Monday, March 7, 2011

Strip Clubs and Lap Dances: 'Lucky' Writer Researches It All

I am, admittedly, something of a slave to research.

That comes as no great shock, I know; we quiet, “bookish” (ugh!) folk are just sort of made for spending hours cooped up in libraries or in front of computers, compiling endless lists of data for later tabulation, consideration, and regurgitation.
Case in point? I spent two semesters in college--working for minimum wage, 20 hours a week, mind you--cooped up alone in a glorified closet (okay, scratch the “glorified” part, because it wasn’t), painstakingly wading through roll after roll of grainy, eye-numbing microfilm, trying my best to decipher shakily-handwritten copies of wills, bills of lading, and other documents from the late 1600s and early 1700s, cataloguing each and every single possession of the individual (down to the mended sock or mismatched set of spoons) bequeathed, inventoried, and otherwise mentioned therein... all in the name of research. And the kicker? I. Loved. That. Job.
Fortunately for those not so-inclined, though, research doesn’t always have to be quite so, erm, mundane (nor so lonely!). On the contrary, it can actually be downright... titillating, as described below by a fabulous new author whose works I’ve previously featured (see here), Deborah Coonts. 
So, without further ado... take it away, Deb!


RESEARCH—Vegas Style
(by Deborah Coonts)
"I bet I am the only taxpayer who used a night at a male strip club as a business deduction. Well, okay, me and several politicians, but mine was legit. This writer gig has its upside, I can tell you that.  Who knew research could be this much fun? 
I wish I could tell you that I based my novels in Las Vegas because I wanted Uncle Sam to cover some of the cost of great nights out, but I wasn’t that smart. And to be honest, while digging around Sin City can be wildly amusing, it does have its downside.
As with most of life’s lessons, this one was learned the hard way. And here is what I’ve learned: USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM!
Right out of the gate, for novel number one, WANNA GET LUCKY? I needed to experience a sex toy trade show. As with most things, I didn’t really think it through. I mean, people go to these all the time, don’t they? It was a trade show, for chrissake! With vendors and everything. So, picturing the Home and Garden Show I attended at some point in the past (I know! What was I thinking? Apparently I must have been channeling Donna Reed—that’s the only excuse I can come up with.), I launched off, blissfully clueless.
My head started to swim after the fourth or fifth row of battery-operated boyfriend exhibits. I’m from the South; please, we don’t even discuss sex, much less have it thrust in our faces—I thought I was made of sterner stuff, but apparently not. So, even though as a Texas girl I can ride bareback, shoot dinner on the wing, gut a deer, converse fluently in china patterns and silver place settings, identify this season’s Prada from last’s, and break the nose of any guy who calls me “Honey,” I found myself totally out of my element. When Oprah admonishes us to challenge ourselves everyday, I don’t think this is what she means.  I started to hyperventilate. I needed help, and a change of plan.
After two glasses of liquid fortification at the bar, I headed into the movie theatre. Big mistake. You see, when I’m nervous, I laugh uncontrollably—doubled-over, tears-rolling-down-my-face, gulping-lungfuls-of-air kind of laughing. And I really hadn’t recovered my composure.
I discovered two things that day: porn stars take themselves very seriously, and I can outrun over-siliconed twenty-somethings…if they are wearing six-inch heels. As a woman of a certain age, I already knew I could outrun any guy preoccupied with his wanker, so that was no biggie. 
Now, when I go off on a research expedition, I gather the posse. There is safety in numbers. At least that’s what my mother used to say, but I don’t think she ever envisioned the places I have to see, the sacrifices I’m called upon to make for my art. Once the girls gather, we fortify ourselves with liquid courage, check to make sure the EMTs are on speed-dial and we have the names of several reputable bail bondsmen (assuming that isn’t an oxymoron), then we’re off.
Our first foray into the dangerous world of research as a group was a night out at one of the few, if not the only, remaining true male strip clubs. The club occupied the second floor of a ramshackle old building in a part of town that had lost even then the faintest memory of respectability. Emaciated, disinterested young women writhed around poles on the lower floor. Like ants following a trail of pheromones, a single file of women snaked through the bar to the back staircase. We fell in as I meticulously tucked my receipt into my wallet—business expense, you know. At the top of the stairs we were assaulted by a coven of naked young men wearing only a tiny sack over their privates. One brazen, doe-eyed, long-haired kid, started running his hands over me. “Don’t.” I snapped. I was in no mood to play—as I said, this was business…and he was…not appealing. He reared back as if I’d hit him with a Tazer. “I can’t touch you?” he asked, clearly incredulous. I narrowed my eyes at him and he slunk off. Smart boy.
One of my friends, who had decided to “dress slutty” in honor of our outing, attracted the most attention, as I skooched into a booth enjoying the show. And what a show it was. The music started. A guy dressed as a Marine strutted out and started doing his thing. As I watched, all I could think of was “What ever happened to the Village People?” I was clearly having trouble going with the flow.
Women beat their open palms on the stage, stuffed the Marine’s tiny sack with dollar bills, while one Adonis straddled my “slutty” friend and began grinding into her chest. She looked around his perfect set of cheeks that were aimed in my direction, and raised her glass while gracing me with a huge grin. I flagged the waiter down and ordered a double.
That’s about all I think I can tell you. I know truth is an absolute defense to libel, but discretion is the glue that binds female friendships. However, to this day, I wake up in a cold sweat that somewhere there is a grainy photo, hastily taken with a camera phone…
But, if its all the same to you, I’d rather take in a male strip show."
DEBORAH COONTS’s mother tells her she was born in Texas a very long time ago, though she’s not totally sure—her mother can’t be trusted. But she was definitely raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. She currently resides in Las Vegas, where family and friends tell her she can’t get into too much trouble. Coonts has built her own business, practiced law, flown airplanes, written a humor column for a national magazine, and survived a teenager. She is the author of the "Lucky in Vegas" series, featuring Wanna Get Lucky? and Lucky Stiff.


Thanks, Deb, for such a fun and, erm, illuminating look at all that hard research you've done in the name of writing! (Small pun intended.) (Or possibly a large-ish one... but only you know the answer to that. ;D)