It was a sad day this weekend for a Seattle institution. The Lusty Lady, on 1st Avenue closed its doors, due to the economic decline of late. Seems no one, sadly, is recession-proof.
The Lusty Lady was just steps away from the Pike Place Market and the new Four Seasons Hotel, as well as the Seattle Art Museum. I thought it was charming that the landmark was firmly settled amongst the new hotspots, as well as other Seattle landmarks just a block up from the waterfront.
via: Jack Tilt/Associated Content
“They [The Lusty Lady] also keep the cameras out, all but one, that of Photographer Erika Langley, who wanted to do a piece on the infamous strip club, one of the most famous and original peep shows in the country. The owners, women, ex-strippers, veterans of the trade, pioneers of the industry agreed, but only if she became part of their culture first. They said she had to dance with the strippers if she wants to photograph them. The owners of Lusty Lady want to modernize the industry; they want to revolutionize it. They want to raise the level of respect, and the rights of strippers. They are ex-strippers themselves.
Langley agreed to their counter offer, and eventually wrote a book about the place (called The Lusty Lady). Complete with photos and interviews, it juxtaposes the real lives of the dancers. It made the place famous. Langley chose it because it is unique. So did HBO, who did a biography special on The Lusty Lady, which aired in July of 2000. The Lusty Lady is widely respected, for its vision, its purpose, and for its ladies. Yes, it is a strip club, a peep show, but how many peep shows are across the street from an art museum, and just down the block from one of the most highly-trafficked markets in the world? Not many.”
I can’t believe I haven’t read this book yet, although it’s been on my to-do list for a long time.
I was never offended by The Lusty Lady; quite the contrary. Yes. I’ve been inside. (Yeah, no one’s shocked, are they? I went three or four times back in the early 90’s, so what?)
Once you are inside the establishment, it had the feeling of a county fair funhouse…totally dark with loud music. Once your eyes adjusted, you had the choice of watching an old porno in a booth, spending some quality time ($$$$$) talking to one of the ladies or going into a booth to watch the girls behind the glass for a quarter for a couple of minutes. There are two types of booths–one allows the girls to see you, the other keeps it all private so only the viewer can see the girls. I chose to be seen. What I remember most is that once the girls see that another woman is there to see them, they FLOCK to your own little window pane. It was incredibly flattering and an ego-boost. More than anything, I remember their genuinely friendly smiles.
I found the women at The Lusty Lady to be anything BUT the “typical” strippers that you see in the movies. They almost had an innocence (albeit sexy) image. The Lusty Lady was owned and operated by women. Some were ex-strippers who gave the dancers dignity and understanding, and were provided with medical and dental benefits, gym memberships and were paid upwards of $27.00 per hour, rather than the usual “independent contractor” scenario that the girls up the street in the big strip club have to be in order to PAY for their time onstage. (Which is why a lot of illegal activities arise–rules are broken in order for these women to make a living at the typical strip clubs.) Most of the Lusty Ladies were very natural in appearance and had a sweet way about them. I’ve also been to one of the biggest strip clubs in Las Vegas, and it was hyper-competitive. It felt like there were hundreds of girls wanting to give a lapdance or take me up to the VIP Room (I declined the latter offer).
I always looked forward to seeing what The Lusty Lady’s marquee would have up each time I drove up 1st Avenue…now all I see is tourists jay-walking their way toward the Pike Place Market. Sigh.
It’s the end of an era. Lusty Lady? You will be missed.