Another Night in Paradise

Laying bare the lives of Dallas' Strip Club DJs

As she turns and saunters toward the back of the stage, giving all the tables in the front row a good long look, Paris steals a glance at the garter snug against her tanned left thigh. It's plenty of time for her to add up the cash folded neatly under the garter and know it's not enough. Time is running out. If she wants more tips, she's going to have to earn them.

Smiling like a kid on Christmas morning, Paris whips her body around the pole, her back arched suggestively, her legs splayed. That did the trick. A man in a suit makes his way to the stage. Paris beats him to his destination, crawling across the stage to meet him, her smile now more naughty than nice.

His name is Don, and he's in town for an insurance convention. Paris noticed him earlier. Guys in suits are always big tippers, but he just sat there with his friends and nursed a series of $5 Bud Lights.

Even when the girls are wearing less than this, The Fare Room's Lance Hicks doesn't really notice. As long as he's working.
Mark Graham
Even when the girls are wearing less than this, The Fare Room's Lance Hicks doesn't really notice. As long as he's working.
Baby Dolls' Robert Pennington stopped telling people he works as a strip club DJ. With his clean-cut look, it's not hard to fool them.
Mark Graham
Baby Dolls' Robert Pennington stopped telling people he works as a strip club DJ. With his clean-cut look, it's not hard to fool them.

She hooked him this time. Don fumbles a bit as he removes a crisp $20 bill from his money clip. He blushes a little when she shakes her breasts in his face, a little more when she leans over and plants a wet kiss on his cheek. He slides his money underneath her garter.

Paris gives him another kiss, stands up and strolls to the back of the stage. She sneaks another look at her garter and, this time, she smiles.

All night, every night, this scene repeats itself at strip clubs all over Dallas. And that scene is all anyone ever talks about whenever they talk about gentlemen's clubs--or topless bars or strip clubs or whatever you want to call them. It's all about the girls swinging around the pole and the guys watching them.

But while everyone is preoccupied with Oz, they never notice the man behind the curtain or, in this case, standing in a shadowy corner of the club, surrounded by computers and video monitors and racks of CDs. They never get the third side of the story, the one told by the men whose job it is to prolong the fantasy--and inflate the bar sales while they're at it. These men (and, yeah, they're almost always men) are equal parts parent, party host and program director and, in many ways, they're the engine that makes this little red Corvette run. They are DJs.

The life of a strip club DJ is not the endless party people might expect. It's not illicit hand jobs and once-an-hour spins of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me." Despite the constant presence of women in various states of undress, it's not a very sexy gig. After a few hours on the job, the women all begin to look alike. Plus, there's too much work to do, between running the lights and keeping track of the order of dancers and making sure the computer is running properly and, oh yeah, playing a new song every three minutes or so. As for drinking and drugs? Well, you try making it through a 7 p.m.-to-4 a.m. shift while maintaining a buzz.

"You're here to make sales at the bar, pump up the crowd, play the right music and deal with about 50, 60 girls a night," says Lance Hicks, a DJ at The Fare Room at Cabaret Royale. "That's a job."

That said, it's not exactly like Hicks and his fellow DJs are working in a coal mine. If they ever feel like they are, a reminder is usually just one song away.

"How does the thrill go away?" says Jim Hickerson, who DJs at the Penthouse Key Club. "It doesn't ever go away. It's just nice. Very, very nice. I really never get tired of looking at women, beautiful women. Everybody always asks me, 'How do you do it?' 'Just another night in paradise' is what I always say."

The Salesman

"Oh, yeah. That's right, she's back, guys, and here we go! Guys, it's Andrea!" The first few bars of Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" spill out of the speakers as Andrea, a full-figured rockabilly girl, makes her entrance.

Upstairs in the DJ booth, a woman offers enthusiastic hugs to everyone in sight before rattling off her recent itinerary, which includes a stint in California doing her "porn thing." Lance Hicks smiles and nods, holding up his end of the one-sided conversation while he gets the music ready for the next dancer. After another minute or so of her monologue, she says her goodbyes and leaves the booth.

"Who's the porn star?" he asks with a laugh. William Thompson, the day-shift DJ, shrugs his shoulders. Both DJs assumed the other knew her. Huh. She must have left to do her "porn thing" before they started working at The Fare Room. Thompson has been a DJ here only five months or so, Hicks around eight.

But Hicks, 40, is no rookie. He's been a DJ at various strip clubs for eight years, and he's as surprised as anyone that he's lasted this long. Like most strip club DJs, he never expected to wind up here, doing this.

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