Pussy Galore

Diablo Cody--stripper, blogger, and "Pussy Ranch" cowpunk--takes a weird ride into the land of the brides

Diablo Cody can't find her way to the Wedding Fair. With a little luck, someone else will be behind the wheel when the Minneapolis stripper, blogger, and cult personality makes her way to the altar in October. I'm a lousy co-pilot--too easily distracted by Cody's storytelling powers. When, I ask, is the last time anyone traveled from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul via 280 North? Even on foot, with the convention center in sight, we get lost.

"I don't get it," Cody remarks, as we clomp down the path at the base of RiverCentre's parking ramp. "We parked right across the street from the building."

Like Cody's choppy cropped hair and visible body mods, her gait is even less stripperly than her media studies degree. Most peelers sashay like they're one bill from a backbend. Cody walks fast, almost marching, which makes perfect sense. She is a woman who plunges boldly forward, sometimes without knowing exactly where she's going.

"Until I started stripping, my career trajectory was typical of any middle-class college graduate," she recalls. (She used her real name back then, too; Cody Diablo came into being with her entry into the blogosphere in the winter of 2003.) "When I came here, I got a job as a standard-issue office girl. One day after work, I was walking down Hennepin, and I saw that Skyway Lounge was having amateur night. I've always been terrified of nudity, so I went. I wanted to scare myself. By the time I got offstage, I was actually grinding my teeth, cracked out on stripping. I had to do it again."

Finally, we roll down RiverCentre's escalator to the fair, just as the big band ensconced at its entrance bursts into an up-tempo version of "Over the Rainbow." "I had the blog at that point and I wrote about it," Cody recalls of her maiden voyage. "It was the first time anyone ever paid any attention to the Pussy Ranch. Of course, I had to court fame, keep upping the ante. The next thing you know, I'm doing dildo shows at SexWorld."

Last night as slow like Mrs. Butterworths. I spent most of my shift attempting to cut a swathe through World 7 of Super Mario Brothers 2. (This prompted one passing female customer to incredulously snarl, "She's playing Game Boy!," as if I should rise to my feet and entertain her. Clearly, she was jealous because I get paid to play video games in my underwear.)

--From Pussy Ranch, Friday, December 19, 2003

 

The Pussy Ranch (www.pussyranch.blogspot.com) isn't Cody's only literary outlet. She devotes a few hours nightly to a manuscript about her adventures in the flesh trade. The book is tentatively titled Candy Girls Can't Say No: True Tales of an Unlikely Stripper. "I know it's a bit '98 dotcom," she says apologetically about her project, " but people seem endlessly fascinated with the topic. I know I am."

Tall, with a modest prow that her abundant stern more than compensates for, Cody seems a highly improbable candidate for a career that revolves around a brass pole and the laps of her customers. Some of them pick up on the fact that she's swimming in unfamiliar waters. "One day I was working the room at Deja Vu," she offers, "and a guy grabbed me by the arm and whispered, 'I've seen a lot of strippers trying to be schoolgirls. You're a schoolgirl trying to be a stripper.'"

Danger plays a major role in Cody's motivation. "I'd love to write something that would put me in a life-threatening situation," she enthuses. The book, which seems likely to say some not nice things about not nice people, might just do that. "The club I work for now--Choice--is great. The other five were awful. Conditions in the industry are execrable overall."

Here's one of Cody's more recent accounts of that awfulness, in its workaday form, posted on Monday, March 22:

In reality, strip clubs are frenetic machines oiled with the sweat of diligent girls. Strippers often work 10-hour shifts, and all but the most experienced hustlers will spend that entire time going from table to table, attempting to make a tired sales pitch sound daisy-fresh.Wanna dance? Wanna dance? It's exhausting, and a stripper's very survival (and sometimes the survival of her children/partner/parents) depends on the strength of her hustle. There are no paychecks and no guarantees. There is no dental insurance, and there won't be a cake on your birthday.
Still, Cody remains wholly uninterested in a return to the cubicle. And it's not just the thrill of working naked that enthralls her, nor the book. "I make between $700 and $1,200 a week," she offers. "I'm not a big earner by stripping standards because I rarely go to work. And I refuse to give 'extras.'"

The Wedding Fair, it turns out, is all about extras: extra appetizers, extra fabric, extra portrait prints. The cavernous hall is packed to the ducts with exhibitors: bakers, dressmakers, jewelers, DJs, hoteliers, videographers, mortgage brokers. "It's like a lifestyle fair," Cody notes. "I wonder if they have cemetery plots."

The only firm item on our agenda here, as we weave our way from booth to booth, is to meet fair organizer and wedding guru Bruce Vassar. With more than two hundred exhibitors, the event declares itself the biggest of its kind in the country. Cody and I, both fans of complicated events, want to stand face to face with the captain of this mighty engine of frivolity.

"My mom and I finished all the wedding preparations in a day," Cody says with an air of satisfaction. "The only thing we disagreed on is the cake. Even though we're only having like, six people, she insisted on getting this enormous buttercream monstrosity."

Cody's parents don't know what she does for a living--yet. "They know that I have a website, and that it's not appropriate for them to look at. I don't know how they're going to respond when they find out," she says. Her fiancé, Jon Hunt, a local music fixture best known as the keyboardist for Landing Gear, seems to have no problem with his betrothed's occupation (and preoccupation). They even check out strippers together, the subject of a December blog item:

On Friday night, Jonny and I went to a fully nude strip club we'd never been to before. The place had a reputation for hands-on debauch (and was reportedly raided by cops earlier this year), so of course we were curious. What a raucous joint. It was a small, crowded space, reminiscent of a Greek restaurant with white columns and a nighttime scene painted behind the stage. The girls were wildcats, climbing all over each other and wriggling blacklight-sensitive tongue studs at the crowd. Each time I laid a dollar on the tip-rail, I got molested gratefully by the performers onstage. Two of them even pulled my shirt up, which didn't phase me in the least. "You bad girl! You're not wearing a bra!" one of them exclaimed as she exposed me to the crowd. (The strippers were so attentive toward the ladies that one female customer fled the club in embarrassment.)
By comparison, Cody's day job is a bastion of reserve and decorum. She works the sunlight shift at Choice, which doesn't serve alcohol. Most of her tips come from a handful of regulars. "My best customers are senior citizens," she offers.

 

The bull's-eye demographic at the Wedding Fair is, sensibly, bona fide brides-to-be and their mothers. But the large crowd also seems to contain a lot of folks who, as Cody puts it, "are here for the wedding porn." We would be included in this last group.

Kids take up a surprising amount of floor space, some clearly too young for matrimony--or so it would seem. When we stop at the Beaver Bay booth to grab a brochure for the picturesque North Shore resort, I find myself eavesdropping on a clutch of mallwear casual girls who look like they'd need parental consent to get hitched in Utah. "We were planning to go to Las Vegas," says the tallest one, eyeing the pamphlets, "but maybe we'll go here instead."

Cody and Hunt also plan to marry in Vegas and then honeymoon in the city where their first face-to-face encounter took place, Los Angeles. The relationship first blossomed electronically, after Cody's fascination with late-Sixties psychedelia led her to The Smile Shop (www.thesmileshop.net), Hunt's online celebration of the great lost Beach Boys album, Smile. "We met in front of the Whiskey a Go-Go," Cody recalls. "It was lust at first sight." She moved to Minneapolis from her native Chicago seven months later.

In her eyes, the timing of the move was perfect. "I was one pubic hair away from being fired from a dismal secretarial post at a bankruptcy law firm," she elaborates. "My boss told me that if I continued to abuse the internet I'd be canned. They had even dredged up all the pornographic e-mails I'd sent to Jonny! So I said, 'That's okay. I'm moving to Minnesota anyway.' I think she was really disappointed that she didn't get the singular pleasure of firing the slutty secretary with the perennially exposed ass tattoo."

Though Cody in person looks a good deal like the unclothed character on her website, I have no idea if the elusive Bruce Vassar looks like his online portrait. There's an image of the wedding overlord at Ask the Wedding Guys (www.twincitybridal.com).He's dressed all in black, standing next to fellow wedding guy and fellow Twin City Bridal Association honcho Matthew Trettel, who's wearing white. Together, they tackle even the stickiest nuptial issues by e-mail: kid haters, divorced parents--serious family matters that go far beyond mere etiquette. But the Fair is the centerpiece of Vassar's career. As he explained earlier in the week via e-mail, "There are people on the East Coast who make $2,000 cakes that feed 60 people who'd like nothing more than to have me bring the Wedding Fair out there."

The Wedding Fair runs on cake. It seems we can't walk more than 10 feet without running into a cake booth. The most impressive cake of the fair is a compact three-layer psychedelic vision in green and purple, with contrasting hand-formed marzipan balls encircling the base of each tier and a crazy diamond op-art pattern on top. Unfortunately, samples of the hallucinatory confection are not available.

Cheesecake is another matter. "I'm being married in a cave," Cody cheerfully tells one vendor, "so I need something that'll keep in cool temperatures." (Cody is not, in fact, getting married in a cave.)

"You've gotta do something really fun and different," the woman replies cheerfully.

The purveyors of lingerie and massage oil-enriched nuptial delight at the IntimacyParty booth would almost surely concur. When this vendor finishes her spiel, Cody responds with "exciting," in a manner so thoroughly Entertainment Tonight that I find myself scanning the room for cameras.

"This is awesome!" she says, looking back at the naughty booth. "I love that this stuff has gone totally mainstream. They have these things like Tupperware parties."

The fashion show, in a huge, walled-off, darkened area of hall, is the Fair's pièce de résistance--and it's packed. "This is actually pretty impressive," Cody observes. She's right. The show is perfectly timed, the lighting is great (moving floor lights, even!), and the models are thoroughly pro. "I've gotta lay off the cake," she remarks, checking out her cat-walking cousins. Cody describes her own gown--a long, backless black halter peekaboo affair with lots of sequins--as "looking like something Nudie of Hollywood might have designed."

After the show, we find the wizard relaxing in the control booth. Vassar, a sleek 41-year-old dressed all in black (with a four-button jacket!), seems perfectly poised, even after working on the fair's production for two days straight. You'd never guess that segments of the gig have not gone at all according to plan.

"The A-V part of the show is computerized," Vassar explains nonchalantly. "Friday night, the program froze. It took us 12 hours to rebuild it." But this is a man who clearly has cake in his chromosomes. Vassar's love of weddings goes back to childhood: At the age of 10, he rushed home after school to see Tricia Nixon's matrimonial extravaganza on TV.

While he glides around Cody's suggestion that a pregnant bride would add a nice contemporary touch to the Wedding Fair, Vassar is more opinionated on the issue of gay marriage. "You are who you are," he asserts. "I wasn't put on this earth to judge anybody." He notes, though, that he's speaking for himself and not for this whole extravaganza. Still, as he explains it, while opinion is divided, many of the fair's exhibitors favor gay marriage. Commitment ceremonies are already a hot item.

"You'll notice that none of our literature makes any reference to 'bride' or 'groom.'"

Bathed in the wisdom of the wedding guru, we head back to Minneapolis. This time, Cody takes us by way of 55 East (don't ask). And yet, it's Cody's propensity for blithely confronting the unknown that's earned Pussy Ranch an average of 5,000 hits a day. Before she wandered into the Skyway Lounge, only a few close friends and relatives read the blog. She wouldn't have a potential book without her chance profession either.

Let's just hope she doesn't up the ante too far, as this blog entry from March 28 comically suggests:

Note to self: post more nude photos. Watch more television. Get myself into hilarious scrapes at the strip club. Start hanging out with the heroin addicts. Stop eating and transform Pussy Ranch into a pro-anorexia blog. Be more interesting by half.
Show Pages
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
 
Loading...