They say that you’re not supposed to fall in love with a stripper, but I did anyway with Tony. Tony danced at Remington’s, a male strip club on Yonge Street in Toronto.
Tony was far more genuine than the guys I’d been meeting elsewhere. Sure, I lost a bit of dignity in the process, but it’s not because he was a stripper.
I first saw him on a Sunday at Remington’s. I was with my friend Stacy and she could tell that I was into him. When he came by our table to solicit a private dance, she asked if Tony was his real name and if he had just started working there (we were regulars and had never seen him dance).
Yes, Tony was his real name and he had moved back to Toronto after spending the last year in Montreal dancing at Campus Strip Bar. He said he was glad to be home.
“So, do you want a dance?” he asked. I was amazed by how soft-spoken he was, despite his size.
“We’re both too poor to pay for dances,” Stacy said. He chuckled, and continued looking for customers. About an hour later, he came by our table again, complaining that he only got one dance — ladies’ night was the worst. It was like that in Montreal too, he explained.
“You sure you don’t want a dance?” he said, half jokingly.
“No, but do you want to smoke a joint with us?” Stacy asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. “Sure, why not.”
We all got our jackets on and went out to the back alley. He didn’t bother putting on a shirt though — he was bare chested with his zipper open even though it was the dead of winter.
As we smoked, he told us how he was an aspiring body builder and hoped to qualify for the Canadian National Bodybuilding Championship. I asked if he was going to stop dancing if he made it, but no, he loved his job — he had met interesting people and liked the flexibility. He planned on dancing for as long as he could make money.
He was in his 30s though; that was old for an exotic dancer, he explained. Bodybuilding was a back-up plan.
Dancing was a family profession. His mother had been an exotic dancer and she had encouraged him to dance too because he was graced with a beautiful body —she even paid for his burlesque entertainer licence. After taking a few tokes I said, “You sure do have a beautiful body,” like some jerk. Stacy just laughed at me. Tony laughed too.
“Gee, thanks,” he said.
We went back inside because he had to be up on stage again. I was just as mesmerized seeing him dance a second time. He winked at me (I think it was at me) as he danced to, “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” which was my favourite song by Busta Rhymes. He followed up with“I’ll Be,” by Foxy Brown, a classic.
When he came off the stage, he walked over to us — still naked — and asked how he’d done. Stacy just giggled and I tried to speak, but only managed to say, “Amazing!”
He walked away, proud of himself.
Tony was made for stripping. You could tell by the way he prowled the bar, half-naked like it was second nature. He had a raw sensuality which commanded attention — certainly my attention. And I watched. When he scored a dance, he got so excited, like it gave his life meaning.
I’d grown tired of all the dating; meeting guys who brag about where they work, who they know, what they own and where they eat. I could never really see who they were behind all the pretentious, upper- middle-class banter, which seemed to become even more prevalent in Toronto’s gay scene. I couldn’t listen to another conversation about real estate prices or home renovations. Why did people think I cared about this stuff?
We didn’t miss a Sunday after that. I had to beg Stacy to join sometimes because she was getting tired of going. Tony was always there, though, so we had to go. And he’d come by the table each time and say hello. He even started bringing his own joints too so we weren’t always smoking ours. We couldn’t not show up.
He came by our table one night and said that he was going to leave early. He asked if we wanted to walk down Yonge Street with him. Of course we said yes . . .