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A Stripper Tries her Hand (Among Other Things) at Burlesque

A Stripper Tries her Hand (Among Other Things) at Burlesque: Hair and Makeup by Emma Parkes

Hair and Makeup by Emma Parkes

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.

I live in a bubble. Some people are protected by religion; I’m sheltered by the lawlessness of stand-up comedy and stripping, where there’s neither a dress nor moral code. It feels cozy being surrounded by non-judgmental peers. I’ve done comedy everywhere from comic book shops to living rooms to restaurant chains (there’s nothing like bombing in a Hooters) but my dancing has been confined to the strip club—until a friend recently booked me a burlesque show.

With its elaborate costumes and storylines, I thought of Burlesque as classy stripping, sans pole. Never having done it, I knew I was biting off more than I could chew. Then again, biting off more than I could chew constituted my entire L.A. existence. It kicked off with moving here to pursue stand-up, which I’d only done a handful of times, and extended to getting paid to model, act and write with no prior experience. Bullshitting had gotten me into this bubble, so I was more than prepared to bust out of it.

And so it was that I signed on for my first outside-work dancing gig. I was in for a few surprises.

Arriving to a venue in downtown L.A., where I’d once seen Azealia Banks perform, I quickly realized that this was a much bigger job than I had anticipated. The show was part of an anime convention, and hundreds of nerds were gathering. When I entered the dressing room, a trio of burlesque dancers wearing cat ears looked at me like I was a mouse they wanted to devour. How precious, I thought, after working with strippers who had real claws. When a geeky producer asked if any of us could stand in as part of a comedy sketch, the burlesque troupe mercilessly shut him down, cackling in self-importance. The friendliest mean girl asked how many numbers I was doing. “Huh?” I responded. “How many numbers are you doing?” Oh! Numbers was burlesque-talk for songs. “I don’t know; I’m not even sure what songs I’m dancing to.” The show had been planned last-minute, so I wasn’t even sure where I stood on the lineup. The girls’ eyes rolled back into their swollen heads.

Just as the housecats made their way onstage, a man ran into the dressing room. His body had the suggestion of muscles—like he had eaten a hot guy—with tribal tattoos to boot. I should pause here to mention that there’s a special place in my heart for skanky guys. For as many brainy narcissists (ahem, L.A. artists) as I’ve dated, my real weakness is a tongue or nipple ring. As the guy velcroed up his sailor costume, I realized that he was a male stripper—a bootleg Magic Mike. He seemed pleasantly surprised by my presence, pointing to my thigh and asking, “Is that a Playboy tattoo?” When I verified it was, he exposed his own bunny, inked over his heart. “I got it when I was 12.” Soulmates! I sat on his chest to photograph our matching tattoos. Perhaps we’d feature it on our wedding invitations. Magic Mike revealed he’d been stripping 16 years, a fact I had already guessed by counting the gel spikes on his head. Didn’t you know? It’s just like how you can tell a tree’s age by the rings in its trunk.

Found my soulmate 🐇(he’s a male stripper)

A photo posted by Cunter S. Thompson (@kaseykoop) on

I’m accustomed to taking the brunt of repressed male sexuality in the safety of my strip club, where there’s always a bouncer standing by. Gigging is a gamble for strippers because we aren’t guaranteed protection. Warming up, scantily clad in the dressing room, I was taken aback when a group of nerds working the convention gathered nearby and one started filming me on his phone. When I noticed him, he nervously asked if it was okay to record me. My inner stripper came out and I almost knocked his phone from his hands, denying him permission unless he wanted to pay me $20—the price of my lap dances as well as my nude photos. (Besides, I don’t live paycheck to paycheck so much as $20 to $20.) I act as my own momager and, in this case, my own bouncer.

Shortly thereafter, the creep’s friends apologized for his disrespect, explaining, “Even though this is that kind of a show, we don’t want to be known as those kind of guys.” Right: Even though I’m performing in your whore show, you don’t want to be known as creepy chauvinists. How noble. It’s funny how male feminism so often manifests as self-boltering instead of forfeiting power. I stared blankly.

In the end, I got to lead a twerking competition between the nerds instead of dancing a burlesque “number.” I was much more at home pussy-popping on all fours than I would’ve felt attempting an elegant strip tease. The burlesque girls were out of my hair as soon as they got offstage, jetting off to their other glamorous gigs while the male stripper and I traded numbers—game recognizes game.

With as many hiccups and personalities as I encountered, doing a gig outside the safe space of the club was a refreshing change of pace. I’m eager to see where else my bullshitting will take me.


Find more installments of the Tasteful Nude here.

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