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Lap-Dance Larceny: A True Story from the Strip Club

Lap-Dance Larceny: A True Story from the Strip Club:

Welcome to The Tasteful Nude, in which stripper, comedian and writer Kasey Koop gives us a point-blank look at life onstage and backstage in L.A.’s strip club scene. Check back every Thursday afternoon for more.

For lap dances, I’ve been paid in bills both large and small, and I’ve even taken payments via Venmo. Any method is better than being shorted. When you steal from a stripper, you’re shoplifting my time and body—and considering how much I invest in my appearance, that’s grand larceny. Managers lecture us about collecting pay beforehand, but pausing for twenties between each dance spoils the mood you’ve twerked hard to create and hinders the sale of more. Because of this, I take my chances by asking for the total sum at the end. My customers are trustworthy 99 percent of the time. But that other one percent rears its ugly head from time to time.


My initial contact with a man I’ll call Paul was sidestage, looking up at me from where he was seated. His face was bright pink with the Asian flush, a booze-induced glow that I know all too well. As a hapa, or mixed Japanese-Caucasian, I used to pop Pepcid AC before imbibing to combat the redness. If I forgot to take it, people would look at me as if I were Carrie at the prom and ask if I was OK. “Yep, just Japanese!” I’d slur.

After my performance, I introduced myself to Paul and asked about his ethnicity, which, sure enough, was an Asian-white blend. When I took him behind the lap dance curtains, he giddily talked about his job in music publishing. I recognized the type: manic go-getters whose magnetism comes from their career-crafted ability to make you feel like a star. This guy paid me for a couple of dances and was so charismatic that I gave him my number.

Although Paul never hit me up, he returned to the club five months later, flushed red from more Pepcid-free debauchery. Returning customers are cake since the groundwork of familiar discourse has already been laid. All you have to do is, ahem, pitch the tent. Paul announced that he and his business partner were celebrating the sale of their company for a gross profit. Check and mate. I was dancing on him in no time, during which he played me some songs by the band he managed. The music was difficult to hear and even harder to feign interest in. “Sounds great,” I nodded, lazily pinching my nipples.

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This continued for a couple of hours. I made sure to ask before each song if he wanted to continue with the lap dances, to which he’d auto-reply, “Hell yeah! We’re celebrating!” Maintaining sexiness over hours of gyrating is tricky. Energies can flag when you’re trying not to fart or work up too profuse a sweat. Paul droned on about his last two years of celibacy, choosing career over pussy. I heard myself in him and hated it. I’ve always put school and career way above dating, but sometimes I long to be normal and throw away my aspirations for a guy who ignores me on his phone at dinner. But here I sat following my dreams, listening to a strange man talk about his dick. Paul was grating on my nerves but the songs were racking up—and so, in theory, was my fee.

Finally Paul had had his fill and, frankly, so had I. “Four hundred dollars!” I panted as we made our way to the ATM. The celebratory mood shifted and he asked, “Are you sure we did that many?” Absolutely, bucko. While you were relaying your E! True Hollywood Story, I was counting songs like minutes until pregnancy test results. My confidence wilted to nerves and my nerves to suspicion when he leaned into his buddy’s ear over the neon light of the ATM. It was the Swan Lake of escape plans: First, his friend about-faced and booked it out the front door. Paul quickly followed suit, slamming a thin stack into my hand before jetting out the door.

I stood there stunned, having never seen anyone leave so hastily following a transaction. I counted $200 but I’m awful at math so I counted it again. $200. Maybe the bills were stuck together? $200. I stared the door down like a Rottweiler at a squirrel through a fence; I could run after him, but I don’t chase anyone. The strange calm of calamity overtook me. It’s not that I don’t think he had the cash—he did—but I had learned from my waitressing days that rich folks cling hardest to their money and justifications for the exploitative ways they earned it. No one in the history of black AmEx cards has ever tipped a server more than a dollar.

I don’t believe in the kind of karma that entails a mysterious hand ruling all, but there is a strip-club energy in which the good and bad nights balance out. The evenings you’re tipped an extra hundred easily compensate for the slow nights. Regardless, stealing is stealing, and taking a five-finger discount from a stripper can cost you a knuckle sandwich. So before you make your next trip to the club, listen up: Make sure you have enough money—and basic human dignity—to pay and tip the strippers. We actually do have feelings and, more important, bills to pay.


Find more installments of the Tasteful Nude here.

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