New Orleans Part 2. Chapter 2: Cocks and Robbers

My first time at the gay strip club in New Orleans proved to be an eye opening experience I live for experiences such as this to feed my appetite for understanding humanity. After that first visit, I’d made a new friend, Chase the young muscles with the bold moves on the bar.  He is a native New Yorker and was quite new to the stripping scene in Nola.  He’d met a wealthy Gay man who flew him down for a holiday, as Chase isn’t gay, his benefactor flew back to New York without him when he didn’t give in to his sexual advances. Life can be fickle sometimes but he rolled with the punches and started making the most of his time in Nola. We kept in touch even after my holiday ended and before I knew it I was on another flight back down to the hedonistic city on the Mississippi.

Sunday evening people puddle session

When you’re amongst friends it’s not a problem to get your junk out.

Hanging out.

Through Chase, I was introduced to a group of guys who strip at the club or formerly worked there.  A few were local to Louisiana, others were from elsewhere in America or abroad however they’ve all got one thing in common they’ve all ended up at the club for the money.
In my last article, I ended with the question can money bring you happiness? This isn’t any new and profound concept.  The short answer, in my opinion, is No. Money can’t bring you happiness.  However, what I’d like to focus on is why this is an important question by meeting the people and find out what drives them to make these choices and the tactics they employ to achieve their monetary goals.

With the group I got to know, I saw lot of disconnection within their lives.  Lost souls if you like, some more lost than others and many carry some sort of “baggage” from the past.  However they’ve ultimately chosen to dance at the club for the money.  To this group everything was about the bankro, the paper, the bread.  Many of the conversations was about how to maximise profit from whatever resources they had.  From buying a designer watch off of a crackhead who was desperate for money to get high, then sell it off to someone else at a higher price.  Or swapping a cool tee-shirt for an even cooler hat, to investing their earnings into another business that will benefit in the long run.  Mind you the latter point is a rare exception, most of the guys I spoke to would rather gamble or spend on drugs, drinks and well…other strippers.  This was the first time in my life I was surrounded by so many individuals where material wealth was at the forefront of what, they feel, brings meaning to their lives and I found it fascinating as fuck.

Toilet selfie at the club.

They are a very business minded bunch, the same enterprising brains you would find on Wall Street, they are the risk takers, the results driven thrill seekers who get a high off of the quick results and the big pay-out.  But not how most of the world view business men, this is what most would consider the seedy kind.  The hustlers who get a high off of fooling the keepers of the law and anyone naïve enough to fall for their sly fox charm.  Thing is? They get away with it and when it’s done well, you can’t help but applaud them.  They demonstrate their artistic flair, audacity and tactical intelligence. They’re constantly calculating their earnings and weighing their options for turning a profit.   Their business style is simple, buy and sell or trade up for something that will give them what they need in the moment.  For the majority, long term planning wasn’t really a concept in their world.  I mean, one can’t expect too much from a bunch of college age men regardless of their profession, I suppose.

Dancer with guest host.

One of the dancers, William had a turbulent life growing up before moving to America at 15.  He comes from a city with one of the world’s highest murder rates per capita, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  That mental shit you watch on Narcos? It isn’t fiction, and I watched that series with a new kind of respect for the people of South and Central America after meeting William.  He has dreams to break through the stereotype of an immigrant in America struggling with a low paying job.  And yearns to succeed and make something out of his life.  Standard to Latino culture, it’s not just for him but for his family too as he invests his earnings into the family businesses and is a bit of workaholic to boot.  His story can be considered a cliché example of a man using his earnings with a benevolent intent. We all like an underdog story, and his has the makings of one. A key point to highlight is that William has a different way of thinking than your average American.  His decision making style is comparable to the carnal instincts of a man who understands death and survival.  This ambition, coupled with the responsibilities of a family, makes a fierce combination.

Counting tips

William also understands to succeed in the stripping business and do it well, a certain level of finesse is required.  All good performers, and actors would demonstrate this during their stage acts.  When we first met, he told me he was bi-sexual, later admitting it was a lie and he’s in fact straight.  He frequently says this to uphold a persona for the gay clients at the club, “(When you dance) It’s like you’re not in your skin. You feel uncomfortable the whole time so you gotta fake it.  I think all strippers are good at telling lies.”  Which is essentially what acting is. “It’s a mask we wear, and we are just there for the money.  If we wanted to just have fun, we would all be doing Zumba at the gym.” He was serious about the kind of money to be made.  “So why did you choose stripping for men in a gay club versus for straight women?” “Because I make more money.  When I dance for girls I make $100-$300 a night.  When I dance for guys I make $300-$1200 a night. So I’m gay for the pay, and I just dance.” I recently saw a funny meme with the girls on the TV program Broad City where they have these astonished looks on their faces after finding out a strippers yearly salary starts at $100k.  They were referring to females stripping for men, however men can make that much if they employ the correct tactics.  An interesting fact I’ve come across, whether its women or men stripping for money, the people who pay for the services are the men.  Maybe it has something to do with the way our brains are wired or gender norms in society? This being said, you could imagine the amount of disposable income a gay man would have in comparison to his straight counterparts with a wife and kids to support.  There is a lot of money to be made here.

A video chat. One of the perks of having stripper friends.

Like all great businessmen, one source of income is never enough.  Many will strip and have other jobs, or alternative methods for advertising their personal services on the side. One evening, I was passed a calling card from one of the straight dancers with his name and number on it and the message “Call me!”  He wasn’t trying to make money off of me, however this card existed because it helps the dancers to make stronger connections with their clients allowing them repeat business in the least.  Another dancer sent me his “Personal Exotic Experience” business card directly to my mobile.  Sometimes they escort on the side, booking private massages, dates or even a dirty session in the toilets allowing the patron to give them a blow job or vice versa, all for money.  If they’re lucky, they can score a sugar daddy for a while and get paid thousands just to share their time with a lonely wealthy man.  One dancer I know charges his clients to add him on Instagram, and will send them sexy photos all for a fee. Bear in mind most of these men are straight, which demonstrates the power money has over them.

Calling card given to me by a dancer at the club.

Joe, a young man in the military, moonlights as a dancer for the pay, of course. But it also helps him get over his social anxiety and depression “I like meeting and making new friends” “Are you just saying this because you don’t want to sound crude?” “It helps me to get over my anxiety. And I have mental problems I need to work on, but it’s very hard to keep focused.  It’s just constant confrontation and it’s hard to focus and supress my own energy and emotions so I keep to myself a lot.”  Which isn’t an outrageous statement.  The comradery the dancers in the Magic Mike films shared didn’t exist here, if anything there was a lot of mistrust and suspicion.  One night, William’s locker was broken into when he was up on the bar and all his tips for his hours worked were stolen.  It was clear through my time observing the dancers, some are more talented and charismatic than others and will likely make more money as a result. It’s a competitive environment as these guys don’t make a base wage just for showing up.  All money to be made is in tips, usually in single dollar bills and those little swimmers can only hold so much at once! Therefore constant trips to the locker room is required to deposit the tips.
The underworld of sex, money and deceit wouldn’t be complete without alcohol and drugs.  And that is something there is a lot of.  “Do you ever get high at work?” I asked Chase. “Yeah, didn’t you see me and some other guys getting high with the manager?” They live a hedonistic life.  You’ve got greens, weed is not a hard drug, but is a staple for them.  Prescription pills Perc’s, Xan’s, Pam’s. Then the hard shit, meth, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, acid, crack.  “I did acid the other day, I was tripping balls and I couldn’t work anymore and had to go home.”  Chase said one day.  On one of my visits, he snorted heroin for the first time and it left him pale, sluggish and slurring his words.  He eventually passed out and slept.  The next day he couldn’t stop scratching at an invisible itch that could never be reached.  I suppose to the user it’s a good time. But for the rest of his friends staying up all night tending to him and making sure he is still breathing, then watching him writhe in discomfort the next day it wasn’t so much fun.  Louisiana has one of the highest opioid epidemics in America, as well as the strictest laws against drugs.  Which could be one of the reasons drugs are so sought after here, but that’s another discussion altogether.

Me looking a bit worse for wear after an evening at the club doing shots of tequila with the guys.

The money flowed in, and flowed out at the rate it came in. Oftentimes many of these guys are still homeless, crashing on a sofa here and there with no permanent address.  I saw a lot of depression and anxiety.  Although it was difficult to tell if its drug induced or if it is an actual condition.  It could be a mixture of both.  These young men all in their early 20’s already have the growing pains of youth, coupled with the complicated emotions that come with objectifying one’s body for money. Dollar bills in their hot pants are comparable to the amount of likes on their social media account photos. Its a bit of a mind fuck and makes sense why mind altering remedies are favoured.

For many newbies at the club, as soon as the scent of “fresh meat” wears off, making tips proves to be more difficult than they thought. This hard reality doesn’t sit well with some self-entitled individuals. Occasionally times get tough, customers don’t tip and they get their free gropes in.  Chase had trouble dealing with this and took his frustrations out on everything and everyone around him ending his career at the club as quickly as it began, so yes, it is entirely possible to get fired from your stripping job!

Sleeping arrangements one night.

In the films (Magic) Mike gets his happy ending.  He ends his career on top, and with a girl who loves him for him.  But in real life the happy endings are more like the kind you get in a massage parlour.  Short and satisfying, but leaves you wanting more.  Many of these guys didn’t find their happiness chasing the chedda. But we already knew this.

Apart from the obvious fun to be had when hanging out with a group of male strippers. They’ve become genuine friends of mine.  Many subjects that would be considered taboo around many are not with them.  Sex is just as natural as having a meal, I think I’ve seen more dick in the past 5 months than I had in the past decade….I mean from seeing it at the club! Keep your minds out of the gutter friends ;). To be honest, their choice in current job has become secondary to who they are.

Private show.

From my time in New Orleans, in my opinion, the city seems to be a magnet for lost souls.  Many people I’ve encountered there, who are not on holiday seem to be wandering in life.  As one friend, Gabriel, put in his Louisiana accent, “Everyone gets stuck in here cuz when people hate life, it (New Orleans) makes a false life worth living.  I’ve spent too much time here if you ask me.”  We both agreed that Nola has an intense vibe, I’ve certainly saw it and felt it.  I seem to be emotionally and mentally drained every time I leave.  A sentiment shared by Tony, one of the gutter punks I ran around all night with on my first visit. Yet people stay on or keep coming back, myself included!  Gabriel continues, “Well its cuz they don’t want to be alone. Basically they’re tryna make people want to save them, this makes relationships. People usually leave when someone takes them with them.”  In other words, people are subconsciously seeking salvation and waiting for their angel of compassion to save their poor souls from the heat below the (Bible) Belt of America.  And there is a lot of that, there is a great mixture of transient people from all over the place and a lot of common ground to be shared. In addition to these guys, I’ve met many strangers who want to share their stories and were eager to have someone listen.

My 3 visits in 5 months to New Orleans has been a lesson in humanity that I value more than anything I have ever read in a text book or watched in films. What we see in shiny Hollywood films has an element of the truth.  However it is often sugar coated to become more palatable for the masses.  Like shooters with chasers, and veggies hidden in food for children, the truth must be administered this way.  What I saw is real life, this is humanity, this is struggle and survival. And I am one to attest, existing just to survive isn’t an easy place to be, although that doesn’t mean this doesn’t exist beyond the surface of what we often choose to see.  My final visit in August, I actually felt sadness as I was saying goodbye to my friends at the airport. I have developed a fondness to the hedonistic place and the characters I’ve met there.  Whether I’ll be back, remains to be seen.  Even angels need to rest their wings.

Thanks for reading. Much Love Peeps xxxx

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