Save the lap dance for me

KARA NESVIG; PHOTOS BY CARLOS GONZALEZ | Updated 1/23/2013

One woman's first-time journey into stripperland.


I am looking for a lap dance, and I'm going to be picky about it. I've never had one before, and I want it to be special -- an experience to remember, the way losing my virginity was not. After all, shouldn't the first time a girl straddles you, pummels your face with her boobs and shoves your head into her crotch be something you'll always look back upon fondly?

I know I'm not your typical lap-dance customer: I'm female, for one. Shouldn't I be offended by strip clubs? But I'm not. Strippers and burlesque girls have always been fascinating to me. I fall into the camp that thinks taking your clothes off for money is empowering rather than degrading, and I've even entertained the idea of riding the pole on weekend nights myself. But for now, a lap dance will have to do. My mother, on the other hand, is horrified. "I raised you better than that!" she protests over the phone. "Where are your morals? Strip clubs are disgusting."

Too bad Mom's up in rural North Dakota and can't do anything to stop her only daughter from a night or two of gratuitous nudity. I'm 22, legal and looking for a lap dance, but I've got to find the right girl first. My criteria: She can't be blond (because I am, and that's just weird), she must have good teeth and she has to have that elusive star quality that draws me toward her.

Knowing that downtown Minneapolis has a plethora of strip clubs full of ladies willing to fulfill my dream (for a price), it's time to pop my lap-dance cherry. The new Target Field has brought our local fleshfests back into the spotlight, each club hoping that the stadium will draw in customers who will drop wads of bills on champagne and women.

Where better to start my search than the godfather of all local strip clubs, Deja Vu, that giant pink palace of pleasure with the tempting tagline, "1000s of beautiful girls and 3 ugly ones"? The girls in its advertisements look mega-hot, so maybe my lap dance is waiting there.

I call in the big guns, namely my sometime-stripper friend "Kennedy." She's worked the circuit since 2006, and I consider her the ultimate source: a college-educated, feminist dancer. When I ask her why she started stripping, she replies, "I was sick of all the unwanted attention that my body got in public, and I wanted to wield that power for myself."

Kennedy informs me that strip clubs aren't the hotbeds of activity they were pre-recession, and that this Thursday night might be pretty quiet. She's right: Deja Vu is a ghost town. We pay for our required $9 sodas (no alcohol is served at "fully nude" clubs like the Vu) and sit down. A few girls are onstage climbing the poles, twirling down with impressive athleticism. But the booths are mostly empty, and the "tip rail" near the stage seats only a few boys who look to be 18 years old. The dancers move mechanically, like detached, distracted dolls. While a few have obviously fake boobs and the bronzed, polished bodies we're conditioned to believe all strippers possess, most look like regular women, with cellulite, jiggle and breasts that aren't inflatable.

The Vu itself is glamorous in a sleazy, slick way. There are two floors of fun with three stages in "Big Pink," though further inspection finds the top floor deserted. I have a sinking feeling I won't find my lap dance tonight.

The DJ calls Summer to the stage -- a tall, kittenish brunette with a cascade of tangled curls. She moves about the stage confidently, teasing patrons with a sly smile as she removes her top and then bikini bottom. Her clear platforms hit the stage with a startling thud as she slides down the pole into a split; I'm envious. But the 18-year-olds don't seem to know the tip-rail etiquette, leaving no $1 bills for her. She might not be my ideal lap dance, but Summer can work it.