Lusty Lady is closing September 2. It was the first strip club to unionize, and it gets an A in featuring weirdness, freakiness, some queerness, and bodies of different types rather than porn star bodies. Workers who unionized secured hourly wages which prevented women from exhausting themselves hustling for tips, frequent breaks in between peep shows, and some paid vacation.
One complaint: Where are the colored ladies? A quick look at the current club’s “lusties” here shows us a predominately white population of female workers, pressing the question of who gets selected or who chooses to work there, and what are the structural conditions of women who chose to work at lusty lady. The documentary explaining how the workers unionized in 1996-97 shows us a segment of mostly white females auditioning at the club to make extra cash.
Lili Burana writes about her experience working at the Lusty Lady in the 90’s here, pointing to the same idea:
The Lusty had many distinguishing characteristics—a cocky feminist underpinning that couldn’t be found in any other strip club or peep show in the country, a dynamic, punky-queer dancer corps, and a sense of humor about its onanistic mission objective—in later years, they had an unofficial alligator mascot named “the Master Gator”. On a more pragmatic level, management accepted that dancers had lives beyond their jobs, and that, in fact, dancing wasn’t even the central point around which their lives were organized. (I met more than one of the alleged mythical “PhD candidate stripper” working here. They are real, if rare.)
Yes. Stripping shouldn’t be the central point in anyone’s life, and everyone has a life beyond their job. But how many times do we identify with what we do, even if it is just an automatic job? Having the privilege and qualifications to remain less tied to a job means that one’s identity and self worth will not be intrinsically ( and negatively in this case) linked to one’s labor. Yet structural conditions such as race and poverty that define who chooses to strip, and who has no choice but to strip are not considered.
The image of Lusty Lady workers, as viewed on the website and documentary, sends a message that most women who work there do it out of choice, to make extra cash, to have a more flexible schedule to attend graduate school etc. Is this the case in other clubs also? Why not? I’m only hoping that other workers of the strip club industry from more diverse social classes and racial backgrounds do the same as the Lusties did: Unionize, demand paid time off, demand longer breaks, wages, and sexual harassment protection. Thank you lusties for your contribution to worker’s/ women’s rights.