The Foxhole: Go for the pie, stay for the pole dancing
Strippers, alcohol, rivalries and pickup trucks? Behind the scenes at one of rural Ohio's most notorious nightspots
Published: Thursday, November 9, 2006
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
As I teetered atop 6-inch platforms in the strip club dressing room, draped in Mardi Gras beads and surrounded by half-naked girls showing off tattoos in places I didn't even know tattoos were possible, I realized that I may have learned more in the past 20 minutes from girls making $25 per lap dance than in an entire year of my $40,000 Kenyon education. Perhaps that's why even seven years after opening, the Foxhole continues to fascinate Kenyon students.
Rumors involving one-armed strippers and frat initiations underlie most of the Newcastle, Ohio institution's sketchy reputation. Ignoring all the disgusted faces and the fact that I don't look old enough to vote, let alone enter a topless bar, I borrowed a truck last Friday night to interview the infamous one-armed "Ivy" myself. After bribing a female friend with a stop to Peggy Sue's, a pie shop across the street from the Foxhole, we drove 25 minutes east down Route 229 to enjoy the best of Newcastle's pie-eating and pole-dancing activities.
Picture an oversized outhouse surrounded by pickups, heralded only by a slot-lettered sign advertising "Topless Dancers!" and you have the Foxhole. The cover charge of $10 includes a free "pop," although the older Caucasian men constituting nearly all the audience bring coolers of their favorite beer to enhance the show. After assuring the intimidating bouncer that we were not rival dancers, we clutched our Diet Pepsis and each other's hands past a curtained "private lap dance room" to a smoke-congested, mirrored lounge, complete with stage and pole surrounded by chairs. A DJ booth hid behind an old Pac-Man machine, which the strippers idly played in their thongs as they await their turn onstage. From behind, the deep-throated announcer called out the girls' stage names and reminded the audience to pay for the dancers' services.
None of the truckers seemed to respond to this; rather than jostling up front for physical interaction, they sat against the back wall, passively muttering to their boys and munching on Doritos as if this were Sunday Night Football. Three males that looked hardly 15 huddle in a corner, daring each other to approach the stage. I was starting to feel slightly uncomfortable; after all, I was sporting a polo shirt, a ponytail, and a uterus. Suddenly, a nipple ring rubbed against my shoulder and a beer-scented voice whispered, "Gay crowd, huh?"
I turned to find a 6-foot-tall "schoolgirl" sweaty from dancing. She continues: "I hate it when they just sit and stare. It's almost as bad as when girls come."
Taking her hint, I quickly explained that I was a Kenyon student, not there to patronize the dancers but simply to report about them. Relieved, she introduced herself as "Naughty Natalia," a 20-year-old who's worked for the Foxhole for the past 7 months.
"I just usually hate it when girls come in," she apologizes. "There aren't too many lesbians around here, so usually it's girls coming in with their boyfriends. I almost got in a fistfight last week with one. They come in, knowing what's going on here, then suddenly get all mad when my boobs are in their face. I mean, it's retarded! They're the ones going home with them at the end of the night."
We sat down at one of the small round tables and watched the intricately acrobatic dances. The eight girls working at the Foxhole sported surprisingly toned bodies; working from 6:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday leaves time mostly to sleep and work out during daylight hours. Natalia shows me bruises from the pole down her arms.
"All of us have them," she said, pointing to dark spots on the now-topless young woman spinning onstage. "The stage isn't the softest place to land. But we get to choose what we want to do, which is nice, and it's way different than the club in Columbus where all the guys can touch you. Here, it's hands-off."
Apparently, the Foxhole Company-which owns another strip club in Zanesville, Ohio-is one of the classiest employers of topless dancers in the area. According to three of the girls who previously worked in Columbus, many girls in the city will start fights, snort lines and steal routines, justifying the bouncer's initial fear that we were rival dancers. At the Foxhole, a fixed work schedule gives each girl a time slot during which she can do what she pleases. No certain amount of clothing must be taken off.
"All of us have different comfort levels, so it's nice," says Natalia, nodding toward another girl crawling fully nude. "I don't have to wave my everything for everyone like that if I don't want. Yeah, some things will make you bigger tips, but we still get paid so long as we're onstage." An older woman named Josie, plastered in tattoos, agrees.
"Yeah, some guys come in asking to be ridden like broncos for their birthdays, and whipped and stuff. I just don't feel comfortable doing none of that, so I leave it up to other people who really don't mind."
After Josie leaves to go onstage, Natalia explains to me that Josie is the pseudo-mother of the group. "We don't have any real rivalries at all-no one's better than anyone else-but she takes care of all our schedules and can switch things around if we get sick and stuff. All the girls are real nice."
Josie has worked at the Foxhole for approximately four years, about average among the employees. The aspiring stripper auditions for the Foxhole on an empty stage, with only a pole and 20 minutes to do her thing.
"My friends brought me to a strip bar once, and it didn't seem so hard, so I started dancing on my own," explains Natalia when I ask how she got into this line of work. "I have a two-year-old son-his name's Dwayne, he's a real cutie-and after high school I just decided to give it a try."
The Diet Pepsi has been pressing now on my bladder for the past 20 minutes. Unfortunately, strip clubs the size of a garage don't seem to have female restrooms. Natalia offers to take me to the dressing room. Five females, wearing no more than most girls wear to Shock Your Mama, cluster inside a room roughly the size of my Manning closet, alternating taking shots and sipping Buds. According to Josie, drinking inevitably goes hand in hand with stripping; "Do you think we normally have the courage to take off our pants in front of a whole room of truckers? Besides, we get here four hours at work before anybody gets here. We gotta keep warm."