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Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America

Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America

by Lily Burana

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Lily Burana had given up on stripping years before she accepted a marriage proposal-but decided to strip her way from Florida to Alaska before settling down. Lily, now a successful journalist, looks back at stripping with a writer's perspective. Her humorous yet hard-edged memoir deftly describes funky clubs and offbeat characters, the exhilaration that overtakes a


Lily Burana had given up on stripping years before she accepted a marriage proposal-but decided to strip her way from Florida to Alaska before settling down. Lily, now a successful journalist, looks back at stripping with a writer's perspective. Her humorous yet hard-edged memoir deftly describes funky clubs and offbeat characters, the exhilaration that overtakes a dancer on stage-and the darker realities that assail her heart when she's out of the spotlight. Strip City is both a hugely entertaining insider's account of a hidden world and a moving voyage of self-discovery. Lily Burana has written for The New York Times Book Review, GQ, New York magazine, The Village Voice, Spin, and Salon. She lives in New York State. This is her rst book.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
There's no business like the sex business -- or is there? In this poignant, bittersweet, sometimes funny account of a stripper's odyssey, the reader is allowed many roles. We start innocently enough: reading a journal about finding oneself -- a journey across America to recapture and understand a young woman's history as she prepares for a new life.

Along the way, we are alternately voyeurs and witnesses, learning the details and daily grinds of a worker in the sex trade -- an exotic dancer, on her last cross-country tour of the clubs that have been such an important part of her life. Well written and powerful, Strip City becomes, about midway through, the journal of a soul. It asks why we do what we do, what it means to say one is a feminist, and how to understand (with eyes wide open) an industry that is both liberating and degrading -- a job in some ways like many others, yet one ultimately corruptive of our very dreams, nightmares, fears, and desires.

Strip City is not a tell-all, although it tells much. It is one woman's attempt to come to terms with her past: to glorify the dance and not to victimize, preach, or pass judgment on the dancers or to mystify the work, the audience drawn to it, and (most of all) the toll on the women themselves. It is both painful and funny and cathartic for both writer and reader.

Most of all, it is a very moral tale, honestly told, deftly written, and exhibiting neither shame nor undue pride: an American tale, filled with pop culture images that remind us, over and over again, of the roles a prosperous, bountiful nation has allowed to (or forced on) women. Strip City provides us a dazzling, glitzy, and devastating meditation. ( Fall 2001 Selection)

San Francisco Chronicle
....funny, ardently Americana and intelligent.
San Francisco Bay Guardian
An engaging writer.
Burana brings the weight of her own experience together with a larger social history to create a compelling, insightful narrative. Strip City moves from the mechanics of Burana's job to the emotional repercussions. all the while remaining charming, intimate and brilliant
Smart and beautifully written...what's most dazzling is Burana's sharp-eyed wit.
Austin Chronicle
Witty and irreverent...the author is fascinating.
Rocky Mountain News
A colorful, often funny and always thought-provoking examination...Burana does a masterful job...with the kind of easy, intelligent style that makes other writers envious.
Engaging...profound and funny. The book is riveting and makes a fine contribution to the current culture wars over exotic dancing.
Seattle Weekly
She's a talented storyteller.
Palm Beach Post
Burana writes well...she's got a sense of humor and can capture a face in a sentence.
New York Times Book Review
Candid, juicy, streetwise prose...(Lily Burana) has the storyteller's gift.
Entertainment Weekly
What a provocative book...this quest doesn't smack of gimmickry.
Publishers Weekly
Facing imminent marriage, Burana, a journalist who has written for the 'New York Times Book Review', the 'Village Voice' and 'Spin', decides to make a yearlong "bachelorette odyssey" to revisit her former career as a stripper. She's exorcising some commitment panic, but also trying to reclaim some dignity for this devalued work. The sex trades may be the world's oldest professions, but where's their history, the "floozerati"? Burana wants to know. A self-proclaimed "sex-positive" feminist, she sees stripping as a choice, not just something women do because there's no other way to earn a buck. True, she herself first went to Peepland to make her rent money, but it also provided a "reprieve from rabid self-actualization" (e.g., studying and trying to get decent jobs). In her return to the "tiprail," she rediscovers the out-of-body high that sometimes graces strippers. But what does her fianc make of all this? And will she be seduced back to this gloriously exhibitionist career? Thankfully, there's a "catcher in the rye": Burana's enormous talents as a writer she has a good ear, a fine wit and an instinct for storytelling reveal another option, one that's perhaps not so different from her former m tier. Stripping means "reclaiming [her] sexuality in the public arena" which is exactly what this book does, too. Burana exposes herself with pride, style and a great sense of humor. Copyright 2001Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
No one gives strippers a chance except magazine writer turned autobiographer Burana, who just happens to have been one before her more "respectable" job came along. In this enthralling joy ride of a first book, Burana details the life of a stripper on the road, from the g-strings to the wigs. The book was born of the retired stripper's desire to confront her somewhat sketchy past head on. After laying out the necessary materials to be a fully functional stripper and taking a refresher class on pole dancing and other such duties, she is ready for the road. Through her nonjudgmental view, the reader becomes intimately connected to the life that Burana struggled to get away from for so long and is now squirming to get back into. Her own love of stripping or perhaps the power attached to it is easily conveyed in her gentle and honest prose; even the most conservative naysayer will be curious about this taboo job. If Burana is the class of the sex-worker industry, Sterry is the crass. This startlingly annoying memoir about a "renaissance" man's early foray into the prostitution scene of 1970 Los Angeles offers little in the way of decent prose. Not only is the writing sloppy and uninspired, it serves less to further the story and more to bolster his narcissistic view of himself. Although recounting the sexual escapades of a misspent youth has the potential to create an interesting read, this book falls short in the absence of an actual point. Sterry doesn't even try to feign a revelation, while his attempts to prove he can love without money just serve to reaffirm his shallowness. Maybe he should take some lessons from Burana in writing with heart rather than with sexual body parts. Rachel Collins, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Engaging memoir of a former stripper's last fling with the profession. A New York journalist and free spirit, Burana agreed to marry a handsome cowboy she met on a trip to Wyoming. Suddenly, settling down seemed impossible without examining the world of stripping where she had come of age, so Burana set about crafting a cross-country journey that would let her explore the profession that supported but eventually exhausted her. She prepares with a week of "stripper school" at the Pure Talent School of Dance, and then works in clubs from Colorado to Alaska. She reports on the business of stripping, her own stripping experience, dancers and their relationships, why men go to clubs, and what all this has to do with her. When she stops by the Exotic World Burlesque Museum in the California desert to get a sense of stripping's history, she imparts her own, a story that takes her from Times Square to San Francisco's bohemian scene. With appealing grace and humor, Burana sidesteps the pitfalls of writing about stripping-sensationalism, preachy moralism, self-righteousness-and instead ponders the historical and social complexities of such a ubiquitous, shadowy trade. With a deft touch, she answers the questions that you'd expect from a thoughtful stripper: How did you get into this? How does it feel? Don't you have any self-respect? And Burana is even-handed: for all the affirmative sisterhood-is-powerful moments, there is a flip side: the weariness of "stripper damage," with its "self-hatred as wide and deep as the sea." And always present is the pressure to remain glamorous-drilling out a belt buckle so it can be easily ripped open onstage, the requisite hours on the tanning bed,endless maintenance of hair and nails and mirrored velvet bikinis. Under all the camouflage, the author is entirely credible: When she asserts that "Stripping, at its best, feels like cheating death," one might even nod in understanding. Remarkably well-done: a complex and warm insider's take on a booming industry.

Product Details

Miramax Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)
Age Range:
13 Years

Read an Excerpt


Spandex as a Second Language
It takes me several tries to get the bunny head thing just right.

As with much in life, it's a matter of positioning. You have to make sure you place the decal in the exact same spot every time, or you'll muck up the whole enterprise. I learned this the hard way. Careless application brought me, in succession, a three-eared bunny, then a bunny with too many eyes, then a blobby bunny with a club-ear and no distinct presence. Today, at the start of my tenth tanning session, I made sure the sticker was stuck just so, and when I'm done, I'll finally have what I am after: a small white patch in my tan, just below and to the left of my navel, in the shape of the Playboy bunny.

The girls who use the bunny heads are something of an amusement here at the busiest salon in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The plastic dish of decals sits next to the towels on a shelf by the cash register, in full view of every beautician and customer in the place. When a girl reaches into the dish, the women who run the shop look up from whatever make-over or pedicure they're doing and give one another a knowing glance. Oh, these ladies know that their job is to groom, not to judge -- if you want your hair dyed a shade of copper-penny red that hasn't been seen since the days of I Love Lucy or your nails air-brushed blue and orange to show team spirit when you go down to Denver for a Broncos game, they'll oblige without comment. But something about a girl with the bunny tan sets the beauticians spinning. She's a little tacky, a little wild. The kind of girl who drives up to the salon in her Camaro fifteen minutes before closing, grabs a decal from the dish, and strides into the tanning booth for her ten-minute fake bake. Afterward, she's off to the Outlaw Saloon for a night of drinking, flirting, and, if the air is right, fighting.

That's not really who I am, but for my purposes, it's an image I can live with.

I have been making twice-weekly trips to the tanning salon for several weeks now. I started out pale as milk but I'm making significant progress toward my goal of a sensuous golden brown. Never mind that up close, my skin is starting to look knobby and taut -- a little like the texture of a regulation football. The color is fantastic. From a distance, I'm the picture of health. I've never tanned in my life -- I was a Goth as a teenager and didn't leave the house much during daylight in my early twenties, so all this dark, rich pigment is a novelty. I think it's great.

My dermatologist begs to differ.

I spent the morning getting yelled at in the skin clinic.

I stopped by to see the doctor about a strange and sudden rash on my chin, and in an offhand moment I asked her, oh, by the way, if she would, please tell me about the effects of using a tanning bed.

It was an innocent question, and I simply was not prepared for the response. I gripped the edge of the counter in the examining room as the dermatologist dressed me down with vitriolic force strong as the heat from a blast furnace. "Oh, tell me you're not tanning," she moaned, closing her eyes and pressing her fingertips into her temples in frustration.

"Just a little," I lied, my eyes averted to the diagnostic posters on the exam room walls. Sebaceous Glands 101. Skin Occlusions At-A-Glance. Melanoma Made Easy.

"You seemed like such a smart person when you walked in here," she shrilled, "but after hearing what you've just said, I have to treat you totally differently!" She went on to tell me that by doing only ten tanning sessions a year -- a year, she repeated for emphasis -- I increase my risk of developing skin cancer seven times over.

The doctor spoke with the certain fury of a true believer, and she assured me that she had science to back her up. She called for her assistant to bring in a packet of information about indoor tanning. Slipping the thick sheaf of papers into a plastic sleeve, she said to me, "Do yourself a favor and stop right now. If you bought a package of tanning sessions that you haven't used up yet, give it to someone you hate."

With goggles to protect my eyes and a towel draped over my face, I lie in the tanning bed bathed in the eerie blue-purple glow. The industrial hum is oddly soothing, as if I'm a baby in a man-made womb listening to the muffled rhythms of the world outside. This snug, warm, thrumming space is all the universe I need. The white noise, the doctor told me, is part of what keeps tanning enthusiasts coming back, despite the known dangers. "Some people get addicted," she says. "Try meditation as a substitute."

In the packet she gave me is an article on the ills of tanning that says, "A tan is your skin's response to ultraviolet-induced injury; it's trying to tell you something. Just imagine if your skin could scream instead of tanning." I remember Fran Lebowitz writing about being on the phone with a Hollywood type, and describing him as "audibly tan." I am quite sure this is not what she meant. It would give a sensible person pause, this screaming-skin analogy. And if that wouldn't, the facts would: A tanning bed zaps the user with a day's worth of concentrated sun in ten minutes. Frequent use can cause premature aging, irreversible skin damage, and sun poisoning. One bad sunburn can equal years of accumulated exposure to natural sunlight.

But as far as risks go, tanning seemed pretty minimal compared to what I needed it for.

When a man gets engaged, his friends might throw him a bachelor party. They'll herd off to a club to see strippers, or order them in, and raise a glass to the groom -- that poor sucker, that lucky bastard. The bachelor party is a raucous, ritual demarcation between the chaos of single life and the mature orderliness of pairing off. One final night with the antiwife before wedding your wife-to-be, it's a time-honored way of saying, "Goodbye to all that."

But what does a former stripper do when she's about to get married?

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