Chapter 6, California, from The Life of A Jewish Stripper, A Memoir
We ended up going to San Francisco after Connecticut. We took the train home to Maryland before leaving to say goodbye to our family, it was the only time except for the bridal shower and the wedding that our mothers were in the same room at his mom’s house. Then we were off to California. My mother had no idea for two years what was going on in my life. She had no clue that I was stripping for a living or that my ex was using me a punching bag and I was still punishing myself for not being there when my grandmother was sick.
San Francisco was everything he said. It truly is one of the most beautiful cities I have even been to, and I’ve been to Rome, London, Paris, New York and I’m from St. Petersburg, a city built by French architects and so is Washington, D.C. my hometown. Surrounded by water, with the hilly streets, near beaches, amazing restaurants, The Warf, and the Pier, San Francisco wasn’t just beautiful, it was gorgeous. But it was also more hell for me.
When we first came to the city, we were in an older hotel he’d found for a few days or maybe a week, with a French bistro downstairs somewhere off Market Street, but I guess it was too expensive so eventually we got a room at some sleazy hotel on Polk Street, I think. All the old hotels smelled like mildew.
Market Street is one of the main streets of the city stretching from the finance district all the way down to the Castro district (one of the most famous gay neighborhoods in the world). At the top of Market Street there’s cafes and ritzy shops. But as you make your way further down it starts to change. Going further down you start to notice all the homeless people and trans and gay prostitutes. Then even further down there are old movie theatres which are now old and sleazy strip clubs where the customers wait for girls to come over and give them a lap dance or basically what we call a dry fuck. I didn’t realize all this at first, being the sheltered girl, that I was. My ex must have not been paying the rent once again and we finally moved to another sleazy, cheap hotel in the Tenderloin district, one of the worst neighborhoods in the city.
But I fake smiled my way through life because I was afraid each time, if I didn’t please him his hands would end up on my face or worse.
The first club I wanted to go audition for didn’t let boyfriends or husbands in, so this was not acceptable for my control freak of a husband. And though he took me to a part of the city where they had the peep show booths and the guys had to keep paying more to see the naked girls, this wasn’t acceptable for him either. The city seemed to have sex everywhere. It was a pimp’s dream or maybe I just never noticed D.C. and any other city was the same. Then I saw an ad in the paper for what looked like a nice “gentlemen’s club” and we went to check it out.
If I haven’t mentioned it, he was a very good looking and charming man. Everyone seemed to love him right on the spot and he knew how to work people, sizing them up instantly. After I had left him, some people even didn’t believe me when I told them he was physically abusive because he seemed like such a nice guy.
He instantly hit it off with the bouncer at the club. It turned out the club was actually owned by a pimp, and it was a regular pimp hang out where they sent their girls to dance and then make arrangements with customers to meet later. Some girls it seems didn’t have a pimp but were turning tricks on their own after hours.
I was very surprised that all the girls in California weren’t perfect, but they were much meaner than the girls back home. They had no filter and would say whatever came to mind. Some of them had terrible boob jobs, they were uneven, and one girl even said when the doctor did her augmentation through her nipples, he forgot to sew the nipples back on or maybe it was a story she told about someone else, I don’t remember for sure. What a horror! I am so glad I never got tit bags.
A couple years down the road my best friend after I got divorced (we’ll call her Chase because she loved that name), well Chase had one of her boobs pops while she was on stage, and it was leaking. Oh my God! How embarrassing! I felt so sad for her. We were living in The Bronx at that time and dancing at a club on the boarder of Greenwich, Connecticut. Anyway, Chase asked what she should do, and we all told her to go home immediately, and someone gave her the number for one of the best plastic surgeons in Connecticut and I drove her to the doctor and waited at a diner while they “patched” her up. She had a great sense of humor and said, “They’re like tires, they need to be rotated occasionally”. Chase is a chapter all her own and more about her later.
Back East, we were kind of a family, a very dysfunctional fucked up family, but still a family. There was laughter in the dressing room and although I knew some were turning tricks, I didn’t judge them. Either they had kids or were putting themselves through school, which I tried at one point after I left him, but for the most part we all got along or left each other alone to make our money and go home.
Occasionally a fight between girls broke out or just nasty words were exchanged. As I said before, in the strip club everyone’s personality is magnified a thousand times. If you’re a bitch, you’d become a super bitch, if you were a whore with a heart of gold that would shine through too, and if you were an insecure little Jewish girl like me everyone knew how to manipulate you.
In California, everyone was on coke or meth or stoned out of their mind, and almost all of them had fake tits. By now I was dancing close to a year and tried not to judge who had to do what to get through the night. But of course, THE asshole of my life now, never failed to point out who had perfect tits or ass or just in general who he wouldn’t mind sticking his dick in or who he would like to see eat my pussy and vice versa. If I ever got nasty or mouthed off, I got the back of his hand, or once I got my face pushed into a brick wall outside a bar we hung out at. Another time, I don’t remember what I said but I got an old-fashioned telephone across my head. And yet another time he simply tried to choke me to death but let off just before I stopped breathing. In California things were quickly going from bad to worse.
After one time, he cried like a child on my shoulder, telling me how his father beat his mother, how he was molested by an uncle, how his mom stayed with his father until his younger sister turned eighteen and then they finally got divorced. I think I had what is called the Stockholm Syndrome. I became sympathetic to my abuser. I thought as many women make the mistake of thinking that I was going to be the one to save him.
Now to back track and give you a bit of history of our relationship, a couple years before the current state of affairs, he had a big birthday party. I think he turned thirty, can’t recall for sure. He was about nine years older than me. Well, he was driving my car and he rear ended the car in front of us right before we got to the hotel where the party would be. I was in a rage, and he claimed he would get it fixed; he had a guy who could fix it. We were not living or even together at this point, I was just one of the many girls he was keeping on the side of his Turkish girlfriend, yet she was not attending the birthday party, she was probably out of the country visiting family. But there were some of his side girls at the party and I was pissed because he came to the party with me.
So, I proceeded to get astoundingly drunk and high, and ended up fucking his cousin on the floor by the bed in the hotel room as an act of revenge or defiance. Not my proudest moment. This incident was always brought up as an excuse to start a fight with me or worse, a real fight. I asked more than once why he married me if he was so ashamed of the whole thing and quite honestly, I don’t remember the answer. I suppose he said something about falling in love with me anyway.
But I digress again. San Francisco itself was beautiful, I had missed being in the city while we were in Connecticut. And walking all the hilly streets was great exercise and tightened my butt quite nicely, “better butt better money I thought”. Despite being aware now that I was married to a sociopath, I tried to enjoy everything the city had to offer. He took me everywhere during the day when I wasn’t working. We went to Embarcadero, Pier 39, Coit Tower, the Mission District, Sausalito, The Palace of Fine Arts, the marina district, yet we never made it to Napa Valley. He took me all over the city, including what was considered the sex district with sex shops and peep show booths. San Francisco was apparently the best place for sex workers.
He also took me to the Castro district on Market Street, a very famous district mostly populated by gay men. If I failed to mention it before, he was fascinated with the gay life.
There was a place called the O’Farrell Theatre, another famous place. The customers paid their entrance fee and then they could go to different rooms and watch live sex shows. They had live shows of girl-on-girl action and he seemed very eager to me to try working there. I had no interest in eating pussy for a living nightly.
Once in Connecticut, at the end of the night, I was drunk and a porn star named Candy who wore a long, curly blonde wig, accosted me as I was trying to leave the stage. Before she came to town, he showed me a video that showed her squeezing out a grape with her pussy, “What a wonderful talent to have”, I thought. My ex was watching from upstairs in the DJ booth and egging her on. She was biting my clit and it felt awful. Not one girl I had been with made me orgasm. How could I enjoy being with a woman when it was constantly on display, I couldn’t drill into his head that it just wasn’t my thing. I prefer dick, that’s all there is to it I guess. Considering my sexual history with men it was actually amazing that I hadn’t turned into a lesbian.
Again, I suspect he was at least bisexual, as he seemed to enjoy introducing me to gay bars, something he had initially done back in D.C. His youngest sister is a lesbian and when I first started hanging out with him, he would take me to bars she hung out in so he could spend time with her was the excuse. I decided for certain when we were in California that he was bisexual when one day he was passed out drunk and I put a vibrator in his ass, and he was smiling. Now there was no denying it. I even told him about it, but he laughed it off saying I was joking or lying.
In San Francisco, I had some of the best food I ever tasted. We went to China Town, and it was amazing. The Mexican food was the best I’d ever had. Even, the little diner downstairs of the hotel run by three gay men, had the best breakfast in the city. And of course, the seafood was out of this world, though they had no Old Bay, and if you’re from back East you need your Old Bay. They had these huge, unbelievable crabs but no Old Bay and I couldn’t even find it in the stores. We rode the cable cars and I kept telling myself as I did in the beginning that maybe I could change him. Yes, I was one of those pathetic girls who thought she could change a man. But no matter how much of a good time we had together, every night I had to get myself together, get dressed, get my duffle bag of outfits and get on the trolley train to go down Market Street and get to the club.
He got himself a job downtown in the financial district, but I never saw his paychecks and I never met any of his coworkers. And even though he was working now he never missed a night coming to the club and taking the money out of my hands. After all, he had to get high whether it was coke up his nose or smoking it or getting free drinks at the bar. I have no idea what he did with his paychecks. We still had our long running argument that he could quit coke if I could quit smoking, which he hated unless it was a joint.
He even bought me Christmas presents with my own money. Once, I forgot to pick up his shirts from the drycleaners and I thought he would kill me. There was a girl I worked with who told me “Your man is beautiful” so, clearly, she wanted to fuck him and he her. I don’t remember how she ended up in our bed, I must have been drunk out of my mind the night before but sending me to pick up the shirts was his way of letting them be alone in the room. Are you sick of this motherfucker yet? Because I sure as hell was.
By this time, I was trying to figure out an escape plan without getting myself killed. Where could I hide money he wouldn’t find? Should I just call my mother and tell her everything and beg for forgiveness that I didn’t help with my grandmother when she was sick? Maybe I could go to a different hotel on my own. No that wouldn’t work since he would just come to the club, it’s not like his pimp friends would care if he beat the shit out of me. Oh no, I had too much pride. After all, I took sacred vows, vows that said, “Until death do us part” and whoever put the word obey in the vows should have been fucking shot on the spot. Yeah, my fucking death at this rate. But I stayed because I couldn’t figure out a plan yet that didn’t include me going home to mom and crying and begging for forgiveness.