I was talking to a musician at a club and he said, “Have you ever been to a pole party? I know about one next weekend.”
A few things entered my mind: with the primaries around the corner, did he mean “poll,” or was he talking about a Polish-culture affair?
I stared at the bass player’s tattooed arm and long hair and realized that he meant “pole” party, as in women stripping and swinging from poles. “Where is it?”
He told me the guitarist for the Shambles has a wife named Kitty who puts them on. “Is it Bart or Kevin?” I asked. “I know both of them.”
It was Kevin, so I called him to see about going. “Usually men aren’t allowed,” he said, “But, I don’t think my wife would mind.”
I showed up at the Clairemont home, and they had a slightly smaller crowd then expected. I wasn’t sure if it was because they got word that a guy was going to show up. And with this new camera my editor gave me, I could seem to be a perv, all under the guise of doing my job.
Kitty told me that one lady cancelled because she had to take her uncle to the hospital. I said, ”That’s what women usually say when they’re canceling a date with me.”
She had a portable pole. I joked that she should take it to the hospital — it might cheer some of the patients up.
I saw a Van Johnson movie poster on the wall for a film called Born for Trouble. It had a lobby card next to it. (Lobby cards were used at movie theaters years ago. They’re slightly bigger than an 8” x 10” and depict a scene from the movie.)
You don’t normally see movie posters in a house, and when you do, it’s a popular movie. I asked the homeowner if she had a relative associated with that movie. She said, “Yeah. Actress Faye Emerson stars in it. She’s my husband’s great aunt.”
I saw forms on the table that the women had to fill out to verify that they are at least 18, that they don’t have physical ailments or disabilities, and, basically, that they can’t sue if they break their neck. There were a lot of other rules, but I was just happy to see the last line, which stated that Kitty could use any photographs. I figured that would give me permission to shoot some as well. Although, when I saw how tentative the women were to do anything, I set my camera down and turned my attention to my notes. Then I went into the other room for 20 minutes and talked with a woman named Claudia.
The women stretched out to a Snoop Dogg song. As Kitty told them to do some shoulder rolls, I thought about how this was already more fun than a Jazzercise party I once attended.
As Kitty explained the pole moves, the girls got very serious. To lighten the mood, I took out a $20 bill, tried to hand it to her, and said, “Oh, sorry. It’s habit.”
Most of the women were dressed casually. One had on heels that lit up in blue. Kitty encouraged them to pick out one of the colorful boas that were piled on a table.
I overheard someone say, “Do you think Kitty’s an exhibitionist?” The other said, “No. I just think she’s smart. Pole dancing is huge these days. This is like a Tupperware party but with brass poles instead of crappy plastic containers.”
When Kitty was using Windex on the pole, I said, ”Won’t that make it too slippery?” She said, “This takes off the oils from everyone’s hands.”
The pole is attached to a stage. Kitty said, “I had to look for a stud.” I was confused until she pointed at the beam in the ceiling. There was a disco ball hanging above. One of the women had little disco balls all over her high heels.
I asked Kitty if she sells the poles, since most women, unless they’re married to rock stars, probably don’t have them in their houses. She replied, “I sell shoes. But, I refer them to a place in Newport Beach that sells [the poles].”
Someone asked, “How much does a pole cost?” Kitty said around $500. I said, “If I spent that much on a pole, I’d want to get the maximum use out of it. On Independence Day, it would be on my front lawn with a flag flying on the end of it.”
There are three types of poles: one that bolts into the ceiling; one that goes from the floor to the ceiling with a rubber base; and one that is free standing and only eight feet high — the one with the stage. I thought a pole might be good for firefighters; they could use it to get downstairs in their home and then the wife could use it for pole dancing. Kitty said, “Even if it’s not a seductive thing, they are good to exercise with. You’re holding all your body weight with your arms.”
Each woman got a stage name (there was a list with samples, in case they didn’t want to do the “street name and your first pet” combination). One was Bunny. Another said to me, ”I’m Bambi. You can be my Thumper.”
Kitty started explaining different moves and techniques. She demonstrated each one while music played. The women were reluctant to get up and try.
One lady said that she had a boyfriend who doesn’t like the whole stripper scene. Kitty said, “Think of it as Cirque du Soleil.”
Kitty did one move where she spun around the poll three times before landing. One woman said, ”It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the playground...I hope I don’t break anything.”
I was talking to one woman who told me about a charity event she did at the Playboy Mansion. She said, “Kevin Federline was there. He was a big jerk.”
After 45 minutes, one woman said her knees were about to give out. Kitty mentioned that she does 70 squats a day.
I noticed a pool table was being used to hold all of the supplies that were needed. The room had hardwood floors, which made the moves easier. I wondered if all the high heels would damage it.
I overheard two women talking about how a few military wives had a party like this for their husbands who were in Iraq. The women took photos to send to their guys. One of them said, ”It’s actually perfect. They had sexy photos to look at. And, really, it’s one of the reasons they’re over there fighting. So people can enjoy those types of freedoms. Imagine what they would do in Iraq or Iran if a woman wanted to dance on a pole.”