Behind the scenes at Olympia's first strip club, Desire

By Nikki McCoy on May 29, 2014

Now, here is a story that has all kinds of politics behind it. We could be subjective and argue morals; we could be objective and newsy and look at all sides. But that's not where I'm going with it. What I want to do with this story is talk about the dancers.

I was first turned on to the story idea by Cally Baker, a woman who teaches pole dancing in Olympia. A message popped up on my Facebook, where she shared with me that she is now instructing dancers at Desire, Olympia's first strip club, which recently opened as an extension of a 20-year-old retail business.

After receiving the green light from my editor, I agreed to meet Baker at the club and hang out in the locker room to get to know the ladies, as well as club owner Levi Bussanich.

I let Baker know, and she was thrilled to help share the story.

"This is really challenging me in so many ways," she disclosed, "as a pole dancing instructor, as a woman, and a sex-positive feminist. There is an awesome story there (at Desire), and I've really gained some perspective and insight regarding the stripper/strip club culture."

So, let's dive into that culture, shall we? A walk into the club is what you might think. Hyper-sexual energy charged by naked women and electric lights. Customers, both male and female, drinking sodas or digging in their wallets. A caged area is reserved for lap dances.

A walk into the locker room is a different story, however. Girls fuss over shoes and compliment outfits. Some smoke cigarettes out the back door. Many are mothers, with one sometimes pumping and storing her breast milk in the company fridge. Bussanich, who was a martial artist for 20 years, shows one of the dancers safe stretching.

One woman, "Alice" comes off the floor, all pink bikini and bouncy hair, flushed from a recent dance.

"I totally rocked that guy's night - it was awesome," she says, rummaging through her locker.

Alice is new to stripping. Just last month, she was landscaping to pay the bills.

"I still have my sun hat and knee pads in the back of my truck," she laughed. "I've worked at call centers, too, and you just feel negative at the end of the day. Here, it fit everything I love. I love dancing - I feel super happy. It's just a positive, fun and creative environment."

Bussanich has hired more than 40 licensed dancers and strives to keep up the positive environment. A work in progress, he hopes to help with daycare and to organize medical and retirement for his employees.

DESIRE, 3200 Pacific Ave., Olympia, $20 cover, 360.352.0820