The Modigliani Girl

One is deluged with business cards here in Las Vegas. It’s no exaggeration. In nearly four years of Nevada residence I’ve had more cards pressed into my palm than throughout the 30-plus professional years in Metropolitan New York.

Sad to report I’ve rarely reciprocated. I’m picky about with whom I exchange contact information.

The card flood represents desperation by local figures for self-promotion. The at-best tangential people who’ve insisted I be aware of them were the most fleeting of acquaintances. The likelihood we’d ever engage in any sort of productive endeavor molecular. Not that I disdained them right off the bat, but from their obvious lack of focus and dedication.

While Las Vegas offers plenty of platforms upon which to build exploitation, realizing any the least, as always, requires direction and perseverance. Most of the supplicants who’ve attempted plastering my palm with their boards have expressed vague ideas about “making it,” and hazy plans how this should be executed. Strong Mojave breezes have been enough to scatter these dreams.

At the start of torrid, known elsewhere as summer, a figure from my short Nevada residence resurfaced and reconnected. Klanger is a true creator. He’s a metal sculptor. His objects predominantly grace private homes rather than fill public galleries.

Further curtailing Klanger’s renown bleeding into public consciousness from the art world, where he resides. Not in an art Mecca such as London or New York. Rather on some island among the archipelagos comprising Polynesia. Aside from his residence he shares another Gauguin-like trait.

Klanger certainly enjoys his women exotic and striking, not the generally accepted beauty notions. Living in the South Seas has lent him an appreciation for sun-basted lovelies whose hair has more in common with obsidian than flax. Visages that are considered beautiful in the popularly recognized sense don’t stir him. What move him are distinctions that other beholders might regard as conflicting.

In a roundabout way through a woman fitting the criteria above is how we met.

“Shadow” was her stripper name; Anne the one her parents had bestowed. Funny, for a while she grinned upon hearing it from either Klanger or me. Probably rewarded the same reaction to other men who had also troubled learning it. One imagined there were few of us she so trusted.

That wide grin of hers, reflexive on these occasions, was her “tell.” Sometimes a little burst from below her throat of recognition and involuntary pleasure underlined it. Hearing that maybe dispelled some of the naked commercial aspects our intimate interactions involved.

Mind, Anne never operated in any Las Vegas gentleman’s clubs. “Shadow” did. By the afternoon we met she’d fallen from the quality jiggle joints broadly advertised and desperately promoted to visitors into Rick Blaine’s Place, an establishment better suiting locals and catering to slummers. In this instance refer to me as “a local.”

How “Shadow” ever worked in any expense account club is beyond me. She’s not pale and voluptuous, but a rail-thin streak darkened beneath the tropic sun. Small-breasted, not buxom. Staring out upon the world is the racial mix that confuses, no, bothers, no, disturbs, a good portion of Anglo male America visiting Las Vegas hoping to let loose their white-bread inhibitions.

Using a baseball analogy, Anne had been in the bigs, “the show,” for longer than a cup of coffee but time in that milieu is relative. In sports, athletes can become “old” at 30. In stripping, caprice or a whack fad or male whim can quickly render the entertainer old meat. Searches for the new girl, no, fresh flesh, is constant and relentless. Here, the conveyor leads to a grinder.

The smarter entertainers or “female company providers” understand how narrow their time is to earn. These women have plans, fallbacks when age excludes them from the higher earnings echelons. The vast majority don’t.

What they had for a while was allure which they squandered on prestige goods whose values depreciated the moment those items left the boutique, leased flash cars, rentals inside impressive, expensive, exclusive addresses, and boyfriends who exceeded the “bad” criteria. Add to all the preceding silly beliefs that indulgences in acceptable or expected vices wouldn’t somehow hasten the reduction of scheduled hours into none.

Anne’s descent into the bush leagues left out all the above.

She had an affectation or two, though neither was particularly materialistic. Early on her addresses would never have been mistaken for exclusive. Then later on the less kind would’ve described them as down market.
Her sole habit indulged? Some guy who became her husband, then father of her children, then became what might be imagined as the female version of a ball and chain. The quite ambivalent sort she made an obligation.

Here’s where Klanger and I cross paths with Anne as our nexus.

Newly residing in Las Vegas and unsure of my next steps, I took weekly Wednesday afternoon refuge in a gentleman’s club that I for a time took as a wayward home. I’d been in a few of the city’s swank peeling palaces and was deterred by their absolute mercantile natures. At least the lesser clubs let a man sit down and order a cheap drink before any hovering girls spiraled down on him.

Unlike a lot of the local pervs frequenting Rick Blaine’s Place, I have no problem being brusque in front of nearly naked women. After all, I’m from New York.

Four years ago, almost nude women and cheap cold beer helped align my thoughts. Oh? Didn’t both augment the new atmosphere? Besides, most of the women offering themselves in whatever demand were on the decided downside of enflaming lust.

What recommended Rick Blaine’s Place? It provided inexpensive louche shows. Televisions above the bar were tuned on sports channels. The talent wasn’t pushy. Inside was cave-dark and air-conditioned cool, the latter two attributes one should never discount during Mojave summers.

Hell, the last two features above likely added to any talents’ attractiveness.

Anne wasn’t pushy. Nor did she practice indifference. She made her initial pitch. If a customer bought it, excellent. If not, fine, maybe next time, no?

Anne appealed to Klanger and me for different reasons – nonetheless we swallowed her pitch right off the bat. She immediately intrigued us both. In this respect, in similar ways, she disappointed neither one of us.

(To be continued)

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