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March 05, 2018

Stripping Away the Stereotypes With Stormy Daniels

HOUSTON, Texas—An opportunistic, ne’er-do-well sex worker milking a cash cow for all she can get. That’s what a lot of mainstream media coverage would have you believe about Stormy Daniels’ current feature dance tour, which is booked solid through the end of 2018. Consider: “Out of guilt, I gave a half-hearted clap for Daniels. ... Though I'm no stripping critic, if that's a job, it was obvious Daniels wasn't a professional stripper.” (Vice.com)  “Ms Daniels is mining this for all she can get ...” (The Independent) “STORMY DANIELS BRINGS HER DIRTY LAUNDRY... To Strip Club!!!” (TMZ.com) I attended the March 3 installment of a three-day stint that Daniels, 38, recently did at the Vivid Live Gentleman’s Club in Houston, Texas. Certainly, I was about to witness epic-level chicanery unfolding during the “Make America Horny Again” tour—a name unsanctioned by Daniels that a club owner in South Carolina came up with, and others latched onto. I rode to the club with Daniels and her assistant Kayla Paige, a delightful goof and terrifying driver, at 10:30 p.m. Daniels’ first show of the evening happened around midnight. The club was about half-full and pretty sedate at that point. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a creepy figure wearing a dark cloak maneuvering through the audience—only to head up on stage! Daniels, no longer needing to be stealthy, flung off the cloak to reveal some kinda sexy vampire outfit. She began with some dance steps and a handful of stellar knee-to-nose high kicks, moving into recognizable feature-dance fare. As I proceeded to belt out the words to “Cry Little Sister" like it was 1987 again, I wondered how Daniels’ darkwave show-music selections would connect with the audience. Well, it would seem. Cash flew and a delighted, increasingly frenzied crowd gathered at the tip rail. When the show was over, Paige scooped piles of money off the stage, filling Daniels’ noteworthy laundry basket. Daniels’ second show happened around 2 a.m. As a person who is generally in bed by 10 p.m., this was killing me. By this point, the club was full and the crowd was drunker than they were for the earlier show. Daniels got a young man volunteer up on stage and proceeded to hassle him with a series of good-natured stunts involving a blowup doll. Then, she brought out an inflatable pool and squirt guns, dousing the crowd and herself. Cash, once again, flew. Suddenly, in a display that quite frankly made my safety radar skip a beat, Daniels—wet and naked except for a g-string—hopped off the stage. She made her way around the floor area, grinding, laughing, and getting paid by dazzled patrons. All I could think about was the internet and scandal and “trending on Twitter!” and how goddamn gutsy the entire spectacle was. Then, just like that, the second show wrapped up. Paige refilled the laundry basket, dried the stage, and hustled out merch. Daniels emerged from the back of the house wearing a skimpy sparkly dress to meet with a gathering of fans. There was a sweet thirtysomething-year-old man who seemed to regard Daniels as a sort of awe-inspiring theater performer. He let her know that his husband had encouraged him to come say hello. There was a bf/gf couple, and the giddy woman took off her own top for their group photo-op. There was a good-looking man who insisted on taking multiple snaps to get the perfect selfie—and then grumbled when Paige demanded payment. Finally, it was time to pack up. We filed through the club and into the manager’s office, located right off the club’s kitchen/hookah staging area. Paige busied herself with the laundry basket, I emptied squirt guns. Daniels bear-hugged the blowup doll on the floor, deflating it quickly, unconcerned with spoiling her dress. “How much did you get paid?” I asked. Daniels explained she made $1,500 per show for five total programs (one Thursday, two on Friday, and two on Saturday). Less her booking agent’s 15 percent fee, she was walking with $6,400 from the club plus $2,000 in total tips. Though Daniels said she was making more now than she was per comparable bookings a year ago—and though $8,400 is a nice chunk of change for three days’ work—given all the hidden costs (read: paying your roadie, emotional toll, etc.), the take somehow didn’t seem like enough. At about 3:30 a.m., the car was finally—mercifully—loaded. We three piled in, and I sank into the backseat, barely able to keep my eyes open. “How do you guys stay up this late?” I asked. “Doesn’t it mess you up—switching back and forth between an ‘ordinary’ sleep schedule and strip club hours?” “Usually at this point I would be getting organized back at the hotel for an hour or so before a 6 a.m. flight,” Daniels explained the intensity of her travel/performance schedule matter-of-factly. “But because we’re in Texas, this is a weird trip.” “And I’ve been doing this since I was 17,” she added, “So I’m used to it.” Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals is a sociologist and author. Contact her via Twitter: @drchauntelle.

 
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