Night In The City

In the hear of Phoenix lies a suberranean sone where day fades into night nearly without notice, where the city doesn't shut down with the sunset, and where, for some, the day begins with the night. Welcome to the night watch.

And her marriage?
"I got divorced like three-and-half years ago because my man had different ideals than me. He actually works in a porn store now, the Castle Boutique. He's totally into the sex world too, he likes hangin' out with porn stars and stuff like that."

"I have a degree in graphic design from Al Collins [graphic design school]. I want to make a living from selling my art," Lovely says abruptly, as if to stress that her job here is temporary, as if it has its downside.

I ask her if the men who come here think they can walk out of here with a dancer.

"I actually think that there are a lot of guys who think that they have a chance with a dancer" says Lovely. They think that if they have a lot of money they can get 'em, or it's because they are cute or whatever. To me, they are just desperate."

On the stage, girls systematically drop lingerie to the rhythm of the moment, ultimately baring all by the song's climax. A crowd of men gathers at the bow of the platform, some bending over backward onto the stage with bills sticking from their mouths allowing the dancer to gyrate bare-assed above him, then lower herself just enough to reach the bills with her hand. There is no touching, and the men don't seem to mind.

Heidi, 19, is pale-skinned with green eyes and kinky brown hair, and is built like a gymnast. Wearing a white lace G-string and matching knee-high stockings, she has just returned from an onstage performance and is glistening in sweat as if glazed with a light coat of baby oil.

Heidi says she is in love with dancing--loves dancing nude, and has been doing it for two months. A Phoenix native, Heidi graduated high school a year early in Queen Creek and attended college for a semester but quit to earn money. Heidi is sober, articulate and breaks her syntax with an all-but-annoying laughter, giddy almost.

She says she is bisexual.
"I have a girlfriend and a boyfriend who I live with. They're the ones who got me into dancing nude."

Mstley CrYe's "Girls, Girls, Girls" pollutes the air around us, and a waitress swings by with more alcohol-free beverages. More girls come around when they see the camera flashes.

"Between $500 and a $1,000," says Princess with a smile when explaining her cash take here on a worthwhile night of stripping. "I love dancing nude, and the customers know that."

Princess is 18 and graduated from high school this year in Flagstaff. Her body is like a German expressionist's subject--curvy and natural--with a tattoo on her lower back that extends to each hip. After four months' dancing experience, Princess already considers herself an old hand at the nude game. She appears well-fed with a healthy, outdoorsy kind of glow. "I love mountain climbing," she says.

What else does she do?
"Shop," she answers jovially. Princess flirts conspicuously with another girl for the New Times photographer, and it's obvious she loves the camera.

Are most girls that work here bisexual?
"Yeah, and they all love me," laughs the ivory-hued blonde, then adds, "We all love each other."

With decadent little peepshows that contradict her name, Princess goes to lengths to please the gentlemen for whom she dances; Princess at work is bathroom-wall scribble personified; she's a porno Aphrodite who moves in serpentine gestures and dominates the stage as if it were an altar of worship built specifically for her.

Dixie, 22, a nursing major, lives in Glendale and is a Mormon. She has a 4-year-old son. This is her third night as a nude exotic dancer; she also works in a hospital as a phlebotomist. Tonight she is dolled up in a red XXX-rated Santa's helper dress, garb appropriate for a holiday-minded fetishist or a biology student with a sense of humor.

"I figured I got the body, I'm young, I might as well profit off of it," she says, explaining why she's here. I've resuscitated people, I've worked in trauma. That's my major, that's what I want to do with my life. I love helping other people. When you're pounding on somebody's chest trying to bring them back to life, it does not compare to this. But this makes more money."

Does she like the way men treat her here?
"They treat me better here than they do at the hospital. Some of the men here are jerks, though."

Does she see herself developing a healthy case of man hatred after working here awhile?

"No, you expect men to act a certain way here. Here they can come and be Al Bundys, to kick back and just be Neanderthals. I've been in male strip joints and the women go wild. Men are more reserved here."

Through the main room, around the pool tables and down a hall to the back are the dressing and locker rooms. The dressing room is well-lit, clean and comfy enough for the dozen or so half-naked women who are sitting around, wearily applying makeup, or engaging in catty chatter. An attar of hairspray, lavender and cigarettes hangs heavily in the air. The walls are lined with lighted rectangle mirrors, and a tanning bed occupies one corner. Dancer costumes hang from a long portable rack in the middle of the spacious room, and a candy machine sits by the entrance. Some guy who looks like Bon Jovi's keyboard player circa 1987 fusses with a dancer's hair. A massage table is set up on which Joylee, a lithesome, creamy-skinned girl clad in only a G-string, lies face-down. Her exhausted limbs are getting the go over by one Frank, a 60-year-old glabrous-headed gentleman who has been a masseur since the '60s. He has an Astaire-like grace.

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