In the middle of the chaos, right next to the in-house tanning booth, stands the only calm person (and the only male) in the room, Rob Schatz, the general manager of Union Jack's. Seemingly unaware of all the bare breasts being frantically pushed and tied into tiny bikini tops around him, Rob nods encouragingly, winks, and pats his staff on the ass.
"Honestly, the blondes with big tits rule," he says, explaining what he looks for when hiring strippers. "But I don't like breast implants. They're just not good for your body. We're brainwashed to think they look sexy. It's a shame."
Tonight, the dancers are competing for the title of Best Pole Dancer, a demanding contest that Rob predicts will "probably be the most interesting night, though not the best attended." There are four times as many women entered in the Best Booty category.
"Just about every girl in America thinks they've got a nice looking ass," Rob laughs. "If you haven't bought yourself a pair of breasts, it's probably because you think your ass is the best."
The contest was open to dancers from any club, but most of the strippers are from Union Jack's. Among the competitors from other clubs are two that have created the most buzz; Mystique--a tall, elegant woman from Seattle--and another girl, who, coincidentally goes by a similar name, Mystique Knight. This second Mystique, however, is local, and the source of controversy within the competition.
Mystique Knight is Rob's daughter.
"At first it was strange," Rob says about watching his daughter strip, "but I've gotten used to it. When I'm watching her, I'm critiquing her moves, watching her ability. This is work, you know. I'm very proud of her talent."
At first, when Mystique Knight got into the business, Rob was against it, but she persisted. She even purchased a lovely pair of D-sized breasts--another move that Rob fought all the way. "She's embarrassed to be in my shadow," Rob says, "She doesn't want to be known as 'Rob's daughter.' But she's accomplished this all on her own." Rob seems to be at peace with the fact his daughter is in the family business.
During the Best Pole Dancer competition, Mystique Knight's performance is confident, but doesn't measure up to the agility and talent several other performers demonstrate, especially the other Mystique. "Oh yeah " says the bartender, Mike, watching the other Mystique inch her way up the pole, upside down. "She's good. Real good."
In the end, a short brunette named Stahr wins Best Pole Dancer, and though her routine included more tricks and agility than that of Mystique Knight, it didn't measure up to the gymnast-like ability of the other Mystique. "Everybody loves a showgirl," says Stahr's sister, Lux--also a stripper at Union Jacks. Stahr, who is a natural performer and somewhat of a ham, is ecstatic, immediately on the phone. "I'm going to use the money to pay for my wedding," she explains, after happily reporting the win to the fiancée. "We're going to the Redwood Forest to get married." Upstairs, the other Mystique sullenly stands against the wall, before walking out the door. Mystique Knight doesn't place.
Two nights later however, at the Best Exotic Dancer competition, Union Jack's is packed by 11, despite a cover of $5. After her performance, Mystique Knight is glowing, covered in glitter. She put on an amazing performance. And, like the last two nights, the award isn't necessarily given to the performer with the most talent, but the most finesse. An anonymous judge (the judges are random audience members) swears that the relationship between Mystique Knight and her father has no influence on his opinion. She wins the $1000 award.
Downstairs in the dressing room, her father hands Mystique a fat wad of 20-dollar bills wrapped by a rubber band. Meanwhile, both Stahr and Amy are sobbing, disappointed at their loss. "Stahr doesn't think she did as well as she could have," Mystique explains quietly. Stahr is also now covered in glitter, a result of a sympathetic hug from Mystique. It doesn't seem to have helped. "But I really think she was fantastic," Mystique says about Stahr. Lux is now hugging Stahr while she cries, and the two shuffle away.
"Honestly, this money is going to make my house payment," Mystique explains, while being photographed with her giant, golden trophy. "I've got a son to think about at home. I don't want to be in this business for more than another year. I'd like to be a naturopathic doctor. I've got nine years of school ahead of me." Then cheerily, she adds, "It's okay though. I know I can do it."
And as for her father? Like most proud papas, he couldn't be more pleased to see his little girl succeed. "She's got that smile," he says affectionately, shaking his head as he watches Mystique Knight, naked, hugging her competitors. "And that's not her mom's body. She got that body from me."