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Years ago, I became a stripper. I had the kind of access that is only available to those inside the trade. By profiling four other dancers, I figured I could explore the inner workings of what stripping does to a woman psychologically and physically. I also investigated the notion of dancing as an addiction. I borrowed a roommate’s high-8 camera and began interviewing my new friends.
Billiw danced to support herself as an actress. She also performed a fifties burlesque act in theatrical venues. As much as she loved defiant women who tore their clothes off in MGM musicals, she had a love/hate relationship with topless dancing.
Vicki was teased for being homely as a child. After a chin implant and two breast augmentations, she felt a lot better about herself. With an MFA from NYU in dance, she described stripping as the most lucrative form of dance.
Angela was shark-like in her approach to extracting dollars from men. She said she didn’t think sexually when she worked but use shrewd business tactics. At 37, she increased her bookings so she would have money for when she became too old to dance.
Susan wrote for The Village Voiceand danced to support herself and her son. She detested stripping but continued doing it. She said she was addicted. By the end of STRIPPED, two out of five women die because of their entrenchment in this lifestyle. Throughout the course of my film, one can see how the journey out of dancing is way more difficult than the journey into it.
When I was go-go dancing in New Jersey six years ago, I was supporting myself as a writer and an actress. Using the money I made from stripping, I produced shows that I performed and wrote. Little did I know that the best material I would ever encounter would be in those strip bars. Having done catering work with a bunch of out of work actors, I wasn’t interested in hearing about the extra work they were doing or plays they were trying out for. I was much more interested in hearing strippers talk about their implants, boyfriends, how much money they made and why they thought old guys tipped the most.
True Confessions of a Go-Go Girl (reviews enclosed) was cultivated from those bikini dancing days and was meant to honor the women I met in the clubs. In the play, I portrayed several characters based on the women I worked with. The play ran for five years in Manhattan and I wound up performing it around the country to much critical acclaim. But I didn’t feel like I was truly doing these women justice. There was too much material to include in the play. I wanted them to tell their own stories so I started making the documentary. It was at that point when I started dancing topless and got to be closer friends with the women in STRIPPED.
Borrowing a roommate’s high-8 camera, I started interviewing them in their apartments. I was fortunate to get Peter Klusman, a cameraman with his own Beta package, to follow me around and shoot in the clubs, although after three years of shooting he understandably burned out on the project. Eventually, I bought a digital camera to finish shooting. This past summer my editor, Nelson Ryland, and I cut STRIPPED. Nelson cut it for way below his regular salary and David and Nicole-Torre Claire, who have an AVID in their Brooklyn basement, gave me a good rate. Rachel Desario also contributed her editing skills to the final version of STRIPPED. In addition, wonderful musical artists like The Flying Neutrinos, and Debra DeSalvo contributed to the soundtrack. Blessed all along the way, I am grateful to be able to have more people get to know these amazing women almost as well as I do.
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