That first night I was driving there, I must have told myself to turn back almost the entire 20 minute drive from West Hollywood to East Hollywood. It was my first shift at a new club, one that was known as a place, “Where strippers go to die”. I was ashamed… “is this what my life is now?” I asked myself. After all, I had walked away from nude stripping, never to look back. I was 26, so I wasn’t dying. Lol! So, I made myself keep driving. I made myself go in, I made myself put on my eight inch heels. My style was so different. I still had that tanning bed tan, not a lot of tattoos yet and very very blond hair. I wore whites, pinks, rhinestones, and yellow eight inch ankle boots. I was a quintessential stripper, fresh out of Spearmint Rhino. Cut to Jumbo’s Clown Room, the place I was soon to call home, where all the dancers were dark, moody, dangerous, and rolling around on stage drunk. “This is kewl”, I thought. “Yeah, let’s be edgy.”
It was here they could say “fuck you” to customers, turn down lap dances and be themselves deep into the core of their being. They got drunk, they got high, they had tattoos all over their bodies, wore mostly black and they were my new sisters. I remember very clearly, Charlie (not the current Charlie) was the first dancer there to be super nice to me. She could tell I needed a liaison basically. Charlie was tall, with black hair that she wore in a pony tail most of the time. She was so fierce and so raw. She was the brazen asshole that I wanted to be. You see, I was very angry at the time. I wanted to tell people to fuck off. To say I was happy that I didn’t turn around on my initial drive there, is an understatement. That decision was the beginning trajectory of my current success and general happiness. And by the way, there were no dying strippers there.
You see, I was angry because I felt betrayed by the strip clubs over time. I felt in many ways, which I won’t get into here, that my stripper sisters betrayed me too. (I feel differently now) I was assaulted so many times towards the end of my career, I was starting to become damaged goods. One night in particular, something pretty bad happened, and my solution was to meet up with my friends and do cocaine for 12 hours straight. That was a turning point for me. Something had to change and fast. At the time, I had no idea what I was doing with my life. My friends were not real friends, they were not supportive, not there for me and were all doing drugs too.
It’s important that you understand, I didn’t just leave nude stripping behind, I left an entire identity behind and in the drop of a hat. For five and a half years, I was a Rhino girl. My title was Spearmint Rhino Entertainer of the Year for 2006. I was well known in Los Angeles, had just finished my year long tour across the country under the name “Jersey”. When I got to Jumbo’s, I wanted my name to be different so no one would know I was there. It was my mission to be dancing there “undercover”. It’s funny now to think of that. What was I hiding from?
Once I integrated into the Jumbo’s system, it became home. It became so many things to me. An opportunity to freely express my art without men asking me “why don’t you show your pussy off more?”. It was a place where my schedule was so flexible, I could pursue my dreams to the fullest. I could say, “I’m going out of town for a month” and still have a job when I came back. It was a network hub for me, where I met my current partner for the documentary I’m making (Fistful of Steel) where I met my partner for SongSeen, where I met a mentor that inspired me to introduce live streaming to the pole dance community through UPA. Where I made most of my best friends that I have to this day. The staff, the customers and the dancers have been like a family to me.
That stage, I love that stage. There used to be nights when I’d finish dancing, the room would be so loud and raucous, the sound would hurt my ears. One of my favorite songs to dance to is “The Only Time” by Nine Inch Nails. And every time Trent Reznor sang “this is the only time I really feel alive”, I truly felt those words and I showed that to the audience. My stage presence is so big because my message is obvious, “I’m doing what I love and you get to see what that’s like for a person. Don’t you want to do what makes you happy? Because it’s the greatest feeling on the planet.” I loved that place. So many people love it. Why is that?
I stayed there for eleven and a half years. Why did I stay for so long? Why do a lot of us stay for so long? Many reasons, but I’m going to tell you the two main reasons. #1, the money is pretty damn good. I was making just a little more at the nude strip clubs, showing off my pink bits and getting grabbed, licked and poked against my will. So, yeah, it was good money. #2, but probably the biggest reason of all, my dancer sisters. I’m about to make you so fucking jealous.
The dressing room at Jumbo’s is the size of a bathroom, minus the toilet and sink. Technically the bench takes up the space a tub would. Jealous yet? Lol! No, let me explain. The room was small, forcing us to be face to face with each other all the time. There was no escaping each other. There was no hiding tears, key bumps and no possible way you could shit talk without being caught. This made us talk to each other more, fight more, love more, comfort more, like an honest to gosh darn family. There was this one time, one of us was so upset/angry (it may have been me actually), that one of the ladies suggested we all scream together. There must have been at least 5 of us in there. We counted down, “3, 2, 1! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Then we all laughed after that and whoever was upset, was now laughing and we were all high fiving. “Yeah bitch!” Problem solved.
Even when we were challenging each other, (remember, we’re face to face, super close), we were learning in each of those instances. We had no choice but to sometimes (or a lot of times) be uncomfortable and therefore grow. It’s there that I learned how to deal with angry people straight up in your face, where I learned to not offer comfort simply because there were tears. Sometimes, you have to back off and let the person just go through it. Understanding social cues in that room was so important. “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry” is said numerous times a night. Being spatially aware and aware of others emotional and mental state on a regular basis became an art to all of us. Outside of the dressing room, we supported each other on stage. We cheer for each other, often in awe of each others beauty and compliment each other all night. We often had/have clothing swaps, have parties for and with each other. Get tattooed together, travel together, and most of all, we support each other. It’s like a sorority. Our bond will last a life time and no one in my life will ever understand me like these women do. They saw every part of me. My sexual side, my angry side, my bossy bitchy side, my sadness, my happiness, they’ve seen me drunk, stoned and sober. They know my life, they know my desires. And I know theirs. There is and was nothing like it.
This last December was my last time being at Jumbo’s.
I am done dancing at Jumbo’s Clown Room and I’m not the only one.
You may have heard that Jumbo’s hours recently changed. This was due to the labor laws being rewritten and the business needing to scale back to survive the reclassifying of dancers as employees. What this did was reduce the amount of shifts. That meant dancers needed to be cut. Now, I didn’t get let go (but maybe I would have) because my accident decided that for me. But many of my sisters got let go, with very little warning, answers or explanation. Now there are many of us, floating on the outside, dreaming of the inside of that dressing room. Our mother fucking sanctuary from the world. No matter what kind of a day I was having, once I made it to the dressing room with my regular people clothes on for the first time of each night, my brain switched. I was safe for the next five hours from all that bullshit from the outside world.
When you leave Jumbo’s, you can still be connected, but it’s never the same. I miss my gals so much. I miss that room so much. Those moments were some of the best of my life. Those moments are gone now. And I’m grieving the loss of those moments. This is to all my sisters now at Jumbo’s. Whether we got along or not, you were like family to me. You will always have the most special place in my heart. So many of your faces and asses are flashing through my head right now. Studying your movement all night, three nights a week for 11 years gave me the most joy I’ve felt in my life. I say this all the time “I could watch women dance like this for the rest of my life.” And I plan to live to 120 years old. Lol! It seriously is never boring! You gave me the best years of my life my loves, my queens. I think of all of you every day these days.
Remember when we used to do Midnight Mass with Misty as the Pope? Or the time you all dared me to act like Russel Crow from “The Gladiator” on stage and yell at the audience “Are you not entertained?! Is this not what you came for?!” (and Yasss I did it cause I don’t give a fuck!) Remember when Kesha came and none of her friends or her tipped anyone? Or the 40th party when there were like 15 of us all back there?! Lol! And Blue and Zee got into a fight over a camera and starting almost brawling in the dressing room! It was like 90 degrees back there that day (mid summer). The amount of laughs, problems solved and scheming that we did together was epic. You are adventure buddies to the max.
The customers that have become our friends could see all of this. There are those special gems out there, you know who you are. You see us as people, you were our rocks when the room was shit. I had very rarely experienced respect and love from customers at any nude or topless strip club I’d ever worked at like Jumbo’s. Can you see why I stayed so long in one place? I left once to go East and try a new life out there, but the pull of the sunny days and mostly of Jumbo’s made me come back. Let me be clear, the number one reason I did not continue a life back east a few years ago was so I could be at Jumbos’ again. To me, it was the best place on earth. Now it’s a memory. So, if my other gals can’t go back, the ones that got let go, then I won’t go back either.
For the last few days, this has been all I can think about. I do keep getting asked, “when you will be dancing at Jumbo’s?”. The answer is “never”. You’ve missed the boat of seeing me and many other amazingly talented dancers light up that stage. Don’t get me wrong, there are still amazing dancers there, just minus some other ones. I would say go still, for sure. But if you go, tip her! Do not believe the media “a dive bar where you can get cheap drinks”. NO! It’s a dancer bikini bar where you should spend at least $100 on tips alone to the DANCERS. They deserve every penny and more. They are the only reason you are there. You must tip them as to honor them for giving you the blessed opportunity to watch them pour out their heart and soul on stage for you. You can go anywhere to have a drink, but you can’t witness a human social experience like this one anywhere else on the planet.
I think Jumbo’s should have a new tag line “Where strippers go to thrive.” Despite it’s negatives, the women, the customers and okay, okay, the music, make that place the most special place on earth. It made me the person I am today. Successful, happy and fearless of this transition. Where my girls at? I hope you all feel the same. I love you forever.