Making Ends Meet As a Strippers


"I would just pretend, like in my head, like I was, you know, going through sex acts. I believe that you're either born with it, or you're not," she said.

Delores Eliades and Peter Feinstein, owners of the Sapphire Gentlemen's Club, told "20/20" what they looked for in their dancers.

"The primary thing, to be honest with you, that we look for is an entertainer that is attractive and socially capable of carrying on conversation with men. Somebody who feels comfortable in this type of setting," Feinstein said.

And the setting can be intimidating.

After watching dancers give lap dances it's easy to guess what the customer is thinking about.

But what's going through a dancer's mind while she gives such an intimate dance to a complete stranger?

For Butterfly, it is strictly business.

"Number one, I'm thinking about how I can move my body to please them and make their fantasy come true. My second thought is how much money can I get out of this person. I'm sorry, but this is my job and that's what I am here for," she said.

The most successful dancers, like Trina at the Hustler Club in San Francisco, combine the physical confidence of a runway model with the verbal skills of a used-car salesman.

Some of the dancers said the sell had to be personalized. Some said they treated all of the clientele the same.

But they all agreed that sizing up customers, to determine who the big spenders are, was critical.

A client's shoes, wristwatch, type of suit, even the type of eyeglasses are scrutinized to see whether the client has enough money to pay for the pricey champagne room, or VIP room, where dancers give one-on-one attention for as much as $300 a half-hour.

"Honestly, you look for the vulnerable ones," Jennifer said. "The really cute guy, the cocky guy -- we talk to them last, they're last pick. You want to look at the guy who probably doesn't get that much love or affection or whatever. And then you try to fulfill that need, you know? You try to make them feel better about themselves -- smarter, stronger, whatever. And then you are compensated for that."

And that compensation is earned whether the customer wants lap dances or just a pretty girl to sit and talk with him -- what they call "GFE," or Girlfriend Experience.

"The big-money customers want to come in and spend time with a beautiful girl. And they want to get to know her," said Eric Langin, president and chief executive officer of Rick's Cabaret -- a publicly traded company that owns gentlemen's clubs in cities across the country. "They want the fantasy to think, you know, 'Gee, this girl really likes me,'" he said.

And they don't have to work hard to get the attention. If they pay, they get a woman who'll sit and talk and be charming.

"A lot of times we're like psychiatrists, listening to people's problems. Over and over again, people will pay you just to sit there and listen to you," Butterfly said. She said her clients talked about everything from work to their wives to their kids.

But if the client isn't paying, Butterfly said she cut him off after two songs.

Many clubs have even more exclusive areas, often completely private rooms or booths that can cost as much as $500 an hour. And it can be incredibly lucrative for the dancers.

Between Stage Fees and Tips Dancers Can Lose Money on a Shift

But in some cities the bad nights far outweigh the good ones.

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