Over the years Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, has been sharing current life insights from Vancouver and memories from her colourful past as an exotic performer. These have occasionally triggered other people to share their own sociologically-interesting memories.
On 15th April last year, I posted a blog headed A ‘PERVERT’ COMMENTS ON HIS MEMORIES OF A STRIP CLUB IN CANADA IN THE 1980s
This was actually a collection of various people’s reactions to a 2014 blog.
Yesterday, someone calling himself ‘G Man’ commented on the 2021 ‘Pervert’ blog:
Awesome post! I remember coming here in 1995 when I was 18, the only place that would let me and my friends in at the time. It was wild and reminds me of how great the city was at that time. Even though by that time most of the ladies that performed looked like they could’ve have been our grandmothers…lol!
and a Dave Hughes responded to that ‘G Man’ comment with:
By 1995 some of them were grandmothers!!!
Anna Smith last night sent me her own reaction to ‘G Man’:
Well, that sounds like he was there before I got to be Granny-age, but glad to hear my friends were working at Le Strip as long as they could. Too bad the business closed or I’d still love to go back there as a 63 year old and do a 14 day shift (seven days, seven nights), like I used to. It was so much fun!
It was well before cell phones proliferated but, being strippers, we required certain amenities – like a shower, a bidet and of course a payphone which was a large sturdy device installed on a central wall in the dressing room… so we could make our bookings at other clubs, check up on our babysitters and our boyfriends.
So, while we were getting ready to go on, we would sometimes be witness to some funny conversations…
Like: “No, I am not giving you a blow job. No. No. No. You are NOT getting another blow job till I get back the keys to my Chevrolet Camaro! NO!”
Another time, we heard a fabulous black dancer from California named Goldielox telling us how furious she was with R.D., because he had stolen her very expensive fur coat in Montreal.
Goldielox was called that because she had very long blonde hair. She had quite the act. She was a statuesque and perfectly formed woman, with a toned body and large breasts. She arrived on stage wearing a flashy costume, roller skates and a top hat. She would eventually take off her bra but place her breasts into the top hat and skate around like that for a while.
It was Goldielox who gave me the job to go to Newfoundland, the best paid job, and one of the funnest I ever had. She had been booked to go there because a new club had opened up, just outside of the capital, St. John’s. They wanted a big act to open the club. It was the first strip club in Newfoundland.
“What am I gonna do, Nurse Annie? – I don’t want to go to NEWFOUNDLAND on my BIRTHDAY! But I can’t let them down… Would you please do it for me? It pays $1,400…”
That was about four times more than I’d ever been paid, so I jumped at the chance and had a fantastic time. I even went out on a cod fishing boat and caught a cod to bring back to Toronto and bought some nice hand-knitted toques for my parents.
At the end of that week, Goldielox showed up in Newfoundland to do her act the following week. We were both staying in an old hotel on a main street in St John’s, because the new strip club didn’t have any accommodation. We were driven out there every night by the club owners.
Goldielox was in an upbeat mood. She was having fun teasing the very young hotel clerk (who had never met a Black person before). She tried to give him diction lessons, which was funny because she had a heavy drawl herself and he had the Irish-sounding Newfoundland accent. She’d had flyers printed up advertising her show and put on her stage costume with the top hat and took off on her roller skates, up the steep and foggy cobbled streets of the port city, calling out, whirling around laughing and handing out flyers to everyone she met.
The ‘perverts’ back in Toronto were true fans, who loved our different characters and the friendly way we interacted with them from the stage as much as they loved our not-always perfect looks – according to the standards of the 1970s. And we loved most of the regulars for all their foibles…
…like the guy who paid us cash for prints of our lips on paper napkins; the three buddies who always went there whenever their mate had extra money to share with his friends to tip us. And the three old geezers who sat in the front row and sometimes got a bit carried away. One time I looked down and noticed the three of them enthusiastically wanking in time with the music.
There was also the charming, rotund, inebrieated Catholic priest who stood just inside the front door and routinely propositioned us with offers of filet mignon dinner. A fascinating offer but we squeezed past between him and the ticket booth.
And there were the teenaged boys who ran up the two flights of worn carpeted stairs on a dare and then stood blinking and panting in the darkness before being reprimanded and quickly expelled… and the University of Toronto engineering students who called annually to hire the beautiful Roxy (who had long blonde hair, full breasts and apparently wasn’t afraid to ride a horse) to play Lady Godiva, for a university prank and a photo op.
One time, after the club brought in ‘private table dances’ an older Chinese man paid for a private dance and spent the whole time silently staring directly at my muff, as if he was hypnotized. At the end, he asked me quickly: “Do you like Chinese food?”
The Toronto strippers have always been pretty good at organising themselves.
When the City of Toronto tried make us get licensed as ‘Adult Entertainment Parlour Attendants’, we fought back because we thought that sounded insulting. We were not attending to anything or anyone. And we worked in bars and theaters, not in fucking PARLOURS for fuck sake. We were entertainers not ATTENDENTS!!!
So eventually the city backed down and licensed us as ‘Burlesque Entertainers’.
We still had to pay a huge annual fee for our licence, though, and wait in line with hundreds of taxi drivers at the start of the year and have our photos taken for our wallet-sized ID card.
I lost that card somewhere along the way. Too bad. It shows a black and white photo of me looking young and furious and it didn’t have an expiry date on the card, so it was fun to have on hand, whenever I was asked to produce a government photo ID. It was always accepted as such, though not the most common identification there was.
The stripper ID cards provided years of employment to two senior city official inspectors, whose full-time job was to casually saunter into one of the hundreds of Toronto strip clubs, order a beer and watch all the shows, take discreet notes and then afterwards figure out which of dancers did or did not have licences.
They always seemed to be in a good mood.
There have been several non profit organizations started by strippers in Toronto, including C.A.B.E. (Canadian Association of Burlesque Entertainers), Maggies, which was recently featured in a Rolling Stone article and a new one Work Safe Twerk Safe which I only recently heard of, but it seems very effective and informative.
OK, back to sleep for me now.