Engaging memoir of a former stripper’s last fling with the profession.
A New York journalist and free spirit, Burana agreed to marry a handsome cowboy she met on a trip to Wyoming. Suddenly, settling down seemed impossible without examining the world of stripping where she had come of age, so Burana set about crafting a cross-country journey that would let her explore the profession that supported but eventually exhausted her. She prepares with a week of “stripper school” at the Pure Talent School of Dance, and then works in clubs from Colorado to Alaska. She reports on the business of stripping, her own stripping experience, dancers and their relationships, why men go to clubs, and what all this has to do with her. When she stops by the Exotic World Burlesque Museum in the California desert to get a sense of stripping’s history, she imparts her own, a story that takes her from Times Square to San Francisco’s bohemian scene. With appealing grace and humor, Burana sidesteps the pitfalls of writing about stripping—sensationalism, preachy moralism, self-righteousness—and instead ponders the historical and social complexities of such a ubiquitous, shadowy trade. With a deft touch, she answers the questions that you’d expect from a thoughtful stripper: How did you get into this? How does it feel? Don't you have any self-respect? And Burana is even-handed: for all the affirmative sisterhood-is-powerful moments, there is a flip side: the weariness of “stripper damage,” with its “self-hatred as wide and deep as the sea.” And always present is the pressure to remain glamorous—drilling out a belt buckle so it can be easily ripped open onstage, the requisite hours on the tanning bed, endless maintenance of hair and nails and mirrored velvet bikinis. Under all the camouflage, the author is entirely credible: When she asserts that “Stripping, at its best, feels like cheating death,” one might even nod in understanding.
Remarkably well-done: a complex and warm insider’s take on a booming industry.