Another Night in Paradise

Laying bare the lives of Dallas' Strip Club DJs

"It didn't take very long to figure out that, you know, I thought I was real funny and having a good time when I was drinking, but all I was, was just drinking," Hickerson says. "So I just said, nah, I can't do that anymore." He points out the window. "You see that one light stuck on the kind of bright pink? Yeah, it's supposed to be blue. Shit."

Heather Nicole struts to the back of the stage as if it's part of her act and pokes her head in the booth. "Can you remove that red light?"

"That's what I'm trying to do, but it's stuck. Sorry. I can turn it down."

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 laughs and starts dancing again.

"A lot of the girls are afraid of light," Hickerson says when she leaves. "I hate that, too: 'I've got cellulite.' I say, 'Honey, I can't remember the last time I saw a really good-looking girl with her clothes off and said, "Oh, my God, she's got cellulite!'"

A girl named Bella leans into the booth from behind the curtain. She's due up next and wants Hickerson to hunt down a couple of MP3s for her set: the new Alicia Keys song and Gavin DeGraw's "I Don't Want to Be." The DJ last night was able to do it for her. Hickerson seems skeptical that Keys would have anything fast enough to play here, and he doesn't know the other song. He says he'll give it a try and steps out to find an ashtray. When he comes back, he notices her still waiting at the window.

"You're talking about getting 'em right now?" he asks.

"Because I'm going out pretty soon."

"Oh, no, well, I have to shut the computer off in order to switch something over, so it's pretty much--unless you want to wait until the end of the night. That's about the only time I'm gonna be able to get it."

"OK, well, the other DJ did it while they could still be playing music..."

"Sure he did, because he brings his own computer in."

"No, he did it from this one."

"Yeah."

"No, he did. I was standing right here."

"OK. I believe you, baby."

"No, you don't." Bella stalks off, back to the dressing room. Hickerson just laughs. He turns his attention to the list of tonight's specials from the kitchen. He's sold the sizzle. Now it's time to sell the steak.

"Also, you wanna keep in mind, we've got a walk-in humidor featuring over 200 of your favorite imported and domestic hand-rolled cigars, available for you right now. All of our managers are half-Cuban and half-Dominican. They have everything there is to know about a fine cigar. Let's bring out for you the beautiful Bella!"

Halfway through the Ashanti song he picked for her, Bella still hasn't arrived. "Maybe that girl did get mad," he says, more to himself than anyone. He clicks on the walkie-talkie that connects him with the dancers' dressing room. "Hi, is Bella back there? Well, we need her onstage." He clicks it off. "That's the hardest thing, when you can't get a girl onstage. Because you can't really do anything about it."

Bella never shows. Hickerson moves on.

"Let's keep the fun coming your way, Cody, standing by for you. Let's rock the house a little bit for you, a little STP rock and roll and a hot new act stepping out for you, get those 20s, 50s, 100s out, make a new friend tonight, the beautiful Cody!"

She doesn't show either. Hickerson grabs the radio again. "OK, guys, now we're looking for Cody. This is two in a row. Cody."

He waits a minute then changes the song to the Foo Fighters' "All My Life." "Let's keep the fun coming your way, ladies and gentlemen. You can't find one, you move right on to the next one. Truly one of my favorites. All my life, I've been searching for this girl right here! Gonna play a little Foo for you tonight, ladies and gentlemen. She'd like to wish everybody a happy holidays. Ladies and gentlemen, the beautiful Cory, main stage!"

Cory appears in the window, stubbing out her cigarette. "It's fucking up my smoke."

"You're the best. I'm sorry about the cigarette."

"That's OK."

At times like these, Hickerson may wonder what would have happened if he had taken the job that Q102 offered him 15 years ago. He always wanted to be a radio DJ, but at the time the money wasn't good. Just then, Keri pops by to ask about her songs. This time, it's the girl in the window who puts a smile on Hickerson's face.

"He's a badass DJ," Keri says, watching me watch Hickerson. "He is, like, awesome. He's nice, and, you know what? He's good at picking out songs, too. I mean, he knows, like, every song there is."

She gives her breasts a good shake for Hickerson's benefit before she goes back to the dressing room. Thanks to Keri and Cory, Hickerson's frustration has vanished, one of the advantages of working with several dozen scantily clad women and being in a position to make them happy. There will be some down times, but like he says, it's just another night in paradise.

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