Look out for my upcoming memoir, TALES FROM THE STRIP.

Here’s the first chapter… Enjoy!

Chapter One: The Danger Zone

 

 “There’s no way I’m stripping with you tonight.” My roommate’s penchant for insanity increased by the day.

“The other guy bailed. Do me this favor.” He pleaded. 

Lenny and I were best friends. We’d moved to Los Angeles together less than a year ago and were still learning the ropes. Both of us were hoping that our good looks and natural charm would create opportunities for us in Hollywood.

“I wouldn’t even know what to do,” I told him. I had never even considered stripping before.

At this time, the Magic Mike movies were yet to be released. Picturing a male stripper, I imagined a steroid-fueled Chippendale dancer, smothered in baby oil. At five-foot-eleven, a hundred and sixty pounds, I wasn’t winning any bodybuilding competitions in the foreseeable future.

“At least you know how to dance.” Lenny alluded to the fact that while in high school, I’d immersed myself into the rave subculture.

“That’s not stripping, totally different.” I’d never taken any formal dance training, and while I had rhythm, that hardly qualified me to seduce women while taking my clothes off.  

“We’ll make some quick money, and you never have to do it again. These girls are expecting two of us; you need to help me.  I’ve helped you.” Lenny pulled out his trump card; I did owe him.

While we weren’t in each other’s inner circles growing up, we were close friends throughout high school. Lenny was your classic bad boy. Raised by a single dad, he was the kid allowed to do whatever he wanted. Inviting cheerleaders over to party, hosting drunken boxing matches in the garage, even egging cars throughout the neighborhood, these were all daily activities at Lenny’s house. If you were itching to get into some typical deviant adolescent behavior, he was the guy that you wanted as your friend.

One Saturday night, Lenny, myself, and a few other knuckleheads, stole a couple of golf carts from the nearby tennis club and proceeded to play demolition derby all throughout the neighborhood. Once some terrorized citizens reported our shenanigans, the police ended up chasing after us, but we escaped justice that night.  

After graduating from high school, Lenny and I had parted ways. Years later, he began training to become a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, and the two of us started working out together. We were both feeling trapped in our mundane lives and wanted a change, so on a whim, we decided to drop everything and relocate to the land of fame and fortune. The only thing was that college had left me broke, and in debt. Lenny, on the other hand, had managed to save up a bit of money from his pizza delivery job and dumped it on a studio apartment, smack dab in the middle of Hollywood. Police sirens, meth heads, and transgender prostitutes awaited us. Without Lenny, I’d still be working at a bookstore and teaching Zumba classes up the street from my parents’ house.

“Even if I agree to go through with this. We aren’t strippers.”  I finally conceded into going along with his idiotic plan.

“We’ll make a playlist,” Lenny’s eyes lit up, “I know what costume I’m going as. I’ll be Maverick; you can be Goose.” He pulled out his flight jacket, a replica of the one Tom Cruise wore in Top Gun. “I can’t wait to show these new aviators off.” Lenny slipped on his shades and stared at himself in the mirror. Pursing his lips, he proclaimed, “Tonight, call me Pretty Ricky.”

“I can’t be Goose. I don’t have a flight jacket.” Looking around our apartment, finding inspiration was proving to be difficult. Posters of our childhood heroes covered the walls, Jean Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and who could forget, Sly Stallone from the classic eighties flick, Cobra. These images of masculinity may have provided motivation before hitting the gym, but for stripping, not so much.

“I got it, Michael Jackson!” Lenny knew that MJ was my favorite. Any time we’d go out clubbing, I’d tell girls how Mike and I shared the same birthdate. Sometimes it scored me points, most of the time it didn’t.

“They’ll think I’m gay. Besides, I don’t have any of his outfits.” My eyes panned the room. Eventually, I caught a glimpse of a black fedora, “What about going as a Mobster, Frank Sinatra style?” I held the fedora in my hands, while my brain concocted some colorful ideas.

“Chicks dig Sinatra.” Lenny assured me, “We’re supposed to be there at nine, that gives us four hours to come up with a game plan.” Maverick had found his Goose, and I was dialed in.

We started creating our musical playlist on Lenny’s computer. Since Pretty Ricky had been the one to book the gig, we decided that he would be the first to strip. His song of choice was the theme to Top Gun; ‘Highway to the Danger Zone’ by Kenny Loggins. What Lenny may have lacked in dancing skills, he more than made up for in showmanship. His signature move was dropping down into a side split while flexing his tattooed biceps.

Once Lenny’s song ended, he would call the girls’ attention toward the front door. ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ by Michael Jackson would fade back in, and I would casually stroll into the house. After bedazzling the ladies with my moves of seduction, Lenny and I would kick into our two-man show. We’d planned it out meticulously, the women would be eating out of the palm of our hands in no time.  To celebrate our achievement in sound mixing, we both took shots of the cheapest brandy CVS was selling at the time.

“We’ve finally found our niche!” Lenny exclaimed as we hopped into my 1980 Toyota Tercel. I’d bought the junker off craigslist for seven hundred bucks.

My mind was bouncing all over the place as I drove us toward the show. Los Angeles had gotten the better of me that first year...

When we were still living in San Diego, Lenny and I had been cast to star on some cheesy reality shows. While I’d made an appearance on a VH1 pilot that didn’t lead to anything, Lenny, or Pretty Ricky, as he preferred to be called, had starred on an MTV show and made quite the impression.

On the first episode, he’d managed to get belligerent drunk, and then proceeded to urinate all over the backyard, before passing out in the bushes. The TV cameras had captured everything. Shortly after the show’s airdate, the Reality TV Awards nominated Pretty Ricky for ‘biggest lush.’ He invited me to tag along as his plus one.

The award show had been our real first taste of Hollywood. Beautiful women, outrageous outfits, and decadent ballrooms, filled with plush red carpets and flashing lights. Both of us were blown away by the spectacle of the whole thing. The climax of the evening landed us in a former child movie star's limousine, snorting lines of cocaine while cruising along the Sunset Strip. When we made it back to our motel room, the two of us stayed up that night, plotting our move to Los Angeles, and how we would conquer the silver screen. Spielberg, Kubrick, Eastwood; these were the kind of goals that we set for ourselves.

Eight months later, we followed through with those plans, but nothing about our journey had been magical thus far. Lenny was making quick cash as a go-go dancer in West Hollywood, while I was getting by as a fitness trainer. We’d arrived upon the shores of opportunity and fallen in line with the rest of the sheep, chasing a dream that seemed further than ever from becoming our reality.   

My mind continued to reminisce until we arrived at our destination. The residential complex we were stripping at that night was in a wealthy part of town. The two of us sat in the parking lot, going over our game plan in exquisite detail.

Lenny sent the client a text message, and she responded with the apartment number. After climbing a few flights of stairs, we heard loud music and girl chatter. Right before we were about to knock, the door suddenly shot open, and a heavy-set Russian woman appeared.

“Hi, I’m Pretty…” The lady grabbed Lenny by his collar and yanked him inside. He yelled over his shoulder, “Listen for your cue!” Top Gun’s theme song began to play soon after.

The imaginary countdown in my head started ticking for when I would make my grand entrance. As I conjured up scenarios on how to work the room, the front door swung back open, and the same Russian lady as before reached out to pull me inside.

“Wait, the music hasn’t changed!” She was ruining the surprise, all that planning down the drain.

“Who cares.” She replied with a heavy Russian accent.

The apartment was spacious inside. The living room had multiple couches, and there was even a breakfast bar in the kitchen. Lenny’s flight jacket was lying on the floor, and he was dancing in front of some girls, while they clumsily removed his belt for him.

“These chicks are wild.” He glanced my way with a lustful gleam in his eye.

The girl who dragged us inside was the host. She shoved me toward the rest of the ladies and locked the door behind her, “Dance.” She ordered.

There was no turning back now.

I took a deep breath and surveyed the environment. There were a dozen or so female guests, but what this gang lacked in numbers, they made up for in sexual appetite. I did my best to appear seductive as I danced through the rest of Pretty Ricky’s theme song, but this crowd didn’t seem to care in the least what kind of music was playing.

The women started to yank my clothes off immediately. Lenny’s pants and shoes were now off as well. The party had transformed into pure chaos. One of the girls was arching Lenny’s head back, while another was funneling a vodka bottle down his throat. 

“Get the money!” he gurgled at me, between gulps. 

There were dollar bills everywhere; scattered on the floor, wedged in-between the sofa cushions, some of the ladies even had cash stuffed between their cleavage. As I removed my shirt, various hands were busy shoving money down my pants. I tried my best to regain some order in the madness.

“Where’s the bride?” I screamed toward the crazy Russians, pulling the first wooden chair I could find into the middle of the room, “Have her sit here!”

The ladies brought forth a tall blonde and sat her in the chair. With Michael Jackson now playing, I gave the bride a lap dance, while her friends cheered me on. I remember that the girl was extra touchy, not that I ever complained. When I straddled her, she wrapped her arms around me, as she shoved her tongue down my throat. A few of the women pulled my head back and poured me a shot from straight out of the bottle. When the bride and I went back to sucking face, the rest of the Russians’ aggressively assisted me out of my clothes.

Pretty Ricky had regained his composure somewhat and was giving out lap dances on the sofa, all the while grabbing handfuls of cash. “Let’s put the money in these.” He was holding up some plastic shopping bags and tossed me one. I pulled out the cash that was jammed in my underwear and quickly stuffed it into the bag.

I heard some giggling and looked behind me. Pretty Ricky was now completely naked and chasing ladies around the party while slapping their asses. A few of the girls were taking Tequila shots at the bar and handed me one. The host laid me on the ground before ordering the bride to suck vodka out of my belly button.

Standing above me, the host held out the Tequila bottle and tilted it so that liquor came splashing down onto my chest and abs. The bride was on her hands and knees, licking it off me like a dog. The whole thing was barbaric. Before I knew that it was happening, someone yanked off my underwear.

“Get the money.” Lenny’s voice rang inside my head.

I got back up to my feet and began scrounging around for cash. The women were grabbing at my flaccid penis and ass cheeks while I searched for dollar bills. There were plenty around, and I did my best to stuff as many as I could into my plastic bag.

“Here!” I heard someone call out.

I turned to see the host, handing me another drink. Pretty Ricky and I had only been there for a few minutes, yet I’d already lost count of how many shots they’d fed me. Intoxication was creeping up fast.

Was the music still playing? I couldn’t hear it over the chatter. 

My eyes scanned the room for Lenny, who was now wholly wasted and pinned on the couch. A larger-sized Russian lady was giving him a lap dance, while another was massaging his shoulders. Somberness was fading from sight, and I didn’t have a clue where any of my clothes were.

“Get the money.”

I reached for another handful of cash, but by this point, couldn’t remember where I’d placed my plastic bag. Just then, someone grabbed my hand.

“Time for a special dance.” The host led me into a bedroom and shoved me onto the mattress.

A minute later, she came back in with the bride-to-be and threw her on top of me. Smiling, the host shut the door, giving the bride and me our privacy. The blonde lady was as tall as I was, if not taller.  Even in my drunken state, I didn’t find myself attracted to her. Deciding to go with it, I began to make out with her on the bed. Closing my eyes, I pictured myself with someone more desirable, and after a few minutes, managed to grow a semi hard-on.

I guess this is where we have sex. I assumed that it was part of the job.

As I prepared myself for entry, the door burst back open, and the host frantically pulled me to my feet.

“No, can’t be done!” She screamed out, “You leave now!”

When I arrived back to the living room, I saw that some of the women were helping my partner find his clothes, while several others were digging through the couch. I attempted to search for my belongings, but my mind had become so blurry. The vodka was kicking in full blast.

“Here.” One of the girls had gathered up my stuff and rolled everything into one, big wad.

I looked for my underwear while the host led us to the front door. With a forceful shove, Lenny and I found ourselves outside, with the door slammed in our faces.

“Did you get all your shit?” I asked him, as I struggled to put my pants on.

“I think so.” The poor guy was more wasted than I was, “Look!” he held up our plastic bags, full of cash. “Told you we were going to be good at this.”

Once we’d clothed ourselves, the two of us drunkenly headed back toward my car. The entire show had gone on for less than thirty minutes, yet so much had happened in that time.

“I need a second before I drive.” I’ve always been a lightweight when it comes to holding my liquor, and vodka was never my drink of choice.

“Let's count this.” Lenny tossed me one of the bags.

The Russians were generous that night. We sat there, counting cash for a long while. By the time it was all said and done, we’d collected over seven hundred dollars. It dawned on me that the two of us had made more money in the past half an hour than what I’d paid for my car.

“Told you that we were meant for this.” Pretty Ricky boasted, right before leaning his head out of the side window to vomit.

With my head spinning in circles, it was hard to disagree.