Becoming a stripper wasn’t my life’s ambition, rather a steppingstone while I figured out what to do with myself.
I was attending classes at NYU during the day and working at a dive bar in New Jersey at night. It was a grueling job with very little pay, lousy tips, sticky floors and lots of pervs hitting on me. After much thought, I decided to take a break from school and look for more desirable employment. I was a class act – clean, pretty and always dressed to the nines. I deserved better than a sleazy Jersey joint.
While looking through the classifieds, I came across an ad that read “High-end cocktail lounge seeking hostesses”. No name was listed but the address was well-known – Billionaires’ Row, the wealthiest and most exclusive section of Manhattan. I called the number in the ad; it turned out to be “The Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club”, the most elite lounge in Manhattan. I went for an interview the next day and started working that night.
Everyone from the kitchen staff to Luca, the manager, treated all the girls with dignity and respect – a far cry from the dumpster in Jersey. The clientele was equally gracious. I’d been watching the dancers here interact with the guests. The Sapphire was a one-way contact club; the girls could touch the customers, sit in their laps, etc. but the men could not touch the girls.
After a few nights Luca asked if I was interested in dancing. I knew I could make a lot of money so I agreed. When he told me I’d need a stage name, I chose Blaine, my hometown in Ohio. “I like it!” Luca said. “How’s this for a catchphrase: ‘Come make it rain for Blaine!’?”
My first night on stage was thrilling. The house lights dimmed and Luca announced me. When the spotlight hit me, I was standing with my back to the room; I wore stiletto heels, a sparkling G-string and nothing else. A hush fell over the room. As Journey’s song “Lovin’, Touchin,’ Squeezin” began to pulsate, I grabbed the pole and peeked provocatively over my shoulder at the crowd, my long auburn hair cascading down my back. I danced with total abandon and money rained down.
Luca told me a prominent customer requested I join him at his private table in the darkened balcony. I froze; this was not what I bargained for. Luca was quick to calm my fears saying everything would be alright and a bodyguard would be discreetly positioned two feet away.
Julius, one of the bodyguards, escorted me upstairs. I was surprised to see an elderly man at the table; he looked and talked liked an older version of Mr. Rogers. I whispered “Hello” not sure what to do next. I resisted the temptation to call him “Fred”.
He looked at me and smiled. “Blaine, lovely to meet you.” He stood up, removed his suit jacket and wrapped it around my naked body. “My name is Walter Ashcroft. Please join me”.
A waitress appeared with a bottle of champagne and two glasses. I declined saying it was against company policy to drink while working. “Oh, I don’t think Luca would object” Walter said. “After all, I own this establishment. In fact, I own every building on this street.”
I glanced up at Julius who simply nodded once in agreement.
“What do you want me to do, Mr. Ashcroft?” I questioned, curious as to what would happen next.
“My dear, I realize I’m old enough to be your grandfather but please call me ‘Walter’. All I want is someone to talk to. Tell me about yourself. You are an enchanting entertainer but I don’t think this is all you want to do. Tell me, Blaine. What are your goals in life?”
I found myself telling Walter about my life in Ohio, college, New Jersey, my dream to someday own my own business. I even divulged my real name: Doris Freeman. He listened attentively, encouraging me to continue talking. After about an hour he announced it was time for him to leave. I returned his jacket and he took both my hands in his. After Walter left I looked down; there were five $100 bills nestled in my hands!
This went on for one week. I found my talks with Walter to be the highlight of my night and it wasn’t because of the money; I genuinely liked him. He spoke very little and hung on my every word. He was the epitome of the perfect gentleman.
Finally one evening Walter asked me a question: “So, tell me, Blaine. What is this business you’ve been dreaming about?”
“You know the Russian Tea Room, right? An important man like you, of course you know it! Someday I want to own a place just like that – a haven of fine cuisine and decadent desserts, especially elegant afternoon tea for ladies of high society. Crazy, isn’t it?”
“Not at all. There’s nothing crazy about dreaming big. How do you think I got here?”
That was the last time I saw Walter; he suddenly just stopped coming into the club. When I questioned Luca, he sadly informed me that Walter had passed away. It sounds ridiculous but I cried like a baby. I had become quite attached to that man, strange as it may seem. And I know he genuinely cared for me. As the days went by I tried not to think about Walter but I just couldn’t forget him.
Things just weren’t the same after that and even though I still enjoyed my job, something was missing. I’d find myself glancing up at the darkened balcony hoping to see Walter, knowing that was an impossibility. Several weeks went by and I was still in a funk. Why could I not forget that man?! I seriously considered quitting the club and going back to school. I had some money saved up so I knew I’d be okay until something came along. The last thing I wanted was to become a career dancer. Did I really want to do this for another fifteen years only to be replaced by younger girls when my looks started to fade? Or should I take Walter’s advice to dream big?
One night Luca approached me and said a messenger had dropped something off for me. He handed me a little flat leather box which contained a business card for Hamilton Barrow, Esq. On the back was written very neatly “Dream big, Blaine. Hamilton is expecting your call. Affectionately, Walter.” I’m not embarrassed to admit seeing Walter’s name felt like a warm hug from an angel.
That afternoon I called Hamilton Barrow; he was very British and quite proper. “Ah, yes. Miss Freeman. It appears that Walter Ashcroft named you as a beneficiary in his will.”
“That’s incredible! Walter was such a sweet old guy but I don’t understand why he’d name me.”
“Well, Miss Freeman, it’s not our place to wonder why. In any event, I believe what I’m trying to say is that ‘sweet old guy’ made it rain. Can you come to my office this afternoon?”
Bewildered, I agreed. When I arrived at Mr. Barrow’s office, he handed me a thin grey linen envelope. Inside was a check made out to me. I nearly fainted looking at the number of zeros.
“There must be some mistake” I mumbled.
“I assure you there is no mistake, Miss Freeman. Walter Ashcroft did not make mistakes. He left you a considerable amount of money, a fortune some might say, with the instructions to ‘Dream Big’.”
This was my chance to see my life’s ambition come true. “God bless you, dear Walter. I won’t let you down. And no matter how successful I become I will never forget you.”
“Good luck, Miss Freeman” Mr. Barrow declared.
“Thank you, Mr. Barrow. Tell me: how does the name ‘Ashcroft’s’ sound to you?”
“Quite appropriate, Miss Freeman. Quite appropriate.” I even detected a slight twinkle in his eye.
And for the first time in weeks I felt truly happy.
NAR © 2022