The Many Faces of John Dexter #9: Stripper! by Robert Silverberg (Nightstand #1530, 1960)
Strippers and hookers, call girls and club dancers were always good fodder for softcore novels back in the day (and still are, with more hardcore tossed in). This is one of the few Nightstand/Corniths that is a single word high concept title without SIN, LUST, or SHAME.
Stripper! is told in the female first-person voice (making one wonder why this wasn’t penned by Marlene Longman, that Silverberg used for Sin Girls): Diana DeLisle, 22, is a dancer/singer at The Pelican Club who has moved from chorus line to solo act, meaning she has to strip completely naked and sing a song. There’s a live band. This Philadelphia strip show is actually a show, where a dancer had to do more than just gyrate on a pole as they do these days. This is a “class act” with both men and women watching, where the woman wear elegant gowns and are only seen fully nude the last ten seconds, as a big tease.
Diana loves her work: “It excites me to take my clothes off in front of an audience. It gets me all hot. That’s why it’s so easy for me to do it I like it” (p. 9). She’s an exhibitionist. In my own encounters with strippers — I’ve been known to date and live with a few in other younger years — some women get into it beyond the need for money: they just like to dance, or they get off on strangers looking at their naked bodies.
One ex-girlfriend dancer told me: “I’m like a marriage therapist. I keep married people together — when these married men watch me, they get hot and horny and they go back home and fuck their wives crazy, imagining they’re fucking me. The wife’s happy, the husband’s happy, I’m happy — the world is happy.”
Another told me: “The men are like flies and I am the spider, they’re in my web and I draw them in, and I suck their energy away.” (For more on interviews with strippers, see my ethnographic study, Zona Norte.)
Many strippers in te U.S. will say they are not also prostitutes. Not that case wth Diana. From day one she knows she has to sleepwith the club manager, Mack, whenever he wants her; othertimes she may go home with a customer if the price is right.
In comes Johnny Lukas, big time crime and Vegas roller, who owns the seven Pelican Clubs across the nation and has his hands in a lot of illicit business, from money aundering to abortion clinics to white slavery. He takes a liking to Diana she at the behest of Mack, she sleeps with him. Johnny son wants to set her up as a main mistress in New York. Mack has been vying for this, because he is plotting to murder his boss, Mr. Lukas, with the help of Diana.
Diana is to get Lukas away from his bodyguards and somewhere remote, phone Mack, and Mack will kill him…the police will think nothing because he is a mob guy with enemies, and the IRS and FBI have been investgigating him (Lukas admits to Diana he was happier as a Vegas gamber living day to day, that having money and power is more a burden than asset).
Diana has no choice…Mack will have her tortured if she doesn´t agree, and if she rats Mack out to Lukas, Lukas will have her killed for being a rat because one day she may turn on him, and she will know that Lukas had Mack killed for his scheme. She is stuck in a Catch-22 here.
This is a good crime-sex novel, something that could have been a condensed Manhunt novella at the time, but the female narrative does not ring true, we can tell this is a man writing as a woman…but that does not really matter. Again, Silverberg told a compelling page-turning yarn in 1960.
The 1973 Reed Nightstand version is called One Bed Too Many, with an appropriate cover, and “by” Jeremy Dunn, which was the later name for John Dexter…