Y Marks the Spot: The Truth about Strippers

A Typical Stripper

During a recent rant against moral absolutism, I made mention of owning one’s beliefs. In the midst of that I mentioned a side comment about one of my own social hang-ups, the porn star. After some thought, I realized that this category is too narrow, and not cut-and-dry at all. I could have included strippers, skanks in music videos, and really anything that relies on a pair of tits to sell it. What bothers me about all of these phenomena is not all the sex involved in them, but how they’ve become symptoms of obnoxious commercialism. One of the most fun things to do in the world has been co-opted by advertising and repeated into oblivion.

But I do have one glorious tale of capitalist pseudo-sex. The time was similar to now, a time of waiting for time to run out. The big difference between then and now was that now, I live alone, and I’m not liable for other people’s stupidity. That wasn’t the case then.

For a while, I was the only person in my apartment with a job, and the only person covering the bills and paying any rent at all. But there was no way I could take care of everyone’s share, so I finally decided that there was no more point to working at my crappy food job. What followed were six months of eating detergent-tasting Kwik Trip bread and watching my apartment turn into a pit. And even then, I could raise enough money to pay the rent.

There wasn’t much left over for anything else, though. It’s a good thing that my best friend was willing to pay for everything we did. On one such night, CJ Slugger rousted me out of my moldy dwelling in order to take a trip to the Twin Cities with him and the Leprechaun. The adventure was independent wrestling. We piled into Lep’s Inventory Van and hit the road with me in the back, trying to study.

Seeing pro wrestling in a dimly lit club was about as strange as seeing a rock concert in a retirement home. The game was wrestling, but the atmosphere was bar fight.

Big guys were stomping around bar tables, trying to look menacing while they beat the crap out of each other, and all I could think was: is he going to knock over my drink? Nonetheless, the three of us left the show in high spirits, excited over what we had seen. But the night wasn’t over. When you’re out on the town with CJ Slugger, you’ll probably end up in a strip club. And that’s what happened.

Class Act is a dingy bit of neon on the main highway south of the Twin Cities. It seemed to become a rest stop for my group of friends whenever we went on a Minnesota road trip. Lep pulled into the gravel, and once more CJ paid my way. The naked girls were doing what naked girls on a stage always do – going after a sucker’s money – and CJ was happy to provide the sucker. Lep and I sat on each side of him, watching him try to play it cool while face-smashing dollars between girls’ boobs. The thing I remember most was that one girl had a tattoo of the eye from the cover of Tool’s Lateralus album. The color on it was brilliant.

When the country music came on I hid in the bathroom, knowing what was going to happen next. Sure enough, the curtains parted, and out strutted a fifty year old broad in a cowboy hat. I laughed at the Leprechaun, who stayed at the edge of the stage and gave pity-bills to the old dame. After she rode off into the sunset, the three of us reconvened.

“For your heroism, Lep, I’m buying you a lap dance,” CJ announced. He summoned a shapely young blonde and sent our friend away with her. We returned our attention to the stage.

But when the next song ended, the Leprechaun didn’t reappear. It was strange, but we said nothing. When the song after that was over and he didn’t return, we grew worried. Ten songs later, we were concerned that he had been abducted and killed by vampire hookers.

Like this.

We started asking strippers if they had seen the Leprechaun, which was as absurd as asking pro wrestlers if they had seen our lost puppy. I asked Lateralus Girl about my short, ginger friend while she writhed and spun naked on a pole. “Sorry, haven’t seen him,” she said, upside down.

Forty minutes after he had vanished, the Leprechaun finally reappeared. He was surrounded by apes in suits. “Guys, I think I’m in trouble,” he said.

Turns out that he was over $200 in trouble. It blows my mind that a guy who, when he lived with me, used to sleep on a mountain of porn magazines and pizza boxes didn’t know the rules of lap dancing. You’re paying for one song’s worth of dry humping. When a girl asks, “Do you want to keep going?” she isn’t being nice. You have to keep paying. Once more, CJ picked up the bill – via an ATM that charged seven bucks – and we finally got out of there.

Once we were in the van, our shamed friend told us all the dirty details. When the tale was done, he slumped into the driver’s seat and sighed. “I guess I have to remember,” he said, “that strippers are all about money. Not people’s feelings.”

The van exploded.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Balls of Fury

Walken, Causing Trouble Again

Movie: Balls of Fury (2007)

Director: Robert Ben Garant

Starring: Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, James Hong

Written by: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon

You might think that Christopher Walken would be the show-stealer in this tale of ping-pong glory. You’d be wrong. As a Fu Manchu wannabe gangster, Walken certainly tears up any scene he appears in. The absurdity of seeing him dressed in all manner of formal Chinese attire is as hilarious as it is weird. Yet there are three characters in Balls of Fury who upstage him.

The first is a jacked-up German with a perfect blond flat-top and spandex battle gear who serves as the hero’s ping-pong nemesis. Played by Thomas Lennon (Reno 911’s Lieutenant Dangle), Karl Wolfschtagg storms through the film, ready to throw down on anyone in his way. Lennon’s wide-eyed intensity is kind of awesome.

The second is Diedrich Bader, who portrays a tank-topped concubine in Walken’s man-harem. Sent to the hero’s bedchambers, he has to spend the night or die. Undeterred, the hero and the man-whore have a rockin’ night playing Boggle and hanging out. Bader plays his character with a delightfully dimwitted optimism that I’m sure is absent from most male prostitutes.

Yet the best performance in Balls of Fury is that of James Hong, who once more serves admirably as the token dirty old Asian. Best known for his role as the crazy old wizard Lo Pan of Big Trouble in Little China, Hong turned “Indeed!” into a cult classic password. Hong’s role in Balls of Fury mixes Lo Pan’s fixation on honor with the more earthly creepiness of his role in Revenge of the Nerds II and his ambiguously gay persona in Totally Awesome! As Walken’ blind former mentor, Hong reluctantly takes on his round-eye protégé to obtain satisfaction. He plays this role with such an imperious witlessness that he is a joy to watch.

Considering all this, the fun in Balls of Fury becomes less about the story itself and instead in watching the crackpot characters which populate it. Indeed, the main characters are often less compelling than the supporting cast. As hero Randy Daytona, Dan Fogler – who seems to be getting typecast as a Belushi-via-Jack Black – pretty much autopilots on the wildman schtick he improved upon as a Star Wars geek in Fanboys. In total, he’s more fun than George Lopez’s FBI straight man, but Lopez commits an act of desperation in the film which boosts his character past the hero.

The concept of Balls of Fury is ludicrous, but that works in its favor. You might think that an epic comedy about ping-pong wouldn’t work out. You’d be wrong.

The Designer’s Drugs: Paul Turner – Another World

Another World

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Paul Turner – Another World

Anno: 2010

This is a really pretty bit of orchestral acoustic. Turner anchors the forefront with soft vocals and guitar and fills out his songs with similarly subdued accompaniment. Usually this includes various bowed instruments, though a few songs get a splash of drums and “Astronauts” runs piano parallel to the guitar.

He’s a high-caliber songwriter, yet Turner doesn’t sway too far from his formula. Despite changing the accompaniment from song to song, many of these tracks adhere to similar structures. For Turner’s style and talent, that’s no serious crime, and running at a half hour, the album is exactly the right length. Another World might not be an album for all seasons, but for that one contemplative mood, it is perfect.

The Designer’s Drugs: Paul Manousos – C’mon C’mon

C'mon C'mon

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Paul Manousos – C’mon Cmon

Anno: 2010

There’s an old school blues rock vibe which runs throughout C’mon C’mon which at times is either to its benefit or detriment. In a song like “Getting Better,” the punchy, upbeat rhythms and Manousos’ juke joint wails combine in a way that comes off as a little too smug and self-consciously cool. When he brings things down in songs like “Outside of Town” and “Kindly Said,” Manousos sounds more natural in tone. He’s more in this frame of mind than not, though there are a few hipster songs on the album which are grating.

There’s a nice stretch of tunes at the end of C’mon C’mon in which Manousos really opens up his talents. “Big Walls” is probably the album’s best song, a bluesy piano song in which he quietly muses on street-level revolution. Following this is a pair of songs which take up a panoramic scope and really draw in the listener: “Wichita Lineman” and “Getting Out.” Only when the final song, “Long Long Way Back Home” abruptly swerves back to power rock is the mood broken.

Beyond a few tracks in which he tries a bit too hard, Manousos has crafted a fine piece of work.

The Designer’s Drugs: Falling Still – May All Magic Guide and Change You

May All Magic Guide and Change You

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Falling Still – May All Magic Guide and Change You

Anno: 2009

Falling Still opens its album with its best song, which is “Birth.” It’s a Foo Fighters-sounding track which takes the listener through a wide array of moods, beginning at bouncy, upbeat rock and descending into a captivating rush of guitars, strings, and desperation in the second half.

What follows is a collection of high energy, dirty white boy rock music. Most of May All Magic Guide and Change You doesn’t match the songwriting featured in “Birth.” Its closest competitors come in the bipolar gloom of “Zeus” and the soft strings of “Smashing,” two tracks which appear at album’s end. Yet in and of themselves, the tracks in the middle serve their purpose as party songs. The result is strong, if inconsistent.