Augie's bares it all

TOM HORGEN | Updated 11/8/2012

An inside look at the "99 Problems" of downtown strip club Augie's Cabaret.

Right then, a police officer barges in, yelling at the man, "I'll spray you!"

The cloud of mace sends the guy hacking down the block. Three women in short skirts walk into the crossfire and start coughing, too.


We jump in Michael's white Mercedes, headed for his 31st-floor condo a few blocks away. He's a health nut and needs his protein shake.

The 30-something tells me he'd like to get married and have kids someday. For now, he has two cats. One of them, a fluffy white Persian named Precious, greets us at the door.

"She's the prettiest thing walking," he says, mostly for her amusement.

His home is adorned with art from Thailand, where he has a stake in a TV channel. He travels there twice a year.

One bedroom is outfitted like a recording studio. He shot, edited and composed the music for his original "99 Problems" demo. He performs a composition for me, louder than his neighbors would like.

He says he grew up on food stamps in Maplewood and worked very hard to get to this point, but there's no getting around the fact that he's making money off the naked backs of women.

"I understand that the objectification of women and the exploitation of women is a social ill," he said. "But this is not a predatory place. This is a licensed business from the state of Minnesota."


Outside the club, the metal detector is slowing the line of men and women snaking down the sidewalk. Inside, songs by Rick Ross and 2 Chainz rattle the walls. A shower of dollar bills rains down on the strippers, who slink up and down the poles like gymnasts.

In the office, a 22-year-old dancer named Britney Murphy has bad news.

"I broke the pole on stage," she tells Michael. "I was being kind of rough."

He's furious: "Great, I'll just go down to the brass-pole superstore and get a new one."

1:50 A.M.: FAST CASH

Ashley Robinson, who goes by Diamond, just made $200 for a five-minute dance that we won't describe here.

In the back, she tells me about her 4-year-old son, who's in kindergarten. "He's really smart," the 26-year-old says.

"The truth is they're just normal people thrust into extraordinary circumstances," Michael said. "They need to parlay this into something else. When a girl gets her own place, you see a self-actualization. And that's what I want for them."

Diamond returns from another stage routine, clutching a pile of cash in her arms. She might make $1,200 tonight.

2:05 A.M.: BEASTS

The cavalry -- literally, cops on horseback -- are clearing the streets outside Augie's. Michael and his team stand guard, ushering the unruly off the sidewalk. Michael shakes hands with officers, knows all of them by their first names.

He's done this for 10 years now. Fights, drinking, drama. Every weekend.

I'd watch this TV show.