What happens in Vegas…sometimes really sucks. I had to get out of town and the opportunity presented itself last minute, so off I went with two friends. Yes, it happen just that fast. I had grown tired of Tampa and drama and I figured, what the hell? Why not? I have no kids, no relationship, no job that I have to report to daily…by American standards it looked as though I should probably hang myself. Lucky for me, all of the above rendered me free, by my standards, and those standards are the ones that count.
Landing in Vegas for the first time is surreal. Who am I kidding? EVERY time I land in Vegas it’s surreal. Unless it was like my last trip there: I went to meet up with my baby sister and our parents for fun? in Vegas. Yeah, it was great…anyway, this was my first venture and I was nervous and excited. We barely knew how to get started working in that town – so far just rumors. ‘Oh yeah, you can just show up, get hired and work…after you get your permit. It’s great!’ What they failed to mention was the proper order of getting things done in the West.
First. Pick a club. How does one go about this in a town where one knows no one? (Say that ten times fast) Of course, you can rely on friends who have been there previously. But when you’re one of three girls with very little cash to start with, you have to consider cab fare from the hotel to the club, to the sheriff’s station, permit fees, back to hotel, food, back to club. It’s not cheap and we didn’t really prepare properly. Like I said, it was a fast decision. We figured we might as well go ahead and get the permit first, ask around, you know, get a vibe for what everyone else was doing. So we get there, get in the door - only to realize that we had to get hired by the club FIRST. Ohhhhh. Wasted cab fare moment #1.
Our next stop in the dry, dusty, blazing hot climate of Vegas? We decided on a club we recognized. Crazy Horse Too. Walking in, it reminded me of a couple of movies I’d seen. Horror films, mostly. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw chairs stacked on tables, neon lights that looked really sad without naked bodies gyrating around them. It was devoid of people. It was also eerily quiet, except for an unseen vacuum cleaner, which was odd because the Vegas clubs are open 24 hours. But I guess they had to get cleaned sometime. We were able to glean some valuable information from the blonde at the door, though.
- Our roster is full.
- No, we can’t hire you.
- You have to get hired first and then get your permit.
- Don’t tell any manager that you’re only in town for a couple of weeks.
- Try the new club on such n such street. They probably need girls.
- Good luck.
Great. Wasted cab fare moment #2. We got to the next club that afternoon, Striptease(?), looked around and thought, wow, this is nice. And so clean! It’s like a stadium in here, with a shower! Now this is Vegas. We got the tour and were pretty excited to get hired. Until the guy told us that the hiring manager wasn’t in and we had to come back later. Wasted cab fare moment #3. Out in the parking lot, we had to face some realities:
- We were running low on funds and had to work somewhere.
We jumped on the bus and headed to the next familiar-sounding strip club. Cheetah. The third time should be the charm. At least that’s what we were hoping. We met the manager and he was what we’d expect. Wannabe charming a.k.a sleazy. But he hired us so we had no room for complaints. We grabbed our paperwork and couldn’t wipe the goofy grins off of our faces: ‘we’re at the cheetah in vegas! it was in a movie! (at least the name was) this is so perfect!’ Yeah, well, there were conditions. We had to get our permit…duh, we knew that. We had to show up promptly at 2 a.m. ???????????????????????????????????? (insert grinding brakes here)
What? “The manager who hired you is the late evening manager so that’s the shift you’ll be working.” This from an indifferent, but pleasant, housemom in the dressing room. Could we have been warned about this first? We didn’t know what to do or what to expect. What type of men are in strip clubs from 2-7 a.m.? We were scared to find out, so we raced back to Striptease, praying that the night manager was in. He was…thank goodness! We thought we had finally hit the jackpot. Except the next problem: our permits. No one, absolutely no one, can strip in this town without a permit. We didn’t quite understand the implications of not having one, but the managers in Vegas didn’t seem keen on letting anyone slide. Once I got to Atlanta where permits are also required (and much pricier!), I understood. But at the moment, it was rather annoying.
After a full day of cross-country travel, followed by a misguided tour of Las Vegas strip joints, the permit office was closed and we were exhausted. We figured our best option was to head to the hotel, rest and get up early. Tomorrow was going to be fine: getting hired had to be the hardest part…FYI: I’m laughing on the inside.
We got up fairly early, around noon, which is fairly early for strippers. Our plan? Go to the sheriff’s station and get our permits, come back to the hotel, squeeze in some gambling and a small nap, get ready for work and arrive at The Cheetah by 2 am to get on the 3 am roster. No sweat.
We arrived at the sheriff’s station, paperwork in hand, smiles on faces – until we saw the line. Apparently, everyone decided to get their permit today. For Las Vegas, this was the only hub to get permits for anything: stripping, bartending, serving, dealing, gun permits, hunting permits, fishing permits – yeah, I know. It’s the desert, who the hell is fishing?! People had their kids running around, babies crying, people coughing, sniffling…everyone is on top of everyone. At one point we were sitting on the floor. And all of this was only line 1. Line 2 was more of the same, plus a window lady with an attitude. Finally, we made it to the home stretch: line 3.
After over 4 hours of standing, sitting and pacing, line 3 was like an oasis in the middle of the desert – the promised land. When the first of our trio finally made it into the back room where fingerprinting and payment occurred, I could have sworn I heard angels singing. It was that stressful of a wait. Not that it was a brisk skip and a jump after line 3: we still had to wait for them to print our permits. So that was another hour. We finally left the grand old sheriff’s station well into the early evening. No gambling for us. We went straight to bed, but it wasn’t as restful as I would have liked.
One of my trip mates had a problem that kept popping up every other hour like clockwork: her boyfriend. All he did was ride her ass over the phone. What in the world was his deal? He just bitched about nothing. He had no money (he didn’t have a job). Why was she in Vegas? (making money) Where’s this? Where’d you put that? It was just unrelenting nonsense from the plane, to the hotel and beyond. So, two of us were trying to sleep through the tirade of reasons why she hadn’t made any money yet and as soon as she did, she’ll wire money home. Why she was so submissive to him, I didn’t understand. Sure, there’s love but that shouldn’t allow for such abuse and disrespect, right? My feelings exactly.
Ah, sleep. Finally. It ended way too soon because as soon as I drifted off, I was being jostled awake and into a hot shower. It was our first night as Vegas strippers. And I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous.
Vegas. One can never truly appreciate the buzz of every color neon imaginable. Everything glowed: bars, clubs, casinos, hotels, buses, even the Waffle House had neon. Now, I always thought that the purpose of neon was to differentiate yourself from the others: but what about when EVERYTHING has neon trim? Is that stuff toxic in large doses? Neon is a gas, remember. It didn’t matter, because even at 2 in the morning, it was exciting. And there was heavy traffic, too. We were excited. We could smell the money.
The Cheetah. The night shift at The Cheetah is not just a memorable experience. It’s epic. Beautiful dancing women, potent drinks and handsome men out for a night in Sin City without their wives: it’s the perfect recipe for a lucrative evening. It’s too bad we weren’t there. Oh we got there, alright, walked through an amazing crowd, music pulsating, fueled by the fact that soon we were going to be on stage in Vegas, baby!
But apparently as soon as it strikes 3 am, everyone either turns into a toad or runs out the door on their way to some unknown party. Because when we got dressed and hit the floor, it was absolutely dead. I mean, crickets. There was a bartender, two overweight waitresses and a toothless old man with his hands down his pants. Where the hell did everybody go?
And that wasn’t even the worst part. We had to pay all of our house fees up front. I repeat: we had to pay all of our house fees up front. What?$%^^%$? That was news to me and it was definitely not part of our plan. For that shift, it was $60 to work. In the whole scheme of things, it wasn’t a bad deal. Those fees included all tipout: the house, the housemom, the dj, security…only problem? We didn’t really have it – it being $180. Between cab fares, hotel, food and a bit of gambling, we had very little left on hand. We had planned on working by that point. Thanks to a convenient ATM, we scrounged up the fees…nervously. Because looking around at that club, chances were unless there was a very, very late night convention around the corner, we weren’t gonna be making shite. We decided we didn’t have much of a choice: make it work. I am positive Tim Gunn never planned on that phrase being put to the test under these circumstances, but it was what we had to do. I’m working on turning all of this into some off-the-cuff, sexy, melodramatic reality show one day. On the CW. Or if I just get really bad actors with an even worse script: TBS – fa sho’.
It’s one thing to stand around in a club that happens to be experiencing a momentary lapse in clientele. You’re still hopeful that customers will stumble in by midnight, making the night worth it. But it’s a completely different experience when you’re in a club – in Vegas (isn’t it supposed to be hoppin’ all the time?) – after 3 am (who the hell in their right mind is going to stumble in here at this hour?) – surrounded by not-so-Vegas, over-the-hill strippers (where are all the hotties from the ads?) – starting the night in the negative (awww, f*ck…!) This is not what we imagined coming to Vegas would be like. Eyeing each other from varying points across the floor, we were all easily thinking the same thing -
This is some bullshit.
So we ambushed the housemom.
How do we get on the regular nightshift?
You have to get hired by that specific manager.
How do we get to him to get hired?
Show up a little earlier than normal and he’ll still be here.
What about our permits?
I’ll hold onto those for you.
Why can’t we take them with us?
Well, since you’re coming back tomorrow anyway…
We knew this was a ploy to get us to come back. We were, by far, the best-looking girls on that shift and they wanted to keep us there. For the time being, we felt trapped. But since we were coming back the next night to work the night shift where the ‘business’ was, we weren’t too worried. Our final goal of the evening? Make enough money to be able to pay our shift fees up front the following evening. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be too tough. Unfortunately, it was going to be quite difficult to eek $180 out of this “crowd.” My only hope was the toothless guy with his hand down his pants and he was getting a handjob from one of the fat girls, so that golden opportunity had slipped through my fingers. (I couldn’t resist)
Luckily, one of my traveling companions was able to snag a guy to go into the bonus room. I don’t remember what that room was actually called. It was off of the main floor, but not quite private enough to be considered a VIP or a Champagne Room. Come to think of it, I don’t even remember them having a VIP room. What I do remember is that those dances cost considerably more. And as soon as we collectively acquired enough $ to cover cab fare, another hotel stay and food for the next day, we headed out.
Into the bright ass light of day. It was 7:00 in the morning. And I thought the neon was bright.