by MATT MOLINAR//Associate Editor
[Editor’s note: This story is the third part of the multipart series “Risque Business,” examining the dangers of prostitution that begins with Issue #7 and concludes in Issue #12. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs, and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.]
When she began job hunting at 18, Sara Starr never knew she would end up stripping to help pay for school.
Starr describes herself as an entertainer. When she’s not attending cosmetology school or spending time with her family, she can be found on stage as a rock star on one night, or an erotic dancer on another.
She was 9 years old when she became interested in rock music after experiencing the loss of her sister. She says she was able to relate to the lyrics of the music she was listening to. When she turned 18, she moved from Denver, Colo. to Lubbock and saw an ad on Craigslist for a place that was hiring waitresses called Jaguars.
“I got a call from this strip club,” Starr said in an interview with the Plainsman Press. “I asked if I needed to wear anything specific to the interview, and the hiring manager said, ‘Honey, I don’t care if you show up in sweats. We need waitresses.’ So I got a job as a waitress.”
Starr says due to a family emergency, she was forced to quit her job. A year later, however, she was looking for another job and learned that a place called Rick’s Cabaret was hiring waitresses. She continued to wait tables at the venue for two months before becoming interested in the talents of those who danced at the same venue.
“After a change in management, I decided to ask to become a dancer, because I had been interested in it,” Starr said. “It seemed fun, and the girls were so nice. I just decided to go ahead and do it. I had my outfit and some heels in my own locker. And I’ve been dancing for three years, on and off, to help pay for cosmetology.”
Starr says erotic dancing creates a fantasy for some men. For others, she says, they may just be lonely and “looking for some fun.”
“People may not expect it, but we’re not just nude dancers,” Starr explained. “Some guys just want to escape. Some of them come in just to have a conversation with a lady.”
Starr explains that strip clubs can attract hostile men, which is why the clubs must have bouncers to intervene in any dangerous encounters should they arise. She says she has been slapped and even bitten in one serious incident.
“I have a scar on my back,” Starr recalled. “One time, I was in Abilene and we were doing dollar dances, where we dance on a dude for a few seconds. This one guy was hammered, and he grabbed me by the waist and bit me. I screamed.”
Starr says as she pulled herself forward, the man bit down harder, causing his teeth to penetrate the skin on her back.
“I was literally having the skin on my back ripped off,” Starr said. “Our heels have grips on them. So I took my stance and elbowed him. I turned as hard as I could and knocked him out. When he fell, I fell, and my back was just bleeding. I was wearing white that night too.”
Afraid of losing her job for injuring a customer, Starr immediately grabbed her manager’s attention. She explained that a customer had attacked her. Her manager eventually removed the man from the scene and returned with bloody knuckles, according to Starr. With time, she says she was able to rebuild the trust to turn her back on a customer.
Starr says that the amount of money she makes in a full night of dancing can be anywhere between $3,000 and owing the club money, as strippers pay to dance at strip clubs.
“The biggest perk is definitely the money,” Starr said with laughter. “I used to have a regular come in and I could get $1,000 from him in two days.”
Starr has danced in many different cities in Texas, and she has even travelled to Arizona and Colorado to perform. She says when she is dancing she is usually having fun.
“Everybody involved in the show helps make the night fun,” Starr said. “The managers, the DJs and the other dancers go out of their way to make it fun. We get to dance to our favorite music, and my life revolves around music.”
Starr says that some shows call for full nudity, and by working with other confident individuals, she was able to build the confidence to work completely unclothed.
“I have no shame in my body,” Starr said assuredly. “The girls are very supportive and body positive at any club I work at. They complimented me, and I gained enough confidence. Dudes like curves.”
Starr says she wants to be the next Joan Jett. She currently plays bass guitar and sings in a band called Drinking My Denial. The rock band’s name comes from the times Starr would drink herself to sleep while mourning the passing of her sister, who committed suicide in her apartment. Rock music, she says, has helped her cope with both the suicide, and an alcoholic father.
“I hate to talk about it, but like most strippers, I have daddy issues,” Starr said. “My dad was never home, and he was always drunk. He kept the bills paid, but he was just never… there.”
Starr says that stripping hasn’t gotten in the way of having a healthy relationship. The men she has dated during her time as a dancer have been supportive of her profession.
“I think the mentality we need to have in this situation is, ‘I come home to you at the end of the day,’” Starr explained. “When we’re on stage, we’re told to sell the image, not the product.”
Starr says that men at strip clubs often will offer to take the girls home and even pay money for sex. She says that there is a very fine line between prostitution and stripping. There are even regulations that gentlemen’s clubs must follow.
“Our heels have to be at least six inches or taller, or it’s considered prostitution,” Starr explained. “Our shoes have to be on anytime we’re not in the dressing room, otherwise that’s prostitution. We can’t have both knees on the floor. The girls that start doing illegal activities ruin it for the rest of us.”
Starr says that she tells people who are considering becoming a dancer to keep their guard up and “just go for it.”
“It’s definitely a hustle,” she said. “You’ve got to be tough, because you’re going to make money off of your image. It’s a gamble. And baby wipes are essential.”
[Photo illustration by MATT MOLINAR/ PLAINSMAN PRESS]