I was barely 18 when I lived in Kalamazoo and I’d moved there with no plan and little money. I figured I’d find a job of some sort, but it was a broke town full of college students fighting for the predictable jobs and the part-time gig I had painting and sanding decks wasn’t enough. I had three roommates, all of whom I’d gone to high school with. The only one of us who was steadily employed mopped up come at the adult movie theater across the street from our house. We were close to being kicked out for being constantly late on the rent and we ate a lot of cheap foods made from recipes we’d all taken from our large families on tight budgets.
One night while I waited for my roommate to finish work I spotted an ad on the dirty cork board nailed to the pink walls near the rack of impossible large dildos. It said ‘Adult Male Performers Wanted’ and I tore one of the perforated phone numbers from the sheet and stuffed it in my pocket before my roommate could catch me and give me grief about it.
I waited a few days before calling, not certain what the ad meant I’d be doing and I was both a little embarrassed and little turned on about what it could be. Dialing the number from a payphone made my heart thump loudly and when the voice on the other end of the line told me I’d reached a hair salon, I almost hung up, thinking it a mistake.
“I’m calling about the ad for performers?” I managed to say quietly, still unsure I’d dialed correctly.
The woman on the other end of the phone asked how old I was and I added year to my age for no good reason, because you only need to be 18 to strip in certain bars, even if you aren’t old enough to drink in them. She asked me if I was ok dancing for both men and women and I said yes without thinking it through and then wondered later if I really would be.
She invited me to come to her salon the next day, which was outside of the city proper and I hopped in my car not sure what to expect. I used a map and took dirt roads to the address she’d given and when I pulled up in front of the little free-standing building I had second thoughts. I sat in my car listening to the radio before screwing up the courage to head inside.
The woman cutting hair was in her late forties and she told me she’d be right with me. She finished the client whose hair she was cutting and she told me to take a seat in her chair. She cut my hair while we talked, asking me questions about how comfortable I would be dancing in front of different crowds, careful not to put too much emphasis on the fact that I’d be dancing in front of men more often than women. I worried that she’d ask me to pay for the haircut and I wouldn’t have enough money in my pocket to even cover it and eat that day. Thinking back on it now I realize she knew exactly what she was doing; she had my number in a way that I didn’t see then. She was sizing me up from the moment that she answered the phone.
When I was done she took me out behind the building and had me pose for a few Polaroids against the brick building. She got me to lift my shirt up a little, showing off the trim body I had back then and that was the photo that she put on all the posters. She was subtle about all of it and managed to get exactly what she wanted. I could tell she was proud of herself and I had my own sense of pride about being able to satisfy whatever it was that she was looking for.
I was young but when it came to sex I’d had some experiences ahead of my years and in my head, I was already grown up. I’d lost my virginity to someone 10 years older, had a threesome with a married couple and I knew full and well that I was kinky. I wasn’t afraid of what I might not like; I was afraid of what I might be missing out on and that eagerness was exactly what Sharon was counting on would be lucrative.
Sharon added me to the lineup of the next gig she’d booked and told me that she was going to call me ‘Virgo’ after my star sign: I chimed in that I liked ‘Phantasm’ better because it sounded dark and somehow untouchable to me. I picked out Nine Inch Nails for my first song and when they called ‘Virgo’ to stage, I shot her a look. Her expression told me that she was putting me in my place just a little and I sort of liked it, if I’m being honest. The next time around I was Phantasm though, so I like to think we understood each other alright.