Chicken soup for the pole
Backstage with a strip-club house mom and house dad
Thu, May 13, 2010 (3 a.m.)
Photo: Leila Navidi
She bandages their wounds. Gives them a shoulder to cry on. Brings them food. Helps with hair and makeup, stitches their G-strings — everything a good mother does.
Diana Mower is a house mom. Her "children" are strippers.
Although she has three adult children of her own and two grandchildren, Mower became the mother of a different family about a year ago: more than 100 girls at the Badda Bing gentlemen's club. "I'm literally a mom," Mower says.
She isn't a retired stripper. She doesn't have a background in the adult industry. She used to be in real estate and banking. "When the real-estate market slumped, I had to go looking for new work," Mower says. "I answered an ad and I came to the Badda Bing — luckiest day of my life!"
But while every strip club has a house mom (and occasionally a house dad), Mower doesn't simply check the girls in and out, collect dancer fees and wait to be tipped. "In comparison to other clubs, my house mom here is so much more personal with the girls," says Alice, a dancer. "She's willing to help you out on anything that you need help with — whether it be personal or work-related, she's got you covered."
"The owner here wants a family atmosphere," Mower says. "He wants it to feel like home. I have a lot of room to love and to do those kind of things that other house moms don't do."
When Mower arrives at 10 p.m., she makes her rounds, giving each dancer a hug and a kiss on the cheek, then makes a fresh pot of coffee and starts a load of laundry. "Kind of nesting, if you will," she says. She also works on more administrative duties, such as preparing the roster of dancers to coordinate with the DJ.
As the strippers go onstage, Mower quietly peeks through the curtains on the upper level of the Badda Bing, her "crow's nest." "When my girls dance really, really well — and I mean by going on stage and putting on a performance — and they come back and they're so heightened, they're so elated, it's a great feeling. When we have a good night in this club and everyone's feeling their oats, it's my favorite part of the job."
But as with any family, there are tough times, too. Mower recalls when a dancer died of the H1N1 flu. "Her family had contacted me, because in her cell phone, 'Mom' was me," Mower explains quietly. "She had been estranged from her mother, so when the family keyed in 'Mom' to let her mom know that she had passed away, they got me."
"She pays attention," says a dancer named Yvette, as Mower hands her a dollar that has fallen out of her G-string. "And she's very sexy. How do you have a house mom that's sexy? I do, and I love it!"
"They've all asked me to dance for them," laughs Mower. "Every last one of them has said, 'Mom, you should go to the floor. Mom, you should be a dancer.' I think I'm doing the best I can supporting the Badda Bing and supporting the girls. I think this is the best for me."
Still, there is a line Mower doesn't cross. "While I want to be their friend, I think it's important for me to be the mom. There are rules that have to be enforced and practices in place, and I think if I start to be their pal, then it would blur that line. I'm careful not to do that." However, they know Mower will always be there for them. "Even when I'm not at work, they're free to call me, and they do — if they need an ear, they need a hug, they need anything."
The House Dad
A lady in the locker room is the norm. But a guy working backstage at a strip club?
"From what I can recollect, it was always a female position back here," says Emory Nihipali, Entertainment Manager at Velvet Lion. To the strippers, he's also known as the House Dad.
A former security host at Vegas nightclubs, the married family man from Hawaii spends most of his evenings in a secluded back office, checking the dancers in and out for their shifts, making sure their sheriff's cards are on premises, and occasionally lending a male perspective to wardrobe choices, work issues or personal life advice.
However, being a man in a job predominately held by women does have its quirks.
"When it comes down to little necessities that women need... if you send him out there with a little list, he doesn't know what he's talking about," explains Velvet Lion dancer Caress. "I don't want to go in to specific detail about womanly things, but ... the womanly time? Instead of one thing, he brought us back diapers one day and it was hilarious."
As far as the Dad role he fills, Nihipali believes many of the dancers didn't have a strong male influence in their lives. "A lot of ladies here are single parents, never grew up with a father figure and they do look at me as that: a friend, a father figure, as well as someone they can confide in."