That next summer, I found out about a club in a small town about an hour away. The club was called Charlie’s (now it’s a Baby Dolls, part of the chain I worked for in Dallas). Thursday through Saturday nights they featured “Charlie’s Angels.” I didn’t like the drive, but since it was a bikini bar, I persuaded the boyfriend to let me check it out. If we both liked the place, I could try it.

It was a private-membership club to skirt the local liquor laws. Although I wasn’t yet 21, they let me in when I explained I wanted to work there. The DJ and a manager took turns explaining things to me. There wasn’t much to know. It was a bikini bar, but I could just wear lingerie, as long as it wasn’t sheer. There wasn’t much to see. Seemed harmless enough for a naive college kid and podunk enough for my total lack of dancing skills.

The next Thursday I made my debut. I shaved and shaved for about an hour. I took nearly all my lingerie, shoes, jewelry and sexy clothes (the week before they’d shown me their CD collection so I didn’t bring any of mine). I had two bags with me. I was prepared.

They officially hired me and explained the pay scale. I made $25 a night if I was there before 8pm. The catch was that they only paid five girls for the night. Whoever was there first got paid. That night I made six. One girl just decided to leave. They also deducted the Sprite I drank. Real nice.

The dressing room was the women’s bathroom. Very tiny. Dirty. I had known it wasn’t the Ritz so I made like the natives and put my things on the floor. The week before I had gone to the bathroom and one of the girls had asked me if I was going to change and start working. I just laughed and said I hadn’t shaved my legs. This time I nervously put on makeup and changed into my first outfit. I walked out on shaking legs and found the DJ. I requested a few songs, he vetoed some, then we made our selections. I was scared because I didn’t know how to dance. Not at all.

My boyfriend, who came with me (to monitor me?), was in a dark corner, drinking a coke. He sat there the whole night, complaining that the waitress was hitting on him. She was easily the prettiest girl there. I honestly didn’t care. The place was deader than the previous week. I found out that the nearby plant paid every two weeks. Ah. Learned something new.

The main stage was a large wooden platform with a pole in the middle of it near to the back. The stage was maybe 18 inches high. There were two satellite stages. One was about two feet high, the other about five inches high. They didn’t conform to the usual strip club standards, although I didn’t know it then.

There was a girl about my age, but with a large belly and terrible stretch marks. I tried not to stare, but it was so obvious she’d had a baby and it was ugly (I’d never seen a naked mother before). There was a very pretty girl in her 30s. She was proud of having danced at The Million Dollar Saloon in Dallas in its 80s heyday. She claimed that she was fired for smoking pot in the bathroom. That seemed plausible. Now that I know more about that time, she had to have been doing a lot more than pot, or she just pissed someone off. She was the only one of us there who could actually dance. There was another girl about my age who looked like a teen model. There was a vent on the stage floor near the front that blew straight up. She liked to pose over it and blow her hair around her face. Very 80s Maybelline look. Then there was an older woman who was the Queen. She had been there the longest, I think. I didn’t mess with her. She danced to “Nights in White Satin” and wore an elaborate outfit that she stripped down to white a satin garter set. I wasn’t really the prettiest, but I had the best body by far.

My turn to dance. I went up and was glad there were about 10 men in the audience, including my glowering boyfriend in the back chain-smoking. I pretended like I knew how to dance and eventually made it to the second song. While whirling madly around the pole (since I couldn’t actually dance), I threw my head back and my fake pearl choker snapped and sent pearls all over the stage. Never mind. The show must go on. When the song was over, there I was, squatting down in my lacy bra and bikini panties picking up my pearls and holding a few ones and a fiver.

I went to the back and changed into another outfit. They had a strange house policy. All the girls threw their clothes off the stage into a little alley behind the stage. A manager would come by later and pick up the clothes, then deliver them to the “dressing room.” Still have no idea why they didn’t just let us carry our own clothing from stage to stage. It’s not like it would hamper any of our performances. Guess it was just a way for the managers to get a free peek.

I stopped by my boyfriend. I was happy and showed him the money. He suggested that I “work” the “crowd” and that I try to get a table dance from the guy who tipped me $5 and told me he liked my butt. Table dances were $20 there, but didn’t involve any further removal of clothing. The only one I ever saw giving a table dance was the Queen. She wasn’t doing much touching, but I’m pretty sure now that she had something going on.

I went directly to the big tipper and told him if he liked my butt so much, why didn’t he get a table dance to enjoy it more? He politely declined. I shrugged and left him to his own devices. I decided to hang out by the pool table. The retards playing pool actually made me put my name on the list to get on the table. Apparently, they were happier playing each other than a slightly dressed, 20 year old girl. As I was whipping up on the guy I eventually ended up playing, we started chatting. Since I wasn’t of drinking age, he had to be content with buying me cokes. Maybe he thought if I got enough of a sugar high it would be like getting me drunk.

As he was getting around to talking about where he lived, it was time for me to shake my booty again. I left for stage. He actually tipped a few bucks. I went back, completely changed outfits and came out to play more. Since it was obvious that the table dance business was a dead issue in this club, why not play pool all night since I enjoyed it?

He kept telling me about where he lived, which turned out to be about a mile up the road from the club. He told me this about once a minute for an hour or so. I would just smile and nod, or make a comment about how convenient it was for him to be so close to his favorite bar.

I went to the stage a third time that evening, feet starting to feel a little sore. I was wondering why he was so insistent on telling me where he lived. Like I cared about his life or his home. It was just confusing since no matter what avenue of conversation I started, it all wound up on his front porch not a mile away.

Now that I know a lot more, I realize that he was trying to proposition me in a way that was rather polite. All I can do is laugh. At the time, I was far too dense to have a clue about what he was saying. He was far too scared to actually say what he meant. What a sexual comedy of errors! At least I won most of our rounds of pool. Near the end he had distracted himself so much that he couldn’t shoot.

Going home, I was excited about my money. I only made about $50, but it was a slow night. The girls told me that the plant guys had gotten paid the week before, so this was a slow weekend. They also told me to make more money I needed to wear thongs, of which I had many. The boyfriend forbade me wearing thongs. Why? Who knows. That made me mad. He was limiting my money. (Ladies–another sign.)

The saga continues as I go back to Charlie’s Bar and try again for the last time.

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