“Some men have called me an ecdysiast. Do you know what that means? An ecdysiast is one who, or that which, sheds it’s skin. In vulgar parlance, a stripper. But I’m not a stripper. At these prices, I’m an ecdysiast!” -Gypsy
Though being a journalist is an extremely exciting and rewarding career, it ain’t a lucrative one. But most typical young journalists just accept that they will not be the richest of their friends and make due. But Sarah Tressler isn’t your typical journalist. While working as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, Sarah began moonlighting as a stripper to bring in some extra income. When a rival newspaper revealed her second job, she was fired from the paper. Sarah says editors let her go because she didn’t list stripping on her job application. But in Houston, like in Vegas, strippers aren’t employees. They’re independent contractors. They pay clubs to let them strip, then they keep tips.
Her abrupt firing caused a media firestorm and Sarah, who has a masters in journalism from NYU, did not just go off into the sunset with her head down. Instead she decided to sue her former employer for gender discrimination (she has joined forces with attorney Gloria Allred to file an investigation into her firing with the EEOC) and to turn her popular blog (which she had been writing while working for the paper under a pseudonym) about being a stripper into a book, Diary of an Angry Stripper. Now that’s using your assets.
Set for a July 15 wide release, the book gives an inside glimpse into the adult entertainment industry, her coworkers, lessons learned as well as the struggles of a well-credentialed journalist during a recession. “I wanted to write about things that were bothering me, things that other dancers would complain about and really get things off my chest,” Tressler told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I also include pointers for customers, and stage disasters like setting my hair on fire. As you can imagine, wearing high heels on stage with very little clothing – a lot can go wrong.”
She is now planning a “coast-to-coast stripping tour from Los Angeles to Chicago, New York, Miami, Tampa and Atlanta,” to promote the book. We were lucky enough to chat with Sarah about why she really decided to start stripping, why strip clubs are great fodder for writers and which profession is better.
Grindstone: Why and when did you decide to start stripping? Did you already have a job when you started stripping?
I was 22 when I took the plunge. I was working as a barista at Starbucks at the time, and continued to work as a barista while I also stripped. No one from a rival coffee shop outed me, though. I’m sure Gloria Jean’s would have had a field day–they missed a great opportunity. Anyway, I wanted to have enough money to take a road trip to San Francisco with a friend, so I figured a quick way to make some money would be dancing. I was right.
Grindstone: Did you just want the extra income or did you do it for other reasons?
Pretty much just the extra income. I’m sure I don’t need to say this, but it’s true: being poor is a big downer. I found a way out, so I went with it.
Grindstone:Why did you not tell your employers about stripping?
For the same reason I don’t tell them who I’m dating, or anything else that doesn’t pertain to the job at hand: It’s none of their business.
Grindstone: What is your favorite part of stripping?
The money is a big part of it, but the icing on the cake is knowing that if I’m at a pool party, I’ll probably be in better bathing suit shape than 90% of the other attendees.
Grindstone: Why do you think the paper fired you?
I think they fired me because they found out I was a stripper, and they don’t want strippers working for them, which is patently discriminatory. Exotic dancing is a female-dominated industry, so if they’re firing girls for being strippers, that has an adverse effect on women (who are a protected class.) Also, I’d been told by many senior reporters and editors that I was doing a great job, and that they were thankful to have me on staff. After I was fired, a senior reporter left me a message saying she thought I was one of the most hardworking people she knows. So I doubt it had anything to do with my work as a journalist, which I am very well-qualified to do. I have a master’s in Journalism from NYU, and I continue to teach at the University of Houston’s communications college.
But they told me they fired me because I didn’t list stripping as previous employment on my job application–to which I replied that I have never been an employee of a strip club. Strippers are independent contractors. We pay the club, not the other way around. So I believe their stated reason for my termination was pretextual.
Grindstone: Why did you decide to blog about your work as a stripper? Were you worried you would get caught?
Get caught doing what? A legal occupation?
I wrote a blog about it because I’m a writer and that’s what writers do. They write. And I like my work to be read as well, so I didn’t make it private. There’s a lot of writerly material in strip clubs, but there aren’t too many people writing about it.
Why have you decided to embark on a stripping tour?
Mostly just to promote the release of Diary of an Angry Stripper (available now in all major e-book formats), but also to see strip clubs all over the U.S. It’s interesting how different they can be from city to city and state to state.
Photo credit: Bryan Anderson with Beauty in Art Photography