Shakers Studies: The Stinky State

When I went into Shakers to ask for an audition, manager Dillon Maynard informed me that dancers do not have to audition. I simply had to show my ID and fill out some paperwork. No prior work experience was necessary to dance at Shakers, which is important to note, because it is a factor that is in favor of the argument that dancers are employees.

Shakers manager Dillon Maynard very clearly explained to all new hires that they are lease holders. Contracts were freely distributed to anyone who asked. Because Shakers wanted to treat dancers as lease holders, they had rental slots for every night, which were filled on a first come, first serve basis. I was almost always the first dancer to come to Shakers on shifts that I worked, so I was never turned down to work. Sometimes I worked for a couple of hours before leaving, and they didn’t care. I don’t know that I ever worked a full shift while there. Sometimes if all of the slots were filled for the night and a dancer came in later, she was told to leave. Shakers made exceptions for a long-time dancer of theirs named Karma. During my time at Shakers, I recall two dancers who were angry that Karma got to come in even though all of the slots were filled, while they were turned away. Other than that incident, Shakers complied with their slot rental space system that was supposed to be a first come, first serve basis with no exceptions.

One thing that made Shakers stand out to me, is that the interiors were extremely cute and well maintained. There were black and white photos on the walls of people like Johnny Cash, which added to the club’s quaint, Americana hipster vibe. There is handcrafted masonry work in a few different parts of the club, sculptures of naked people, clean facilities and soft pink lighting. These things make a difference. Sometimes in clubs that allow dancers more freedoms, there tends to be disgusting interiors and unpleasant spaces with regards to things like sanitation, plumbing, masonry, lighting, flooring and carpentry. Shakers wasn’t like that.

Once in a while, I got sexually harassed by a customer or had my photo taken while I was on stage. Shakers was cool with me doing things like jumping off of the stage completely naked and picking a fight with customers who had violated my boundaries. Rather than being told that I had to rely on the employed staff of Shakers to tend to such issues, I was able to act as my own bouncer, in a way that a non-employee is able to do. I considered it an aspect of hiring my own helpers, or helping myself, that was part of my self-employment.

There are other economic realities tests that are more detailed than the seven-factor test that I used for this first portion of Shakers Studies. Google is a great resource for finding and determining all of the factors. With my experience suing strip clubs, though, I knew that suing Shakers probably would not have worked out for me. Labor lawyers agreed with me, including attorney Kathleen Neary, who beat Shakers earlier that year. Other lawyers suggested that while they would consider taking clients who danced at Shakers and didn't know their rights, my distribution of Know Your Rights fliers and the monologues that Shakers staff delivered to me were demonstrating that Shakers allowed me to assert my rights.

Shakers had no stupid t-shirt sales, no hourly gathering where all of the dancers are required to walk across stage, no mandatory minimum amount of hours worked, no requirement to do anything specific on stage, no dress code, no pressure to sell bottles of booze. For all intents and purposes, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted there. But, just because Shakers complied with labor laws for me doesn’t mean that they complied with them for everybody. In fact, they probably would not be in business if all of the dancers knew their rights and exercised them like I did. That is probably another reason why they made the temporary switch to employee status.

As stated that in the beginning of this series, Shakers will always be gambling when they refuse to categorize dancers as employees, but run the operation and invest in their building. Their temporary decision to change over to employee status is fascinating to me, because it demonstrated what is possible with persistence.

Just because Shakers didn’t want to get sued again and let me do whatever I wanted, doesn’t mean they don’t still suck. There was a good handful of horrible people who made it damn near impossible for me to make a living there, and they are to be outed on They are to be dissected, described and never forgotten so long as the internet exists. If there’s one rule in life that I follow, it is to fear stupid people in numbers. When they get together, they can make the Earth shake.

When I was a child, I described Nebraska as “the stinky state.” It was an eight-hour gap of feces-and-urine-filled air, during road trips from Chicagoland to Colorado every Summer. It was a place to plug one’s nose. Nebraska is a vast emptiness that separates beautiful places from one another, but with it’s grotesque stench and quiet nothingness, there is beauty in the absurd. So, let’s unplug our noses, unroll the windows and take a whiff, as we barrel along the highway, into the second portion of Shakers Studies.