|The Secret Cirkus
|The Secret Cirkus
Back in 2004 or some such time, I was working as a performer in a massive nightclub in Pontiac, Michigan by the name of “Space”. It’s décor was fabulous, the entertainment was decadent, and the crowd showed up in force night after night. I shared a dressing room with 3 tall, extravagant and ferocious black drag queens whose wit was as sharp as their long stiletto heeled boots. Also in our room was Brutal Betty, a 300 pound dominatrix, who patrolled the club with her flunkie assistant, spanking and taunting the patrons throughout the evening. We also had two little people, Bernie and Mary, who ran amok around the place as freestyle clown imps, performing creatively and creating random hijinx. And then there was me, a shy introvert on the inside, half leather and half naked, performing pain-endurance sideshow acts to the shock and awe of the intoxicated masses.
The drag queens had several high-powered dance numbers every night, complete with all the glitter, glam, sham, and exploding confetti cannons one would wish for in a Brazilian Carnivale parade. In one of my acts, I would carry out a bed of nails for the audience to feel and verify while Brutal Betty would berate the audience from the stage. Then we’d have a lovely assistant pop a balloon on the nails, Betty would place a cinder block on my chest, and then smash it with a 15 lb sledgehammer. At that exact moment, they’d fire off a sound cannon and cut the lights, signifying the end of our act. Most nights, the cement slab would shatter into a million tiny pieces (which, upon standing up, would invariably fall straight down into my leather pants), but on occasion she’d hit the block without quite enough force and a large chunk would fly up into my face. The hardships of show biz.
Most nights there, after my performances, I would float through the club, shirtless and occasionally still bleeding, in a Casper-like hope that someone would want to talk to me and possibly be my friend. It almost never happened.
One evening, while drinking what they called a “Gay Cowboy” at the bar (Sprite and Grenadine), a young, firm, energetic girl roared up into my personal space. She was very definitely intoxicated, and eager to make my acquaintance. As we talked, or, better said- as SHE talked and bombastically expressed her intentions with much arm waving, I became keenly aware that at arms length there were 3 well-dressed men giving me the hairy eye and keeping close tabs on what appeared to be the object of their investment for the evening. This girl did not appear to be the type to ever have to purchase her own drinks, and so it was obvious that these were the maples she’d been tapping for sap all night.
Before long, I was informed that she was an exotic dancer and that the stooges were clients of hers who were her patrons for the night. I gave them a smile. It was not reciprocated. In conversation, she told me, “I’m crazy! All my friends say I’m the craziest!” Now, although within a certain subgroup of men, this WOULD be an appealing selling point, and although with a back-full of scars, blue dreadlocks, and war-paint, I clearly seemed to fit that bill of sale, I was clearly not the droid she was looking for.
She then removed an ornate silver bracelet from my arm and put it on her own, much to my dismay. No amount of resistance to the idea on my part seemed to make a dash of difference. Her resolve was secure. (Damn booze.) She said, “I work at Cheetah’s. I’m there every Wednesday night. If you want your bracelet back, come and get it.”
Cheetah’s was a strip club in Windsor, Ontario. Just across the river from Detroit, it was known colloquially as the “Windsor Ballet”. Girls there could get fully nude; an appealing enticement for the Americans who had to endure the dental-floss-thong restrictions in their own country. So now I had to make a choice. Should I make the journey, find the girl, open Pandora’s snatch, and retrieve my antique silver bracelet, or should I cut my losses and leave well enough alone..?
In the abysmal bowels of Detroit, there was, for many years, a dark and seedy dance club – in fact, the quintessential dark and seedy dance club – the kind that, if you saw it in a movie, you would think it too harsh to be real, and it was called “City Club”. Amongst the goth, punk, and otherwise grimy patrons of this surreal underworld, there was circulated a set of humorous “rules” to indicate the commonly understood filth of the place, such as “What lands on the floor STAYS on the floor.” and “Never take home ANYONE from City Club.” One rule which really hit home for me (and which I have severely regretted any time I’ve ever made an exception) was “Never fuck anyone crazier than yourself.”
In all my years of experience, I have learned this without a doubt. When an intoxicated exotic dancer tells you “All my friends say I’m the craziest!”, believe her. I’ve always missed that bracelet, but not so much that it would be worth 120 lbs of high-octane Canadian crazy.