Debut (excerpt)

Lollipop Lounge Dressing Room - 1987
The guitar sounds of the intro beckoned me to the stage. Stepping on the four-foot high platform, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Wearing nothing but an orange g-string bikini and a halo of naiveté, I looked very much the part of a young stripper ready for her debut.

In typical dramatic fashion I began to move, channeling every Bob Fosse inspired maneuver I could muster. I was obsessed with the movie All That Jazz from the moment I first watched it just eight years prior. At 19, I found my way from dreaming of Broadway in my childhood living room on Poipu Street to a topless strip bar in the heart of Waikiki.

As I looked out in to the smoky crowd, my hips started swirling around each note, navigating through the strings as the melody continued. The steady tapping of the drums began, accompanying the guitar and my heart began to race. Still weaving my body through the notes, my toes grazed the surface of the stage and as soon as Bon Jovi started to sing, I was lifted to another world. With “Wanted Dead or Alive” streaming through the speakers, I was officially a stripper.

The Lollipop Lounge was exactly the type of place you’d expect when thinking of a Waikiki strip bar in 1987. It was dark, smelled of stale beer mixed with coconut-tanning oil and filled with cigarette smoke. There was a fair amount of sand on the maroon colored carpet, tracked in from tourists coming from the beach. The crowd was a steady stream of local beach or military boys and blue-collar workers enjoying a cold one at the end of the day.

On a recent trip home to Waikiki, I heard Bon Jovi singing our song. I was driving my rental car past the old building where my stripping career began so many years ago. It’s now a split-level Japanese restaurant and T-Shirt shop. Traffic was thick but I was content. I allowed the memories back, through my faded drug-damaged mind. I turned up the radio and rolled down the windows.

I thought about the woman I worked with who was also a tarot card reader. There was the Australian prostitute who always complained about how many showers she took in a day. I remembered Andy, the fry cook who used to float us burgers on slow nights. And what ever happened to Angela, my partner in crime who taught me about lady grooming and table dancing?

The traffic began to move as I said good-bye to my building of memoires. The final chorus of “Wanted Dead or Alive” was blaring through the car speakers and I sang my heart out. Not only does that song bring me back to a time when I was young and carefree, it reminds me just how lucky I am to be far away from the girl who felt she needed a stage to feel beautiful.