Strip Teased - Who are those pathetic guys in 
topless bars who believe the girls are interested in more than their money? 
For one night, Clerks director Kevin Smith found out.

Here's something I've never told anyone else: I used to get off on pissing in a cup. It was in the preteen era, when sexual awareness first rears it's ugly purple head. I'd hit the bathroom - usually when no one else was home - carrying a small juice glass which nobody in my family ever used (I hope), and I'd fill it and stare at it for a few minutes. I don't know why, but I thought it was hot.

Eventually though, I needed something hotter. I discovered masturbation, which proved far more satisfying than pissing in a tumbler could ever be. And in time, I lost the inhibition about masturbation that comes with Catholic guilt. Once I realized that in the court of self-fondling everyone is guilty, I felt free to discuss with my friends the methods and frequency of one-man-handling. We'd spend many an hour debating all things masturbatory: which is the best stroke book; are two paper towels better than a sock as a catch cloth; do you fantasize about your present girlfriend or the ex, and if it's the present one, then why not skip the middleman and simply have sex with her? But there is one conundrum that, to this day, still plagues my jerk circle: Why was it that whenever I got into a nudie booth, I could never get off?

For the sheltered few who don't know what a nudie booth is, I'll paint the filthy picture: You go into a small room, stick a token in the slot (evoking sex immediately), and a panel rises to reveal a Plexiglas window into a world of lust. On the other side, a woman, usually nude, sits on a barstool and puts on a revealing show. Just how revealing depends on how many tokens you insert.

Every time I went to a nudie booth, I was hell-bent on jerking off. That's what it's all about. But the irony was that in a commercial setting designed specifically for masturbation, I didn't even lower my zipper. Every time I picked up the phone receiver (used to communicate with the woman behind the glass, thus increasing the emotional distance), I never conversed pervertedly, never detailed the insertions I longed for her to illustrate. Instead I'd inevitably wind up having a ten-minute conversation about (a) why she chose this profession; (b) what her net income is; (c) if she's involved; and if so, (d) what her boyfriend or girlfriend or husband thinks about her job.

Why was my fascination with trashy activities coupled with this crippling disability to join in? I knew it was all an escapist fantasy, but the realization that I was playing a role tarnished the luster, and I'd find myself conversing with a pube-shaven coed.

I can trace my reluctance back to the first time I ever patronized a strip club: in 1989, when I was nineteen. In New Jersey, the clubs that don't serve alcohol are called juice bars, and since there's no hooch on the premises, the strippers are allowed to get completely naked. My friend Bry and I sidled up to the bar, ordered our Yoo-Hoo's, and took it all in with wide-eyed, laid-back enthusiasm. But it wasn't the girls we found captivating: It was the men around us. They made strong, direct eye contact with the strippers and caressed their breasts as they slid a five- or ten-dollar tip into their cleavage. It was disturbing. These men were convinced that they could "have" these girls. You could see it in their eyes. They sincerely believed that, come nights end, they could bring the strippers home and act out what they were saying with their hard-core gazes. Bry and I left feeling more depressed than anything else. We spent the car ride home ridiculing the guys who bought into the whole scenario, puzzling over how anyone could be so misguided, and swearing that we'd never turn out to be the sorry individuals we'd just witnessed.

And then, years later, I went to Toronto.

For those not in know, our neighbors to the north operate the finest strip clubs on the planet - beautiful women, adorable accents, sanitary surroundings, and, unlike the Jersey all-nude strip clubs, beer on the premises. According to my hosts during that weekend visit a few winters ago, this was what made the White North great. And while taking in a show at the Brass Rail Tavern, Toronto's premiere peeler bar, my hosts offered to buy me a lap dance. I'd never done it, and though I resisted their charity at first, the offended glance the stripper shot me when I declined made me succumb.

She took me by the hand and led me to a dimly lit room, where she directed me to an enclosed booth that housed a comfy armchair. I sat down and she proceeded to unsnap her flimsy excuse for an outfit and toss it to the side. The fact that she was totally nude jarred me - every lap dance I'd ever seen or heard of involved semi-dressed women. This was not the case in Canada, obviously.

When the song started, she poured herself into my lap and began grinding, as if we were a couple of teenagers in the precoital throes of passion. I started a conversation right about then.

"How long have you been doing this?"


"I said, how long have you been doing this?"

"Four years here. I used to work in London, but I couldn't stand the commute."

"You stripped in London?"

"I was an emergency-squad nurse during the day. The I'd come here."

"You'd travel all the way from London to Toronto just to do this?"

"London, Canada."


As the song concluded, she asked if I wanted to go again - ten bucks a song. I agreed, and we continued our conversation, this time with her leading.

"You look familiar, You're not from Toronto are you?"

"I'm from Jersey."

"You look familiar."

"Ever heard of a movie called Clerks?"

"Is that the one where there's a sign on a cash register that says IF YOU"RE GONNA STEAL SOMETHING, TELL US?"

That's when I started to fall in love.

"Have you seen it?"

"No, but I read an article about it. Are you in it?"

"More or less."

"That's cute."

As she ground into me over the next fourty-five minutes and my wallet got considerably thinner, we got to know each other. She told me her name. Then she told me her real name. (Strippers usually go by stage names.) She seemed skeptical when I told her my name was Smith, but I assured her it wasn't a lie.

But it was the eye contact that got to me. She locked into my eyes and I drank deeply from hers. She flirted; I flirted back. And at the end of every song, she'd ask me if I wanted to go again, occasionally letting two or three songs slip by without charging. From time to time, my hosts would cruise by to make sure I wasn't dead, and I'd introduce them to my lap companion and then wave them away. And all the while, I slowly forgot what I'd so staunchly believed about buying into situations like this, scarcely aware that the manner in which I viewed the client-stripper relationship was about to be forever altered.

"Can I kiss you?" I asked.


"Can I kiss you?"

"We''s not allowed. I could get fired."


"Oh God, yes. The managers are strict about that."


The irony of her being so chaste about a kiss while she pressed her bare crotch into my lap did not escape me. And after a beat or two, I guess it didn't escape her either.

She kissed me. On the lips. No tongue. Very intimately.

And with that, I was sold. She'd risked her job - even her safety, for all she knew. The moment could not be ignored. Something that almost never happened in that dark room had transpired between us.

But I was out of cash.

Fortunately, the place was also closing.

"Would you like to go ice-skating?"

"What? When?"


Long pause. "Okay. But I have to start work at five."

"How can I reach you?"

"I can't give out my number. If they see me writing it down, I'll get fired."

"Just tell me. I'll remember it."

She did, and the date was set for one the next day; I'd call her at noon to confirm.

The whole ride home, I was razzed by my hosts, who registered abject shock at my loss of sensibility. They swore that the number she gave me wasn't real and that instead of cutting ice on the morrow, I'd wind up catching a flick with them instead. I shut them up by saying she'd given me all my money back before leaving.

Of course, I was lying.

The next day at noon, I called. Then again at twelve-thirty. Then again at one. The again at two.

Then I caught a flick with my hosts.

I felt like shit. I'd bought into it; I'd become one of the sorry bunch I'd shaken my head at. How long before I was jerking off in nudie booths now, or making strong eye contact with the dancers at the peeler bars while secretly believing that they wanted me?

I'd been duped. The moment I thought we'd shared was just smoke to hide the reality that she was in it for the money.

The next morning I had to catch a plane back to Jersey. As I checked out of the hotel, the concierge gave me a message, dated the previous night at ten o'clock.

It was from her.

I threw it out. And I haven't been in a strip club or nudie booth since.

Kevin Smith, the writer and director of Clerks, Mallrats, and the upcoming 
Chasing Amy, is the only man in America who cried during Showgirls - and not from laughter.


Replies to this article, including one very interesting one.

Kevin's Obsession Confession in the Nov. 1996 issue of Details

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