Business deserves place in the market, less lip
Big House hoisted his bulk from the low chair he’d set behind the bar. He popped my beer with a slow twist of his thick wrist and made my change from a wad of bills he kept in his pocket. He eyed my notebook with distrust.
‘“What paper you from?’” he asked.
‘“Not The Rhino,’” I said, and that was good enough for Big.
It was a pretty standard weeknight at Twiggy’s, with three dancers working the stage and a few shooters clustered around the tables. A small group of A&T students giggled from chairs in front of the corner-mounted stage and a regular they call ‘Pops,’ in an immaculate white v-necked sweater, put on a billiards exhibition while shooting with just one hand. The recent spate of media attention they’ve drawn here has not affected business much, Big House said, but it sure hasn’t helped.
Twiggy’s was the subject of an editorial by John Hammer in the Feb. 17 issue of The Rhinoceros Times bearing the headline: ‘“City provides topless club with free parking.’” Hammer, the paper’s editor, opined that Action Greensboro should buy out the club, which has existed on Davie Street for the past 20 years, and either close it down or relocate it away from what he persists in calling ‘“the downtown.’”
I thought this an odd stance, considering the source. Since its inception 15 years ago, The Rhinoceros Times has more or less consistently embraced conservative political philosophy and all the virtues it entails, blind faith in capitalism and a desire for less government being chief among them. And while I’ve never actually met John Hammer (though I’ve cashed a few paychecks from his paper), I’m pretty sure that he’s never set foot inside Twiggy’s. In fact I know of only one Greensboro editor who admits to ever darkening their door, and she would probably appreciate it if I kept her name out of this.
At any rate, I figured I should check this place out for myself to see what all the fuss is about.
And here’s the skinny: Twiggy’s is a topless club. An African-American topless club. And if you go in there, you will definitely see some half-naked black chicks working it, and they’ll be working it hard.
Just like most strip joints, this place has a lighted stage and a DJ booth ‘— though the DJ doesn’t affect a gonzo, strip-club-DJ voice, and the women shoot pool and drink with the regulars in between sets. They also seem to have much more gluteal dexterity onstage than others I have witnessed in this profession.
Oasis, one of the dancers, wore a skin-tight red unitard with strategic tears in the fabric over a body round and full like a fertility idol, with matronly breasts and great, pendulous hips. She read the Hammer piece ‘— they all read the Hammer piece, passed it around like a petition the week it came out ‘— and felt slighted by his suggestion.
‘“If you close this club down,’” she said, ‘“you got people going on welfare. There’s not one girl [who works here] on welfare. Not one.’”
Oasis says she and the other nine or so dancers pay taxes on the cash they earn, another thing that sets this club apart from so many others.
Big House, who once played offensive guard for Elizabeth City State, also took umbrage at Hammer’s editorial.
‘“He’s just pissed about the parking,’” Big said. In his opinion piece Hammer, whose criticisms of the parking situation downtown are well documented, acknowledged the club is just across the street from a city-owned parking deck that is free to the public on nights and weekends.
‘“We’ve been here twenty years and we don’t have no trouble here,’” Big House continued. ‘“If we did they would have shut us down a long time ago.’”
It’s true. Twiggy’s will celebrate 20 years of business this week.
And that’s the thing: these guys have been up and running since Reagan was president, creating jobs and paying taxes on the profits they’ve earned. And while it’s not as well-appointed as, say, CafÃ© Europa just down the block, where on this night the swells of Greensboro slurped down half-price wine as fast as the bartenders could pour it, Twiggy’s is clean (relatively) and everything looks up to code.
And they’re bringing bodies downtown which, if I remember correctly, was one of the long-term goals of the area’s proponents, which include groups like Downtown Greensboro Inc. and the aforementioned Action Greensboro. Perhaps Hammer thinks it’s time to pick and choose just which bodies get to stay.
Bottom line: Twiggy’s is a legal, profitable and stable business. It’s also a black-owned business, a fact which has a certain value in itself. And sure, not everybody likes the way they do business. But then, I’ve heard similar complaints about The Rhinoceros Times.
To comment on this column, e-mail Brian Clarey at firstname.lastname@example.org.