I had already been a stripper for years, and knew, to a wounding level, the degree to which typical working conditions in the sex industry were substandard. The facilities were sometimes dangerous and often poorly run, not for lack of means but for lack of care, and the management, at best, treated you like a cog in a thong.
This photo opportunity was a chance to work in an atmosphere of utmost courtesy and proficiency. What I had to offer, it suggested, had value, even status.
What a shame that Playboy’s aesthetic was so absurdly limited, as this is the treatment that every erotic performer, of any size, shape, race, phase of adulthood, gender identity or sexual orientation should have. It’s what everyone deserves: a level of professionalism that borders on subversive.
It was 2009 by the time I attended a party at the Playboy Mansion. My friend Masuimi was performing, so I rounded up my girl Vee, herself a former stripper, as my date. Dressed in retro pinup attire, we boarded the van that would shuttle us from the parking garage to Mr. Hefner’s California estate.
Being surrounded by all the hair spray and the skimpy outfits jogged loose memories for us. Vee was reminded of going to a hotel room for a party as a dancer, and she and her bodyguard were held up at knife-point by the client.
By contrast, the mansion felt like a safe haven — security everywhere, lavish buffet, a dance floor, a body-painting station. Mostly, Vee and I wandered the grounds checking out the exotic animals and hunting for D-list celebrities. Look, by the buffet, David Hasselhoff! Over there by the fountain, Pauly Shore!