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Click on the photos to enlarge them...

Photos by Louie Traub/Review-Journal.



The woman standing behind me and twisting my nipples has a request.

"Let me give you a lap dance," she insists. "It's a little slow out there now."

Tonight, I'm the housemom at Sapphire Gentlemen's Club. It's my job to run the strippers' dressing room -- yes, they do enough dressing to justify a room -- and serve as waiter, hairstylist, tailor and nurse to 240 young ladies between their sets on the floor.

Right now, though, I'm feeling a little uncomfortable in the workplace.

"Come on," continues the woman, who calls herself Scarlet and whose breasts are each larger than her head.

"You're a man."

When you're wearing an apron and answering to the name "mom," this argument loses considerable substance.

"I basically do everything for the girls," said Sandra Noreiko, who passed me the apron earlier this evening. "I cook for them. I've taken them to doctors, bailed them out of jail, and there's not a week that goes by that I don't bring at least one stripper home."

Curiously, my singer friend Bryson from Los Angeles has the same resume, and he has never used the word housemom to describe himself.

Noreiko, the head housemom of three at Sapphire, works from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. four nights a week.

"But I start my day at 2 in the afternoon," she said, "shopping for food, hairspray, thongs and bobby pins."

Like most housemoms, Noreiko doesn't draw a salary. She works entirely for tips from her girls, which range from zero to $800 per night.

"There are nights when I'm $400 in the hole, because of all the money I spend," she said. "But then the next night will usually make up for it."

Oops, I'm being summoned. Houston, or at least the woman who calls herself that, has a problem.

"I need a tampon," she says.

I suspect that, really, she doesn't and this is a test of how far I'm willing to take my new duties.

"And do you have a rubber band?" adds a woman who calls herself Felony and who smells like a Glade Plug-In. She has just removed the entire top half of her luxurious brown hair and wants me to help her attach it more securely.

I can't say specifically what unprintable sexiness I imagined went on backstage at a strip club, but this isn't it.

"Oh good, you got Super!" Houston says as I hand her a Tampax.

Noreiko began her housemothering career in 2004, by answering a nondescript help-wanted ad while cocktail-waitressing at the Fiesta Rancho.

"It happened to be placed by the Spearmint Rhino," she said. "And when I found out what the job entailed, it was right up my alley."

Noreiko, 51, is not only a mother of two college grads, she's a former stripper herself.

"I did it a hundred years ago in Rhode Island," she said. "I think that's why they relate to me."

Bunching is my next unfamiliar task. Butt cleavage -- at least some of it anyway -- is an illusion created by weaving a safety pin in and out of a thong's backside to create ripples.

"No, you go from the inside," says a 6-foot-5 blonde who calls herself Paris.

"Watch, bitch!" she insists as she goes to town on the unbunched red G-string of a brunette who calls herself Kennedy.

My great-grandfather was a tailor. He never mentioned bunching. And I believe it's safe to say that none of his customers ever called him a bitch.

The job is complete, and I only poked myself twice with the safety pin.

"This is the worst bunch I've ever seen in my life," Paris says, grabbing the thong from my hands.

If rock stars could see what I'm seeing right now, they would never have to pay for another stripper divorce. Although I'm surrounded by stunningly beautiful women, some of whom are even topless, most seem to be either complaining about something, or acting like a subject on "When Animals Attack!"

"This is too healthy!" Paris insists upon eyeing the buffet table, where the chicken kebabs, brown rice, veggies and salad prepared by Noreiko wait to be served by me.

"I want some McDonalds! Go get me some McDonalds!"

She smears ranch dressing on my face. At least that's what I seriously hope it is.

Meanwhile, Scarlet's sexual harassment continues unabated. Each time I pass, she gropes.

"I need a man in my kitchen wearing an apron," she tells me. "I have three sons and four daughters. Are you interested?"

I don't know how Noreiko deals with this (or my singer friend Bryson, for that matter).

"You have to really like the job to want to do it," Noreiko said, "because it's a lot of work."

Noreiko's most important qualification may be her psychology degree.

"Ninety-nine percent of them are really nice girls," she said, "but the other one percent ..."

Noreiko estimates breaking up dozens of stripper fisticuffs, one just recently.

"This girl came in drunker than (expletive)," she said. "She thought that another girl sitting in a chair had said something really terrible to her. But she was actually on the phone talking about somebody else. They went at each other like I'd never seen before."

Noreiko -- who stands 5-foot-2, weighs 105 pounds and is not trained in any martial art -- jumped in between, as usual.

"I was scratched and pounded like you wouldn't believe," she said.

A similar fate seems like it will befall me if I don't grant a woman who calls herself Cheri a foot massage. She beckons me nimbly with a hanging leg.

"Hey!" she screams a minute after I dig in, pointing toward the buffet table.

"Those girls are serving themselves! That's against health code!"

There is no time to check whether this is true. (It's not.) So I sprint over to serve them.

"Hey!" Cheri announces. "He didn't wash his hands!"

I have sprinted directly into a trap.

"He just touched my feet and now he's serving food!" Cheri continues.

The video I was forced to watch to obtain my health card did not cover foot massages. Yet I can pretty much state, without having to check, that some code is now in serious violation.

"Mom, I need a Band-Aid!" someone shouts in the kind of dainty voice that requires a superhero to properly answer.

A woman who calls herself Zayaka has lacerated her right hand on a broken perfume bottle. This is the night's first true emergency -- not because the cut looks bad but because this is the hand with which Zayaka leads customers to the Sky Box VIP area, where strippers charge $500 per hour. (Right now, according to the club's marketing manager, Sting of the Police is up there.)

I open and slam various drawers and cabinets. I remember seeing bandages somewhere.

No, that's the aspirin. No, those are the baby wipes. No, those are the spare high heels.

Yes! I find what I require in the lowest drawer of a plastic jewelry box. But my only options are zit-sized circular bandages and big honkin', knee-covering ones. Without a second to spare, I grab a pair of scissors and cut a big one down to size.

All my heroic ingenuity is undone, I'm guessing, by my next action: answering the ringing phone on Noreiko's desk by yelling "Strippers!" into the receiver. That's what I'm guessing because of how many girls within earshot are offended.

"Oh no, he didn't say that!" yells a woman who identifies herself as Chanel.

"I am not a stripper!" she continues as two of her friends join in staring me down. "I'm an entertainer!"

Not long after the caller hangs up before saying a word, security guards arrive to show me, photographer Louie Traub and videographer Michael Quine the door.

"Hey, where are you going?" Scarlet asks. "What about your lap dance?"

Fear and Loafing appears every Monday in the Living section. Levitan's previous adventures can be found at

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