“So you’re a stripper in Vegas, eh?” asked a Canadian man at a strip club in Calgary. I answered in the affirmative. I just returned to Vegas from a short trip to Canada and, my goodness, it’s different there. Besides their keen fashion sense, which includes a love for denim and mullets, differences across the northern border extend to various other things. I was curious to find out what the difference is between Las Vegas strip clubs and Canadian strip clubs. Like the U.S, strip club rules vary drastically from region to region. In Calgary, where I was last week, strippers must remain a minimum of three feet away from customers while onstage. That is certainly different from the crotch-to-face stuff I’ve seen at some Las Vegas strip clubs. They have other funny rules like “No heavy- metal music.” There are a lot more differences too, and I was excited to get some more foreign policy experience -- 2012 is just around the corner, after all.
Since I’m really a hands-on kind of gal, I decided to participate in amateur night at a Canadian strip club. At first, I was only going to poke my head into a strip club just to take a look. When I found out it was amateur night, there was no way I was going to pass it up. Somehow, the group of people willing to join me on this adventure grew from an apprehensive two to at least 10 rowdy men. The Canadians are friendly people.
So after a hockey game, the gang trickled in to a place called the Speak Easy. One of the people in the group knew the manager and was able to get me a spot onstage during a full amateur night. It would be at least an hour before I would go onstage. This gave me the opportunity to do some paper work, gage the caliber of the dancers and drink whiskey. I was concerned that they wouldn’t be able to let me perform because I was a foreign citizen. The rules are comparatively relaxed in the North because proof of age and a signature were all I needed to get onstage. In Vegas, background checks, multiple forms of ID and a business license are needed to even be considered for the opportunity to work as a stripper.
So I sat, watched and waited, nervous with anticipation. My time came up and they called me the wrong name. “Next up, Samantha!” That’s not even close to what I wrote down. I shot back the rest of my whiskey and trotted in my high heels to the stairs to get onstage. Perhaps as a tribute to Canada’s incredible free health care system, I was dressed up in a borrowed naughty nurse costume. It was a noisy, white, synthetic PVC mini dress with little red crosses on it. “No jugs of any kind can be used onstage,” say the rules. Did my double D’s count? They let me use them. I was to dance to three songs, strip to my underwear and bow out. It happened with many cheers but otherwise no incident. A little sway and shake and I’m paid my 75 Canadian dollars.
The professional strippers there go through the most degrading ritual I’ve ever seen, however. This event is known as the Looney toss. There are no lap dances in Calgary, only stage shows. Strippers must hustle as much cash onstage as possible. Since strippers must remain three feet away from customers, the hustle is less intimate and more … strange. For those unfamiliar with Canadian currency, a Looney is a golden Canadian dollar coin. During the Looney toss, Canadian strippers get completely naked and stick a single Looney to their skin with moisture (saliva), typically on an interesting spot like on a boob, or a butt cheek or near the vagina. Customers must then toss Loonies at that stationary Looney to try and knock it off the stripper. People are flinging metal objects at these strippers who are working way too hard, in my opinion. Afterwards, strippers take a magnet and pick up all the Loonies and then get off the stage, at which point I was able to talk to them. I expressed my confusion about this ritual. I wanted to know why they wouldn’t go somewhere where they could give lap dances and make better, faster money. They admitted the Looney toss was pretty sh*tty. One girl told me that her friend had a permanent scar from the Looney toss after a customer heated up one of the coins with a lighter before tossing it on her skin. They still believe that I was the one working too hard, putting up with grab-assing lap dance patrons. To each her own. I’m glad to be home.