by Zack Mink
“I love stripper bitches!” the crowd yelled. This one-of-a-kind call and response was very much appropriate.
On Sunday, Sept. 24, Clubussy broke down barriers by being the first-ever pop-up strip club event in all of Humboldt County. The event was hosted at the queer-owned thrift store Krave in Arcata, continuing the theme of providing a safe space for all.
With help from volunteers, the store was transformed into an intimate and safe setting, with one pole centered in the room highlighting the seven talented performers throughout the night.
Setting the mood with what one performer described as bisexual lighting, casting blue, pink, and purple shadows across the room.
The excitement was building as the performers changed in the back room. Everyone reflected joy and felt proud to be in a space where they could be their authentic selves.
“As someone who felt bullied out of sex work, this space is super important to me,” said Baby Fontaine.
Fontaine, aka the “Dollar Daddy,” was a volunteer responsible for exchanging dollar bills with the crowd making sure everyone had cash to tip the performers.
Orange haired-diva Big Billy, a co-founder of the Humboldt based pole dancing group, LXIX Crew, began with an emotional and entrancing number, paired with a mix of opera and club beats. Next up was Felix Void, who was serving punk, with loud clacks from the stomping of their tall black heels. Dahlia was after, delivering androgyny in their performance to “But It’s Better If You Do” by Panic! at the Disco. Their splits and unbelievable spins continued to get hoots and tips from the audience. Big Billy took the stage again with their “Shreksual” performance of “All Star” by Smash Mouth, garnering laughs and cheers from the audience. Felix Void and Dahlia did one last number each before the group birthday dance in celebration of Kai Flores, the owner of Krave.
Krave’s owner, Kai Flores, even got a birthday treat. Six strippers danced on Flores’ lap, did handstands while shaking ass, and enveloped their face with their breasts, leaving Flores laughing with tears falling down their cheeks. It was their first strip club experience and they got the whole shabang.
The second half of the show started with Boofy the Clown. Boofy, a co-founder of the Foolish Kinks,performed their comedic version of “Oops I Did It Again” by Britney Spears. Channeling her inner bimbo, Boofy trotted on stage, fluffy nose first and ended by revealing a miniature pink rubber chicken from her bikini bottom. Following Boofy, Karma dropped it low at the audience’s feet before climbing back onto the pole to impress with their acrobatic spins. After Karma’s performance came Bunny with a flamenco inspired set. Once everyone performed twice, GUTTERPUKE, the organizer and MC of the event, surprised the audience with a last minute pole performance coming back from their extended hiatus.
The grand finale involved a sheet cake and balloon-boobs. Everyone cheered as Boofy and Dahlia dropped from the pole into the splits on top of the sheet cake, proceeding to lick the frosting off of each other and feed each other chunks of cake, eventually popping the balloon-boobs with Dahlia’s long black acrylics in honor of Flores’ birthday.
The performance left an impact on the crowd, leaving them curious what the event might mean for the future of Humboldt County.
“It’s going to inspire others… change the future of pole dancing in Humboldt,” said Patrick Shannon, an audience member supporting one of their performer friends.
“There’s so many people here who know people who dance at clubs and have wanted to support them, but are too afraid to go into the club because of violent homophobia and because of the transphobia we are seeing in our nation,” said GUTTERPUKE. “Not only is this radical and reseizing the means of our production, it’s also radical in a way of creating space for queer people to feel comfortable accessing sex workers.”
GUTTERPUKE has six years of experience performing, as well as experience fighting the constrictive systems that make being a stripper and/or sex worker difficult. This passion for creating a safe and equitable environment for sex workers and strippers stems from GUTTERPUKE’s own traumatic past. At one of the previous clubs he worked at, he was illegally fired. From that experience, he discovered Strippers United, an organization striving to dismantle whorephobia and decriminalize sex work. This organization provides financial and legal support for strippers and helped GUTTERPUKE win his case against the club. They were forced to hire him back and pay him for the days he wasn’t allowed to work because of the illegal termination.
Clubussy was created as the solution to this problem and the other issues strippers regularly face.
“Let’s do some problem-solving. Let’s make an event where sex workers are platformed and invited. Let’s make a space that celebrates us in a really joyous manner and it’s not degrading, it’s not fetishization or tokenization,” said GUTTERPUKE.
Along with the mistreatment of performers, the financial aspect of running a strip club is something GUTTERPUKE is passionate about improving.
“When you are a stripper, you have to pay the club to work. Part of Clubussy is that strippers keep 100% of their fucking money. Often performers are told ‘you will get a percentage of ticket sales,’ but they’re never transparent with their finances so you have no idea how much the event organizers are paying themselves, you have no idea how much the event actually made. So, as part of my ideals to be transparent and community-based with all of the performers and volunteers, the financial records will be made available,” GUTTERPUKE said to the audience.
The event followed the intentions of being transparent, encouraging and safe for everyone. It also was a chance for these local strippers and sex workers to represent themselves, share their art, and give credit where credit is due.
“Oftentimes, pole hobbyists get more opportunities to be performers, get more opportunities to go on tour, get more opportunities to do so much when pole is a craft that was shared by strippers with non-strippers because it’s something that brings us joy,” said GUTTERPUKE. “Being on the stage, doing your thing, it is positive for your body, it is positive for your mental health and we shared that gift.