Two Chico strippers set out to document their cross-country adventures—but it’s more about free will than freewheeling
With a plan that’s part raucous adventure, part social commentary, Chico strippers Lexi and Haley are about to set out on what they’re calling their “Free Will Tour.” It’s billed as a traveling feature show that will be chronicled by a documentary filmmaker and on their Web site, http://lexiandhaley.blogspot.com.
The two attractive, alternative-minded women have picked out several places they’d like to visit, ranging from Salt Lake City and Nashville to Louisiana swampland and the world’s largest ball of twine. Their cat, Jasmine, and dog, Diesel, will be along for the ride. Lexi and Haley plan to spend a couple of days in each location, reporting on their “exotic adventures.”
The trip is supposed to start on Aug. 15, when Lexi, 25, and Haley, 20, hope to have a $3,000 used RV in hand. Their Web site is set up to take donations, and they also have a “wish list” for any businesses or other sponsors who might want to donate Web site hosting, a digital camera, prepaid gas cards or other goods in exchange for promotion on their vehicle or Web site. If people want to contribute, say, “the price of one lap dance,” great. If not, fine by them. “We want to do this totally grass roots,” Lexi said.
The idea for the trip was inspired in part by a particularly nasty argument Haley was having with her mom. Understandably, neither girl’s mother embraced the idea of her daughter taking it all off for a roomful of sweaty men clutching dollar bills—whether in Chico or halfway across the country.
“We were really getting into it, and [my mom] was questioning my ideals and my decisions. I said, ‘I’m done. This is what I want to do and every person has this choice,'” Haley said. Lexi was in the room, pacing, and wondering, “Who is anybody else to judge anybody?” The phrase “free will” kept ringing in their heads, perhaps due to the movie Dogma, and they went to The Haight and got the words tattooed on their wrists.
Lexi and Haley are pseudonyms, partly because their families would freak out and partly to keep them safe from predators.
For the most part, the idea that strippers are somehow being victimized, or they got into the business because their daddies abused them, is crap, say Lexi and Haley. “If people who stigmatize stripping spent a week in our environment, their opinions would change,” Lexi said. “People who say we’re selling ourselves or are dependent on men don’t understand. It’s our world out there.”
Their filmmaker is a young, only slightly geeky guy named Steve Linquist, whom they met through a friend of a friend. (Networking, Lexi said, is a key skill for anyone aspiring to be a traveling stripper.)
“I think it’s a dream feature for an HBO-type thing or PBS,” said Linquist, a Chico State media arts graduate who has experience filming festivals and recently worked in the film industry in Los Angeles. “You have two really articulate ladies who are out to do something everyone should do, which is venture out in the U.S.”
The girls figure they won’t need producers running along ahead of them setting up the spontaneity a la Dave Attell. “Everywhere we go crazy stuff happens to us,” Lexi said.
“I think a lot of it’s going to fall in place on the road,” Haley said. They might call ahead to clubs on their route, or they may just show up and pay the stage fee to appear that night.
Their ultimate material goal is to appear on Howard Stern’s radio/TV program. Lexi and Haley’s feminist approach to adult entertainment would seem to contrast with the Stern persona: The shock jock is not known for his respect of women, and has even held a contest to find the world’s dumbest stripper.
But these girls have no use for stripper stereotypes. “I really have met the dumbest strippers ever,” Lexi said. “I would love for Howard to be, like, ‘You guys actually have a brain.'”
Haley moved to Chico in the fifth grade, the daughter of two professionals. Lexi came to town to go to college and spent five and one-half years at Chico State studying computer graphics (she’s been writing Web code since she was 15) and then civil engineering.
Lexi’s awakening came while she was an assistant manager at an auto parts store. “I was so tired of the corporate thing,” said Lexi, a car buff who felt especially slighted when customers assumed she knew nothing.
Haley was a receptionist in a medical office. “To anyone else that would be a great job,” she said. “But I knew from an early age that I never wanted that kind of work.”
Stripping was different. “I did amateur night at Centerfolds and it was the best six minutes of my life,” Haley said. “It gives you great freedom to express yourself.”
Both girls had been at Centerfolds, the strip club north of Chico on Highway 99, for nearly a year when they bonded as Lexi was recovering from a boob job. They became roommates and traveled to strip clubs in Marysville and Sacramento and to car shows, working 10-hour shifts (in high heels) and driving home to Chico at 4 in the morning.
Then something happened to shake them into a decision: a huge wreck involving a semi truck, right outside the club. It put things into perspective, and in January 2003, both of them quit Centerfolds and started talking about ways they could make money and yet still enjoy freedom from a 9-to-5 desk job.
The idea took shape over time. (Early on, the pair was also soliciting funds for “new tits” for Haley.) “We’ve changed our angle,” Lexi said. “We could play the stereotypical dumb strippers traveling,” she said, or they could go more cerebral.
Sometimes, being the “smart stripper” works against them, the girls acknowledged. “We’re the girls that the customers love,” Haley said. “They love to talk to us but then they spend hundreds of dollars on someone else.”
Lexi and Haley have no plans of quitting the business—at least while they’re young. They are interested in management, however, and changing the system under which strippers work. “It’s a crazy industry, and you take out of it what you can,” Lexi said.
“We really need to unionize as a group,” she said. “When you’re a stripper, you have no health care and you have no rights. You’re under contract, and they can terminate your contract at any time.
“Our generation really sucks when it comes to political stuff,” Lexi said. “It’s time for our generation to make some kind of a statement. This is the kind of group that can really affect the subculture.”
“If two strippers from this teeny town in Northern California can help make a difference then that’s great," Haley said.