On Sept. 13, 2018, Stormy Daniels was scheduled to perform at the Paper Moon on Southside. The performance was postponed until Dec. 4 due to Hurricane Florence. “MAKE PAPER MOON GREAT AGAIN” was the billing— just one stop on her nationwide tour, “MAKE AMERICA HORNY AGAIN.”
In the meantime, Stormy and I exchanged e-mails through her public relations team. She was gracious enough to field a few questions about her personal life, provided Trump was not mentioned. I didn’t have questions about that, anyway— does anyone really want to hear more about him? If so, turn on CNN, they’ll tell you what he ate for breakfast.
But a bigger story was brewing than my conversation with Stormy. I didn’t know what it was, but she was coming back Dec. 4, and I knew I had to pay her a visit. For Journalism.
The following is a full account of the events at Paper Moon on Dec. 4, 2018, with Stormy Daniels.
DHR: Have you ever been to Richmond? If so, in what capacity?
Stormy Daniels: I have, and I love it! I’ve danced at the Paper Moon a few times in the past. I’m also friends with a few fellow equestrians who live here.
“The case of Stormy Daniels is a nothing case.
It is a sideshow that is only there because the
media is putting oil on the flames.”
“Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits—a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy
piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector,
but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the
sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.”
—Hunter S Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Womp, womp, womp.
What am I doing? Why am I here?
Womp, womp, womp.
There’s no reason that I should be here: there’s no reason anybody should be here; this is a very strange place.
Womp, womp, womp: that’s the sound you never want to imagine. It’s a gnarly crowd who recognize it immediately. Welcome to the terror: helpless; the fiefdom of very bad vibes.
“Stormy Daniels is 10 minutes away! She’s been up in Washington, D.C. all day, fighting the power!”
Someone is repeating this over and over on the loudspeaker. I try my hand at navigation again, then give up.
How could it be that just five minutes ago we were creeping along Midlothian Turnpike in the black night, eyes peeled for a neon sign? Now we have been eaten alive.
“This place gives me the willies,” says Jorge, my broad-shouldered bodyguard, who is not much of a bodyguard, not at all.
Neither of us have ever been to a strip club, and especially not on a Tuesday night. Perhaps this was a mistake. But Stormy Daniels will be here— very strange things are about to unfold.
DHR: How has the fame you’ve achieved in the past two years affected your life?
SD: To say that I am more recognizable now is an understatement. I have had to hire bodyguards to travel with me.
I know it sounds superficial, but these days, I can’t just run out for coffee looking terrible in pajamas. People are just waiting to take a photo of me looking terrible, so they can rip me to shreds online.
“Six hours like this for a few francs.
Belly nipple arse in the window light,
he drains the colour from me. Further to the right,
—Carol Ann Duffy, Standing Female Nude
“I roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
‘This land was made for you and me.’”
—Woody Guthrie, This Land is Your Land
“Stormy Daniels is five minutes away! She’s been up in Washington, D.C. all day, fighting the power!”
Jorge and I find a table in front of the stage. It’s only 9:30— too early, apparently, for Stormy Daniels— but other than that, right on time.
I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life. Maybe I’ve just been sheltered? But not quite… no.
Naked: women; everywhere. G strings! Not that I’m unhappy about it, naturally— just that it’s jarring to be confronted so suddenly. Nipples.
Money: fucking; everywhere. An orgasmic offering to the Almighty Dollar. Single bills litter the floor: stuck in the panties of dozens of women; they fall from the ceiling.
This is the ceremony— these are the dancers. Slender, heavy-eyed, mostly bronze, or darker— some are enraptured, some of them savage, some of them empty inside.
An Asian man is smoking a cigarette that never burns short. It’s magic, like he’s smoking some kind of Marlboro Gobstopper. He walks around crop-dusting one dollar bills: a flurry of paper and a satisfied smile; a gold earring in one ear.
“I bet he feels like God,” Jorge says.
Lights: flashing; everywhere. Full-frontal assault on the senses. You are the consumer— it has been paid in full.
“If you are driving a Toyota Celica, you left your lights on,” the Loudspeaker says. As if he could get anybody’s attention.
“Hello, gentlemen. Look, I’ve got a deal for you boys. I’m here to help you.” A man in a suit with slicked hair slinks up to us. “I can get you front row seats to see Stormy Daniels. You’ll be sitting in the VIP section! Two hundred-dollar bottles of champagne, for fifty dollars apiece. That’s $350 dollars. It’s usually $500— I’m trying to help you both out.”
“I have to drive,” I say dismissively, and he skitters away to the next table.
Jorge looks at me. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
No pretense here, no bullshit; you are nothing except a consumer. Everyone understands this and has agreed to it. It is so freakishly Human.
In front of us, one of the dead-eyed strippers slides down the pole, transfixed in midair. Cirque du soleil, I think grimly. This is no place for compassionate men. Surely I am above this: that last bit; how silly.
Debauchery with surgical precision. The stripper climbs off the pole at the end of the song and cleans it with an antibacterial wipe. Half-dirty, half-antiseptic. I wince. Jorge walks up and gives her two dollars, and I can see him trying not to make eye contact.
DHR: Some say adult film and exotic dance is degrading. Others say it is liberating— a form of self-expression, self-reliance. Are either of these descriptions more accurate in your experience?
SD: Just like sex, it can be any and all of those things.
I will say, though, if someone feels degraded or has negative feelings while performing, the adult business is not for them.
Actually, I’d say that applies to ANY profession.
4″Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act;
5Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned; but what sayest thou?
7Jesus said, ‘He who is without sin among you, may he cast the first stone.’”
“And so castles made of sand
melts into the sea
I don’t feel sick anymore— must have just been the Nicorette.
“I guess they always say you get settled in,” Jorge says. He doesn’t have to check to make sure I’m on the same page: he knows; I watch.
“This is going to sound elitist,” I say, “but isn’t the dance beautiful?”
“Haha,” he says. He nods at the stripper in the middle. “Is she your favorite?”
“She’s the most talented,” I say. “Imagine how strong—”
“You always go for the blondes,” he says. “Why is it always the blondes?”
I don’t know— can’t explain it. Now it is my turn to tip.
“Stormy Daniels is in the building! Stormy Daniels is on her way! She’s been up in Washington, D.C. all day, fighting the power!”
“How many times do you think they’re going to say that?”
At the table next to us, the salesman has made a successful transaction. He takes an old man’s seat away and replaces it with a plush armchair, then brings him a bottle of Cook’s champagne in a pitcher of water.
“I have a bottle of that in the fridge,” Jorge says. “5.99.”
“If you are driving a Toyota Celica, go outside now. Your car is going to be towed!”
Out of tip money. I went for a walk to the ATM, told Jorge where I was going, and I’m wandering now. So many kinds of person here: wannabe mobsters dropping 1s on the stage, lonely men slipping into dark rooms, and some of us just watching, silently.
A blonde woman is beckoning toward me. Slender, tan-skinned, blue eyes. Gorgeous! The screen goes green: a logo floats by; it’s just a commercial. When I get back, the opening act is on. Lady Liberty storms onto the stage and strips naked.
She’s not alone. “A little girl on girl action!” the Loudspeaker says. “My favorite!” Jorge is buying a lap dance.
DHR: The nationwide strip-club tour is called Make America Horny Again. Has this kind of branding become a part of the Stormy Daniels image?
SD: For the record, I didn’t name the tour that. I refuse to use that slogan.
The first club after the story broke came up with it, and now all these unoriginal club owners keep jumping on the bandwagon, despite me telling them I won’t repost their flyers.
I think the slogan is tacky. And it implies that I wasn’t already a touring feature dancer, which I have been for over fifteen years.
Besides, when has America NOT been horny?
“She rises up out of a sea of faces and embraces me, embraces me passionately– a thousand eyes, noses, fingers, legs, bottles, windows, purses, saucers all glaring down at us and we in each other’s arm oblivious. I sit down beside her and she talks– a flood of talk. Wild consumptive notes of hysteria, perversion, leprosy. I hear not a word because she is beautiful and I love her and now I am happy and willing to die.”
—Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
It’s like a big circus, as far as I’m concerned.
I just happen to be one of the clowns.”
Alone at a strip club with a fist full of cash— I’ve heard that’s a recipe for disaster.
“Trumping all the competition, the #1 star on PornHub! Please welcome…Stormy Daniels!”
The music whines as Stormy struts in. A Little Red Riding Hood costume, shiny blonde hair, and confidence that’s wildly sexual. This woman knows what she is about. A consummate professional.
In the still of the night, I hear the wolf howl honey, sniffing around your door. In the still of the night, I feel my heart beating heavy, telling me I gotta have more.
I creep toward the stage. She dances so well— and I mean that. It does take skill, it is beautiful art, and it is not elitist to think such a thing. The human figure is beautiful, too. Not that I see much except boobs— the biggest boobs I’ve ever seen in my life.
In the shadow of night, I see the full moon rise, telling me what’s in store. My heart start aching, my body start a-shaking, and I can’t take no more.
I’ve got to do it: I can’t turn back; it’s not a choice. I came to write a story, I’m gonna write the damn story— for journalism, I say, this is For Journalism.
I’ve got twenty singles in one hand and six in the other and Stormy Daniels is coming toward me one hip at a time. Half on the floor— half in the air. Big blue eyes. For a second, nobody else exists. Then my face— plunged into the silicone. Enormous. This must be how Donald Trump feels.
Ooh baby. Ooh baby.
Can’t keep away.
“If you drive a Toyota Celica, your car is on fire. Your car is literally on fire!”
Need you closer
Can’t keep away! Can’t keep away! Can’t keep away!
I slide my arms up her back. She shakes her head curtly and shoves me away.
Oh my God.
DHR: How much of the performance is you, and how much is the character?
SD: I am Stormy Daniels. There is no Stephanie Clifford. The only people who call me that are the IRS and my mother, and I hate them both.
“If you meet me, have some courtesy,
Have some sympathy, and some taste.
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste.”
—Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil
“No, Watergate does not bother me.
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth.”
—Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sweet Home Alabama
Out! Out! Get the hell out!
I don’t need a bouncer to tell me that. I feel sick again— wasn’t it just a minute ago I was watching the scene with self-righteous disgust?
For Journalism!? A cruel joke. I am nothing except a consumer.
Jorge and I flee together into the biting wind. A hard frost— snowflakes in the air. My physical discomfort returns with a vengeance. The Xanax withdrawals are ratcheting up, but that’s good— time to come off the pills, sorry, Doc— FOR SHORT TERM USE ONLY, that’s what it says on the bottle. But damn if I don’t have a headache, and it’s only about to get worse.
“My God,” Jorge says, as we speed-step toward my car. “We got sucked in— all the way!”
“How did that happen?” I cry. “How long were we inside?” Three hours! Good God!
Twenty-six dollars to touch famous tits. One hundred more for a lap-dance. Thirty-five dollars apiece cover charge— only glad that we didn’t spend more, and for what?
Money, sex, ego: this is a slippery place; tread carefully, guard your humanity. It’s not much that can make you forget and reduce men to beasts.
There is a homeless woman outside in the snow. Paper Moon is gone; welcome back to Midlothian Turnpike.
“Please,” she’s crying, standing between us and my car. “I’m just tryna get a motel room. Please.”
Just trying to get a motel room. You know, the rooms at Regal Inn on Midlothian Turnpike don’t hardly cost anything. And this old lady might freeze to death. And so we dig out our wallets. Eight dollars left— it’s no use.
“I’ll pray for you,” Jorge says.
The old woman is looking me dead in the eyes. She saw me slip out the back door— does she know what wickedness I hold in my heart?
“I’ll pray for you, too,” she says, and I shiver.
DHR: What is the toughest part about this nationwide tour?
SD: Missing my daughter, and my friends…and my horses.