4- A girl with attitude
Peggy continued to pimp the petition the next time I saw her, even letting me sign it – either because she forgot who I was or no longer felt outraged by my objection to Simms.
She had also moved onto other subjects, jousting with some of the patrons, who questioned her taste in music.
“I buy my own records for the jukebox,” she told a group of three who asked why she danced to different music than the other dancers. “ I hate that disco crap; I like rock.”
“What about love songs?” one of the men asked.
“I love love-songs,” Peggy said flatly, “thought they would be a waste in here. None of you toads have the least clue as to what love is.”
“Ah, Peggy, sure we do,” the second man said with a hardy laugh.
“Okay. Then let me ask you this,” Peggy said, pausing near the edge of the stage to lean towards the men so that she didn’t have to shout.
She was supposed to be dancing and kept glancing in the director of the owner seated at the rear of the bar.
“What do you want to know?” the nearest man asked.
“Are you married?”
The man looked uncomfortable. “Sort of.”
“Sort of?” Peggy snarled.
“All right, I am.”
“Would you give up your wife for a million dollars?”
The man frowned. “I don’t get you.”
“If someone gave you a million dollars to give up your wife, would you do it?”
The man grinned. “In a heart beat.”
“Then you don’t know what love is,” Peggy said, and went back to dancing.
Peggy tended to pick on particular people – a kind of flirting. If she liked you, she picked on you.
This sometimes backfired.
Some men – particularly the more macho idiots – took offense, forcing the bar own to expel them.
Some men assumed that because she danced here she must have been available, and got peeved when she told them to get lost, thus requiring management to expel them, too.
I saw trouble coming one night when three drunk macho twenty-something idiots tried to get a lap dance from her.
“I don’t give lap dances, blow jobs or anything else you have in mind,” she told them.
“You owe us something,” said the larger of the three, a nearly shaved-headed wanna-be soldier type wearing a New York Giants jersey. “We spent a lot of bucks on you.”
She had flirted with them because of the jersey, and after they’d purchased the prerequisite drinks, she came down from the stage to sit with them.
“Owe you?” she said. “You have quite an imagination if you think I owe you anything.”
“You fucking slut!”
“If I was a slut, I’d give you want you wanted,” Peggy said.
“Then you’re a fucking tease.”
“That might be true, but I don’t need an asshole like you to tell me that.”
“Asshole?” the man yelped, knocking down his stool as he staggered to his feet.
Peggy didn’t move. She didn’t even seem afraid. She just sat, cigarette smoldering between the fingers of one hand while she held the drink in the other, tapping her red fingernails impatiently against the glass.
“Did I say something amiss?” she asked innocent.
“I won’t miss you with my fist, you bitch!” the man said.
But if he had intended to hit her, he never got the chance.
The owner appeared behind him, accompanied by two very swarthy characters I usually saw near the pool table. Indeed, they held the pool sticks like clubs at which point the three men at the bar quickly got up and left.
The owner gave Peggy one dark stare then went back to his post at the far end of the oval bar.
Several of the other patrons volunteered to escort Peggy out to her car later, just in case “those assholes” were outside waiting. Even more men offered her drinks to calm her nerves, offers she gratefully accepted, even though she did not look in the least bit nervous.
I usually avoided sitting at the bar unless I had no choice.
The owner, who I nicked named Wolfman because he looked like one, didn’t like my writing in my notebooks because he claimed some people thought I might be a narc, and people who are scared of getting busted don’t drink as much as the ought to – not to mention the large amount of drugs that passed through his bar on any given night.
Nearly everybody knew about the drugs – so I presumed Wolfman knew, too.
Peggy had an odd relationship with Wolfman – a stocky, bearded man with a perpetually lighted cigar in the corner of his mouth. She called him Jim but made the name sound vulgar when she did.
Others seemed genuinely found of Wolfman, although from all reports I heard, he was a very tough man when he needed to be.
He reportedly kept a sawed-off shotgun within easy reach of where he sat, and he always sat in the same seat, his back to the pool table while he faced the long bar and the front door on the far side.
To his immediate right was the only way in or out from behind the bar.
Here, he inspected the cancers when they came in or out, sometimes scolding them for flashing too much flesh in order to collected more tips.
“The last thing I need is some vice cop to come in here and close me up for a few days on account of some bitch showing off her tits,” he once scowled.
He didn’t care about what went outside the club – which dancers gave which patron what kind of blow job or fist fuck – as long as none of it happened inside his place of business.
Like most strip clubs owners, Wolfman most likely required some of his girls to service him, but owners and bartenders generally got blow jobs after the doors closed for the night.
I don’t think Peggy was ever required to do any of that and don’t believe she would have if told to.
Wolfman apparently deviated from another common practice among strip club owners in that he did not demand a percentage of a dancer’s tips.
As long as the girls kept the patrons drinking, he was happy.
He wanted to see the seats filled and the glasses emptying.
On one unusually cold night in October, the place was packed with only one or two stools open for me to sit along the bar, a good excuse for me to slip down at one of the normally vacant café tables along the wall where I could observe the dancer and patrons, but remain out of sight of the ever-vigilant Wolfman – if not out of sight of the even more vigilant Peggy, who from the stage caught glimpses of me over the line of men at the bar.
Most men ached for a side along the sides of the oval bar closest to the stage. Yet for some reason on this night, one of those stools remained unoccupied, and it seemed to gnaw at Peggy like a missing tooth. She kept glaring at it, then at me as she marched up and down the small stage behind the bar, she ignoring the usual banter of patrons seeking to get her attention to give her tips.
She just could not stop staring at where I sat and seemed unusually put out by the fact that I had my nose in some sort of book when I should have been looking at her.
A wild cat pacing inside a cage might have seemed less frustrated, her slippered-feet wearing down the middle of that stage even more with her anxiety.
I kept thinking she would forget about me.
Men, nearly as frustrated at her as she was by me, vied for her attention, waving dollar bills in front of her face to get her to look at them instead of me.
She stared right through them.
And finally, she stopped, put her hands on her hips and just stared at me.
“You!” she shouted.
Jotting some observation of my own in the notebook, I didn’t realize she was shouting at me until she shouted again.
“I’m talking to you!” she said.
One of the men from the bar leaned over and nudged me.
I looked up and saw that the crow of men had cleared a path so that Patty could see me even more clearly.
“Do you think you’re something special or what?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean – why the fuck are you sitting over there?”
Every eye in the place had turned in my direction – including Wolfman’s.
“I like it here,” I mumbled.
“What was that? I can’t hear you?”
“I said I like sitting here.”
“Well, I don’t.”
“Where do you want me to sit?”
“Over here,” Peggy said, pointing, her sharp red fingernail glinting in the bar lights as she indicated one of the vacant stools at the bar.
I glanced down to the end of the bar where the tip of Wolfman’s cigar glowed fiercely with his huffing and puffing., but not so fiercely as his eyes which bore the annoyed look they always got when things deviated from routine.
He stared; Peggy started; everybody in the bar stared, including Mary who motion to me in a panic for me to get up and so, faced with the inevitable, I closed my notebook,, took up my pens and my beer and made my way to the vacant stool, climbed up on it, deposited my beer, pens and pad in front of me, then looked up at Peggy, who gave me one brief satisfied nod and immediately twisted away back into her dance routine and completely ignored me for the rest of the night.