Monday, August 23, 2010

Jumbo's Clown Room


When I was nine years old my mother took me to a book signing to meet her idol, Gloria Steinem. It was at the old Intimate Bookstore in Chapel Hill and the line was sooo long. But Mama made me stay with her and by the time we reached the front I was super bored and absolutely itching to go find the newest Babysitter Club book. Finally, we were next! Ms. Steinem smiled at us, very pretty and friendly and as my mother fumbled out a greeting I tugged at her hand.

Me: "Can I go now?"
Mama: (Stammering an apology for my rudeness, a not uncommon occurrence.) " I...sorry she..."
Gloria: (Totally awesome and sincere) " I understand, more important places to go!"

That brief brush with a second wave feminist deity must have had quite an effect on me because I have a very non-my generation, non-third wave feminist confession to make. I hate strip clubs. I in no way think they are empowering. I have been to several and I do not find them funny or hot, even though true pole dancing is an art and an athletic skill that I certainly do not possess as several facebook pictures demonstrate.

What I had heard of Jumbo's Clown Room was not positive. Opened in 1970, it is legendary in part because Courtney Love stripped there. It's in a strip mall on Hollywood Blvd. and it was where old, tired strippers often end up. And Courtney freaking Love stripped there. I like to laugh at a lot, but snickering at a woman baring her flesh to try and make a living is not one of them.

So I was pleasantly surprised and strangely touched by what I found. Jumbo's is in a dirty strip mall, but once you get past the bouncers (no cover) you enter what looks like a tiny dive bar. And as you may know, I love nothing more than a rockin dive bar in a strip mall. The space is tiny and there is only one stage with one pole. Hipsters mill around drinking (cheap drinks!) and sit at tables while the women perform. Everyone I saw was engaged and respectful and trust, my critical eye was watching out for that.

The women on stage were not freaks, but interesting, slightly older pro's who all had their own look and their own dancing style ranging from punk rock to soft, faded belle to alternative pixie. They get to pick their two song sets, and there is no DJ or Emcee, so the dancers really set the tone. It's almost like watching a piece of modern dance minus the pretension. At the end of each set the dollar bills trickled (one stripper taught my friend how to flick a bill) on stage.

I found myself starting to have fun in spite of myself. But then returned the shades of gray.

One of the performers struck up a conversation with us. Fueled by alcohol we told her how in awe we were of her splits, her style, her sexy. She was the soft faded belle, and she was enthusiastic, sweet, a little drunk and getting drunker, which is her right. She was appreciative of our compliments but it didn't stop her in her search for another drink. That was a definite trend- the women's second and third sets all seemed a little more brash, sloppier, angrier. I was leaving as a g- string clad woman walked on all fours on stage grasping at dollars. I'm pretty sure my mom and Gloria would have would have been glad I did. By the way, that book signing was for "Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem ."

Travel: A
Ease:A
Content- B-
Subjective Coolness: C-
Overall: C+

Directions: 5153 Hollywood Blvd. between Kingsley and Winona.
Hours: 4pm-2am.
Price: Free parking, no cover, cheap drinks.

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