Pole Burn is an autobiographical series based on one woman’s experience as a stripper in New York City and Miami over a period of nearly seven years. Pole Burn traces her inner and outer misadventures as she is forced to confront people’s assumptions about sex workers as well as her own perception of others and herself. The format and tone of the series were inspired by the book The Dark Fields of Venus by Basile Yanovsky, M.D.
“White girl!” the floor manager, a big, burly guy named Wayne, called out to me from the far end of the bar. I was running late, and the near flatlining pulse of the place stilted my inner urgency. It was Sunday and I was under moral, spiritual and verbal contract to show up and work a “slow day.” The night before I had averaged $100/hour which was four times what I made at my stupid office job. It hadn’t dawned on me yet that it had been first timer’s luck. My friend had the night off, so I was flying solo.
I headed toward the back, head down, not wanting anyone to recognize me in my street clothes. To my right was the bar and an arm’s reach beyond that ran the narrow wooden stage. The friendly, albeit strange, woman with the witch name and dyed black hair was kneeling at the corner closest to the entrance holding her hand out at a guy who stared, smoking, at the TV which hung above them. Two Spanish girls in matching iridescent, bubble gum pink bathing suits artfully cut to create waistlines around their distended post-baby bellies stood in the center of the stage talking and laughing and mindlessly playing with their breasts in order to symbolize that they were working. Beyond them the tall, skinny Italian woman who looked like a model until you got to her pockmarked face lay on her back on top of a black silk robe with her legs up in the air. She had mastered the art of rotating the thigh flesh around her bones in such a graceful, methodical way that it would mesmerize you, even if you were sober and not gay. The inch of flesh around her long, languid legs swung and caused her butt cheeks to part just enough to catch a glimpse of the white strip of her panties. This momentary opening and closing like a peep show drew in her one and only customer and gave him something to hope for and imagine without giving him even a touch of her skin. He came every night she worked, dutifully, and sat in the same place, drank the same beer and fed his fantasy girlfriend hundreds of dollars one dollar at a time.
Wayne and his friends stood huddled around a laptop “DJing” the iTunes. They wore color-coordinated jerseys and ball caps and overloaded the shitty little speakers so that all you heard was a rhythmic crackle which pulsated and grated against my ears. I think it was a ploy to somehow trick whoever wandered in here into thinking that this place wasn’t on the verge of cardiac arrest. He turned to me and asked, “What name you usin’?” Wayne’s tone had changed since the night before when he was cracking open bottles of champagne and showering me with money. There is no feeling like when someone makes it rain on you. The bills caress you and slither off your bare skin pooling in layers like a snake skin mandala around your butt. Take note people: dollar bills are like shit-eating flies on the wall. Each has a story to tell and, after seeing the amount of unfiltered cash flowing through these places over the years, I can tell you with certainty that every single dollar bill you’ve ever held in your hand has definitely at one point in its life found its way into some woman’s crack.