you can help me with my memories. During the mid to late 70s I had Records On Wheels store on Yonge Street and Dundas (west side of Yonge street, 3 doors north or Dundas). I use to go Le Strip mostly for afternoon lunch and day drinking …then back to my store. I thought that the girls also waited the tables but took their turn on the stage back then. Am I right…or is that a different Strip Club just south of the Hard Rock? I had two of the dancers come to my store to pose topless by two stationary bikes in front of my store while The RPM magazine took photos. We were promoting Queen’s album All That Jazz..which had a fold out poster inside of topless ladies riding bikes. “I want to ride your bicycle!” . I then had the girls walking topless inside my store. The place was PACKED…including lots of 13 to 14 year old boys acting like they were thumbing through the albums. Cops came in and we hustle the girls out the back. Was sooo much fun. I still have the picture from RPM magazine. Wish I could send it to you to see if you recognize the dancers.

      • George! How can one get copy of the RPM magazine photos you have, would it be possible to take a photo or a scan of it? Would love to work on archiving it on day 🙂

      • george sadler

        Hi Sophie…I have the image already scanned. I guess I can’t attach a pic to this blog/forum. So I guess you’ll have to give me an email I guess to send it to. BUT…if I do…will you please let me know if you know any of the ladies that are in the pic. I liked them both.

      • Brock

        Hi George, Brock thinks he knows you. Did you hang out with Jim Patterson and Al Boddy? The club you mention is not Le Strip as Le Strip only had theater seating . South of Le Strip and then go east sounds like the club you are thinking of. Al we are not sure about but Jimmy is still alive.

    • Sophie

      Would love to ask you questions!

  6. Brock

    Brock Watts here again, some other dancers I remember were Yvonne Conners from Kitchener around ’73, Yvette in ’72, married to a laywer, had 2 kids and she got divorced. Nervous at the start . Angel Eyes, ’73 and she was very pretty. Unusual act because she told jokes as she stripped. Holly started at age 37 in 1985. 5″2″ and curvy , she danced to Al Green songs. Once on stage she wore purple high heels, leather outfit. In ’76 there was a dancer with stage name Shirley Carson, started around age 42, quite busty. I asked if I could get a table dance and she came out and said she had a problem , I asked what that was. She had taken a shower and was going to sweat a lot. I didn’t mind so we had the dance. One of the most memorable was Gwendolyn, 5’5″ and wore gloves , which not many dancers did. One of her talents was that she could juggle while dancing.

  7. Brock

    There was a dancer named Teri London, born in Cardiff, Wales. She first dance at Victory Theatre in 1968-69 when topless was as nude as was allowed. About 5’6″ with brown hair. Took a year off in 70 but danced at Le Strip in 1971-72. Everything came off by that time. I remember her music well, third song was “are you ready for that” .In 1973 she went back to Victory theatre to win a contest to win a trip to dance in Las Vegas. She won, went to Vegas and I never saw her again.

  8. Brock

    There was a dancer named Lana she started in 1979 , first was at Zanzibar in 1977. She was about 5’10” and brown hair, in high heels she was 6’1″ > Natural breasts and didn’t shave. On her hips was a tattoo of green hearts. She could do a yoga move when laying on the stage and flutter her stomach like a belly dancer. She could do the splits as well. Some people hated her and some loved her. I was one who was a big fan. Another dancer named LeeAnn who I remember had a bend in her nose. Only danced about a year, had been a high school cheerleader. Some of the patrons remembered her from those days. Always in heels and a nightgown when she came out onto stage. Nervous at first due to recognition but got to be a pro. Probably left due to her being recognized from high school days.

  9. Val

    I used to go there al the time,
    do recall a girl called Amber ( Christine) ?

  10. Brock

    Hi Val, the dancer named Amber I remember was real name Kim and wore white shoes and a orange top, she was very pale with freckles. She owned a flower shop and got married to a Portuguese man. They honeymooned in Portugal. Jacky T used to help her at the flower shop. I remember her dancing to Tom Petty music as well.There was a customer named Doug that was a big fan of hers. I think she may have got divorced and I have lost touch with. Is this the same Amber/Christine that you remember or am I thinking of a different Amber?

  11. Strawberry Cher

    I worked Le Strip one time , was more of a Starvin Marvin girl.. This comment is from a Sherry (dancer) are you Mississippy Sherry… I danced under the name Strawberry Cher.. hope you are well and everything is good for you ..

  12. Amelia

    Why would any decent person promote this filth and reminisce about this slutty so-called job? Shame on you. You are pathetic.

  13. Cindy

    Oh Amelia, keep your harmful judgement to yourself. You’re not gaining anything by hating people.

    • Kim Holcomb

      Amelia, “Slutty and promoting filth” “Shame on you”. Why are you here?

      • deedledoink

        Why are you reading this blog if your sanctimonious self deems it pathetic? Those girls made more money than you and they were probably better looking than you and that’s what your problem is. They weren’t the one with the problem you are and they probably stole your husband’s attention because you’re too boring.

  14. i was a dj at le strip lates 70’s then went on to operate the zanzibar from 1980 to 1990 jillys from 1990 to 95 then the sundowner from 95 to 2004.

  15. Brock

    I just found out recently that a dancer who went by stage name of Candy Kiss passed away from a heart attack not that long ago. She danced at Le Strip from ’71 to ’78.

  16. Wendy

    Anyone remember GoldFingers in Rexdale? An east Indian man named Sandy used to run it around 1995. Females Dancers upstairs. Male Dancers Downstairs. Chippendale’s I believe. Beside Albion mall. Any information would be grateful. He was a great boss to dance for and gave me a chance when I needed one.

  17. Brock

    Just found out that Don Cullen, who used to own Le Strip for quite a few years, just passed away this weekend. He had a ton of friends and will be missed greatly.

    • David Hughes

      There is a celebration of Don’s life tomorrow, Sunday January 15, 2023 from 2pm-5pm at the Fraternal Order of Eagles, 17 Elm St. Toronto.

  18. Brock

    Back in 1984 there was a dancer named Audrey who used wear a yellow bikini and used to be a bodybuilder with impressive muscles. Another dancer, named Lee Ann who was a cheerleader, she also danced in the Don Cullen era as well.

  19. Anthony

    Wow… as a teeneger I was introduced o Le Strip during one of our March breaks… First time seeing these burlesque type shows. Needless to say whenever I was downtown I would make sure I would spend a few hours sitting in those theatre seats with dollar bills in my hands to give to my favorite lady of the day as she danced on stage… Fantastic memories… I miss the Old Yonge street strip..

  20. Would anyone in this thread be interested in participating in a podcast produced by a Sex work and erotic labour organization out of Edmonton to speak about your experience in strip clubs in the 1980’s?

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