Back in the mid-1980s, after the mob had been chased out of the Vegas casinos, they were still deeply involved in the Vegas strip clubs. (I know that now. I didn’t know it then.)
There was a strip club on Paradise Road called the Crazy Horse Saloon. This club was the precursor to Crazy Horse Too and Crazy Horse III. It was located just a block or so north of the now-gone Continental Casino Hotel, where I often stayed when I came to Vegas back then, as it was well-located and rooms were only $19/night.
The Crazy Horse Saloon had been my favorite Vegas strip club for a number of years, as it was within walking distance of my hotel room, there was no cover charge, drinks were cheap, and the topless dancers were good-looking. This was before lap dancing and private shows had arrived on the Vegas strip club scene. In the evenings I liked to walk down to the Crazy Horse, nurse a beer for an hour or so and watch the dancers.
The way the club was set up was unusual. There was a large square stage in the center of the room and the bar surrounded the stage. You couldn’t tip the dancer on stage unless you literally crumpled a dollar into a ball and threw it (which some guys occasionally did), so dancers would come off the stage after their sets and make the rounds behind the bar, collecting tips from the guys sitting at the bar.
Almost every dancer would ask if you’d buy her a drink. If you did, she’d stay and talk to you for a while or dance for you right there behind the bar, and if you tipped her more she’d sometimes hook her thumbs under the hip band on her g-string and pull it so you could lean forward over the bar and look down and see her bush (girls didn’t shave back then).
One night I tipped a dancer a buck and she started to move on to the next guy when I stopped her and asked her if I could buy her a drink. She was a redhead named Ginger and I was hoping she’d give me a bar dance. She declined my offer and said she’d already had her “quota.” I asked her what her quota was and she said dancers were required to purchase one drink for every hour they were at work. They usually were able to get the customers to buy the drinks, but if they couldn’t get the customers to buy them, they had to purchase the drinks themselves.
I asked her if I could buy her a drink now that would count toward her next hour and she declined again. She said her shift was almost over and she’d had eight drinks that day and that was all she could handle. She said her little boy was back at her apartment with her boyfriend and she just wanted to get home and go to bed. “What I really need,” she said, “is a doobie. There’s been no pot in this town for weeks.”
I had a joint in a baggie in my shirt pocket and I pulled it out and handed it to her.
“Oh my god!” she said, quickly tucking it under the front of her g-string. She leaned over the bar to talk to me more intimately. “You have no idea … This place is turning me into an alcoholic. A drink every hour. Eight drinks every day. I’ve started coming in on my days off just so I can get the drinks. I never drank much before.”
“Why don’t you get Cokes?” I said.
“We can’t. The rule is the drinks have to have alcohol.”
“Why don’t you tell the bartender to use water instead of vodka?”
“We can’t do that. The customer might want to taste the drink to make sure it’s real.”
“Who would do that?”
“That’s the rule,” she said.
She thanked me profusely for the joint and said she’d share it with her boyfriend when she got home. She told me her boyfriend was making her quit dancing at the Crazy Horse. He didn’t like her drinking so much. She asked me if I wanted her to dance for me.
“Sure,” I said.
She spent the next 20 minutes dancing for me, just wiggling around and smiling for me and every once in a while giving me a peek at her bush. I tipped her with five-dollar bills a few times, though she never asked for another tip.
Then her boyfriend showed up to give her a ride home and I left the place when she disappeared into the dancers’ dressing room.
I never asked the bartender or any manager at the Crazy Horse Saloon if what Ginger had told me was true—that every dancer had to drink an alcoholic beverage every hour they were there. But I believed her because I couldn’t see any other reason why she would have said something like that.
I went home to Berkeley and I couldn’t stop thinking about Ginger. I was worried about her health. I went back to the Crazy Horse Saloon on my next trip to Vegas and I asked one of the dancers about her. She said Ginger didn’t work there anymore. I was relieved to hear that, glad she got away from the place.
I never went back.
Fortunately, strip clubs in Las Vegas aren’t like this any more. The mob has been run out of the strip clubs and the dancers today are independent contractors. They are not required to drink or sell drinks.