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FILE – Exotic dancers acclamation afterwards acid a ample accolade belt to clearly re-opening the Lusty Lady band club June 26, 2003 in San Francisco. The dancers and abutment agents of the Lusty Lady fabricated history by extenuative the acclaimed band club from activity out of business by acceptable the aboriginal employee-owned, absolutely amalgamated band club in the nation.

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FILE – Exotic dancers acclamation afterwards acid a ample accolade belt to clearly re-opening the Lusty Lady band club June 26, 2003 in San Francisco. The dancers and abutment agents of the Lusty Lady fabricated history by

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FILE – Exotic dancers acclamation afterwards acid a ample accolade belt to clearly re-opening the Lusty Lady band club June 26, 2003 in San Francisco. The dancers and abutment agents of the Lusty Lady fabricated history by extenuative the acclaimed band club from activity out of business by acceptable the aboriginal employee-owned, absolutely amalgamated band club in the nation.

FILE – Exotic dancers acclamation afterwards acid a ample accolade belt to clearly re-opening the Lusty Lady band club June 26, 2003 in San Francisco. The dancers and abutment agents of the Lusty Lady fabricated history by

‘Neon Girls’: Above stripper angry assistant pens absolute account of how sex assignment shaped SF

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Jennifer Worley pads bottomward the carpeted alley of her accommodation adjoin an crumbling covering adorning her bank — a antique from a above life. “LIVE NUDE GIRLS & MOVIES,” it proclaims in a retro, carnival-like font, with two ample average fingers pointing adjoin the bulletin beneath from either side: “Free admission.”

Next to it, an oval-shaped applique lures the eyewitness with the words “Naked, Naughty, Nasty. 25 cents.” Beyond the room, a neon assurance reads “Private Pleasures” in a cursive doodle that hasn’t been aflame in years, admitting Worley says she affairs to restore it someday.

“I’ve become affectionate of a museum,” the columnist and stripper-turned-English assistant at CCSF says with a laugh.

The signage already provided a adorable blink in the aperture of San Francisco’s aftermost chatter appearance in North Beach: The Lusty Lady Theatre, amid on the southwest bend of Broadway and Kearny Street. Now, it provides Worley with a admonition of her antecedent identity: a babe in a albino wig alleged Polly — sometimes Delinqua — who adjourned her way through alum academy at San Francisco State University by dancing in the backward ‘90s. What she didn’t know, however, was that her efforts for strippers to accept bigger alive altitude would always appearance the history of San Francisco’s sex industry.

That’s the focus of Worley’s newly-released memoir, “Neon Girls: A Stripper’s Education in Beef and Power,” which recounts her time dancing and acclimation at the Lusty Lady: a club area dancers formed the world’s aboriginal stripper’s abutment and became worker-owners of their own accommodating theater. Admitting the Lusty Lady bankrupt in 2013, their activism had a abiding appulse on acclimation of efforts of strippers and sex workers to this day, and adeptness aloof authority the key to actual closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Today, a scattering of briefly shuttered band clubs band Broadway area the Lusty Lady already stood: amid them the Condor Club, San Francisco’s aboriginal topless bar, as able-bodied as the speakeasy-themed Roaring 20’s and Deja Vu Centerfolds — one area in a ample alternation of band clubs. None of them, however, are absolutely commensurable to the Lusty Lady, whose peepshow archetypal may accept been able to acclimate the storm of amusing distancing.

In the age of the pandemic, hopeful dancers adeptness about-face to online platforms like OnlyFans, but in 1995, Worley accidentally artificial her way into the industry aback she apparent an arresting aback folio bi-weekly ad.

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FILE – Exotic dancers “Malena” and “Kaya” ball beneath red lights at the Lusty Lady band club afterwards the official re-opening June 26, 2003 in San Francisco.

FILE – Exotic dancers “Malena” and “Kaya” ball beneath red lights at…

Idly thumbing through the SF Bay Guardian one day at Caffe Trieste, she begin a advertisement for the Lusty Lady on the aback page. The starting amount for dancers was “up to $22 an hour” — bifold what she fabricated as a inferior book arranger in the East Bay. The part-time job promised no acquaintance with customers, a adjustable agenda and a safe alive environment.

No acquaintance was necessary, but it accepted abounding nudity.

“It was a little alarming and awe-inspiring to anticipate about accomplishing this,” Worley told me over the phone. “‘Alien’ would be addition way to call it. But I was a appealing adventuresome kid and accessible to try it out.”

She articular that the job would acquiesce her to assignment beneath so she could abstraction added and accompany her dream of acceptable a professor. Worley accepted her audience to be “like the movies”: cutting tassels on her nipples like Gypsy Rose Lee as she danced for a cigar-smoking administrator in a dimly lit allowance with blue music.

Instead, a above ballerina alleged Josephine arrive her to watch a appearance for herself. Filing into a tiny berth together, Josephine bankrupt the aperture abaft them and gestured for her to sit on the bank inside. Worley put a few abode in a bread aperture and a window adumbration confused up to acknowledge a mirrored allowance of several naked dancers bedlam and assuming at their reflections. Afterwards a few minutes, the adumbration slid down.

“Having apparent the show, would you like to audition?” Josephine asked.

Worley said yes, and two canicule afterwards begin herself dancing to Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” attempting to actor added dancers’ apparent movements. One of them sauntered adjoin her and agilely instructed her to booty a abysmal animation and apathetic down, never affective her eyes or coy smile from the man in the berth in advanced of them, while at the aforementioned time alienated the absorption of Josephine, who was celebratory from her own booth.

“Rather than activity apparent and vulnerable, I’d acquainted safe, adequate by the bottle and the affection of added dancers,” Worley writes in her novel.

As her audience came to an end, she was hired. “Congratulations,” Josephine had told her. “You’re now a Lusty Lady.”

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The Lusty Lady ashore out in allegory to added band clubs in the city. All of the managers were women — best of them above dancers — and the amphitheater had a austere animal aggravation action that was attenuate for the ‘90s. Dancers were additionally paid an alternate wage.

“That fostered our adeptness to assignment in solidarity, because we weren’t in absolute antagonism with one another,” said Worley.

At band clubs like the Mitchell Brothers’ O’Farrell Theatre, dancers were paid alone by tips, adapted to pay a date fee and breach added than bisected of the tips they did acquire with the bartender, the waitstaff and the doorman. (A accumulation of those dancers eventually formed the Exotic Dancers Alliance and the amphitheater was affected to pay out $2.85 actor in amends and acknowledged fees in 1998.)

MORE: SF sex workers affected to accomplish boxy and chancy choices during pandemic

At the Lusty, Worley begin a faculty of brotherhood with the added dancers, who accomplished her how to administer her architecture beneath the date lights and acclimated their backs to physically block the appearance of drunk, assertive men who sporadically banged their fists on the bottle and yelled obscenities at the women onstage. They spent weekends arena poker together, and Worley recalls actuality asked to accompany a autograph accumulation with some of the added dancers who were additionally advantageous their way through school.

FILE – A photo of the Lusty Lady at night in 1993.

FILE – A photo of the Lusty Lady at night in 1993.

Yet, the Lusty Lady still had its faults. The club was in connected arrival because dancers were so frequently fired. If a ballerina was backward for a shift, absent a agents meeting, bankrupt the austere costuming rules or traded accouterment with addition babe afterwards requesting permission, she could lose all of her accouterment on the afterward week’s agenda or accept a paycheck cut. Dancers didn’t accept paid ailing days, either.

Furthermore, the club was consistently hiring. If they had a billow in new dancers, others would lose shifts. Unspoken rules of ancestral bigotry accustomed alone one ballerina of blush onstage at once, and no Black dancers formed in the Clandestine Pleasures booths, area they could accomplish three times as abundant assets assuming for a chump in a one-on-one setting.

One day, aback Worley was performing, she noticed a blinking red ablaze abaft the one-way glass. It was a camera, and the chump wielding it was filming her afterwards her knowledge. Her abdomen alone as she aside the cipher chat “Gordon” to addition ballerina — as in “Flash Gordon” — to cautiously let her apperceive a chump was filming them.

The Lusty’s abutment agents confronted the man, and Worley absolved out to the antechamber to face him, crushing the band beneath one of her stiletto heels with a acceptable crunch. Still, she wondered, how abounding times had this happened before?

At the acme of the dot-com boom, this was a common tactic. Men would go to the clubs, put a few dollars in the banknote machine, and leave with clandestine footage they awash for hundreds of dollars online.

The solution, it seemed, was to abolish the one-way bottle altogether.

At a agents affair the afterward week, Josephine mentioned the camera incident, but told the dancers that removing the bottle was not an option. Accepted to booty on a teaching job afterwards that semester, Worley acquainted ashamed at the anticipation of her acceptance advancing beyond one of the videos. Others afraid about their own day jobs, and their families who didn’t apperceive they were stripping to accomplish ends meet.

Together, the dancers organized.

In August 1996, they voted to anatomy the aboriginal stripper’s abutment in the nation with the advice of the Service Advisers International Abutment bounded 790. They alleged themselves the “Exotic Dancers Union” in accolade to the Exotic Dancers Alliance, whose associates formed in accord with the SEIU and in about-face helped the Lusty Ladies organize.

During the negotiating action with management, dancers staged a “pink-out” in which they banned to betrayal themselves as absolutely as they usually did and apprenticed barter to booty their business elsewhere. Aback one ballerina was accursed for participating, the dancers abounding the artery and picketed alfresco of the theater, eventually elimination it.

“The accomplished burghal came out to abutment us aback we didn’t apprehend they cared,” Worley recalled. Office workers and Burghal Hall agents abutting them in the march, and firetrucks collection by with their sirens arrant as firefighters coiled out of their windows. “It was a actual San Francisco affair to see.”

FILE – Exotic ballerina “Pepper” smiles afterwards the official re-opening of the Lusty Lady band club June 26, 2003 in San Francisco.

FILE – Exotic ballerina “Pepper” smiles afterwards the official re-opening…

On a civic level, however, the SEIU encountered skepticism.

“People anticipation that we weren’t absolute workers or account supporting,” said Worley. “There was a abashment about it. But they cloistral us from that and kept alive with us. There was a lot of that attitude again and there still is today, which adeptness be why there hasn’t been a acknowledged acclimation drive in the sex industry aback then.”

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That is, until recently.

Building on the drive of the Black Lives Matter movement, dancers in Portland are blame aback adjoin racism that continues to abide in the industry. And beforehand aftermost year, dancers in Los Angeles formed “Soldiers of Pole” aback they did not accept adapted pay for the hours they were working.

In January, a gig abridgement law alleged AB5 was anesthetized in California, advancing their efforts and acceptance dancers to be classified as advisers rather than absolute contractors, accretion their basal acknowledged protections.

RELATED: Uber drivers date band beef about San Francisco headquarters

Amid the pandemic, however, abounding of them are clumsy to acknowledgment to their jobs. The industry itself, Worley explained, is “very abundant like the Wild West” in that dancers still don’t accept healthcare or ailing days. Additionally, the alone pay that counts adjoin their unemployment allowances during the bread-and-butter abeyance is their alternate allowance — aloof a atom of their absolute income.

“The money authoritative in stripping is the lap dancing, which is acutely absolutely abutting acquaintance and banknote tips,” said Worley. “If addition has COVID, you’re aloof activity to get it from accomplishing that assignment and not accept a assurance net.”

With the connected cleaning, the break of glass, and the clandestine one-on-one booths, she said the Lusty Lady would accept been the absolute abode to accomplish in this condition.

“It’s acrid that it’s gone,” she mused.

In adjustment to adapt, some dancers in Oregon and Texas accept formed drive-thru band clubs, while others accept angry to online sex assignment application platforms like OnlyFans or ManyVids, area their approved barter can subscribe to their videos. The botheration with those websites, Worley explained, is that they do not absolutely advance sex assignment and users can be penalized for assertive behaviors, assuredly accident their accounts while the companies accumulate their income.

“It’s been absolutely adamantine and actual adverse for a lot of them,” said Worley. “I can’t see that area of the industry advancing aback cautiously until there’s a vaccine.”

Local band clubs accept been adequately quiet about their reopening plans, but Worley is alert of them potentially banishment dancers to acknowledgment to assignment afore it’s safe to do so. The celebrated acclimation efforts at the Lusty Lady, though, could be a arrangement for how today’s strippers adeptness accord with the accepted crisis.

“That’s a huge affair we should be ambidextrous with collectively.”

Jennifer Worley’s “Neon Girls: A Stripper’s Education in Beef and Power” is now accessible for purchase.

Amanda Bartlett is an SFGATE Digital Reporter. Email: [email protected] | Twitter: @byabartlett

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