“You do not write about strip clubs, you don’t talk to journalists,” says Ruth Fowler, explaining why she got fired from Times Square strip club Flash Dancers. “It’s like this code of silence sort of thing.” Though she came to New York to be a writer, the Cambridge graduate found it difficult to get freelance work without a visa and took to stripping to support herself. A Times piece about her blog, Mimi in New York, sparked TV and book offers in 2005, but she turned them down and remained a dancer. "I didn’t want to sell out and write some stupid guide with a pink cover," she says. She worked at Flash Dancers, Lace, Rick’s Cabaret, Scores West, and VIP before retiring from the scene two years ago. Her non-pink memoir, No Man’s Land, comes out today. She talked to Lori Fradkin.
Why did you wait until now to write this?
I got all these offers, and they were all like fucking ridiculous, like, “We want you write a guide for middle-aged women a bit like He’s Just That Not Into You, a guide for dating written by a stripper.” Then about six months after the whole New York Times thing, I got a ridiculously big book deal with HarperCollins in the U.K., and they wanted to call it Adventures of an Accidental Stripper. It probably wasn’t the best decision of my life, but I certainly didn’t trip and just, oh, all my clothes fell off. If you don’t want to be put in a box, you’re going to butt heads with people.
You worked at five clubs in just over a year. How did they compare?
[New York club name redacted, alas] was very, very strict. You know, if you turn up five minutes late, they fine you $75; if you don’t show up for work, they fine you $200. It’s a lot cleaner than the other clubs. [New York club name unfortunately redacted] is a nice place to work. They have very good morals there, because there’s shit going on, but nobody tries to recruit you. Girls who go upstairs — they select maybe six — would do shit. But nobody could just request to go upstairs. You have to know the Champagne manager and build a relationship with that guy. You have to keep coming back month after month, dropping a lot of money, gaining his trust. It’s a similar thing at [different New York club name redacted], but they're more sloppy about it. I never did the prostitution crap, like the blow jobs, hand jobs. But you know it goes on.
Do you think the Spitzer scandal will affect the clubs at all?
I don't think it will affect stripping. There are girls who cross the line, but even then, they would never consider themselves typical prostitutes. The idea of a typical prostitute is somebody who has a Website and works for an agency. Because these girls build these quasi-relationships with guys who come in, you kind of convince yourself it's not really prostitution.
And what about the economy? Deutsche Bank announced guidelines saying employees could no longer expense trips to any adult entertainment.
Maybe it will make it a little bit tighter, but most people aren't expensing it now anyway, not like they used to. It hasn't been approved of for a long time. It's just kind of stating the obvious. In New York, what really happened with 9/11 was people started looking at expense accounts and credit cards. And men couldn’t get away with dropping like five to ten grand at [one of those New York clubs, name redacted again], for example. They just don't come in and spend thousands of dollars on the corporate card anymore.
A state assemblyman proposed a Dance Performer Registration Act last year, which would require strippers to register under their real names every three years. Do you think something like that would work?
I kind of don't understand it. It doesn't sound like something strippers want to do. I can guarantee the managers won't want to do it. People get freaked out by that. You don't want to give your real name ever. You don't even want to show I.D. when you go into clubs, and you have to show them a driver's license to prove that you're over 18. They're really strict on the underage girls. It's kind of like you have to destroy the evidence of your time there. Like, no photos allowed. Like, rarely do you stay in contact with other dancers. Everyone just wants to do it because it is kind of secret and underground, and you can do it for like six months and then walk away and no one ever knows. Unless you open your mouth like me.