Kitty McMuffin has appeared on this page more than a few times- and not without reason. She was the subject of a month-long photo story that centered around her night job in North Beach. Above is the final result. More still photos can be viewed here: Elijah Nouvelage Photojournalism on facebook.
Kitty McMuffin, who loyal readers may remember from my previous post about The Lusty Lady, turned 30 on Saturday, and celebrated it with a big birthday bash and burlesque show (say THAT three times fast) at Mojito in North Beach on Sunday. Feeling a sense of obligation to cover the event, your loyal blogger grudgingly headed to SF to get the low-down.
I’m kidding, of course. I had been promised burlesque, live music, lots of spankings, (not on my tush thankyouverymuch), and a bacon skirt in the vein of Josephine Baker, so I was primed and excited for the night.
It started at 7, and built up steam as Kitty’s coworkers slowly trickled in over the next few hours. The liquor was flowing, served up with a smile by Stuart, the friendly fauxhawk-styled bartender.
As the night wore on, the birthday fun began. First came the live music, which featured Kitty on background vocals, (while she just meowed over and over again, it was her energy and enthusiasm that made her performance memorable), before the “birthday presents” were administered- in the form of many, many spankings. (Followed by kisses on all the places where she had boo-boos, naturally.)
A birthday strip-tease by the Lusty’s own Princess, (followed by more spankings, of course, this time with a leather riding crop), was the culmination of the first round of entertainment, but Kitty still had that bacon skirt waiting upstairs for the most loyal of attendees.
She put it on and came sashaying down the stairs to resounding cheers and catcalls from the audience. She did a bit of a strip-tease herself, (pasties made her show, as with Princess’, PG-13- alcohol was, after all, being served), before tearing off the skirt and feeding her fans and friends pieces, one at a time, until everyone’s appetites were sated.
Or were they…..if yours wasn’t you can always find her at the Lusty Lady, in a more intimate setting. ; )
Until next time, leave the flying to me.
Peep shows, unionization and feminism. They’re words not commonly used in the same breath, but The Lusty Lady (follow them on twitter!) in San Francisco’s North Beach has been prompting such word combinations since 1997, when the girls who worked there formed a union following a long battle with management.
Because it’s a peep show, The Lusty Lady attracts a different clientele than the other strip clubs along Broadway. The Lusty, a long-time North Beach staple, is the only place where clients can do whatever they want in the (semi) privacy that exists on their side of the glass partition that separates them from the naked girls in on the other side. While the girls certainly see more than they might want to under such circumstances, Bruno, who works at the front desk, said that “many of the girls prefer it to the other clubs, because here they don’t have to touch the clients.”
Girls can make more money at the other strip clubs, Bruno said, where private dances can be had for a lot of money, but they also have to pay fees to the clubs out of their earnings.
Kitty McMuffin, a stripper at The Lusty Lady, explained why she chose to work for less.
“I definitely made more money at other strip clubs when I danced on the East Coast, but I couldn’t call out sick, I couldn’t have any disputes about my treatment with my management, I had to pay out a house fee to this person and that person…I was working pretty hard for my pay and not being appreciated and supported. [Here at The Lusty Lady] we have a union rep, and she’ll definitely help us out.”
She said that she moved to the West Coast specifically to work at The Lusty Lady after seeing a documentary about the unionization fight called Live Nude Girls Unite! (which is also available for instant streaming through Netflix).
Contrary to the established public record, The Lusty Lady was not the first strip club in the world to become unionized, but it is the only currently unionized strip club. But The Lusty Lady does have one first they can call their own- the first worker-owned strip club.
And now you know.
Until next time, leave the flying to me!
Image from http://wapedia.mobi/en/Carol_Doda
My blog title references strippers, and yet, until now, I haven’t delivered on the promise of naked women (or men) (Not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s not too surprising, really, since strip clubs really aren’t my thing, and besides, cameras are verboten inside- which makes them as realistic a port of call for me as Siberia in the dead of winter.
You see, I live in Oakland, and when I come to North Beach I do so carrying 40lbs of camera gear on my back, even if I’m only passing through. What if an earthquake happened, or a police chase went down right in front of me? I would hardly have time to drive back to Oakland, (if I even could), just to get my gear. No, I come prepared, ALL the time. Which brings me back to strippers. If I can’t bring my cameras inside, well why bother…… But hey, maybe they’re your thing, that’s fine.
What does interest me though, is history, and North Beach’s history is inextricably intertwined with the stripping profession, thanks to Carol Doda. Doda was a waitress at The Condor Club, (which still stands at the corner of Broadway and Columbus), and is widely regarded as one of the first topless dancers in the country. In 1965 this behavior brought her international fame and notoriety, but also some unwanted legal attention- she was arrested along with the then-owner of the Condor Club for lewd and indecent behavior. After winning her legal case she returned to stripping, becoming one of the first all-nude dancers in the country.
Although famous for her stripping, she made headlines again when she went from a 34 bust size to 44 through the then-new process of silicone implants, a process which secured her place in the history books, along with North Beach’s, and The Condor Club’s. Doda’s implants were so famous they had their own nicknames. Doda’s “twin 44’s” and “the new Twin Peaks of San Francisco.”
It is pointless to recount her entire life story here, so rather than regurgitate ancient history, I recommend that readers visit her wikipedia page, which goes into more detail about her life.
Doda still lives in San Francisco, and is a fixture in some North Beach bars, including Gino and Carlo’s and Mr. Bing’s. She and her manager Dick Winn perform at Amante’s the last Sunday of every month (although the April performance is actually on May 1st this cycle).
And, to save you the time of a google search, one more photo for the road:
Image from: chrystelle.blogg.se
My first impressions of North Beach were not entirely positive. I drove down Montgomery, before turning left onto Columbus, driving up the hill and past the famous City Lights bookstore, and the strip clubs on Broadway. The City Lights bookstore helped to define not only North Beach at a specific era in time, but also San Francisco as a city, and destination for writers and poets and creative types. Many of the store’s patrons were likely instrumental in paving the way for the social and political changes of the ’60’s.
The City Lights bookstore did not give me a negative impression about the neighborhood. But all the other businesses arrayed up Columbus did. Italian restaurants, delis, cafes, bakeries and gelato hole-in-the-walls lined both sides of the street for blocks. Places with names like Colisseo, Steps of Rome, Calzone’s Pizza Cucina and Trattoria Pinocchio.
It seemed like the business owners just chose easy names that pandered to Americans’ stereotypical preconceptions of Italy and Italians. I may not be Italian, but I couldn’t help but be a little offended.
I parked in front of Caffe Trieste, a block off of Columbus, where a group of men sat outside engaged in lively conversation. Inside, people were using laptops, sipping coffee, and speaking quietly in small groups. In short, it felt like any other coffee shop in the city. Which was refreshing, normal, expected. Non-offensive.
I sat and had a sandwich at Molinari Delicatessen, where two young hispanic men and an elderly Italian man served up a line of eager, hungry sandwich-seekers, all holding bread in their hands, patiently waiting for their number to be called.
A wide selection of cheeses filled the display cases, salames and meats hung from the ceiling, and canned, pickled, and commercial Italian foods were stacked so high against the walls that a stepladder was necessary to reach the highest items.
While I sat and ate outside, I watched the people passing. It was Monday afternoon, and foot traffic was substantially less than I had experienced on another visit the previous thursday night. Some locals passed by, obvious in their localness through their engaged conversation, quick, purposeful stride, and less-casual dress. A man walked up to Molinaris in a beat-up old grey suit, talking very loudly to himself. Almost nobody paid him any attention.
A prosciutto di parma sandwich later, I was wandering back up Columbus, keeping my eyes peeled for the interesting, unusual, or just plain weird.
I found interesting in short order. Z. Cioccolato, a candy store, attracted me through it’s bright, bold colors and assorted candies. Smelling a photo opportunity I entered to look around.
Individually-wrapped candies overflowed from big, metal-banded barrels. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I spoke to the owner, Mark, who shared that he used to be a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News before moving to San Francisco, where he “married into” the candy-store business. He took me to the back room and showed me the fudge-making facilities, where two young men, (one an SFSU broadcasting and engineering major) worked staggered 8-hour shifts making their famous fudges (65 different kinds), and chocolate candies.
Mark hasn’t stopped taking photos though- he still takes all the product photos for the catalog and website, and has some photos of a toy robot on the walls of the shop.
At night, North Beach comes alive. Young locals flock to bars off Columbus like Grant and Green, The Saloon, and even the King of Thai noodle house and bar- a local secret where you can get $5 Thai food and $2 pints.
A more upscale, non-local crowd seeks out the restaurants on Columbus mentioned earlier in this post, while locals and tourists of all ages (well, not quite ALL ages) visit the strip clubs on Broadway.
North Beach is a diverse neighborhood that changes drastically in price, crowd, atmosphere, and clientele from block to block.
I look forward to discovering more of the neighborhood’s secrets as the semester progresses.