Car(e) Free Los Angeles: The Wong Sans Wheels Chronicles #6– The Norma Rae of the Seventh Veil
September 11th, 2008 → Leave a comment
Jenny Shimizu, I’m waiting for you…. At the bus stop…
Being carless has its perks. Right now at this very moment, it doesn’t. I’m cabin feverish, as I’ve been all week. Too lazy to jump on a bike and to skiddish to call someone to take me out. I’m at a stalemate at my computer. But even if I did have a car, where would I go? I have to wake up early tomorrow to try on bridesmaid dresses in Torrance. And a shit-ton of work to do for this show. Oh man, this show! I got a little scared again today about it. I’ll still tour this show for another few months after this Los Angeles run. Heck, I’ll tour it as long as there is interest. But my life is changing and there are new shows to make.
I’m ready to move onto “not as political or fix-the-world-esque” stuff. Will there be a market for me? Will I survive this economy?
Where is my bootleg copy of The Secret when I need it?
But time to share more carless adventures. This past Tuesday night, my friend suggested we take advantage of the free drinks at this DVD release party for “Itty Bitty Titty Committee”– it’s like the hot new lesbian indie film. But more importantly– free drinks! And I was getting a ride over.
I think I’ve mentioned it before, but my lesbian dreamboatess is Jenny Shimizu, former Calvin Klein model and ex-lover of Angelina Jolie. Yum yum.
We’ve met twice before. The first time was at a small apartment party in Koreatown where as soon as I saw her, I started screaming excitedly in her face that she was Jenny Shimizu (don’t tell me that I don’t have game). And another time was at this transgender beauty pageant where she was one of the judges (and while taking a photo, I managed to poke Chay in the eyes in my excitement).
So after tossing down drinks, I see her. Across the bar. I started jumping up and down and my friend and this Korean gal we just met there were like, “We’re just going to tell her about your show!”
“No! What if she hates me!?!” I screamed. But they push me towards her anyway.
So there we were on the floor. All I can stutter out to Jenny Shimizu is: “We’ve met before! At that lesbian party! You know, of that lesbain couple, in Koreatown. I forget their names. They were together, but then they broke up? They have dogs? You know who I’m talking about?”
Nevermind that I basically described every lesbian in Los Angeles….
All we got were these blurry photos from my Crackberry. Gosh I can’t wait to get my nice camera back and start taking nice pictures again!
So I’m following Jenny all over the bar with a Long Island in one hand, when our new Korean lady friend was like, “Do you want to go to the Seventh Veil now?”
For those not in the know, the Seventh Veil is a strip club on Sunset Blvd.
The last time I went to a strip club was in 2002. Back then, I was scraping by in my fledgling artist career and saw this coupon in the LA Weekly for free admission to this strip club within walking distance of my apartment. What really caught my eye was the advertisement for “Free Buffet Lunch.”
Free Admission? Free lunch? Yay! Free food AND feminist research! An artist’s dream come true. I had to check out what a buffet at a strip club would be– chicken wings covered in cigarette butts? Salad that smelled like ass? And what would it be like to eat lunch with a shaking crotch over my plate?
It wasn’t totally free– $6 for a “drink ticket.” But still… free food… and yes… feminist research. It was funny to walk down Bundy to this little strip club (the Silver Reign) that I’d always noticed behind Staples and never thought to go to. When I got in there it was so dark. I could barely see the dancers. They were blurs of boob and ass. The buffet sat on a little card table in the corner. It was cheese pasta in sternos, salad from a bag, and sliced bread– the meal of champions!
I sat in the corner with my then boyfriend’s best friend who came with me because he wanted a free meal too. We hunched over our baked ziti, trying to look very involved with our food, avoiding eye contact with the dancers so that we wouldn’t have to pay for lapdances or tip (as we were pretty much out of money at that point).
It was really surprising how many guys there were there. After all, the sun was out.
The dancers were quite taken by my presence as the only (not naked) girl there. They kept coming over, shaking my hand, letting their hands trail against my leg. All the while, I would just nod politely and stuff myself with pasta and send them on their way to circle the club to find someone who could tip them.
Anyway, so this last Tuesday, filled with free drinks, I am in the backseat of our new friend’s car on my way to the Seventh Veil. And my friend is with me back there. I had to go. After all, this was feminist research! Plus, what else was I going to do? Take the bus home?
$20 to get in! And I got another $20 broken into ones. It was exciting though to actually be able to tip the girls instead of hide from them. But… Is it me? Or are strip clubs passe? Aren’t we completely desensitized to stripper-esque nudity in this day and age? It’s not that interesting to see a girl in her bikini anymore. Or even a naked girl. I can look at that at home for free.
But we played up the part of saucy strip club patrons. I tucked bills into G-strings and played the role of the music video jerk guy. Raising the roof and letting these dancers do insane, yet totally numbing stuff like stick their boobies in my face.
All that ass in my face got so dull. Very quickly. And the guys who arrived alone and who weren’t tipping were pissing me off.
Still tipsy, I turned to my friend and kept asking, “What’s going on? How the heck did we end up in a strip club with a lesbian on a Tuesday night?”
Ah yes, I remember now. I have no car. And this is how I’m getting a ride home.
And in another moment I thought to myself: “Nudity is so boring. Maybe I should work here if my touring dries up. Sure I just turned 30, but I still got it. It would be… feminist research! Like Diablo Cody’s early years!”
One of the girls asked us if we wanted a dance. Still inebriated, I found myself educating her about her labor rights.
KW: Do you pay a stage fee to work here?
Dancer: Yeah, we have to pay a portion of what we make.
KW: Just so you know, I had a friend who was a dancer in San Francisco, and she was able to successfully sue the clubs she danced at for back wages. Because it is illegal to have to pay to work.
D: Well we make a lot, so…
KW: It is illegal for you to have to pay to work! They already make $20 at the door. And they shouldn’t take more of your wages when you are inside. Waiters don’t have to pay to wait tables! So you shouldn’t have to pay to work here. You really should check out the Sex Workers Outreach Project here in Los Angeles. It’s your money and you have the right to it!
D: (Quiet, then…) Well, let me know if you want a dance.
That’s right folks. I was organizing that club from the inside!
I think the unfortunate difference about dancers in LA (versus somewhere like San Francisco) is that it is probably a lot harder for dancers to organize. And I also wonder if there is less interest. In the “Live Nude Girls Unite” documentary about how San Francisco dancers formed the first exotic dancers union — most of those women were Women’s Studies majors, artists, super educated and very activist oriented. There seemed to be a whole pride and identity around being a “sex worker” in San Francisco that there might not be in Los Angeles. I feel like in LA, it’s a lot of aspiring actors working the pole who are trying to get in and out of that business while they can.
Anyway, for my mother who is probably totally horrified as she reads this: I do not plan to pursue being a stripper. In order to protect the Wong Family name, I will find another way of collecting feminist research. I’m sure there is a massage parlor somewhere that could use my help.
Yes, folks, the carless life has meant a new life of debauchery– booze, lesbians, and strippers. Oh yeah, and labor organizing. Do not judge me. It’s feminist research. I swear.