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Because Faint Glitter Came off Everything

By Liz Stephens

There is a reason that strip clubs generally charge a cover: it’s so they don’t become this place I’m standing in. Strip clubs are one animal; free strip clubs, I see now, are a whole other beast.

      No pressure on patrons to spend or leave; no incentive for good girls to stay staring at the backs of the heads of regulars side eyeing them all afternoon; no minimum drink order, or, for that matter, maximum; no credit accepted, no photos allowed, no red velvet rope in the private booths separating hands of customers from skin of girls; no bachelorette parties here. Those backlit Lucite bars and tables, those doormen with earbuds connecting them to back up (imagine having back up!), those chairs with the plush arms that look good to sit on and lean into? That’s Vegas. This is Hollywood in the nineties. Pool table so raw in the felt it makes you grit your teeth to see its glare in the shitty light; bar so shellacked you can see the fillings in the teeth of the bar patron next to you when he laughs; a glimpse of a locker door hanging off its hinge through the curtain to the back room when the bare bulb light flashes out between songs.

     “You should work here,” my curious but more intellectually committed friends said, which says a lot about me, all of us looking around the surprising small dark room in a sort of gleeful shock—these friends who later became screenwriters and theater directors and well-known actors, who would use their fine connections and confidence to climb Hollywood’s ladders very quickly, though in our mid-to-early twenties they were pinging off walls with unfocused energy, squirrelly with sexual angst and ambition.


About the Author

Liz Stephens is currently at work on a photographic essay book and a book about urban wild animals. Recent work can be found in the anthologies Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction and Dirt: A Love Story, and she has a piece recently published in Cleaver. Other work can be found in Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction and, among others. She has served as managing editor of the journal Brevity, and teaches nonfiction with the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and through private workshops and retreats.