I have a long history with strip clubs in Portland.
I think this relationship may have started when I was 15 or so. Even though I lived in North Portland, I did not attend Roosevelt High School. I had been hanging with a kinda rough crowd, and my parents decided that the Home of the Roughriders would not offer the best educational opportunities for me, so I chose to attend Lincoln High School, in downtown Portland. Every day I would ride TriMet downtown, and back home. Every fucking day.
Every afternoon, rain or shine or occasional snow, I would walk down Salmon street, to catch my bus at the Red Fish stop at 6th. I would walk past the Carriage Room strip club, and every day I would hope that the door would be open. As a typical 15 year old, compulsive masturbater, I would almost pray to get a quick peek at some bare breasts, or if God was really looking down on me, maybe an ass shot or the briefest view of a vajayjay. But alas, the Gods were not with me – as many times as that black door was propped open, cigarette smoke and the smell of age and booze and cashed pensioner’s checks spilling out across the sidewalk, I never saw a glimpse of naked femininity. Never. Four years. Every day – every fucking day I walked past that establishment, and the secrets of the Carriage Room were to forever be hidden from my teen eyes. The place was torn down in 1988, just a few years before I was to turn 21. They called it “progress,” bitches…
It was not until my 21st Birthday that I was able to attend these palaces of sin and naked women. I do not remember much from the evening, but I do recall visiting The Calico Cat on Sandy, and The Sandy Jug a little further up the road.
Remember when dancers weren’t afraid of some bush? When vaginas were hairy, and that was OK? The boobies weren’t stuffed full of filler – they were big or they were small – they just were… as [fill in your chosen deity] had intended. When a Suicide Girl had not yet been invented (not that we don’t love those ladies) and lucite 7″ heels were as technologically inconceivable as a goddamn computer phone Star Trek Thingy in your skinny jean pocket. It was a more natural experience. Less fake. It was more this than that. It was still a male constructed environment, and one entirely based on fantasy, and I will not argue that there was not exploitation involved, but it at least felt less contrived that the clubs of today (I’m looking at you, The Dolphin).
The stories the Resident Historian could tell… there ALWAYS seemed to be a drug deal going down at Magic Gardens, Dennis Rodman at the Acropolis, afternoon celebratory beers for a well done business deal at The Dancing Bare, and early morning pager beep-beep-beeps about the lactating stripper selling shots of Mama’s Milk for $20 a pop at the Calico (stealing milk from the baby!). So many of my early to mid 1990’s imprinted fun times had occurred at Portland Strip Clubs; and I know that a generation or two of P-Town men had also shared my fond recollections of good times and parting with their hard-earned Washingtons.
So you can understand my extreme joy, followed by humbling moments, when I discovered I had been featured on Mary’s Club’s Facebook page. Crazy, absolutely crazy. Truly, and I am not saying this as hyperbole, but truly one of my proudest moments as a professional historian.
In addition to my proclivity to reminisce as I give naked women singles, I am of the view that Strip Clubs represent the pinnacle of our freedom in Oregon.
Examine: In 1998, in the Angels strip club in Roseburg [you know we fucking love Roseburg, right?], an undercover cop paid a stripper $100 for a live sex show. The lady obliged, and took some of her fingers, a dildo, and her vagina, and went to work. The club owner, Charles Ciancanelli, was arrested. The owner got pissed, and started a process that saw the case going all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court.
Was that combination of dildo and fingers and vagina obscene to the citizens of Mighty Roseburg? Probably a resounding “Hells Yes!” But that is exactly why the dildo show needs to be protected as free speech! The Oregon State Constitution’s free-expression provision, found in Article 1, Section 8, is even more expansive than the First Amendment of our Federal Constitution. The Oregon Constitution states that “No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write, or print freely on any subject whatever…” A dildo show being conducted at a Roseburg strip club IS a form of free expression, yo!
The Oregon Supreme Court decision of 2005 demonstrated that the founders of our state clearly meant for this free-expression provision to include unpopular forms of expression. Portland attorney Roy Pulvers at the time commented that “I don’t think it merely reaffirms the Oregon court’s historic interpretation of free speech, I think it strengthens it.” As Justice Michael Gillette wrote, the idea of broad free speech rights “held particular appeal for the Americans participating in the great westward movement, who often had moved west to avoid the constraints of settled society and tended to place an especially high value on individual liberty.” And apparently, Lap Dances too. And dildo shows! So not only is enjoying a dollar dance at The Dolphin an expression of the appreciation for free speech in Oregon, it is also a celebration of that western individuality, and you can get cheap steaks to boot!
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t attempt to draw your attention to our upcoming Party Bus Tour of Portland’s Historic Strip Clubs. Join me, as we remember the strip clubs of yesteryear, and let’s celebrate our unique ability to enjoy the expression of unpopular forms of free speech – and we’ll give those ladies lots of dollars too!
“Regulating ‘Obscenity’ in Oregon,” The Oregonian, November 4, 2002, pg. C06
Editorial: “Dancing to the same tune,” The Oregonian, October 1, 2005, pg. B06
Ashbel S. Green, “Oregon justices defeat attempts to limit sex shows,” The Oregonian, September 30, 2005, pg. A01
And you can find a GREAT history of Mary’s Club on their website here.
Some ads from The Oregonian, form the late 60’s, early 70’s. They would be displayed by the “Movies” section.