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PEOPLE STORY

Sarah, Gentlemen’s club cocktail waitress

Purely in the name of research, Paul Sculpher met up with Sarah, a cocktail waitress in a Las Vegas strip club, to find out a little more about how these money machines work

Gambling: Hi Sarah, so what brought you to Vegas and into this business?

Sarah: Well, I grew up in Indiana as a small town girl, and worked, believe it or not, as an environmental chemist for many years. I also was a trained dancer, and would have loved to get into one of the stage shows here in Vegas, but my knees are shot now. I always tended bar for a little more income in Indianapolis, and decided that Vegas was where the action was. I’d visited Vegas a few times before, and when I was younger I kind of realised that making the move to living here was going to be a gamble – it’s a pretty full-on place for a youngster – so I left it a little while and came out here a year ago. Jobs were pretty tight, so I went for the first job I could get with a decent income. Sooner rather than later I want to get back into bartending rather than waitressing, but it’s all about who you know in this town – once the weather improves and the pool parties all start, I’ll get busy networking.

I’m a night-time person – useful as my shifts tend to be 10pm to 4am even though the club is open 24 hours – but I’d rather be tending bar in one of the big clubs in Vegas.

What kind of money can you earn in a gentleman’s club?

They tell me it used to be phenomenal a few years ago, with waitresses classing $500 in tips as a pretty poor night. It’s not as good as that now, but with the wages I get plus a good couple of hundred in tips I do okay. You can really see the difference in the Vegas economy at the moment. The real money’s in the dancing – I’ve seen girls cash out $5,000 or more in a night when they’ve done well.

Bear in mind that the whole US service industry runs on tips, though, so I ‘tip out’ the bartenders who make the drinks for me, and sometimes the lady who takes care of us. Some of the dancers will even bribe the management so that they don’t have to take their turn performing on the main stage – yes, they get their lingerie stuffed with dollar bills there, but they’d much rather be doing lap dances in the back for much more money.

I’m sure they count all this cash carefully before informing the taxman, of course. You must get some interesting offers in your job from the customers?

Oh yeah, every night someone asks for my number or occasionally makes a grab for me. I’ve never been interested in dancing on stage, though; it’s really not for me.

For the girls who work as dancers, even though the money is amazing, there’s a lot to think about in the job. They have to pay a house fee to work in the club – maybe around $80 – and if you’re not a good salesperson or are a little shy, you won’t make a lot of money. To really make the cash as a dancer, often you have to be just a little duplicitous. The girls are competitive just like the waitresses – if you have a couple of dances or tip pretty well for your drinks, you won’t go short of attention from the team.

There can also be a fine line between exotic dancing and prostitution, too. The girls call it dancing ‘dirty’ or ‘clean’ – obviously the further you are prepared to go, the better money you’ll make. While physical contact is against the law, all of the girls routinely touch customers as part of the deal, and if they get into – well – serious touching – the kind that leaves a guy with wobbly legs and a need for a taxi home – that’ll be the dirty version. You have to be on the lookout for the law though – the vice team pass through sometimes, and solicitation tickets cost $1,000. Plus, if you get two, your career in the industry’s done with.

Do you socialise with the other girls much?

We tend to look out for each other on shift in the waitressing team, although I don’t know many of the dancers that well. Some of them are really cool, others more the typical dancer stereotype who won’t want to know you unless you’re paying.

You must see some pretty odd sights in the place, right?

Well, you get used to a lot of it. It’s kind of trendy for the celebrities visiting Vegas to hit a strip club during their night, but I couldn’t possibly give details. Not so long ago we had a power blackout during a shift, which was scary in a club that’s pretty dark to start off with, and the other day we saw couple having a physical fight outside, which was pretty strange. Not everyone approves of the industry, I guess.

The porters – the guys who clean everything up, collect glasses and so on have a tough job. We always reckon they make quite a bit of their income just from seeing money lying around on the floor. It’s a cash-rich environment, and when people have had a few drinks they get a bit less careful. Plus the dancers often don’t have purses with them, and you can imagine with the size of the clothes they wear it can be kind of tough to find anywhere to tuck the money.

Just working in the bar industry can drive you nuts sometimes, with customers often being – well – idiots. My friend Erik even set up a Facebook group dealing with some of the more ridiculous and irritating things customers do – maybe your readers might want to take a look to make sure they get their bar etiquette in shape before they come here.

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