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Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C. in the 90s (with Craig Seymour)

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This week we are catching up with Craig Seymour, an American writer, music critic and former stripper. And, we are heading back to the 1990s to find out about his time stripping at various clubs throughout Washington, DC.

At that point in time there was a strange quirk in the zoning laws that meant that strippers could be fully naked and fondled by customers. Whilst a graduate at the University of Maryland, Craig started to write an ethnographic study of the clubs, and what better way to learn about your subject than immersing yourself?

We talk all about a number of clubs which include La cage aux folles, Secrets,  and Wet, and all of the experiences that lead to Craig writing his memoir, ‘All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C.’

You can also find Craig on Instagram and Twitter.

And go and discover his books – 

Luther: Life & Longing of Luther Vandross

All I Could Bare: My Life in Strip Clubs of Gay DC

Craig Seymour  00:00

I’m not saying go out there and be a stripper, I mean, if you want to, by all means do it. But like moving out of your comfort zone moving out of that area where you think that you can’t go that can be very empowering and that can lead you to detail that can lead you to places that you never expected, it can expand your idea of the possibilities of what you can accomplish in life. I mean, that certainly is what stripping did for me, you know.

K Anderson  00:29

Hello, my name is K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there, and the people that they used to know. This week, we are catching up with Craig Seymour, an American writer, music critic and former stripper, and we are heading back to the 1990s to find out about his time stripping at various clubs throughout Washington DC. At that point in time, there was a strange quirk in the zoning laws that meant that strippers could be fully naked and fondled by customers. Whilst to graduate at the University of Maryland, Craig started to write an ethnographic study of the clubs. And what better way to learn about your subject than immersing yourself. We took all about a number of clubs, which include La Cage Aux Folles, secrets, and wet and all of the experiences that led to Craig writing his memoir, or I could bear my life in the strip clubs of gay Washington, DC. Oh, and before we start the episode, I need to let you know that I finally got my shit together, and set up some socials for this podcast. I would love if you could come and talk to me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, my user handle for all of them is last spaces part. Right? Shall we get started?

Craig Seymour  02:31

I feel like in my generation sex was like a whole part of the weekend experience. Do you know what I mean? So it was like, you went out saw your friends you drank, you then maybe met somebody and you know, something might have gone on, you might have gone home with the person then maybe you went back to the club or something or I mean, you you were a party here, then just that whole, like, well, you might need to loosen up a rod like

K Anderson  03:02

if But anyway, it’s like, I just have a sex karma. Like, I’m just gone. You know, since you’ve come,

Craig Seymour  03:09

there just doesn’t seem to be that aspect of going to a physical location to be around other gay people. And that sex is sort of a part of that, but not the whole part of that can now that you can just order up sex on your phone. It’s not a part of anything. It’s just when you get horny, you just, you know,

K Anderson  03:30

it’s more transactional

Craig Seymour  03:32

turn on one of the apps or something and yeah, and it’s just and that is not mixed into anything,

K Anderson  03:38

I think. Um, but so you’re not you’re not saying that like, you’re not saying that younger people that young people nowadays, you’re not saying that they are having less sex, you’re just saying that it’s accessed in a different way.

Craig Seymour  03:51

They’re probably having more because it’s because you don’t have to wait till the weekend for to go out or something went to when you know, the hot guys are going to be out or whatever, you know, I think you basically get to get it whenever you want to. I also think that they’re less now how can I put this in a way that does not sound awful? nasty, this is not even younger people this is but like, I mean, I think there was a whole fantasy aspect of meeting somebody at a nightclub something that had to do with like, the low lighting and then they were wearing their best clothes. You’re wearing your best clothes. Everybody was kind of like paste and cheap cologne. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so there was this whole sort of fantasy thing to it not once you got to the person’s house and under the track lighting and whatever everything like that. The fantasy was shattered you know in the morning and everything like that. But there was at least sort of that fantasy element involved in initially hooking up where now you go on an app and you just see people’s like, you know in the picture could be like their high school graduation. It could be. I mean, I’m just saying I mean, I’m just people’s all sorts of people’s profile, I actually don’t even have. But um, I’m just gonna like even on like Tinder, or just whatever people’s profile pictures can be just widely varied in what they represent. And they seldom represent what people use to try to represent when they went out to a nightclub. So I think a lot of that whole, like, I think people are much, there’s sort of more of a realism to sex out in a way where people just are just hooking up with who people, you know, basically aren’t, they don’t need that whole fantasy of the low lighting and the cheap Cologne and the few bits of interesting conversation that that person might have.

K Anderson  05:54

I kind of view it in a different way in like the, I think people now because there’s so much choice. People don’t make a decision. Like, in the olden days before you had that option of, Oh, I can just go home and log onto Grindr and find someone there. You’d be like, right, there are 20 people left in this club, and I’m gonna have to go home with someone. So I’m gonna have to do the round closing time. And so you would just like you would, you know, yes, you might settle. But like, you would make a decision and you would go for it. And now it’s like, people can just stay at home and be on Grindr all night and be like, Nah, no one’s really ticking all my boxes.

Craig Seymour  06:39

I do hear that from friends that I’ve actually never hooked up on an app. But um, I do hear that there’s frustration from my friend said that this frustration where they could be like talking to a guy, you know, texting back and forth for hours and hours and hours. And then at the end of it, it’s just kind of like, oh, now it’s late. It’s good talking to you Good night, you know that there’s all this lead up, but it never actually leads to sex. Whereas you’re right like at a nightclub closing times coming. There are only a few people left people tend to to pair off.

K Anderson  07:14

Yeah, like, you know, I have if I don’t do something now, I have to wait a whole week till next Saturday, Saturday. Exactly. Exactly. So do you remember then? So okay, so actually, the question I want to ask is, when you started going out on the scene, was it like a conscious thing? Like, I want to go to those strip clubs? I want to go to those sex clubs, or was it just like, I’m going to try every year? I’m gonna go everywhere.

Craig Seymour  07:43

Yeah, yes. No, the two driving forces in my life. I would say sex but more in the sense of like, just liking being in that environment of being like the strip house environment, being around like, a lot of naked people. Yes. So that’s definitely a driver and then music. So it’s like, really underground house music. That’s my thing. And naked guys are my thing. Unfortunately, there has never been a club that is paired. Anyway. Yeah. In any way that has been satisfying. So I was always I’m always be bouncing around or going to different clubs for

K Anderson  08:29

men in clothes, good music, or men naked, bad music.

Craig Seymour  08:35

Yeah, I think I think you’ve really hit it. Very rarely does. I think because you know, a lot of the strip club audience too, is like older. And it’s a mix of like, older and younger, but yet the, you know, the guys need something to dance to. So it’s just always the most generic kind of like, top 40 crap that just nobody, you know, it’s like, inoffensive, but it’s just sort of like,

K Anderson  08:58

yeah, yeah, just like it’s not hitting anyone’s buttons, but it’s not pissing anyone off as well. Right. Exactly. So then, do you remember the first time you went to a strip club? Yes.

Craig Seymour  09:12

That was to see, because this was also the time you know, another thing that’s been lost in sort of gay culture is the gay press and DC had a really active gay press. One of the papers was the Washington blade, and then the very back of the Washington blade. They always had advertisements for the strip clubs and it would always tell you which porn star was coming to town to perform at one of the strip clubs, because this is at the time when porn stars were like movies. You know, it was like so when my favourite porn star at the time with Joey Stefano was performing at the Follies. I went to go see him and that set off a whole lifetime of strip club Hello.

K Anderson  10:01

Okay, so I am totally naive. And it’s not because I’m a prude, I just don’t think that like strip clubs are a thing here like they are in America. And so what happens when you go and see a strip show from a celebrity?

Craig Seymour  10:16

Well, it’s different things, see, and that’s why I’m trippin, depending upon the clubs that you have gone to. And depending upon the era in which you went, you could have, you know, wildly different experiences or perceptions of what went on. So in the late 80s, early 90s, you could basically, they would get completely naked, you basically could touch the dancer, wherever you wanted to. So like, you know, my hands been all on joy spawn, but you know, public cup this ball a few times. For you tip, and you would, you know, be able to touch the dancer.

K Anderson  10:50

My follow up question was gonna be like, were you nervous on your first time there, but it sounds like that’s not going to be the case.

Craig Seymour  10:58

You know, yes, I think the natural inclination would have been nervous. But it was that sort of thing where, like, you were saying how, at the close of the night, you know, you have to start making a decision. It’s like, when, if you’ve been like jacking off the joys to panto for years, and he’s finally like, on a bar in front of you. And there are a lot of other people like clamouring toward him. And you know, you actually have the chance to put your hands on, you’re going to get over your nervousness, push people away and put your hands on doing. So you know, I get nervous.

K Anderson  11:29

I’m so I’m, I’m picturing those videos you see of people in Black Friday sales when the roller door comes up, and everyone like runs through the front door and cramming and pushing each other out of their way for things is that what it was like,

Craig Seymour  11:42

for certain superstars? It was still, it was definitely had a black friday element to it that particular night, not always, because sometimes it’s the kind of thing you know, not all porn stars are created equal, you know, so it was not necessarily a crush for everyone, but certain ones. Definitely there was that sense of like, I’m like, I even think somebody might have said to me that night, like, you’re not going to touch Get out of the way. Like the least bit ended up, you know, like, should I touch his balls? Or, you know, like, so? Yeah, it was really much kind of a sort of frenzy,

K Anderson  12:22

that the good. Were there security guards? Or is that a really naive question?

Craig Seymour  12:28

No, no, that security guards in the club. Because the area, the area where most of the strip clubs were, was kind of a little isolated. And there were break ins occasionally muggings and stuff like that. So there had been times when the clubs would get together and kind of have like, a security guard, just kind of like patrol the area, but never inside the clubs. There was never any reason to no one was protecting Jerry. Oh, no, no, no. And nor did he seem to want protection. Because you know, with every time you get a bunch of bills, and you know, that’s the whole point is to make money. Well, yeah,

K Anderson  13:05

bad. Like, you know, you could get scratched and dry skin. And so then, yeah, so let’s talk me through that first night, then did you go on your own?

Craig Seymour  13:20

No, I went with my best friend, who I ended up being in relationship with like seven and a half years. He’s just he’s like, completely anti, not anti, but he’s just completely opposite strip clubs, I’ve never had any fascination brand. And before we even realise as of now, but before he was in a relationship, he was definitely like an app person. So we’re very, very different like that. But he doesn’t get why you would just want to sit around and look at like making strangers all night, and not necessarily be going home with them or anything. And for me, that’s just like, thrilling, you know, because, again, I just think that so much a part of my youth involved, not looking at guys. So just that freedom is just kind of so much a part of me, and you know, it’s just that kind of thing, like within therapy, you just kind of keep reliving the same old things, or keep reliving the same traumas or working it through. I just think that that’s one of those things. That’s just so. And, you know, it’s interesting, because a lot of strip clubs, like older, there are a lot of older people. And I’ve always could relate to a lot of experiences for some reason of the guys who maybe came of age, like during the 40s or something like that, when you really couldn’t look at somebody you know, and you really had that kind of thing. And we for some reasons, had the same experience of how freeing and just how wonderful it was just to be able to like, look at nature guides, you know,

K Anderson  14:57

and so do you get do you have that feeling when you’re like watching porn? Or is there something about being in that space and sharing that experience with other people?

Craig Seymour  15:11

I definitely prefer being in the space, but I’m a porn person too. Because, again, before I came out, and before I could ever go to a club, I would watch porn, you know, I would have to go to those sad little video cassette stores and like, go behind a little curtain and then go past all the street racks of VHS or,

K Anderson  15:36

I would say you wouldn’t do the thing where you pretend you’re interested in this straight stuff. And then like, after you’re warmed up, then you make the Beeline?

Craig Seymour  15:45

No, I would, I would probably do the thing more like cuz usually all the extra stuff was behind a curtain. So I would probably do the thing more of like, oh, let me browse the new releases for five minutes. And then zip behind the, behind the curtain, to pervs like me. And the other thing is to you know, this was a part of just being there being kind of like a gay neighbourhood, like, where I would rent the tapes would be in a video, in video store in the gay neighbourhood. So most people in the porn part were gay. And that was like a, you know, the majority of the material, it wasn’t like I was in some suburbs, where they’re like, have three bisexual teams and the rest is sprayed or

K Anderson  16:28

the Pullman sorry, this is sorry, this is like I

Craig Seymour  16:34

rent the tape, like a blockbuster. Get a day, or maybe day and a half and watch it and return it or you would copy it to the LCS player, or a

K Anderson  16:44

pirate. But then were they were there particular scenes where the film was quite worn

Craig Seymour  16:52

on not generally but you know, like, video cassettes, video cut technologies, as people know, through apps, you know, they are what they are. So get them, you might get a little streak going. But, um, and I can honestly say, I have never once watched a porn film all the way through, you know, I’m totally like, fast forward, stop, pause, rewind, 15 seconds go back. You know, I’m very much just like, you

K Anderson  17:19

know, yeah, well, I mean,

Craig Seymour  17:21

just go right, for I’m not there for the plot or anything. But there are a lot of people that really are no, there really, there are a lot of people Yeah, because, you know, when I lived in Chicago, because they want to feel emotionally invested. I don’t know what it was. But in Chicago, the Grammys, which is like the gay porn awards is a big thing. And I would go every year, and all these porn stars would come to town and all the fans would come to town to and they were really like, a whole group of fans who would have conversations with the porn models about, oh, you know, and this plot when you did this, and that and what? They would really be into it. So there’s definitely

K Anderson  17:59

and it was none ironic.

Craig Seymour  18:01

No, no, completely earnest, and a lot of the poor models would really get sort of, you know, like, choked up, if they were to win Best Actor or something. And like, you know, Cox Rs, or whatever it was, they would really be, you know, they would get up and give the acceptance speech and thank their wages and everything.

K Anderson  18:24

Okay, see, I thought, and maybe it’s just because of the porn I consume, but I thought that plot had just like everyone who just accepted that there’s no, there’s not going to be plot anymore.

Craig Seymour  18:34

Not a mutton, there’s a certain I mean, it’s increasingly getting this way. I mean, it probably I’m talking about the era of like, maybe pre like 2013, or something like that, when you know, you were still talking about like, art directors like she she grew and we’re very into, like, how a shot was set up, and all this kind of stuff. And certain porn companies were known for having better production values than other ones and all of this kind of stuff, you know, it was very, was the whole thing. Because part of us, this is another thing that people don’t get about strip clubs. Part of being is going to strip club to and being a strip club regular is developing friendships, whatever you want to call it, relationships with the various dancers. And so you kind of like, you know, talk to them all the time, get into their stories, their narratives, and all this kind of stuff. So it’s kind of like, it’s as simple as almost being part of like an ongoing soap opera or something. So there’s that emotional connection that’s there. That is appealing. And the thing is, you know, people always say, oh, they’re just talking to these people for money or they’re just doing this thing for money. And of course, that’s true. But then there’s but there’s something just about the nature of human interaction and if you have a group of people together for a period of time, you know, genuine relationship, genuine emotions do develop. And you know, there’s some people that I still know from what I used to strip when I was a customer and just stuff like that just because, you know, for whatever reason you and I think that part is,

K Anderson  20:15

so just that just talking to them not kind of shatter the illusion for you.

Craig Seymour  20:19

So it actually deepens it, it’s sort of it, maybe it’s not so much about the illusion and the fantasy, because maybe it’s about like, you’re able to talk to a guy that you would not necessarily be able to talk to on the street, or would even see in the clubs, a lot of the guys are sort of straight identified. So you wouldn’t really be having that kind of conversation with a straight identified guy that was completely naked in front of you, or whatever. So, um, but yeah, so there was that kind of thing too, and just kind of meeting people that you just would not meet in just your regular day clubs, just, you know, interesting. And then you would watch their journey, like sometimes there are tonnes of times, I’d be at the strip club, you know, somebody’s first time stripping, and maybe they would consider themselves straight then but you would see kind of their trajectory and sort of expanding, they’re

K Anderson  21:13

blossoming like a flower,

Craig Seymour  21:16

basically, but you know, if this was before you could bench things on Netflix, so are watching a, you know, continuing therapy, just seeing kind of how people kind of develop over time. It’s sort of interesting,

K Anderson  21:31

said, the one thing I was gonna say, you said the strip clubs were fully nude, and that was odd. Like, so I think I’ve only ever been to one strip club in my life. And there was the only memory I have, the only memory I have is this guy with a cock ring on and his penis was like purple from from the lack of blood occupation. And just feeling like really sorry. Just like just a bit horrified about how purple it was. But he was like, so he was fully nude. So I just kind of assumed that all strip clubs were fully nude. I think not in America.

Craig Seymour  22:12

In America, it’s, it’s, um, regulated like PR, I don’t even know if it’s state, but PR. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s by this by the states. So there can be a lot of different bizarre things, most places don’t allow full nudity. Most states, you have to have on some kind of G string, or jock strap or something like that. Now, there are some states where you can be fully nude, but you cannot drink. So that’s a whole other subclass of strip clubs. But DC happened to be a weird little area where you could be fully nude, and you could drink. But this was the weird thing about DC. And these are all laws that came about after prohibition. But the weird thing about DC is that every single bar had to have a fully functioning kitchen. So you could be fully nude, and you could drink at the location. And if needed, you could make a meal or somebody could make a meal for you. But um, but and that was tended to be the dressing rooms at any strip club where it was like the kitchen in DC.

K Anderson  23:22

So it needed to be fully functioning, but it didn’t need to be used.

Craig Seymour  23:29

I Well, you know, I don’t know if that’s the case. They definitely had inspections. And almost every strip club that I know about at some point or another had like, a Sunday buffet. taco night

K Anderson  23:44

with a side of pubes. Yeah.

Craig Seymour  23:47

Right. Exactly. Um, you know, I don’t think you’d want ideally the customers or the strippers to have kako breath but you know, I’m not one to judge a kink. But yeah, so I don’t know if they had to have them functioning but they often did function. And at one of the this was like a more like a porn theatre I worked at that had the intermission entertainment, we would come out and strip but on Sundays, we would then have to put on some clothes run next door where the where the associated club was, get the food for the Sunday buffet and then serve the customers. The Sunday buffet, which was always like really meat and potatoes and things like that. I mean, really heavy, sort of like Mama’s home cooking type. Which was just so weird. I never ate thing in any strip club just for the record.

K Anderson  24:43

But But when you are not judging anybody that has I mean if you can get a free meal, but absolutely. But how many like sausage and meat pans were you subjected to when you were handing out the food? You know, not it was not on

Craig Seymour  25:00

Nobody really treated it like with irony or that it was anything weird about it. It was very earnest endeavour. I mean, they just

K Anderson  25:08

wanted the wholesome Sunday lunch.

Craig Seymour  25:11

I never heard of me on I never heard anything like that. I mean, it was very, very, you know, aboveboard and disappearing? Seriously,

K Anderson  25:21

letting me down Americans Come on. And so when did you start working in strip clubs,

Craig Seymour  25:30

um, I guess about two or three years after I started going to them. And it was just the kind of thing where I was kind of fascinated with the experience. And I was at the age where I could still, you know, sort of reasonably, do this stripper thing. So I just wanted to give it a try, just to say that, you know, just to see what it was like. And I loved it. I mean, it really brought out a side of me that I don’t think I necessarily would have ever gotten in touch with had I not done it just in terms of being very, very comfortable, you know, not to be naked in public, but which I would not do now. But I mean, just talking to different people, and just kind of doing I don’t almost like being a performer, you know what I mean? And so that was a side of me, I had never really explored like that. So that was great for a time period. And then it sort of ran its course and you know, I’m went back to just be a customer and I’m perfectly happy with design living the rest of my life in that mode.

K Anderson  26:40

So then let’s talk about that first time that you strip Do you remember the the night? What am What happened?

Craig Seymour  26:49

I do, but it was not a night it was during the day. Because the first time that I did it, I think I was trying to throw ease my way into tripping. So I was I was I stripped at that theatre I was telling you about that had strippers in between the, the movies. And so what happens is, when you would be booked for that you would be you’d have shifts, the shifts were 12 369 and 12. So, and I was, you know, got to know the person that booked the dancers and told them I wanted to try it out. So he booked me for a weekend or whatever. And so the first time I ever stripped was 12 o’clock, the day was midday. And I was not nervous about the nudity in any way. It was, first of all, there were only probably like three people in the theatre, like 12 noon on a Sunday or whatever. But it was more just like, it was more like the mechanics. Like I had never thought about just the very process of like taking off my clothes. You know, it’s one of those things that a sexy way. Yeah, I mean, I guess you know, how people like sometimes when they go through traumatic injuries, they have to learn how to do very basic things. And they become very self conscious. And things that we just take for granted was like, Okay, how do I lift up my car, like I just did not know, like, all this, you know, I’ve been taking, putting my clothes on and off my entire life, others that I couldn’t meet, everything just became completely foreign and weird. So my response to that was just to like, take everything right away, and then just walk into the audience. Because what we’re supposed to do is like, take one thing off and dance a little bit, and then take another thing. Here’s, you know, I guess, give a little bit of a walk in the audience to talk to customers and get tips, but I just looked like, you know, this is just feeling too strange. I don’t even know how zipper works. And I just ran into the audience. And that was it. So that was my first experience. Oh, so

K Anderson  29:01

did you get to like choose the song or anything? Or was it just like the this, this film has ended, go to the front of the cinema and take your clothes off?

Craig Seymour  29:11

Well, you could choose what song you wanted to dance to. Sort of it could be like, death metal or something like that. Or it couldn’t be like, you know, Tupac or something. I mean, it has to be within a range of first of all had to exist within the CD days. So it had to be within the range of the CDs that the DJ had or that you happen to bring with you. And also it was kind of like an earned privilege. So I’m not sure that I really had that option the first time I dance. And I may remember what the song was, but I know what happened was there three dancers so I’d come out then another dance would come out, then another dance would come out and then we would all come out for a set. So I do remember that the first time I was dancing in the collective set It was Madonna’s where’s the party? I’ll never forget that. This mix that went on forever. Yeah, but then as it you know what sounded like, then as it went along, you could say like, Oh, you know, play? I don’t know, TLC creek or whatever. And then you can. So that would be. Yeah, I’m not sure ever actually did but um, yeah. Now, in terms you can do

K Anderson  30:27

with satin pyjamas you could have you could have made that work definitely.

Craig Seymour  30:31

That’s a lot of war. That’s one thing about the deal. Like, you know, people also think like, because they seen Magic Mike and things like that. I mean, nobody put any effort into whatever, some people but they were considered kind of strange. But nobody put any effort into, like, the more basic you could look. And the more you could just look like you were like a college jock or just, you know, whatever, just a preppy college student or just whatever, you could just, however just look like a normal guy, you know, normal discarded, somebody might see somewhere just need to be clear. We’re

K Anderson  31:04

using air quotes for normal. Yeah, Yeah, I did.

Craig Seymour  31:08

I did definitely have there. But, um, I think I was using Erica for both of those things. But just like your average basic, whatever type of person, it wasn’t about kind of having like some huge fantasy. I mean, there was some people would like magician, capes and like, also, like wands, and maybe they’d have little like, I don’t know, little bits. But that was not really what people wanted, they really just wanted to think that they were relating to just just your average. Again, air quotes, you know, dude on the streets, and just whatever.

K Anderson  31:42

It was that kind of a weird homophobia type thing where everyone was, like pretending to be straight?

Craig Seymour  31:50

No, it wasn’t homophobia, so much as I would say it was a I would say it was definitely within the it definitely operated within the sort of parameters, very traditional gender ideas, you know what I mean? So I don’t think it was wasn’t really rooted in that it wasn’t like that mask for mass culture or anything like that, you know, wasn’t really rooted in that. But there was definitely like, and again, we’re talking about the knot we’re talking about, like the late 80s. And the 90s was a completely different time. But definitely, I think the more you conform to whatever was considered like, the masculine gender norm of the time, probably the more successful you were in the club. You know, that kind of that changed over time, just as I think our sort of culture just in general, especially queer culture, has become sort of more broad about sort of, like non traditional gender expressions, non binary gender expressions and things like that, I think there was an aspect of that, that kind of came into the club toward the end, but and that was like, a lot of the younger dancers kind of brought that element in, in sort of like a punk, we’re going to do this kind of way, like, you’re not going to make us be conformed to your, you know, we’re not going to pretend to be like, yeah, we’re just gonna be who we are. But definitely, in the time that I was working in, it was the kind of like jock stereotype or the preppy stereotype or just all of the bad boys stereotype, you know?

K Anderson  33:33

And did you find that like, conflicting?

Craig Seymour  33:36

I didn’t particularly because that was just the culture that was like, the way that the culture was kind of constructed around the times. I mean, I definitely saw them as limiting stereotypes, certainly. But that was the, you know, the kind of archetypes that you got in the club was the same things you were seeing in the porn, which same thing, you were thinking the porn magazines, which was the same things that you were saying, and, you know, fashion spreads to the gay magazines. It was just, it was just that era of gay just the accepted

K Anderson  34:08

norm for Yeah,

Craig Seymour  34:09

you know, just like the plone culture of the 70s. And distinctly that it was just, there was definitely a moment where people definitely tried to be tight. That’s just what it was.

K Anderson  34:22

So I’m a little sad that you didn’t like, get to pick your own songs. If If you were to do it now. Why? Oh, okay. Well, tell me tell me what songs you did.

Craig Seymour  34:35

Oh, I don’t remember. I don’t remember. But I’m just saying like, at a certain point, you could like what would happen is like before the set you would go into the DJ booth, and like, I would just kind of flip through the DJ CDs and go oh, play that back. That kind of thing. But it wasn’t like my own CD collection. So it was never anything that I was like,

K Anderson  34:54

like, this is my jam. So did that crazy about but you’re exactly so you don’t have Like, a memorable favourite song that you’d love to perform to

Craig Seymour  35:05

know, if anything, I kind of remember things that are just sort of like that. We’re just playing a lot. I’m not saying that this and that we’re like, hating on this, but like, for some reason, you know, I remember dancing too. And I love Frankie knuckles like Frankie knuckles like my favourite, one of my favourite DJs. You know, I saw him many, many times. I love Like Frankie knuckles remixes, but for some reason, I danced to Frankie knuckles remix of Toni Braxton unbreak my heart, like a lot, very memory. Because it had like, That moment when it was like, you know, a new song. And then it had a moment when it was like a blockbuster hit. And then it had that moment when it was just kind of like, a classic. And they were like, it was just a felt like years of of that. So like, I mean,

K Anderson  35:56

very, very odd sound distributor, isn’t it?

36:01

Ah, I really don’t know that kind of thing where you were thinking about? Oh, okay, so

K Anderson  36:07

you were saying?

Craig Seymour  36:10

No, no, no, no, no. And, you know, sometimes you really could kind of tune out the music, and it was kind of like, oh, wait a minute, I’m completely off to a minute, cuz you weren’t even dancing so much, you were kind of what it depended upon. So for another club that was secret that was called secrets, it was sort of like a rotation of where you would dance. So there was a bar. And then there was like a box. And then there was a stage. And then there was another box. And then there was a and then there was a box during the door. So there was like, you would make a rep rotation. So like, when you were on the bar, you weren’t dancing very much, because you didn’t want to kick off, you want to kick over somebody drink, which I did many times, unfortunately. But you didn’t want to kick over anybody’s drink, and there wasn’t that much space, he certainly didn’t want to fall on your ass. So you weren’t really dancing then. And then after that, you’d be on the box. And so there wasn’t really much space to dance. And if you were any good and you’re popular, you had a bunch of people around you. So you’re more like talking to people and things like that. On the stage, there was more space to dance. But again, you’re kind of like walking around to the job was to walk around to the people and try to get the money, the job wasn’t really tied to, you know, like, like a track performance. Track performers can go out and they can kind of like, do half the song and then a bunch of people weren’t up in like throw them a bunch of dollars or something and then at the end, they’ll be showered with dollars, that does not happen with strippers, rappers you need to make that money right then in there, people might decide like, not, so it’s like, somebody standing there with $1 you go and cat that dollar and whatever, you know, the beat of the song be damned, you know, just like, rush over whatever and just get it talk to the person and then move on to the to the next person, it was a performance at all, and you would try to maximise and you would try to minimise the amount of time that you would just be dancing without getting any money. You know, if there was somebody and you got on stage, and there was somebody standing there, you jump on stage and walk right over to the person that was there. You wouldn’t like I don’t know, do a count and

K Anderson  38:18

see, and I think, you know, I learned all I know about stripping from showgirls. So I think I’m coming at this from the complete wrong perspective. I’m like, yeah, and then I’d have you can tell me, I’m wrong. It’s fine w dice.

Craig Seymour  38:34

I had like five g strings, you know, just like, like, maybe three pairs of cutouts, shorts, like so you spend

K Anderson  38:40

your whole week choreographing numbers? No,

Craig Seymour  38:47

not at all. The biggest issue, the biggest issue really was just keeping track of socks, because socks would get very, very dirty. And it was kind of gross to dance and dirty sock. But even more than that, because we were completely naked, so that the the customers will put the dollars in our socks, not our G strings or anything like that. So the elasticity of the sock, sort of starting to go bad over time. So you would want to make sure so like at home, you know, when I was packing to go, I would always have to try to make sure that I had a sock that had a good hold. So I wouldn’t want to be like littering. That’s my money. I would want to make sure that I had you know, so that was you know, just something to keep track of. Sometimes I didn’t even take them home honestly like if if they were just like wet in like just filthy with gras, you know, I would just throw them in the kitchen trash can because like I said there was a fully functioning kitchen.

K Anderson  39:51

And so like they say there’s a stigma there’s still a stigma around stripping and around performing in that way where you I opened with the people in your life that you were doing.

Craig Seymour  40:03

Well, my boyfriend that I live with, yes. Because that would be kind of hard to pull off, where are you going every night? But no, I didn’t know, this kind of thing. Like, um, I have always felt that as a queer person, you know, who had to kind of grow up and make my own. You know, I’ve had very supportive parents, very supportive family and everything like that. But at the same time, to my development as a gay man is something I did. Do you know what I mean? It’s something that’s an identity, I Forge, with my looking for my own resources and everything like that. So it’s sort of my thing. So I don’t necessarily, I don’t have never lied about anything that I’ve done and everything, but I don’t necessarily feel like I owe it to everyone to know every aspect of my gay life, because because I feel like, there are a lot of aspects of gay culture that if you’re not a part of gay culture, you don’t necessarily understand. And I’m not really like, don’t feel like having to explain all of that people, although that’s what I’ve been doing is for the last hour. Like contextualise every aspect of what I do and why I do it, and why and why I am the way I am because I grew up in, you know, a hetero sexist culture and everything like that. So, no, I didn’t tell it, but good. What so what happens, my parents found out, they knew I was writing a book, and I, you know, it’s like, slowly dropped, like, Oh, it’s a memoir, and then I slowly dropped it. Oh, it’s like, you know, has a lot to do with my life as a gay guy. And then it’s sort of been like, you know, how I would have like, on strip clubs a lot, you know, he’s always just kind of like, piecing it out there. Not really the because I was like, scared of reaction or anything, but just kind of like the just sort of baby steps and more. And so the deal that I had with my parents, cuz I wanted to, at least, like, read the book, because other people I didn’t want people to like, come at them with unexpected question not knowing. So when the book was in galley form, which is like the advance release that send a reviewers, I let them read it. And I basically just told them that I would answer any question that they had about it. But they had to read the entire thing first, and understand my journey and understand the trajectory that I went through. And then I would answer any questions, but I want them to at least understand what the journey was. My mother completely respected my wishes, and did that my father had like a question like, by page three, or something was like email, but he completely did not. Sort of respect my wishes, but Oh, but they both

K Anderson  42:47

like they both were like, yeah, I’m gonna read it. They weren’t like, actually, I don’t want to know about this.

Craig Seymour  42:52

Oh, yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Okay. Oh, yeah, they both definitely read it. And I don’t, I’m not the type of person that you know, I don’t bring it up all the time. Like, I feel no need to, like, necessarily discuss it, you know, it’s their book, you know, you want to read it fine. I used to teach there, tonnes of my students that never knew I was struggling, I never knew they knew I wrote books, they didn’t necessarily know what it was about. Um, yeah, I just feel like, all of the information about me is very, very out there, on the internet, on Amazon, on whatever, you can find out more than you would ever want to know about me if you want to. So I don’t feel the need to be the mouthpiece for that, you know, I don’t feel the need to be my own bubble. If you’re that interested, you can just go online and find out and whatever. So all that today to answer your question, you know, I don’t really keep any secrets, but I don’t necessarily feel the need to explain my life or tell people like I did feel the need to explain my life, but and since I did in the form of a memoir, I don’t feel like they need to have got

K Anderson  43:57

it out of your system. Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Exactly. And so when when did you decide to quit? Um,

Craig Seymour  44:09

I decided to quit when I was working as well, that’s not really true. Did I decide, I kept I kept sort of thinking it was going to be my last time and I sort of ended it in the same way that I began. So what happened was, I stopped working the club, like I stopped being on the bars first, because that just got to be too much like shift work and just too much of a grind and I didn’t have my own weekends or anything like that. And so I kind of went back to just working at the theatre. So that was just like, one day but it was just a full day and I could tell my regulars where I was and they show up and everything and I could just kind of get out away and I still had other you know, we Getting days and everything because once you’re on a ship, like at a regular club, they really expect you to have to work every weekend. Usually I’ve worked Thursday to Sunday. And then I think that, um, yeah, one day, I just it probably was a day honestly, when I had to serve that damn Sunday buffet and I just got tired. strip and like, run get this nasty, like, you know, meat and potatoes, food and serve it up and stuff. And I just think I was like, you know, don’t put me on the schedule for next month. And I that just, I just let it go. It’s like, I knew it was it. I knew it wasn’t going to do it forever. So I knew it had to stop. It’s that I was going to stop at some point. So it just sort of like I just kind of let it phase out which so I wasn’t so I don’t even know that. But I do know this. I do know this. The follies, which was the name of the theatre, they had like, it was some anniversary round, like 30th anniversary, the 20th anniversary incentive, some anniversary. And that was after I had stopped stripping. And they called a lot of the older strippers back for that night. And I did come back for that night and strip. So I think that was the final night. So that was nice for it to be kind of like a little bit of a party and stuff. Yeah, the sad day was when they was the last day for the clubs, when the the clubs had fought all of their battles against the city to try to remain open. And the zoning base, they had changed the zoning laws. So basically that there was no place for the clubs to relocate.

K Anderson  46:46

That’s harsh.

Craig Seymour  46:48

So yeah, you know, this, they, they would say, Oh, you can relocate here. But it can’t be between this mini speed of a school in this. So there were literally no physical locations that were they could locate. Certainly none within that were like entertainment districts or anything like that. So all of the clubs close on the same weekend. And I was there for that weekend. And that weekend was definitely one that, you know, you saw people in tears, and it was definitely a sense of loss. And I mean, I just remember, because at this point, I was living in Providence, Rhode Island, and I actually took the train down for the last weekend. And it was just a matter of like, just trying to be present. Just taking it all in and just you know, I mean, I that’s that was my focus, just really trying to just be present. In the moment. I did the same old, you know, I got a couple of lap dances, I met some new dancers, I did, you know, the same old thing and just said, goodbye, like, do you ever, I don’t know that there’s ever a perfect way to say goodbye. But it was just like, you know, when I got my car drove away, I knew I didn’t drive away because I was drunk. With my taxi, Uber, and went away, like it was just a sense of like, you know, just like it was a movie of just the neon lights of clubs receding in the distance. And that was the last time I ever saw the block like that. And the next time I was there, there was a gigantic baseball stadium. You know?

K Anderson  48:34

So just knocked everything down. Everything, like not even it’s there’s no remnants of what was and so then to the final question that I have for you is what do you think DC has lost now that it’s lost those clubs.

Craig Seymour  49:00

It has definitely lost a sense of cities were much more sexual in the 70s and 80s. To the extent that like, and you win in certain neighbourhoods of big cities, you knew were sort of the quote unquote, Red Light District were where there were porn theatres and things like that. And there were advertisements for them. And they were, you know, nude nude nude would be in like neon lights and stuff like that, again, the strip clubs were all in concentrated in a particular area of DC all within walking distance of each other. And it was right within like, you could see the Capitol when everything was right near downtown. It wasn’t really a sense of hiding it in any sort of way. And it was just it was just a part of city life. You know, where I think now the whole idea of city life has become much more sanitised. And the kind of like, a CD is such a pejorative word, but just that aspect of the city that was like, where like sex work would happen, and just things like that. And that was just kind of an accepted part of city life. I think there have been increasing efforts just to do away with that. And I think in many cases has less to do with morals than just real estate, you know, as cities become popular again and become real come gentrified. Again, people just want the space. You know, so where the strip clubs used to be, there’s now a big soccer state, I mean, a big baseball stadium, guy, I get the sports confused. Baseball Stadium, and but the point being is the big state is big sports stuff there. And sports related businesses, and they’re these luxury condos and everything. It’s just completely been abolished. And the weird thing about it is, you know, just with the history of colonialism and things like that, you know, sometimes when a complete culture is wiped out, we’ve had the sort of, you know, sometimes you can see little plaques, like this used to be a marketplace for blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, or something that references the history of the people that used to occupy this space before it became such a commercialised place. But you know, that won’t happen, though. There’s no plaque that said, you know, on this ground, people used to, you know, play with the dollar bills. Yeah, whatever. Like, that won’t be, that’s missing. So, I mean, it lost a queer aspect. And by queer, I don’t just mean gay, I mean, like, you know, the sexual part of the city, the sex workers, the people who liked going to strip clubs and things like that, just because it was not just the strip club, it’s just like, it’s sort of like the sanitisation of the city of anything that had to do with, with sex, and like sex has kind of gone that the sexual side of the city has gone underground, or it’s become digitised to the app. And it’s just a different age, you know, it’s just the loss in the sense of historical time. I mean, I’m not the type of person that thinks that things necessarily are meant to last forever, you know, whole civilisations Follow me. And so it’s not like, so of course, you know, strip clubs are going to close probably, but it’s sort of definitely is the end of the city as being a very kind of uniquely queer space admits these institutions of federal power, which was just a really interesting dynamic. You know, it’s it’s really interesting that there were these permissive, openly, queer, openly sexual places that were right amidst these buildings where people made decisions that infected that infected infected the entire country. And that’s just that, yeah, yeah, just that whole dynamic was just kind of interesting. And that’s, and so that’s different. But, you know, I’m glad that we have like podcasts like yours and stuff like that. I mean, it is so important, because this is the type of history that most people don’t even think that’s important to record. And, you know, I was reading something recently, just talking about kind of African American History. And a lot of what I do is write about black music and stuff. And it’s sort of like you live through a period. And what you often find is that you have to document things that you never felt like you would have to document that you just felt like that would be a part of history, that’s just something that was or something that would endure, but you find yourself at a certain point, being like, wait a minute, this entire thing is becoming lost. This thing has to be documented. And you were never thinking about that during the time you were just living your life, you know?

K Anderson  54:14

Do you have any memories of clubbing in Washington DC? Have you ever stripped for money? Do you have anything to say about this episode? Well, anyway, for any of those reasons, or anything else, I would love to hear from you. So why don’t you get in touch? I am on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And my user name is lost spaces pod. You can also find Craig on Instagram and Twitter with the user handle Craig’s pop life. And since you’re on the internet, why don’t you go and buy one of Craig’s books while you’re at it? There’s all I could bear which is the memoir we discussed in this episode, but he’s also written a biography about Luther Vandross, called life and longing of Luther Vandross. I’ll make sure to include some links in the show notes for this episode. La spaces is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I have been writing songs about queer venues, and the people who used to live their lives there. And we’ll be releasing songs over the next year. You can hear the first single which is called well groomed boys and is also playing underneath my talking right now on all streaming platforms. If you liked this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribe, left a review on Apple podcasts or just told people who you think might be interested in giving it a little listen to I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces.







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