Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America
Lily Burana had been working as a journalist for five years when, on a cross-country assignment, she meets a cowboy in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They fall in love quickly, and in short order he proposes to her. Her cowboy doesn't flinch when she tells him about her past, but as the reality of the engagement sets in, Burana realizes that she can't settle down until she comes to terms with the business of stripping--the controversial but exhilarating crucible in which she came of age. She packs up a hairpiece, hairspray, Lucite platforms, garters, neon thongs, and body glitter, and enrolls in a stripping academy to perfect her routine. Zigzagging across America from the topflight gentlemen's clubs of Dallas to the blue-collar go-go bars of New Jersey, from Anchorage to Tijuana, Las Vegas to Los Angeles, she even competes in the Miss Topless Wyoming competition. Along the way, she seeks out a host of colorful women who share with her the unwritten history of striptease: an over-looked and under-recorded American art form. And what she discovers--about the business, about the culture of strip clubs, and about herself--is truly remarkable.
While on the road, she recalls her start in the peep shows of Times Square and her groundbreaking legal battle for strippers' rights, waged against one of the most notorious strip club owners in the country. With the benefit of her independence and experience, she's shocked to learn how much, yet how little, the world of striptease has changed. Insightful and reflective, Burana describes the clubs and bars, the patrons and other dancers in striking detail, and takes us into the nitty-gritty of a dancer's life, bringing to light the variety of techniques and tricks of the trade.
Burana writes with immediacy and candor; hard-won wisdom and hard-bitten humor; a novelist's voice and a journalist's eye. Strip City is a shrewd take, free of illusion, on the darker, seamier side of America. She effortlessly conveys the atmosphere of a seedy strip joint; the exhilaration of a dancer on stage when she gets into her zone; and ultimately the complex emotional repercussions that arise when a woman takes off her clothes for money.
Facing imminent marriage, Burana, a journalist who has written for the New York Times Book Review, the Village Voice and Spin, decides to make a yearlong "bachelorette odyssey" to revisit her former career as a stripper. She's exorcising some commitment panic, but also trying to reclaim some dignity for this devalued work. The sex trades may be the world's oldest professions, but where's their history, the "floozerati"? Burana wants to know. A self-proclaimed "sex-positive" feminist, she sees stripping as a choice, not just something women do because there's no other way to earn a buck. True, she herself first went to Peepland to make her rent money, but it also provided a "reprieve from rabid self-actualization" (e.g., studying and trying to get decent jobs). In her return to the "tiprail," she rediscovers the out-of-body high that sometimes graces strippers. But what does her fianc make of all this? And will she be seduced back to this gloriously exhibitionist career? Thankfully, there's a "catcher in the rye": Burana's enormous talents as a writer she has a good ear, a fine wit and an instinct for storytelling reveal another option, one that's perhaps not so different from her former mtier. Stripping means "reclaiming [her] sexuality in the public arena" which is exactly what this book does, too. Burana exposes herself with pride, style and a great sense of humor. (Sept.)Forecast: Hot. No handselling to the Moral Majority, but this will prove seductive to urban hipsters, especially after the planned media blitz: a nine-city tour, "Welcome to Strip City" events in New York and L.A., a national TV satellite tour and first serial in Talk magazine. No one gives strippers a chance except magazine writer turned autobiographer Burana, who just happens to have been one before her more "respectable" job came along. In this enthralling joy ride of a first book, Burana details the life of a stripper on the road, from the g-strings to the wigs. The book was born of the retired stripper's desire to confront her somewhat sketchy past head on. After laying out the necessary materials to be a fully functional stripper and taking a refresher class on pole dancing and other such duties, she is ready for the road. Through her nonjudgmental view, the reader becomes intimately connected to the life that Burana struggled to get away from for so long and is now squirming to get back into. Her own love of stripping or perhaps the power attached to it is easily conveyed in her gentle and honest prose; even the most conservative naysayer will be curious about this taboo job. If Burana is the class of the sex-worker industry, Sterry is the crass. This startlingly annoying memoir about a "renaissance" man's early foray into the prostitution scene of 1970 Los Angeles offers little in the way of decent prose. Not only is the writing sloppy and uninspired, it serves less to further the story and more to bolster his narcissistic view of himself. Although recounting the sexual escapades of a misspent youth has the potential to create an interesting read, this book falls short in the absence of an actual point. Sterry doesn't even try to feign a revelation, while his attempts to prove he can love without money just serve to reaffirm his shallowness. Maybe he should take some lessons from Burana in writing with heart rather than with sexual body parts. Rachel Collins, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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