Tracing my first eight years in the sex trade through Prince’s discography


It was 1994, and for sure it was June, because that’s when the Grand Prix happens in Montreal. I got a phone call from Yves the doorman at Le Château du Sexe, the strip club where I worked. “There’s a package here for you,” he said. “It’s at the front entrance behind the schedule binder.”

I was very excited about this. I had long suspected that some of the personnel who managed the club didn’t really get my unique appeal, but here was proof that I had something: a client had gone to the trouble of dropping something off for me. I had clients. 

It turned out to be Prince’s The Hits/The B-Sides, a gift from Greg, a sweetheart of a guy from Boston who would visit me every time he was in Montreal with his best buddy doing best buddy stuff. Greg would have me table dance.

We were both big Prince fans and spent a lot of time talking about our favourite songs while I made clunky attempts to table dance for him just to be sure he knew that he was still paying for my time. He would gently say, “You don’t have to do that. I really just like your company.” I guess I just never got over the fact that I could be paid to sit around half-naked talking about Prince.

Prince himself would doubtlessly have had little but scorn for us, two pudgy working-class white people in a crappy, third-rate peeler bar in Montreal making our lives meaningful through his music. This is not the stuff of a Prince song. It barely qualified as a Bruce Springsteen track. 

Until last year, when I finally parted with my cassettes, I still had the ones from Greg in their original box, each cassette on the side that contained the tracks I danced to bearing a small round sticker and my first stripper name. Years later, someone going through the cassettes opened one up and asked, “Who’s Ava?”

Ava was a young woman who named herself after Ava Gardner. And her favourite Prince song was Little Red Corvette even before she became Ava. Ava had lost her virginity to this song. The boy looked her up and down afterwards and said, “You would be perfect if your thighs were just a little smaller.”

Ava had hoped this name would make her intriguing, because she, too, wondered if she had enough class and hoped that dancing to this song would signal her desire to be seen as a powerful and sexy person she knew she was. 

When I was a dancer, all women, with the exception of the goth girls who were very fucking serious about Nine Inch Nails, danced to Prince. They danced to Prince with aspirational names, and they chose songs that gestured toward their aspirational sexuality. 

I can trace my first eight years in the sex trade through Prince’s discography.

I know what year I was working at what club because of what songs I was using. 1996? Chez Parée, Pussy Control. 

I remember girls by their Prince tracks. I won’t forget when Wendy, the reigning queen of Le Château du Sexe, was onstage stripping to a song I’d never heard before but knew was Prince. I quietly went over to the DJ booth after and asked Stan. I didn’t want to ask Wendy. I was already copping too many of her tricks and felt sheepish about my reverence for her. Stan held up the single without looking at me, How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore, B-side of 1999. 

I can still remember a lithe French-Canadian girl with a perfect bob, who read her audition sides in the dressing room, winding her way around the pole to Do Me, Baby. I recall beautiful Freddy dancing to Sign O’ The Times, doing that little pony kick off the back rail that strippers still do today. 

And Wendy, sparkling to If I Was Your Girlfriend and then explaining to me afterwards what she thought the song meant. “He wants to experience the kind of intimacy with a woman he knows only other women have,” she said, fanning herself with a stack of bills like she did when she was just about to go make all the money in the club. 

I have rarely gone a week in the past 34 years without using Prince’s music to remind myself of that part of me.

When I saw Prince live in 2004 he came out for the encore with an acoustic guitar and, swathed in a sort of a pious wisdom, did Little Red Corvette. 

It was at that moment, that I realized the Prince I had danced to all those years was both a caretaker and a stand-in for my own desires, my own fantasies, my own erotic gifts, which I so often felt went unseen. 

Like so many people, Prince constructed his sexuality and his politics through his music. But making is a complicated process, one that sometimes involves a radical turning away from one’s creations, just as the creation itself was a radical turning away from something else. I was brought to my desires by this man, who then had the nerve to change his mind about all the dissident carnality he had summoned forth. This, I felt, more so than all of the music he created, was the most candid representation of the fickle, fleeting quality of human sexuality I had ever seen depicted.

Fleur de Lit is a pseudonym. | @nowtoronto



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