Regina can take the fun out of everything — even stripping
by Carle Steel
Provincial law prohibits certain kinds of activities where liquor is served (Comrade! Drop those spandex panties and step away from that Pilsner!), and city zoning bylaws require adult clubs to be in an industrial zone — and at least 182.88 metres from parks, bowling alleys, funeral homes and crematoria, rinks, churches and day care centres.
Through a process of geographic elimination, the only space available for Regina’s only strip club is out by the oil refinery.
Dancers (230A Hodsman Road) is in a metal hangar insulated and converted into a makeshift club. There are Christmas lights in the front windows and the private rooms are in open sheds at the back. There is a stage and two poles, a pool table and a concession stand. There are also a couple of fish tanks and one of those vending machines where you try to pick out stuffed animals with a robotic metal claw.
Between songs, the wind whistles through the metal rafters, high pitched and far away. The bouncer is on call from his trailer in the parking lot. One beer bottle sits frozen to the sidewalk.
If the power dynamic between strippers and customers isn’t weird enough to begin with (You guys are sooo sexy I just want to get naked and rub myself. Oooh, look at that! Money!), Regina has gone and made it even weirder. Not only is there just one club, it turns out there is only one stripper too. Her name is Angel.
Other girls come and go — some girls from Calgary have failed to arrive this night — but Angel is a regular, says Jade, who runs the music and the concession stand. (“Tell them we need a liquor licence,” she says when I reveal I’m writing about the club.)
Angel, tiny and perfect in spite of the bad lighting, cavorts before mirrors in front of three male customers. Following her routine, the men come up individually, and lie on their backs on the stage, arms at their side, feet on the floor. Angel positions herself on hands and knees, with her torso over theirs. After she plucks money from their fists with her teeth, she moves her body about their faces, a weird alternating of crotch sniffing and titty slaps. “Absolutely no touching” says the sign, but from here it’s hard to tell.
A minute later she is dressed again in a little red tube dress, going from table to table, visiting and making small talk, another kind of intimacy that isn’t part of the usual rules of engagement in these places.
Then she’s naked again, playing pool. She helps the man angle his cue with her nipples, wiggles her ass cheeks above the corner pockets. Her own game is a little clumsy.
Part way into the match, a stag party blazes in, yelling and cheering. The groom has a flaccid sex doll over his shoulder. He whoops and dances, his arms always in the air, offering high fives. Angel wheels around after a shot, gives him the slap on the hand he so desperately craves. Whoo! he yells, as he heads to the can.
After some discussion with the manager, Angel puts down her cue, gets dressed (this time it’s a lacy top with a micro-mini red tartan kilt) and gets back up to dance. Afterwards, she writhes around the mirror, waiting for takers for something more private.
“You have seven seconds to decide,” says the manager. “Six, five, four…” Finally, the groom lies down on the stage, still dancing with his arms. Evidently his face is dancing too, given the way Angel clamps his head into submission with her thighs. When he is released he is still seems triumphant, but can’t stop wiping his nose.
A private dance later (with the protective accompaniment of the girl in the group), and Dancers has pretty much given its all. “This is brutal,” says one of the boys who has stopped to complain about the dearth of dancers.
It reminds me a little of the movie Fargo, where the naïve small town folk casually outwit the urban criminals. In under a half hour, between the club and the dancer, the stag party has been relieved of over $100. They leave confused. As young white males, they must have believed that in the exchange of sex for money, they should rightfully come out on top.
I try all night to get an audience with Angel. She politely avoids me, but not for the reason I think. “If I don’t dance, they’ll leave,” she says simply.
Jade tells me to try again in a few minutes, that the man who is with her has to work in the morning, and sure enough, the minute he’s gone she’s all mine. She is back in her tube dress, and is now wearing glasses. I ask what it’s like to hold the job of fulfilling the whole city’s stripping needs.
“It’s okay,” she says. So is the club, and the neighbourhood. Pretty much everything is okay with Angel, aside from the loneliness. “We need more girls,” she says. It’s safe, she insists, the guys are mostly nice, and the money is good. “It’s always fun, even when there’s trouble,” she smiles. Even when customers are grouchy (from having no alcohol), or grabby (from having too much before they get there), it’s never anything she can’t handle.
To the question of empowerment over exploitation, I get a firm “It depends.”
And that’s it. She disarms me with the same neutral friendliness as she did the men before me. If I am going to solve the riddle of Regina’s peculiar strip culture it isn’t going to be with Angel. I leave just as flummoxed as the stag party.
After getting the full Dancers experience, I’m a little less worried about stripping in Regina. And more than impressed with Angel’s deft handling of interpersonal relations. As she sat with each man, smiling and chatting, what she was really selling was companionship, gentleness and vulnerability. If one person can melt all that down, make a living, and still manage to not play pool very well, maybe it’s stripping that should be afraid of us, and not the other way around?
GET YOUR FIX
Oh come on, you know you want to. To get there, take 4th Avenue to McDonald, head north until you’re really creeped out then turn left on Hodsman Road. They’re always looking for more girls. Tell ’em Carle sent ya.
Keep Your Pants On
Regina has enough problems without licensed strip clubs
It may not be a popular opinion, but personally I’m glad there are no strip clubs in Regina’s downtown. And I’m okay with the liquor restriction, too.
I know it’s retrograde, anti-freedom-of-expression and possibly even anti-feminist, but I don’t care. I’m okay that men here don’t have easy access to women who will pretend to like them so much they peel off their clothes on the spot. We have enough delusions of grandeur, thanks very much.
In a sense, it’s natural that Regina doesn’t have licenced strip clubs downtown the way other cities do. We barely even have a downtown. If we got a strip club before we got a grocery store, I think I would have to move.
If Regina did have strip clubs downtown, my fear is they’d be like those in Alberta where, at the end of each routine, the dancer poses, legs spread. Leaning over their tables along gynecology row — the place for bad tippers who want a really good look — men fire toonies and loonies at the mark. When they hit it they cheer, as if they’ve just won at crokinole. Afterwards, the dancers crawl around scooping up the change. Talk about filthy lucre.
We’ve already got our share of perverse peccadilloes, like the street prostitution that thrives on the bodies of young aboriginal girls. I have little faith in the ability of Regina’s johns to differentiate between a teenager who’s just been thrown out of another foster home and an empowered woman shaking her thang to pay off the mortgage on her Lakeview bungalow.
The laws might be tight-assed and Puritan but they work for me. This tiny way that Regina is backwards and uncivilized actually makes it more livable. Besides, living here, I’m depressed enough without wondering where my change has been. /Carle Steel