“A tell-tale wind was already rattling the discreetly blackened windows in announcement of winter’s approach. It sounded to Morgan like the spirits of long-vanished dancers click-clacking their heels in some undead cabaret. Sometimes the very walls seemed alive with a thousand hungry eyes still watching from the shadows of time…”
While waiting for that magically transformative age of eighteen, you walk past the mysteriously blackened windows and darkened doorways in equal parts fascination and fear about what’s inside. The ceaselessly flashing signs tell you “Girls, Girls, Girls!” and “Nude Live Women,” so you know that much. But what exactly are those live nude women doing behind those secret windows and forbidden doors?
Even in an age when formerly exotic taboos have Wikipedia pages and previously clandestine sub-cultures are as accessible as a keyboard click, strip clubs retain something of the forbidden naughtiness of sexual illicitness. There’s something uniquely erotic about flesh-and-blood women (and men) in darkened rooms displaying real-time flesh in all its beauty and flaws. Sordid yet sexy, cheesy yet with a tarnished classiness all their own, strip clubs epitomize and exaggerate sex in all of its alluring absurdity.
Whether viewed as exploitation or empowerment, liberating or stereotyping, mutual exchange or demeaning commodification—or all or none of the above, or, as with most things in this crazy thing called life, some complex, ever-shifting combination all its own—strip clubs retain a powerful pull on our imaginations (and more tangible body parts).
And so what a perfect setting for a ghostly tale of passion, deception, and revenge…
Firbolg Publishing’s ghostly, gay-themed anthology Enter at Your Own Risk: Fires and Phantoms includes my story “Time for One Last Dance” along with 13 other stories by modern writers and classic masters. My story centers around the strip club The Wanton Woman which, although fictional, was partly inspired by the world-famous San Francisco club The Lusty Lady.
Established in 1976 to show porn films, The Lusty Lady went to live entertainment in 1983. In 1996, the dancers staged a famous uprising to improve working conditions, which eventually led to the formation of the Exotic Dancers Union. The club again made headlines in 2003 when the dancers put together a cooperative and purchased the place. The unionized co-op still offers one-buck viewings of the main stage dancers in private booths that harken back to the peep-show era of bygone days.
A trip to San Francisco is not complete without a walk up Grant Street to Chinatown for a plate of chow mein and a pot of Oolong at the Hang Ah Tea Room, a Lotus Golden Yolk Mooncake from the Eastern Bakery, and a few blocks stroll to The Lusty Lady on Kearny. Until then, let me take you behind those blackened windows and down the secret corridors where there’s always time for one last dance… Click here to purchase Fires and Phantoms in paperback or e-book format.
08/23/2013 It looks as if The legendary Lusty Lady will be closing its doors for good… Goodbye, my Lady… San Francisco just won’t be the same without you…