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Craig Seymour’s strip-club memoir ‘All I Could Bare’ bares more than skin

from – In Craig Seymour’s “All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C.,” (Atria) the reader follows how the author as a graduate student at University of Maryland decides to delve into his research on gay strip clubs by doing the last thing he ever expected to do: taking his clothes off and becoming a stripper.

As Seymour progresses from an awkward amateur to a professional stripper, he realizes how easily boundaries get crossed, and his morals are questioned. Is there a big difference between dancing nude for a customer for some singles and performing a “private” session for a little more touching and a lot more money? When a smooth-talking talent scout implies super stardom in the adult-film industry, is it OK to audition in his hotel room? Is it acceptable to leave the strip-club premises to make extra cash doing something with a customer that is prohibited in the club?

For those who never experienced the Marion Barry-era District, it is hard to imagine how the now near-prudent city a decade and half ago allowed establishments with all-nude strippers who freely engaged in sexual acts with customers. Forget a discrete little touch here and there; instead, visualize strippers masturbating and simulating sex on and off stage, as well as customers who were happily—and legally—groping, touching and making requests for just a little bit more—and sometimes getting it.

Seymour soon discovers the fallacy with a stripper’s profession; it is incredibly easy to cross over to other adult-only avenues, including making films and becoming an escort. For a second, put aside the moral dilemma of whether to get paid for sex; how does one explain one’s actions to a significant other, or even simply resist the omnipresent temptations?

While Seymour and his coworkers make a good deal of money, a stripper’s life is not all about quick cash and glamorous gifts. Hard times with recession come and go, and so do customers. Although Seymour does get tired of enticing opportunities, casual hookups, and the abundance of money, it is not until the “no-touch” rule (no physical contact between stripper and customer) gets enforced and the customers stop coming that he decides his time as a stripper is up. Once the center of attention, Seymour turns himself into an observer as he begins a new career as a journalist who interviews stars and works on famous publications.

Seymour’s recount of his stripping years are the focal point in his memoir, but it is also the metamorphosis of a city that went through a phase of everything being legal to nothing being allowed that tantalizes the reader. The history of the first gay strip club the Chesapeake House—frequented by Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Rock Hudson—and the closing of the infamous La Cage aux Follies, O Street’s first gay strip club that opened in 1984, are interesting details Seymour highlights to make a good story even better. However, the history of the District, the laws that pertained to gays and their establishments, and the good ol’ times that once were are engrossing, but it is Seymour’s personal story of how and why he became a stripper that ultimately triumphs “All I Could Bare.”


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