Exotic dancers took center stage at the Red Carpet Inn last weekend in performances that packed the house.
“We are entertainers and this is just about using fantasy to have a good time,” said Riley (dancers’ stage names used only by request) who brought four of her peers to Hood River County during her fifth visit.
The monthly shows are arranged by Jeanette Englemann, Red Carpet manager, to provide customers with an enjoyable pastime that is legal. She said that plan appears to be working well since the lounge has been filled to capacity with each appearance of the strippers.
“I love to see people have a good time no matter what age they are and this is just good clean fun,” said Englemann.
Although Hood River City Police have ripped down several announcements for the dancers from utility poles, an illegal place for posting, Englemann said no one from her establishment is responsible for these notices since advertisement to date has been “low key” to avoid controversy. But word of the new diversion has spread around town and the audience is growing each month.
“I have really enjoyed the conversations I’ve had here and the people I have met,” said Lucky, 21, who sacrificed some of the $300-$500 expected return from a Friday or Saturday night show in the metro area.
Riley, 30, is the mother of four young children and said it is important that community members opposed to displays of nudity not harbor misconceptions about her morality because of her profession.
“I demand respect when I’m dancing and I make it clear that I am not going home with anyone at night except my husband and this is work, it’s totally a job to me,” she said. “When I’m home I’m just cooking and cleaning and taking care of my kids like anyone else.
Riley, who was once a single mother, said the income potential is what lures most women into stripping — many of whom are the sole supporters of their household and need a flexible work schedule. Then there are many women like Molly, 24, who is seeking to supplement her part-time income from a growing e-commerce business.
“You have to have another avenue to be successful with your money as well as your head space,” Molly said.
The three women said a stripper working at a gentlemen’s club sets her own hours and can make $20 per song for a private dance where she is fully clothed and touches only the top half of his torso. The law for dancing on the open stage is no sexual contact between the patron and the performer. In fact, Riley said dancers often hire their own security personnel that they can summon with just a glance when a customer violates those rules.
“We are never the bad people, our job it just strictly to entertain and the job of security is our safety,” she said. In addition to personal security, most clubs provide house personnel and Englemann said the Red Carpet makes sure there is a watchful eye on each dancer at all times, although there have been no real problems to date, just the need to issue a few reminders about the hands-off rule.
“If our audience just sits back and has a good time, that’s what it is all about,” said Riley.
Riley’s protector is her husband of one year, Doug, 34, who is never stationed more than 15 feet from her side at the clubs where she performs in Bend, Portland and Salem. Although he admits it required an adjustment to see his naked wife being ogled by other men, Doug said he made a mental shift to support his spouse in the work she had been doing when they met.
“I was territorial and it was hard at first, and she even retired for a short time, but I finally came to accept what she did and now I don’t even think about it,” he said. “I want to help out and make sure nothing happens to my wife and I understand that she is just acting and this is a job.”
Riley, Molly and Lucky explained that, like any other employment, there are protocols to follow in exotic dancing. For instance, they said each performer is paid by tips only and is, in turn, expected to contribute a share of her profits to the disc jockey, management and in-house security, a minimum of $40 per night. Although business is usually very lucrative, they said in times of a bad economy they can work all evening and end up actually owing money for their support services. Therefore, they said it is an unspoken rule that customers not sit next to the stage if they don’t plan to tip the performers.
It is the regular followers who provide the steady income and usually request the expensive personal dances, but all three women have horror stories to tell about the devoted fan who became obsessive and attempted to attack or abduct them. For that reason, they have nothing but strong praise for their security officials, whom they are confident will spirit them to safety if any trouble brews.
“I’m just here in case something happens, I’m not here to get in the way of your good time,” said Doug. “People are going to spend a certain amount of money each month on something they enjoy and this is just another form of entertainment.”
“If people were more open and more accepting the world wouldn’t be so uptight,” said Riley. “You’re going to run into people you like and you’re going to run into people who change your life and you can’t judge any book by its cover.”