GMG - Las Vegas Weekly

September 4, 2014

Las Vegas Weekly

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when I was back at Paradise in the heyday, '98, '99, 2000, I saw girls getting $20,000, $40,000, $50,000 never even take their dress off." hanel has had nights like that, spending hours with clients just talking. "I don't have the attitude of a lot of Vegas strippers. I still have my small-town self. ... I'm a con- versationalist. I really don't know a stranger." She is 24, five years into the on-and-off job that started in her hometown of Salem, Oregon, at a club with a dozen girls on the busi- est shifts. It was a way to make fast money to deal with a bad situation, terrifying at first, but the dancing felt natural. Patrons and coworkers told her she was too good for the small venue and needed to dance at Stars, the hottest club in Salem. So she did, building her reputation to the point where staffers actually called her the Queen. Oregon clubs are about the stage, and she per- formed on it 12 to 15 times a night. "It's not just: You go up there, you shake your tush, your boobs, cool, great. For me, I like to actu- ally put a show on." We're talk- ing vertical and horizontal poles, slow-motion tricks and backlights blowing up her phoenix tattoo. But Chanel says visual fireworks are less important than flirtation and making people smile. Not with "manipulation abilities." By being real. "I definitely am the real me, I just don't put every- thing out on the table," she says. If customers get too personal, she tells them, "'That's not strip club conversation; now let's have some fun!' It's all about redirection and distractions." Chanel worried that approach wouldn't work in Vegas. She felt like a goldfish in the ocean when she started dancing at Sapphire, which wasn't the right fit. Her audition at Spearmint Rhino this past November boiled down to taking five steps in a two-piece, but she still figured she'd fade into the background among so many beautiful women establishing the value of their time in a particular way. Justice explains: "A 'queen' once told me: 'Guys like a down- to-earth, fun party girl that they can drink beer with, but they won't give her real money. If you act like a Princess you get paid.'" But night after night, clients showed Chanel that being differ- ent can be an asset. "People get so much of the 'Vegas girl' here. ... They get these girls that are just saying anything to them to get in their pockets. Then they meet a girl like me," Chanel says. "We sit and we have a normal conversation. And I invest time in people, which turns around and helps me, because then people want to invest time with me in the Champagne room." In a single night, Chanel has made almost $7,000. And while she doesn't want to dance forever, she's building capital to buy her dream home, send her young son to college someday and fund her return to school to pursue her own interior design business. Dancers will tell you that some girls sell too much of themselves to get ahead, but Chanel says if you draw firm boundaries, are straight with people and treat this as a serious business, then it is. "It's crazy to me that so many people down-talk it because, real- istically, this is the highest-paying job anyone could ever have in their life, unless you own your own business and you've got millions coming in, or you're like Jay Z or something. ... You can make six fig- ures a year working three or four days a week if you put your mind to it and you study it and you really take it serious. Who wouldn't do that? Yeah, it's topless, but I paid $8,000 for my boobs. I might as well show them off." onday looks different. Sapphire's plush, 70,000-square- foot venue is buzzing but not packed, and the body types are more diverse (mean- ing some dancers actually have fat in reasonable places). I'm with three girlfriends from Germany and Idaho, and one happily remarks that she doesn't feel as bad about herself as she expected to. On cue, a stunning black girl positions her sculpted glutes right in front of us. We watch dancers take their turns on the half pole. One has a signature move that involves rhyth- mically hammering her backside against it. To my left, a patron and a tall blonde are chatting almost like they're on a first date. To my right, another tall blonde slides her arm around a man's neck, but he's not buying, so she moves on. I watch her bounce around the room with- out making a sale. One of the dancers I met at Crazy Horse III, Sydney, says resil- ience is key. "People tell me no all the time. This business is rejec- tion," said the 5-foot-10 (6-4 in her shoes!) dancer, who is the sort of beautiful that makes you stop. "I cried a few times, but out here you just can't. There's too much money to be made." Sydney was a top girl at her club in Ohio and says the best of the best come from every state to try their luck in this market. With hundreds of girls working in the same venue, competition is fierce, but Sydney says you can't view it as a competition. It'll get in your head. Plus, being Queen isn't just about what you put out there. It's about picking the right guy. "It's the random ones, like the construction worker who's here for his first time as opposed to the guy who is a billionaire but brags about how much money he has," she said. "In this business, you learn to be a very good judge of character. ... The guy who's hammered in the corner screaming, 'Strippers!', we stay away from." That guy isn't at Sapphire tonight. The crowd is mellow, until Ziaca takes the stage in a half-sweater tight against her breasts. Petite and curvy, she seems spring-loaded as she does a deep backbend and pumps her hips toward the ceiling. She flies on the pole and slams down into the splits. My girlfriends grab seats by the stage just in time to be included in a full rotation of gleeful motorboating. Ziaca's energy wakes the whole place up, and money starts to flow. he Pareto principle, or the 80-20 rule, applies to stripping. It means 80 percent of the money goes to 20 percent of the performers. The reality facing that 80 percent isn't pretty, even though the girls might be. "There are tons of perfect 10s barely making any money in Vegas," Justice says. "For every queen there are thousands of peasants." I saw one at Crazy Horse III, a young, pretty brunette who didn't make a single dollar until the very end of her set, and that tip seemed more merciful than lustful. Maybe it was because the timing was wrong with all of the dances and conversa- tion happening around her. Probably because she didn't get up there and command the room. Ziaca did it with crackling energy. Felix with eye-popping contortion. Chanel with natural beauty and warmth. Being a top performer is less about the performance than the overall package of confidence, under- standing psychology, building rela- tionships with the right people and especially staying positive. Because every person who walks through the door might see you as the Queen. Of that club, of that night, of Las Vegas. • What do dancers like to snack on at work, accord- ing to a bathroom atten- dant at Spearmint Rhino? Chocolate and Slim Jims. • If a girl is with a client, stripper etiquette says another dancer should never approach. It's also a no-no to pull guys away from the stage. • "Gummy-bear boobs" are a thing—implants made with silicone gel that's pleasingly squishy. • Fridays are a good bet for seeing some of the top performers, because they might make enough that night to skip the rest of the weekend. • Leg warmers are, too. (Thanks, Flashdance.)

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