Hot Off the Empress

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A certain state of nakedness! No greater beauty! Ankles and bellies and butts, oh, my! But of course! With a few delicate strokes, she probes to the heart of the matter, past the two-drink minimums and lunch specials, past the stiletto heels and dark, mercantile corners: Appreciation of the female form, that's all it is. Forget those images you have of lonely guys on business trips, giddy college geeks and city councilmen supposedly on research expeditions. See them instead as art connoisseurs.

You could ask: Why strippers? (Shame on you.) Why not guidebooks for other jobs, such as convenience-store clerks, or those silly bathroom attendants in yuppie bars? Are these not also people in search of direction, worker bees longing to be butterflies?

You could ask, but then you would miss the point. There is a larger power at work here, the fulfillment of a role, something more meaningful than the sale of Twinkies or the swift provision of a paper towel--it is the very interlocking of biological forces.

So says Jewels.
"It's a basic instinct. For men, the first appeal is sight. A man has to come up and say hello to a woman before she'll notice. It's a basic human, man-woman thing. So the reversal is, a man actually enjoys a woman coming up to him and saying, 'Would you like a dance?' He likes being able to say yes or no."

This is something she learned on her first night in a club, which came about after she saw her husband's car parked outside one during the separation that would lead to their divorce. At the time, she was modeling and doing bit parts in commercials while operating an elderly care home, a real go-go-getter.

"I had no idea these places even existed," she says, and if her tongue is in cheek, it is not apparent over the phone. "I came from a Christian background; I'd be the last person you'd think would be in there. But I said to myself, 'What do these girls have that I don't have?'"

So she went into one and found out. She was startled at first, but as she sat and watched, the manager explained to her both the primal and capitalistic forces at work.

"I realized these girls were businesswomen just like me," she says. "I didn't see them as doing something wrong, because if they're doing something wrong, then the men must really be doing something wrong, and they weren't doing anything wrong, because it was legal."

On top of that, you could make a lot of money and, golly, once you've modeled in revealing clothes and played a bit part in a low-budget William Baldwin movie, it's really not that big of a stretch to bare your breasts for strangers, when in fact a lot of them weren't strange at all.

Her dad said: What if a friend sees you?
She said: Dad, everybody goes in there.
"Everywhere I looked, it was like, 'Don't I know you from somewhere?' The neighbors from down the street, the clerk from Walgreens."

She had married into a jewelry business, and so she adopted the name Jewels.
"My role is to entertain," Jewels says. "Not to seduce, not to play head games, not to promise anything more than a table dance. ... It's not a dating service.

"And when I come home, I'm a good role model to my daughter."

From "The Flame," a poem by Jewels:
I am the fire, I create the flame ... he sits ... he watches me 'til dawn, and he will never be the same.

This, his fantasy ... his spark in the night ... and I ... the creator of the flame. We will never be the same.

For a while, Jewels' oldest sister had a problem with Jewels' newfound profession, but Jewels explained that she was merely the leather-and-lace continuation of centuries of tradition. She recounts bits of body-flashing history in the concluding chapter of her book--bordellos in Italy, public bathing in France. And if you check the Old Testament, she says, the kings had their dancers, and there were belly dancers in Egypt.

"I took Bible history when I was in high school," Jewels says. "That was one of the things we learned about."

But you don't have to be a king to get intoher show--heck, any guy with a $10 bill canimagine himself, if only for the length of a ZZ Top tune, to be a modern-day Nebuchadnezzar, hangin' with the babes in Babylon.

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Marc Ramirez