The traditional music was thumping as attractive young dancers with virtually non-existent costumes performed on stage. “Baby take off your coat… Real slow…” plays in the background while topless and mostly bottomless girls wandered through the bar. “Baby take off your dress… Yes, yes, yes…” Only one thing was different. “You can leave your mask on… Yes, yes, yes, you can leave your mask on.”
Masked dancers make out like bandits
“Not too bad!” 23-year-old Cleo exclaimed, as more than a dozen barely covered nubile women danced on stage, one dangling from a well worn brass pole. Cleo was in the process of counting out twenty-two dollars and stacking them on her bare leg. Her leg was bare but her face was covered. Welcome to the post-Covid-19 new normal.
It seemed like an ordinary evening for The Den, a strip club in the middle of the wilderness along Wyoming’s border with Colorado. Liquored up male customers doled out dollar bills to their favorite entertainers. Despite most of their anatomy hanging in the wind, every girl wore a mask. From surgical masks to bandannas they suddenly became an essential part of their wardrobe, along with g-strings and pasties. Just like lingerie, they can work to the advantage of the dancers by spicing things up.
Cleo doesn’t mind masking up one bit. She’s been anxious to get back to work. That $22 was the first money she earned for weeks. To celebrate their grand reopening, the club threw a “masks on, clothes off” party.
Super-excited but a little nervous
Another of the dancers, 20-year-old Doris Craig is thrilled to be back at work. “I’m super-excited,” she relates. She’s also, “a little nervous because the virus is still out there.” Doris would much rather be working than taking handouts from the government. “The stimulus money was nice, but that’s going to run out, and I don’t like to feel like I’m dependent on the government,” she declares.
Wyoming accepts the fact that their widely spaced population is at much lower risk than urban centers so the authorities are willing to relax the restrictions. Hand sanitizer is flowing like a river in The Den.
Still, the dancers take risks too, like “touching patrons and exchanging cash, which can carry the virus.” Club owner Kim Chavez was concerned about reopening but has to compete with the other bars in the area. Her and her husband, a retired police officer, have owned The Den for 15 years. They insist they work “hard to create a welcoming environment for dancers and patrons alike.”
The dancers are happy to be back doing what they do best. On a good night, they can bring home over $1,000. Many of them are using it to fund their college educations. “That was the hardest part about being shut: worrying about the girls,” Chavez relates. “It was heartbreaking because you know every girl’s story.”