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xmag.com : June 2004: Las Vegas Rules

Las Vegas is all about gambling. Some gamble away pensions at the slot machines. Some gamble their lives at the seafood buffets. Workers gamble their sanity for high wages. I saw my first stripper years ago in Las Vegas, downtown at the Girls of Glitter Gulch. She had Baby Spice hair, and she set me on a sexy path for life.
On this assignment, I investigated the strip clubs of Vegas. I was headquartered midway between the Strip and Downtown in a seedy neighborhood littered with palm trees, all-night Asian restaurants, and weekly motels. Crackheads circled the block so quickly one suspected the existence of interdimensional portals along the street. The city is beautiful at night, burning and arid by day.

Vegas strip clubs offer all-nude dancing with no alcohol or topless dancing with a wet bar. The ubiquitous lapdance rules Las Vegas clubs. Most clubs charge $10 to $20 dollars at the door or have a drink minimum (some clubs offer discounts for locals). Lap dances start at $20. Dancers should be ready to grind on customers, hustle dances, and pay the house a stage fee or percentage. A flat fee of $50 for the day shift/$65 for the night shift was described to me as a good deal in Vegas.
Dancers must obtain a work card from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to strip legally in Las Vegas. To obtain a card, a dancer must first be hired by a club. The club gives the dancer a reference which she takes to the LVMPD with two forms of ID (passport, driver’s license, or social security card, not a credit card!) and birth certificate (if she is under 25). The dancer must provide the LVMPD with information such as her social security number, employment history for previous five years, criminal record, and child support orders. She must be fingerprinted and an FBI check is run on the prints. The card costs $35 and is good for five years. The cards may not be issued to those with felony convictions or those who have been convicted of prostitution, fraud, or certain business code violations within the past two years.

A work card system for liquor and gaming workers was implemented in Las Vegas in 1947. It still exists today, ostensibly to cut down on crime. Those with criminal records are supposedly filtered out of the tourist industry. Interestingly, the categories of jobs requiring a work card vary across Nevada. Occupations in Las Vegas that require a work card are listed in the sidebar. You’ll notice no work card is required for police officers, lawyers, or politicians. As the sidebar shows, the work card system also generates profit for the LVMPD.

The work card is one small step towards a police state (characterized by repressive government control of political, economic, and social life by the arbitrary exercise of police power). The more closely the police regulate the workforce, the more the state resembles a police state. Law has always shaped the parameters of the adult industry, but in Las Vegas the police literally have their fingers in the pie. Portland beat back an ordinance several years ago requiring a license system for escort workers. Fortunately, my friends back in the Northwest demand protection of their personal freedoms. Las Vegas whispers of a nightmarish future where police serve as forces of economic surveillance and social control. The amount of information collected by the police creates potential for abuse. In Las Vegas, big money means big government style regulation.

The seedier side of the industry thrives in Vegas, despite attempts at police regulation. I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of Fernando*, an all-American pimp. We enjoyed a dinner of Crown Royal and In-N-Out (God, please forgive my sins in Las Vegas) and soaked up the lights of the Strip in his beat-up import. I received an insider’s tour of the girls in his cell phone. The marvels of technology! I still have the Crown Royal bag. As someone once said, “It costs a bit more but the ladies sure love the bag.”

Las Vegas is Satan’s theme park. The enchanted night is illuminated by untold watts of power; the water shows in the desert are a testament to man’s conspicuous consumption. The light from the Luxor is the brightest light on earth, like a beacon for aliens. I worry about the E.T.s’ first impressions. Like the marquee on the Sapphire Club quoting visitor Jay Leno, “It’s like Costco meets Hooters.”

One place stood out, however. There’s a little boarded up strip club on the side of the Las Vegas freeway—I don’t remember its name. Imagine a strip club squat. At night, the lights still go on like someone lives there. Maybe there are ghosts inside, stripping for eternity. I must say, the lights had me dazzled.

*names have been fabricated, of course.





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