Come check out the "pilot episode" of THE GRIND, following JP Chan's DRY CLEAN ONLY at Take Two on Tuesday, February 15th and stay for a discussion in which Victoria swaps stories with sex activist Siobhan Brooks-King, who's got a few tales of her own from her days at Lusty Lady in San Francisco. See the website for more information!
|THE GRIND is set at Bump 'n Grind, a strip club based on Baby Doll Lounge. |
Image courtesy of In the Cut and Jeremiah's Vanishing New York.
STRIPPING FOR TIPPING
By Victoria Linchong
In 1992, as a teenage runaway one step from the street, my best friend, a dancer new to New York City from Atlanta, took me to the Pussycat Lounge and introduced me to an amazing new way of paying my rent. I earned $80 that night dancing in my underwear - twice as much as what I made all week working as an usher in an East Village theater. For the next eight years, stripping was a means of self-reliance, the bankroll I could count on while I pursued my art.
In my circle of artsy friends, my story is not that unusual. It's almost a rite of passage for any ambitious girl of limited means. Yet, it's a story that's rarely told, mostly since it's hard enough to be respected as a woman and once you've outed yourself as a stripper, your credibility is basically shot. When one thinks of a stripper, one rarely imagines a low-income woman struggling to get by. As a stripper, you are either a victim or a slut, deprived or depraved. The focus on "sex work" centers on "sex" instead of "work," and while the double edge of sexuality is a rich issue to mine, in the context of "sex work" it fails to confront the real questions, which have nothing to do with morality, which are completely socioeconomic: Why are the options are so limited for women? What are the economic realities that make stripping a viable (and even, dare I say it, intelligent) choice for many girls?
In THE GRIND, six vastly different women attempt to find a means to a better end by dancing at a seedy downtown strip club. Although the play will be partially devised, the conversations and scenarios will be based on ones I remember and the characters are based on the girls I danced with - most of them artists, single moms and college students. It's a world that has largely vanished, purged by Giuliani's quality of life campaign, which for better or for worse, eradicated all the neighborhood topless bars, allowing only corporate homogenized stripper emporiums to survive. Set in 1997, THE GRIND serves up the difference between the New York you miss or the New York you missed, through the story of six girls navigating a transformative year, both in their lives and in the life of the city.