It’s high noon on a Thursday.
Two men wearing slacks, dress shirts, and ties stroll into the CaddyShack.
The exotic show lounge in Maple Ridge is pitch dark but for the glow of television screens hanging off the walls and the red and orange glimmer from spotlights directed towards the wooden stage.
The doors just opened. The stage is barren. Empty seats wait to be filled.
Romana Van Lissum has seen countless faces meander through the doors of the CaddyShack.
She’s been a cocktail waitress there for more than 18 years and knows many of the “regulars” by their first name.
She also knows the strippers who have entered and exited her life.
The women who range in age from 19 to 40 dance for patrons who crane their necks to get a closer look from the seats that encircle the CaddyShack stage. These are the customers who see the dancers from the up-close vantage point of what Van Lissum refers to as “gyno row.”
Most of the men who come to see these – in the words of one dancer – “visual stimulation technicians” perform are average, every-day guys, and the lounge’s clientele run the gamut, their collars ranging from dark blue to bleached white.
“You get good guys, you get married guys, you get young guys, you get some guys where this is the first place they’ll go to when they get out of jail,” Van Lissum said.
Even so, workplace safety has never been an issue for Van Lissum a married mom of a grown daughter.
“I worked for almost year in a night club when I started waitressing, and my husband would rather have me work in here than in a regular nightclub,” she said.
“In here, the guys treat you like gold, no one’s allowed to touch you, and if you have a problem, you have three quarters of the room ready to back you up.”
Van Lissum doesn’t just sling burgers and brews. She’s also a bestselling author, who penned The Life of a Stripper, 50 exotic dancers confess their personal experiences in the adult entertainment industry.
It took her two years to finish the book, which she hopes will portray the dancers in a different light.
“A lot of people stereotype the dancers, thinking that they are all drug addicts and alcoholics and have daddy issues,” Van Lissum said. “Because I’ve been here for 18 years, and knowing all the girls… Caddy[shack] is one of their favourite places to work because they like the staff so much, I knew a lot of them had kids, are married, never touched drugs, some of the girls never touched alcohol, some of them travel around with their dog, and they’re just like regular people.”
A dancer with a university education edited the book and the artist who designed the cover danced for more than 10 years.
“Everybody who put the book together, except for me because I’m a waitress, is a dancer,” Van Lissum said. “I’m the only oddball out.”
It takes dedication to be a dancer, Van Lissum remarked, adding, “A lot of people don’t realize that these [dancers] are working Monday to Saturday, Sunday is maybe a doing their laundry, cleaning their house, traveling day.”
Van Lissum’s first book was How to be a waitress and make big tips, and while that book was being sent off to the printer, she became inspired to write this new book.
“I’m watching this girl dancing, and I’m thinking ‘Oh my god, she’s really pretty and she’s really thin… why isn’t she modeling?”
The dancer became Van Lissum’s muse.
Within 20 minutes of standing at the till, Van Lissum came up with an idea. Why write about one dancer when you could write about several?
The result is a book consisting of 50 short stories of each woman’s experiences. The length of each entry ranges from one page to 15 pages.
The stories range from drug abuse, psycho boyfriends, crooked clubs, and prostitution to homelessness, porn, and hustling.
Instead of using real or stage names, dancers picked the name of a flower to use as an alias for confidentiality purposes.
“A lot of the girls told me that, if it was somebody else interviewing them they wouldn’t grant [the interview],” Van Lissum said.
The dancers are part of an industry that seems to be slowing down, in Van Lissum’s estimation.
“A lot of it has to do with the drinking and driving laws,” she said. “This placed used to be rocking, all the time. I think it also has to do with the fact people are socializing a lot more at home with big screen TVs and the internet.”
Van Lissum said The Life of a Stripper is “not a book about exotic dancers whining about how they came from broken homes or how desperate they are for male attention.”
She calls it “an eye-opening book full of true stories that belong to a variety of women who travel a different journey than most.”
The book has many cautionary tales about the industry. Van Lissum said a few of these stories may even deter some women from entering the world of exotic dancing.
“There’s a lot of crazy stories,” Van Lissum said. “I think this book will open a lot of people’s eyes.”
The paperback and ebook format of The Life of a Stripper is available online at Amazon.com.
The paperback version can also be purchased at any Lower Mainland Black Bond Books location.
Ebook formats can be found on Kindle, Kobo, Sony and Smashwords. Additional information is available on Van Lissum’s website, www.thelifeofastripper.com.
Copies of Van Lissum’s book will also be available at the Sunday, Dec. 2 strip-a-thon at the CaddyShack. Five dollars from the sale of each book at the event will go to the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society.