Rusty’s affinity for effects sometimes got us in trouble, though at times one does suffer for their craft. I’ll be clear here. There is such a thing as artistic suffering and then there is a humiliation that calls a show short. More on that later, but first you should understand why Rusty went to these lengths to fully satisfy our clients.
The college stripping scene was opening up in the middle 80s. Consider the time. MTV was established with a flamboyant worldview available on the small screen. The astronaut on the moon had given way to a mix of music gravitating between the titillation of Queen to the over the top “fashions” of Headbangers Ball. George Michael had made it OK for guys to be sexy while Prince gave permission for sexual ambiguity. This sounds like peaches and cream, but remember that I was located in the Deep South. The biz was more open than veterans reported in their tales of past woe, but there was still incredible pressure to be incredibly discrete while going big, big, big.
Against this background, and before I reveal our humiliation, I want to put to rest a trope of stripping seen in the movies. The pressure felt on the college stripping scene pushed together teams of strippers. Rusty and I were one such duo. We were somewhere between Queen and Headbangers, leaning to Duckie in Pretty in Pink. Yeah, skinny white guys, no matter the equipment, did not have the visual impact of the muscled “chips”. No, not the guys with motorcycles in California, though Ponch and Jon would have made a good duo. We meant the over muscled dancers seemingly straight out of Chippendales male revue show. The local chips worked in smaller groups, usually no more than three, and mostly consisted of the jocks muscling in, pun intended, on the biz of hard-working amateurs. You have to find humor where you can, damn natural talent. Anyway, I’ve digressed.
My point is that most stripping events were performed by two or more dancers. Why was stripping performed by two or more, with two the optimal number for splitting the proceeds: distribution of labors! I was a few years past nineteen, the supposed height of my sexual drive. Rusty was a little further along given his collegiate career, but with advanced age comes knowledge. He explained life was all about polarities. Remember, he was the philosophical English major. “With the hard comes the soft, with the long comes the short”. My translation: there are good nights and bad nights. The distribution of labors increases the odds that somebody would be on their A game. Both of us is a golden night with many appreciative customers. One of us, well, it was still a good night. The problems developed when we were, in Rusty’s sage words, soft and short. This occurred one New Years Eve week.
We were both under the weather after a grueling week of prior engagements. We considered calling in a chip to help out, but Rusty, being the theatrical type, decided to try out a prop he had been holding back for just an occasion. He figured that it would dazzle the customers and perhaps cheer us onto the hard and long. He had gotten his hands some golden craft glitter. It almost looked like spice, but Rusty explained to me that it was the real thing ready for “the show”. I don’t want to bore you with particulars here given that I’m still vague on the long past incredibly embarrassing topic, but the craft glitter is plastic and not the higher grade polyester. It does not respond well to moisture as it tends to run and clump. With all of this precursor hinting of doom explained, Rusty and I broke out the golden powder for a show.
Before we got to the party we liberally applied the glitter with helping amounts of lube. Our costumes, fitting the time of the year, were Father Time and Baby New Year. Rusty, of course, was the former given his flowing beard. We had a whole “out with the old, in with the new” show planned. Yeah, dazzle them with effects if the plot isn’t fully there. We had to present. Disaster struck after I did my “I am here to relieve you of your place” line with Rusty proudly responding “does it look like I’m spent?”. The great “reveal” had our equipment looking like it was struck with sores placed there by a Midas touch. In addition to that, the golden color had rubbed off all over. It was a gilded horror show. The enthusiasm we had managed to collect in anticipation of the unveiling quickly vanished. I don’t want to share the humiliating attempt we made to recover from this, but suffice to say, the night ended early.
There was an upside. Every cloud has a metallic lining. The incredibly fine nature of the glitter made it very difficult to fully remove even with vigorous rubbing. That led to an interesting challenge for all involved, and several did try. For a few months, our folly made our names shine that much brighter on the stripping scene. The chips may have had their abs, but we had gone through the craft fires to come out brighter on the other side. Fame recouped our spirits and the team was fully at bat. All that glitters is not gold, but we lived it large as the Golden Boys for long enough.