100_6100.jpgThe power of the word: A friend in Point Reyes Station called me Friday afternoon to ask if I’d heard the word going ’round town that there’d be striptease at the Old Western Saloon that night

Of course, it would be comic, and the women wouldn’t really take all their clothes off, he said, but it might be fun to see.

He was right in all respects. When I went downtown about 5 p.m. to check my mailbox, townspeople were talking about the upcoming act, and when the two of us went down to the Old Western around 9 p.m., the place was packed. There were lots of men, of course, but lots of women too.
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The all-woman rock band Pink Sabbath with lead singer/guitarist Adrienne Pfieffer was playing, and not long after we arrived the “strippers” in clown costumes pranced onto the small dance floor in front of the band.

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The two ecdystiasts, as predicted, did a comic bump-and-grind routine but kept a lot of epidermis hidden. The crowd in the Western loved it all the same. In the style of vaudeville, a male clown periodically wandered up to the women as they peeled, ogling them but getting a brushoff.

Because the act was so innocent, no one minded a couple of us photographing it. The photography, however, reminded me of the one time I was able to photograph an actual strip show in progress.

The occasion was a gala opening at the O’Farrell Theater for a comic sex film, The Grafenberg Spot. Former West Marin resident John Grissim wrote the screenplay, so I was on the guest list when the press was invited. During the event, which is described in Posting 12, the dancers and strippers performed as usual on various stages within the theater, and I, along with the rest of the press, was able to photograph their acts.

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Of all the shots I took, however, the one I like best was not of someone performing but of three high-fashion women in the audience because of their expressions. I also like the position of the woman at left because she reminds me of Aunt Fritzi whose head leaning into the room — but never a depiction of her full body — was a mainstay of the old Nancy comic strip. I’ve dubbed the shot: Four Women at a Strip Show.

Striptease, of course, has been around in one form or another for millennia. My father, who came from a very proper Methodist family in Salina, Kansas, once admitted to me that in his youth almost a century ago now, he had seen a striptease act. As it happened, the circus came to town and hired local boys to pass out promotional fliers.

My dad and his cousin were distributing circus come-ons when his grandfather came upon them and took a look at the fliers. Seeing that they were promotions for a female “artiste,” grandfather took the two boys to see the show, figuring it was high time they learned a little more about life. It was the only time, as far as I know, that my father ever saw any striptease, and Dad never told me what thought of it.

My only clue to his possible reaction is a poem titled Adults Only, which was written by the respected American poet William Stafford (1914-1993):

“Animals own a fur world./ People own worlds that are variously, pleasingly bare./ And the way these worlds are once arrived for us kids with a jolt/ That night when the wild woman danced/ In the giant cage we found we were all in/ At the state fair.

“Better women exist, no doubt, than that one,/ And occasions more edifying, too, I suppose./ But we have to witness for ourselves what comes for us,/ Nor be distracted by barkers of irrelevant ware;/ And a pretty good world, I say, arrived that night/ When that woman came farming right out of her clothes, by God/ At the state fair.”

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You’ve been a wonderful audience, and have a safe drive home!