Ryann Reflections

A glimpse into the life of one anti-social stripper nerd.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Club was a safe haven

The Burnaby News Leader interviewed me for this story the other day...

Show lounge closure saddens women who worked there

It was her favourite club and she would dance at few others.

The staff was friendly, the customers supportive and most importantly, she felt safe when performing there.

Now that it’s closed, Ryann Rain (her stage name) says she may have performed her last exotic dance routine.

“I was in tears the final night, bawling my eyes out on stage—really, really sexy—because for me it was the end of my home and I can’t dance anymore,” she said. “Mugs and Jugs was my bread and butter and paid my rent.”

As reported in the NewsLeader on Thursday, the College Place Hotel—home to both Mugs and Jugs and the Chicago Tonight nightclub—has been sold to BC Housing, which plans to convert the building to provide an emergency shelter and transitional housing. The closure of the Mugs and Jugs is part of a trend in the region, and Rain wasn’t alone in her admiration for the exotic show lounge.

According to The Naked Truth (www.nakedtruth.ca), a website devoted to Lower Mainland exotic dancers, New Westminster’s Mugs and Jugs was voted the best place to work in an online poll.

“They were a great staff to work with. It was like a family,” said Rain, 27.

Mugs and Jugs isn’t the only exotic show lounge to recently close its doors. On Thursday it was announced the Cecil Hotel was sold to a developer who plans to tear down the building and put up condominiums.

The North Burnaby Inn, the Marble Arch, the Drake and the Fraser Arms are some other clubs closed over the last decade.

But the trend of strip clubs closing is about more than these establishments closing their doors, say dancers.

Trina Ricketts, a former exotic dancer who founded The Naked Truth, sees it as the loss of safe work options for many women—many who are mothers or support loved ones.

“In the sex industry, a strip club is considered a safe-sex work option. It’s safe because you have bouncers, staff and no contact options,” said Ricketts, a South Surrey resident and mother of two.

The feminist and advocate for women worked in the sex industry as a stripper for nine years before leaving. She became an exotic dancer for reasons similar to many women—to pay the bills.

Ricketts said she worked numerous minimum-wage jobs, often more than one at a time, and still couldn’t pay the rent and put food on her table. With exotic dancing she could finally make a livable wage.

But she always had her boundaries—she was comfortable performing naked but that’s where it ended.

“For me, exotic dancing saved me. It was about performing, it was about art, it was about power and money,” she said. “But it wasn’t about having strangers touch my body. In that way, I find it really scary that exotic dance clubs are closing.”

Both Ricketts and Rain sees changes ahead with clubs closing down. And neither like where things are going.

Many of the remaining clubs are pushing things like lap dances or private dances.

“With Mugs and Jugs closing, we’re near the end of no-contact options for women making a living in the sex industry,” said Rain.

“For women that have to support a family, it means a lot tougher decisions for them.”




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