When I tell people that I used to live in Guam, the usual reaction is, Guam? What were you doing in Guam? I tailor my replies based on the person asking the question. If there’s a risk of my husband or family being hurt or embarassed, I say, Oh, I worked in a bar. If the risk is only that the person may sneer or refuse to associate with me, I say, I was an exotic dancer. A stripper. Both statements are true. One is simply more precise than the other.
Guam. Oh, Guam. Haunted vortex of contradictions. I spent six months there in 1995. Six nights a week, I danced in seven inch platform heels. Vikings Tavern was on Tumon Bay, where most of the luxury hotels are located. At the time, it was considered the cleanest club on the island. If guys were looking to paw the dancers, they best go elsewhere.
The Japanese tourists, who often were accompanied by their wives, treated us like movie stars. The American military men treated us like sisters. It was easy to forget that I was naked, because they didn’t seem to notice. The club was tiny; the number of dancers hovered at around seven. Those of us on short term contracts lived in dancer housing. The other ladies, most of whom were married or in a relationship, had their own places. We had no choice but to get along, because the island was too small to escape from each other.
During the day, the other dancers were active. They’d go shopping or snorkeling or just lie on the beach. I was invited to do these things, but I usually prefered to lie in bed with the curtains drawn, too exhausted to be envious of their energy. In my six months on the island, I managed to make it to Two Lover’s Point, Jeff’s Pirate’s Cove, and to an eerie, hidden water hole that was known only to the locals.
Women sometimes become strippers to feed an addiction – to drugs, alcohol, sex, attention, etc. Looking back, I see that I was no different. My addiction was travel. Escape. But I couldn’t even hide from myself in Guam.
In 1998, I went back to Guam for six weeks. I’d been working as a travel agent for a couple of years, so I knew that I was capable of having a respectable job. My friends talked me into one last quick fling on the stage. Besides, my new job had fallen through and I needed the money.
Vikings Tavern was different. Breezy Ryder, the dancer whom I was closest to, had died of an overdose. Two of the ladies I worked with were still there, but the others were new. Guam was different. Tahiti Rama and Wet Willie’s beach bars were slated for demolition, making way for high rise hotels. I was different. Two days after my arrival, I met the man who was to become my husband. Though I didn’t know it yet. After he went home, we communicated via staticky phone calls. Alone or with other dancers, I spent the days exploring the places I missed the first time: Ritidian Point, Piti Bomb Holes, War in the Pacific National Park, the Umatic fiesta. One day, all of us met up for a stripper field trip to Talofofo Falls. We promised ourselves that we’d make these outings a regular occurence, but it never came to pass. I left Guam shortly thereafter.
**A short passage about Guam is in my memoir, but I thought I’d post a short excerpt from my novel, Blue, which was published by a Canadian small press in 2006. The novel is about the world of exotic dancing and some of it takes place in Guam. It’s not autobiographical, but some of the characters are based on the colorful people I met. This is a relatively tame excerpt, but it’s best avoided by those who are offended by adult language and situations.**
As I stepped off the plane, bleary-eyed from jet lag, the humid air hit me like the hot breath from a giant beast. It had a ripe, organic, and not altogether unpleasant odor. It smelled like foliage in a state of constant decay.
“Who are you?” said Annie, the manager of Castaways, when I called the club. “What do you want?”
I could have been concerned about this, but since they’d already paid for my ticket, I figured they’d have to give me a job.
I passed through the sliding opaque doors. A man emerged from the crowd. He lifted his chin at me, “You Blue?”
“The car is this way.”
I followed him outside the terminal. The dense air clung to my clothes and body, adding to the dinginess I had already acquired from the twenty-hour journey.
“We gotta go to the club and get the key for the condo,” Horace said. He had bulging eyes and a twitchy smile. I would soon learn that they were the result of an ice habit. At least the place had bouncers, I reminded myself. Not like the Pink Palace, where the girls had to fend for themselves.
Metallica bounced out of the doors into the nearly empty parking lot. The beach was across the street.
“It don’t get pumpin’ until about eleven on weeknights,” Horace informed me.
I reached for my suitcases.
He said, “Leave them. We’ll only be a few minutes.”
I looked at the entrance of the club. The doorway was partially hidden by fake foliage: palm trees and hibiscus flowers. As we approached the door I saw the flowers had faded from red to a coral peach color and were covered with mold. The plastic coconuts on the palm trees had graffiti written on them like, Maria’s hooters or My balls after looking at Maria’s hooters. The Castaways sign hung over the door by one hinge. But I figured it was meant to be that way.
There were two fish tanks inside the club. In the brochure they were brightly lit and filled with jewel-colored fish. Times had changed. The one behind the bar was dark and empty except for boxes of straws and stir sticks. The one that formed the wall between the entryway and the club was inhabited by one enormous, sickly orange-colored carp that barely had enough room to turn around as he made lazy laps back and forth in his murky home. He was the sole survivor of what were once the pretty little fish.
Everything had lost its color. The candy-colored walls were mere pastel shadows. The neon palm trees gracing the sides of the stage glowed inconsistently so one’s imagination was needed to see that they were, in fact, palm trees and not abstract designs there just for the hell of it. The neon tubing around the base of the stage was still intact, as was the shower that was set into the wall above the left side. At the bottom of the stage, in the middle of the bar, was a giant glass pole. Bubbles frothed inside, and the color changed hue every few seconds. To the right of the stage was the red curtain hiding the dressing room.
A tall brunette whipped the curtain aside and screamed, “Put me up will ya, goddammit, Annie!”
A gaunt redhead with breasts like overripe watermelons stood behind the bar. She squinted behind her glasses and dug through a box of tapes. She put in a tape that moaned with the strain of countless plays.
The dancer, who appeared to be of South American, pranced onto the stage, throwing her arms into the air as if to say, I’m here, worship me!
The guys jumped as if startled. The girl was stunning: perfect natural body and a smile so bright it hurt to look at it. She exuded hot Latin sexuality and she knew it. She tossed her wild brown curls back and forth and growled at the audience. She slapped her ass and hissed, “Oh yeah. Do it to me hard, baby.”
A guy near the stage laughed and gave her a little tap. “Harder, harder!” she yelled, bouncing up and down on her heels. Please, please, please.
He shrugged and laid a good one on her and she screamed, “Oh yeah!”
For her second song she stripped and got into the shower. She squeezed shampoo between her breasts. It curved like a fluorescent river down the length of her body. At the right moment she tilted her pelvis up so that it slithered between her legs. The guys cheered as she lathered up, massaging herself everywhere.
I felt myself getting hot and turned away, embarrassed.
She sauntered out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her head. She threw another towel down on the stage; she twisted down to the guys, mopping up the excess water. Her jubilant tits bounced up and down like those dots at the bottom of a karaoke video.
A dainty black girl at the bar said, “So what do you think?”
“I just want to go home,” I said and yawned.
“That bad, huh?”
“Oh no! I mean, I’m exhausted from the flight. I just want to get some sleep. The place is fine. Not posh, but it’ll do.” Compared to the Pink Palace, it was heaven.
She nodded and turned to her drink. She didn’t introduce herself.
“I’m Blue,” I volunteered. “What’s up with the fish?”
“Oh, that’s Otis. Our mascot. I’m Tina, but my stage name is Brandy. Blue’s not your real name, is it?”
“Actually it is. I don’t use a stage name because of it.”
“You wouldn’t have to,” she snorted. “These losers would never believe it’s your real name.” Her smile seemed a bit sad, as if she tried to psych herself up for the long night ahead. Finishing her drink in one gulp, she pushed back from the bar. “Time to get all dolled up. Welcome to Guam.”
I’ve received hundreds of emails regarding this post. It seems to attract people who feel entitled to something – a free ebook, my time and energy, etc – but who are incapable of saying “please” or “thank you”. I am not here to promote your stripper memoir, help you track down the stripper that you’re obsessed with, do research on clubs for you, and so on. All emails regarding this post will no longer be responded to.