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That Special Time of Year… for Securing My Place in Hell
December 2006

Today was payday, and as I mulled over the always disheartening financial returns that have come from working as a cog in the ever-loathed machine that is the music industry (again, thanks for the illegal downloading, folks), I decided I needed a little pick me up. For once this didn’t mean alcohol; instead, I consoled myself with a piece of leftover pumpkin pie.

The pie was a remnant from last week’s Thanksgiving festivities. Poor Thanksgiving. It’s the underappreciated and overlooked middle child of the American holiday season. Halloween and Christmas generate far more income for the nation’s retailers, leaving our beloved “Turkey Day” out in the cold, forsaken by all except the major grocery chains.

Then again, it is somewhat of a messed-up holiday to begin with. We commemorate with food and drink the fact that without the Native Americans, the first European settlers to our part of North America wouldn’t have survived. They taught us how to farm New England and shared their bounty of food so our ancestors could make it through the winter. We in turn repaid this act of kindness generously with government-sponsored genocide. And we’ve never really apologized for it. For Christ’s sake, we put Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, and he was one of the one who passed the “Indian Removal Act.”

America, we are a bunch of assholes. Really, if America was your neighbor and they accidentally ran over your cat, they’d take it to a taxidermist and then give it to you. And every year after that, they’d present you with a bag of cat food to commemorate your cat’s heritage. Okay, so that makes no sense. I was just trying to come up with a metaphor equivalent for eradicating a whole race of people, and it ended being a lot harder than I thought it would be.

Anyway, all genocide aside, I am a really big fan of Thanksgiving. It’s a day off from work (or for those of you with “real jobs,” it’s a four-day weekend); you can gorge yourself with food (provided you’re not one of the unfortunate people who has dinner with people who consider tofurkey food), and you get to enjoy the company of those around you. And if you don’t like the people you’re spending the day with, you can always allow yourself to drift off into tryptophan-induced coma (I suggest a heavy dosage of alcohol just to make sure you’re really out of it), or just plant yourself in front of the TV and watch football all day. It’s your day. Go nuts.

I think one of Thanksgiving’s biggest perks is that there’s no gift giving involved. Granted, you have to buy groceries, but any holiday that doesn’t entail a trip to a shopping mall or a retail super center/ hell hole gets extra points in my book. And yes, I realize the day after is “Black Friday.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this is the day the country’s major retail chains have convinced us that we have to start shopping for Christmas. So if you’re excited by the prospect of waiting outside a store at 4am just to save an extra 60% off whatever this year’s hot Elmo toy is, it’s the day for you. For the rest of us, we sleep in and do other things that could be considered “sane” or “fun” even.

The general theme of Thanksgiving Day celebrations seems to be tradition. Every family’s got their own, and usually it’s just a variation on getting together with your extended family or friends for food and fellowship. My family always went to Nashville to spend the day with some family friends. You probably know the type of situation I’m talking about. Our parents had been friends for years, and they had two sons who were the same age as my brother and I. On Thanksgiving we’d all eat, and the next day, all the guys would hang out around the house eating leftovers while the moms would go shopping.

After my parents divorced, the whole procedure became a little different, and in college it broke down completely. I’d still go home for the holiday, but the next day would be spent at work in retail hell, instead of lazily eating turkey sandwiches and playing Nintendo.

Then I became an adult, sort of. I was a college graduate who lived 3,000 miles away from home without the financial means to spend the holidays with my family. So what was one to do? Fortunately, I had a number of friends who were in the same situation so we spent our holiday together. I don’t remember the exact details of my first Thanksgiving in LA, but I recall it being rather uneventful.

Christmas soon followed, and again, I was spending it on the opposite side of the country from my parents. But this time there were even fewer of my friends around for the holidays. I spent Christmas Day at work, which was really exciting let me tell you, and vowed to find something better to do with the day the following year. I didn’t care what, as long as it wasn’t trying to sell Hard Rock Café merchandise to the three tourists who think Hard Rock’s a fun place to spend Christmas.

The following year those of us who were here got together at my place for a meal consisting of turkey and a few other holiday staples. The morning was spent delivering cases of Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink to soup kitchens (my esteemed colleague Nathan Smithson being one of their employees at the time). This was followed by the afore-mentioned meal, and then we spent the afternoon playing Star Wars Monopoly, watching Earnest Saves Christmas (the “air brakes” scene is a classic, know what I mean Vern?), and drinking Jack and Cokes.

By 8 PM, we’d exhausted our desire to play board games and our supply of whiskey and were trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the night. Going to a movie seemed too cliché, not to mention, the theaters would be packed. Then someone, and I’m not sure who, muttered the statement, “I wonder if strip clubs are open on Christmas.” This was a question that needed answering ASAP. We made a few phone calls, and found out that the late Crazy Girls Club in Hollywood was in fact open, and we could get in for five dollars.

Then and there, we decided we needed to go to Hell. A titty bar on Christmas? That would definitely make the baby Jesus cry (I really hope my parents don’t read my column). We had to do it. My non-drinker roommate was more than happy to drive us there, as the prospect of seeing nude girls will generally motivate him to action, and he was, I believe, more bored than the rest of us, given that he was completely sober. Those of us who were drinking were glad to find out that we could drink at the club, which is a novelty in this town.

I’ll explain. Interestingly enough, while it is completely legal to film pornography in Los Angeles (we’ll break that down: you can pay people money to have sex… and not just regular sex. You can do all kinds of sick and twisted things), not only is prostitution illegal (which is paying people money for sex), but you can’t drink alcohol at fully nude strip clubs. You can’t bring it in, either.

However, you can drink if the girls are only getting topless and wearing pasties. It makes no sense to me. Maybe the sight of gyrating vaginas has been found to incite violence amongst the intoxicated, but I’ve heard of no such studies. But the presence of a band-aid over the nipple makes it okay. That way, you’re not technically nude. Just to test this theory, I’m going to wrap my genitals in Spongebob Squarepants band-aids and hit the beach. Remind me to get the waterproof kind. By those standards I won’t be nude, and I can show off my well-groomed pubic region.

On another side note, the city also keeps passing legislation making lap dances illegal, which is also a bit mind-boggling, because again, they shoot porno here. Currently, lap dances are an acceptable practice, but who knows when they’ll become illegal again. As we all know, the Taliban loves lap dances, and if we allow this kind of behavior to continue, the terrorists will have won. Does anyone use that phrase anymore? Wasn’t it awesome when that was the excuse for doing everything?

Anyway, upon our arrival at the club, we gladly paid the five-dollar cover, all the while laughing at what a horrible and funny concept going to a titty bar on Christmas is/was. And what we found surprised us. We were expecting to have the leftover reject girls who had nothing to do but jiggle their bare flesh in time to bad rock music on the holidays, but such was not the case. The girls were attractive, and while the club wasn’t packed, there were people there. And the music was good too. It was a sight that would’ve warmed even Ebenezer Scrooge’s heart.

We had a really good time. Drinks were had (lots of them), as were plenty of laughs, and the three of us who went that night swore a pact to make this our new holiday tradition. When we later explained our exploits to friends, we were met with a mix of laughter and abject horror at the fact we were going to such a place of debauchery on a religious holiday. We argued that the girls were wearing pasties so there was no actual nudity involved, not to mention it really spiced up what was going to be a really dull evening. As the tale of our adventure (which was really tame, in all honesty) got around, we found we had plenty of people who wanted to join in on next year’s trip.

I’m happy to report that this year marked the 5th Anniversary of our little holiday tradition (affectionately known as “Turkey and Titties”). I can’t pinpoint the year, but we made the decision to move the trip to Thanksgiving. The reasoning being that more of our friends are around that day than are here on Christmas, and somehow it feels a little less sacrilegious. Interestingly enough, though, we’ve found it’s easier to find open strip clubs on Christmas than it is on Thanksgiving. I still haven’t figured that one out.

Another reason for moving the trip to “Turkey Day” is that saying, “I’m thankful for titties!” will never not be funny.

This year I was selected as the dinner host. Actually, all that really entails is providing a place to eat. My culinary skills are pretty nonexistent beyond making sandwiches, soup, cereal, and macaroni & cheese. Granted, this provides me with more with all of the food consumption options I need, but it makes for a weak group dinner. So my friends who can cook made food, and we had between fifteen and twenty people over for a very nice meal.

Smithson and I began drinking Jack and cokes in the early afternoon to make sure we polished off the fifth we’ve committed ourselves to every year (you’ve got to have goals, kids), and we began the search for an open strip club. Alas, Crazy Girls had closed permanently, and our usual go-to strip club The Star Garden wasn’t open either. I’d like to clarify that we don’t go that often, but when you find a good dive bar that happens to also be a free topless club that plays a lot of good music, you… never mind, I don’t have to justify myself to you people.

Last year’s club du jour ended up being Jumbo’s Clown Room, a fabled Hollywood club where Courtney Love once worked. The rumors we’d heard was that the whole place was circus themed, and that the girls were painted up as clowns. Obviously, I don’t have to explain how enthralling the concept of seeing clown strippers is. We were severely let down when we arrived. While there was a circus element to the décor, the girls were not dressed as clowns. As a matter of fact, they weren’t dressed in anything circus-related. Nor were they… ah, what’s the word for it? Oh yeah, attractive. They weren’t attractive.

One thing they were- that may have even been better - was under the heavy influence of some type of mind-altering substance. Girl after girl lurched around the stage, clad in skimpy outfits, staring off into space, perhaps searching for her lost innocence, while we steadily left them dollar bills in the hopes it wouldn’t go to purchase more heroin. Maybe our dollars were doing some good. Maybe they’re going to buy little Johnny a new pair of glasses or diapers for baby Mercedes. I don’t know. I’d like to think my stripper donations are doing some good. Making the world a better place

The best performance of the night came from some sickly dancer who looked like she led a particularly rough life. As her song ended, she began crawling around the edge of the stage collecting bills (why do strippers insist on crawling when they do that, by the way?). Having scraped up her five or six bucks, she slowly made her way back to the curtain on the edge of the stage, stopped short, and promptly collapsed. We probably would’ve been more concerned for her well being if we weren’t so busy laughing. Apparently when you’re inebriated, your concern for the well being of strippers drops off considerably.

There was a point in my life where this was the only stripper injury story I had, but recently my friend Kyle told me about his first trip to a strip club with his friends at the tender age of eighteen. They’d spent the evening searching for a club whose age limit would allow them in. Eventually they found a very sketchy one that was eighteen and up, and while they were watching one of the girls dance, the unthinkable happened: she was hanging upside down on the pole, lost her grip and came crashing down on her head.

There she lay, nude and twitching. The paramedics were called, arrived, and took her away with a neck brace on a board. The music didn’t stop the entire time. From what I understand, they kept girls dancing on the other stages as well. I guess we weren’t the only ones who had no respect for injured strippers.

We had every intention of returning to Jumbo’s this year as they met our strict standards for Turkey and Titties night: they served alcohol and were open on Thanksgiving. However, much to our dismay, they were in fact closed this year for the holiday. What were we to do? The only other club we had found that was open and served booze was on the far side of the San Fernando Valley, and we were in Hollywood. A trip of such epic proportions (probably about twenty miles) was out of the question. Cell phones were broken out and calls to 411 were made.

The closest open place we had found was the Body Shop down on the Sunset Strip. There was a $10 door charge, with a mandatory two-drink minimum. No booze. But there would be nudity, and I suppose that really is the point of a strip club. As we were a somewhat large group (eleven people), we called and asked if we could get a break on the door charge since there were so many of us and it was bound to be a dead night. No deal. Hmm… still, there would be titties, and they were open. We asked if there were many girls working that night.

Here’s where the Body Shop dropped the ball. There were no girls at the club that evening. They had no real scheduling policy, and instead, they simply worked with whatever number of girls came in that evening. Being that it was Thanksgiving, no one had come in yet, but they felt confident that some girls would come in eventually. So now we’re talking to a strip club that was not only devoid of alcohol AND strippers but was going to charge us $10 to come in where we would be required to purchase two drinks at $5 apiece. They said the club was pretty much dead. I can’t imagine why.

Now we were panicking. Where could we go? Was the Turkey and Titties tradition over? No, of course not. We may be perverts, but we are definitely not quitters. We finally found an open club: The Seventh Veil on Sunset Boulevard.

I have a special relationship with The Seventh Veil and had once sworn to never return. It was the very first strip joint I’d ever been to. I was twenty-two and new to LA. One of my friends/roommates was a manager at Hot Topic (we’ll just call him “Bert”) and had met a girl there who was buying clothes for her dancing outfits. They’d hit it off, and she’d given him her number and dance schedule.

One night after a few drinks, my roommates made the suggestion we that we go to a titty bar. I made it known that I’d never been to one, so the guys insisted that we go and see this girl our friend had met. They even offered to pay the door fee and for my drinks as it was my first time. Being a fan of the female form that I am, I finally agreed to go, and off we went to The Seventh Veil.

The club was kind of what I expected. Full of mirrors and black lights, and, of course, nude women. Once the initial shock that they were naked wore off, I realized that it really wasn’t all that much of a turn on. So I took it as a chance to enjoy the company of people I knew, except our conversations were occasionally interrupted by not attractive/not unattractive women who wanted money for waving their axe wounds at us.

The girl Bert had met made it a point to talk to us, and truth be told, we had a good time. She took song requests (ever seen someone strip to Slayer? It’s funny), and at the end of the night as we were leaving, she asked where we were off to. We had decided to go to Mel’s Diner for a late night meal before returning back to our part of town. She said she was hungry and asked if she could go along.

“Uh, do you usually leave with guys from the club?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “but I’ve already met Bert, and you guys seem really nice.”

“Yeah, that’s what all the girls we take home and skin alive say,” I replied.

“You’re funny,” was her retort.

So, exotic dancer in tow, we went to Mel’s Diner. There she told us that she’d only been dancing a few weeks as a way to pay for college. She said she attended USC and had been studying opera. We discussed music, and the girl really seemed to know her stuff. She seemed intelligent and happy, and I was beginning to think all the preconceived notions I’d had about strippers (them all being drug users with some serious daddy issues) were wrong, and really unfair of me to have. Here was a girl who was simply trying to pay for her schooling, and she’d chosen a profession where she could make significant sums of it quickly.

I was in the midst of chastising myself when out of the blue she asked, “Is my nose bleeding?”

“No,” someone in our group replied.

“Oh good,” she said. “Don’t you hate it when you do a few rails of blow, and it feels like your nose is bleeding the rest of the night?”

I quit chastising myself. The conversation took a drastic turn from there. She then began talking about all the drugs she was on that night, casually asking us along the way if we had any. Then we heard stories of her father forcing her to perform oral sex on him. He’d put his cigarettes out on her back if she did it badly (hence the burns on her back), but on the plus side, she was now really good at it.

My roommates and I swapped knowing looks. We finished dinner, dropped her off, and had a good laugh at what a crazy story it’d been. We obviously couldn’t take her home and skin her alive. You can’t make a good human leather coat out of skin that’s got cigarette burns all over it.

To be fair, I have met a number of dancers since that night that are very well adjusted people who don’t have drug addictions or sordid pasts full of sexual molestation, but I have to admit, I will never forget that trip to the Veil. Nor did I have any intentions of returning there.

But I couldn’t let everyone else down. The Seventh Veil was nice enough to waive the door fee since we were such a large group. We did have to pay for a two-drink minimum, but the door man was nice enough to not only point out the nearest liquor store, he also let be known that he would avert his eyes if he saw any bottle-shaped bulges in our pockets.

We had our run of the place, being that we were the strongest tippers, also the drunkest tippers. I’ve never been at a club where my cohorts made it a point of drunkenly yelling, “We’ve missed you!” at the dancers before. The girls were all attractive, except one who looked like her stomach had been deflated, but the skin had never snapped back.

One of the dancers, who was skinny enough that I think what appeared to be her abdominal muscles were probably her vertebrae sticking through her stomach from the back was nice enough to steal my belt at one point and then whip me with it (hard), and another girl managed to unzip Jenny’s pants with her mouth. She also had Kyle spank her bare ass (the dancer’s, not Jenny’s), which almost got him ejected. Fortunately, the security guard believed him when he explained that she had asked him to do it.

In the end, it was one of the best times I’ve ever had at a strip club, and everyone involved agreed that Turkey and Titties was the standard for holiday fun. I hope all of you have equally wonderful holidays, and if my story has inspired you, keep in mind that it is actually easier to find an open strip club on Christmas than Thanksgiving. Happy hunting, and I’ll see you in Hell.

Josh Newell resides in Burbank, California. He is pierced in over 100 locations. He is the proprietor of Josh Newell Recordings and works as a recording engineer.


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