Live girls! (Nearly) nude!
Gearhead Tattoo warms up Nick’s with erotic dance nights
Nick’s Night Club1414 Park Ave.
Chico, CA 95928
There’s something very noticeably missing from Gearhead Productions’ weekly Burlesque Night at Nick’s Night Club—the burlesque.
“Yeah, we were expecting more burlesque too,” explained Lacey (her stage name), a pretty blonde bartender at Nick’s who treads the stage rather than the slats on Saturday nights. “That’s how it started, but this is pretty much a strip club without the stripping.”
While burlesque and stripping may seem interchangeable to some, they have different connotations that some performers are very particular about. Burlesque implies a more traditional, stylized performance, usually with elaborate costumes and techniques that hark back to the early days of public erotica. Think more feather boas and fancy hairdos, less greasy poles and Mötley Crüe.
“But it’s what the people wanted, and they seem to be enjoying it,” she sighed as she gestured about the room, filled largely by a party of 15 celebrating a birthday. One of them—maybe the lucky birthday boy—was getting a lap dance in the back corner and several more whooped it up in the chairs lining the stage, where a tattooed, calico-coifed dancer named Alexa gathered her tips.
“Besides,” Lacey said, her lips turning to a pout and her brow furrowing with genuine empathy, “if we didn’t do this here they’d have to drive all the way to Centerfolds.”
A gentleman in black-rimmed glasses and a porkpie hat politely interjected to borrow Lacey for a minute. In less time than that, I realized she was onstage doing a not-unimpressive spread-eagle handstand against the pole to Hendrix’s rendition of “Red House.”
“We wanted to do something different and a little more cultured in this town so [Gearhead Barbershop & Tattoo owner Tony Eidem and I] decided to bring burlesque to the area,” explained Sonya Adams (stage name “Mama”), senior piercer and manager at the Gearhead shop and assistant for Gearhead Productions. “It started out as a full-on burlesque show and Chico has turned it into something totally different. With as many college kids as there are, they kind of swung it to the way of dancers, like traditional go-go, and that’s where it went.”
“It was a little disappointing to me, personally, because [burlesque] is kind of my realm. But I’m still involved with everything there and every once in a while still bust out and perform. When I do, it’s straight burlesque—costuming, tease, feathers, fans and lace to old-school bump-and-grind.”
On performance nights, Adams largely manages the action at Nick’s: “I make sure everyone falls in line and follows the rules. I make sure no girls get touched inappropriately, make sure they’re onstage at the right time in the right order and make changes when necessary, I am usually rushing between the green room and the main room making sure everyone’s taken care of.”
Adams doesn’t begrudge the event’s new direction too much, and said that the girls are happy, having fun and making money. According to her, dancers are charged a stage-use fee and then are allowed to keep all of their tips, as well as the money they make doing private dances, which can amount to several hundred dollars a night. There are currently 11 women working on a rotating basis, with each dancer averaging about five two-song sets.
While a strip club with no stripping sounds like a bar with no beer, there are some advantages, Adams said: “The girls are actually enjoying it. They keep their self-respect because they don’t have to strip down to absolutely nothing. They get to dance; they get to show off that sensual side of themselves, and people are entertained.
“They’re still not seeing nudity so they get to do it in a fun environment, there’s alcohol and appetizers,” she said, referring to California law, which prohibits alcohol to be served at fully nude clubs.
“Part of having clothing on is you can take girls of any size range and any level of experience, and not have to exploit them naked onstage. That [brings] a varied audience because there’s guys out there who are into big girls just like there’s guys out there that are into the skinny Minnys.”
Adams said there are no set plans, but some burlesque may be interjected back into the mix soon.
“At some point we’ll break out some special routines, and we’d like to do an amateur night. It would focus on the performance rather than the stripping, putting on a show, giving the audience the art of the tease and bringing something a little different to the stage.”