On a sunny afternoon in early July 2017, I was helping a comrade of mine film a documentary about stripper labor rights. It was a week or so before my Seville arbitration, and we met up in Minnesota to get some footage. My comrade, a former dancer who sued several clubs in California, had just finished telling me about an experience she had with some former dancer friends of hers some years ago. They surprised her, by showing up to one of her hearings and testifying in favor of the club. She said she started screaming and panicking at the hearing, because of the cutting sense of betrayal that she felt.
My comrade and I were filming the star wall at 1st Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. While filming, we spotted a Seville dancer named Jessica Marlo Gilbert and her boyfriend, Chris Freitag. They were on the same sidewalk as us, walking in our direction. Gilbert had her hoola-hoop with her, as she usually did when she went into work. When Freitag recognized me, he immediately crossed over to the other side of the street, on his way to Seville. Gilbert didn't cross, but walked up to us, to ask what we were doing. I said hello and asked if she was interested in being in the film about stripper labor rights. She said, “text me!” and passive-aggressively sped away.
I had texted Gilbert a couple of times already that past Spring, to ask if she wanted to testify at my arbitration against Seville. She never texted me back with an answer, so I figured she didn't want to. Gilbert and I had discussed stripper rights at work a couple of times before I was fired. While she agreed with me about the issues, she expressed concern about losing her job and having to go to a different club.
Prince's Paisley Park and Jessica Gilbert are from the small, upper middle class town of Chanhassen, Minnesota.
Shortly after reaching legal adulthood, Gilbert became a stripper in the Twin Cities area. She danced at clubs such as Augie's and Choice Gentlemen's Club. Because both of those establishments are known as “the ghetto clubs” in Minneapolis, Gilbert is embarrassed about them and keeps that part of her work past a secret from most people.
After Augie's and Choice, Gilbert found her way to Minneapolis's most desired club to dance at-- Seville. Gilbert relies on hoola-hooping to impress the crowd while she is on stage. When she is not on stage, she relies on the floor hosts to find her customers, who she privately dances for. She doesn't hustle very well on her own. Sometimes when I would see her sitting around Seville during her down time, she would be rocking back and forth in motion with the dub-step music that shook the walls, staring into space with glazed eyes.
Gilbert loves drugs and became badly addicted to methamphetamines before I met her. She stayed up for days on end doing meth, unable to sleep, hoola-hooping for hours at a time. This landed her in the mental institution, where she got off meth. She still loved doing drugs when I met her-- just not meth. After leaving the institution, Gilbert got a phoenix tattoo on her arm, to represent rebirth after burning to ash. She dances with the stage name Molly. Gilbert informed me that she tried every other drug except for heroin, but expressed a curiosity about heroin.
In April of 2016, shortly after Seville hired me, I was the victim in a car accident, which gave me a concussion. Among the symptoms my concussion caused were seizures, psychedelic visions and out of body hallucinations. It was the worst, most frightening experience of my life, but also spiritually enlightening.
The first time I spoke to Gilbert was at the dinner table in the dressing room. I explained the concussion situation, but said that her hoola hooping was great and reminded me of an atom, with her as the nucleus and the green hoola-hoop lights as the electron cloud. From there, Gilbert and I discussed subjects like seizures, quantum physics, sacred geometry, the universe, centripetal force, psychedelic experiences and hooping. She expressed enthusiasm that I requested music by Tool, and informed me that she only recently heard of the band. She told me that she was afraid since she has all of these unusual thoughts about the state of the universe, governmental powers in charge were going to come after her for knowing too much. She told me that she had a hard time finding people who think about things like atoms or the universe, and asked me if I was afraid people in charge of the world were going to come after me for knowing too much. She referred to people who are aware of the world in this way as “woke.” “Woke” is a term that hip young people use, to refer to those who they believe are socially aware or otherwise in tune, with their fingers on the pulse, so to speak. Gilbert stated that she thought she was “woke,” and was happy to encounter someone else who she thought was “woke.” In my head, I was thinking about how much of a paranoid narcissist she sounded like, but I just nodded. I don't think metaphysics is much of an unusual topic to know about, so I informed Gilbert that government oppression for it was probably nothing to be concerned with. She didn't agree with me, but we cliqued enough to be workplace associates.
Gilbert and I had other things in common, such as a mutual disdain for plastic surgery. We also liked eating edamame. She was cool to have as a coworker. She went barefoot on stage when she hooped, which was permitted by management because of her special stage performance. Every other dancer I met was pressured to wear plastic heels. Gilbert was often fixated on what she described as “the underground.” One day, she informed me that she thought the slow shift DJs like Chris Black “were more like the underground,” while the busy night DJ like Steven Jaye was not “the underground.” Gilbert's hoola-hooping was neat looking, but she did not make nearly as much money as the regular hustlers. One day, she told me that she thought dancing without her hoola-hoop would be “selling out.” I had to restrain my laughter when she told me that dancing without her hoola-hoop was “selling out,” as the whole reason most strippers work is to make as much money as possible.
Gilbert is a fan of shill Eric Sprankle, and has been known to post his quotes on her social media. For those who don't know-- Eric Sprankle is a shill in the sex worker community, who works as a therapist. He often attempts to take up space in the media and on the internet, to draw attention to himself for having opinions that agree with ours. He is not a sex worker himself. Many sex workers loathe him, for taking our narrative away from us, even if he agrees with a lot of what we are saying. I am part of a sex worker group right now that is trying to hold him accountable for it, by repeatedly contacting him and asking him why he likes to steal our narrative, but he mostly ignores it when confronted on the issue. This is one of many red flags that Gilbert is a tool.
Often times after I've had a few nice conversations with fellow strippers, they will want to exchange phone numbers, to socialize outside of work. While I thought Gilbert was pleasant to work with in comparison to the other options available, I did not want to hang out with a twenty year old with all of the issues and ideas described above. I just didn't think hanging out with her would be very much fun or interesting. She struck me as a poseur. So, in subsequent shifts when she would ask me to hang out or try to schedule something social, I made stuff up about why I couldn't get together. After a few of these instances, she stopped asking me to hang out. I was relieved. Unfortunately, some of her workplace pleasantries withdrew and I became more socially isolated. This is a common predicament that transcends many industries, workplaces and labor rights issues. How does one maintain workplace solidarity and allies, without having to waste precious free time seeing coworkers outside of work?
Gilbert's boyfriend, Chris Freitag, was a cook at Seville while I worked there. Aside from saying hello, Freitag and I never spoke. At some point, around the time when false rumors started that I was an undercover cop, Freitag stopped saying hi and began glaring at me. Like Gilbert, Freitag also struck me as a poseur. His facebook had posts about Guy Fawkes, anarchy and the anonymous movement, yet he was also a dweeb who hung out with strip club staff and made posts about not all cops being bad. It became clear to me that both Gilbert and Freitag were colossal dorks who spent a lot of time trying to be cool or “underground.” Gilbert and Freitag wouldn't know what the underground is if it stared them in the eyes and said Hello.
One night after work, while Gilbert and I were outside of Seville waiting for our cars, I heard her say to floor host Billy that something reminded her of “society.” I thought she was referring to her hoola-hoop, so I asked her about it at the start of our next shift. She clarified to me that she was saying Seville reminded her of society, because sometimes we have great nights, but sometimes it is slow and we have to pay our fees anyway. She explained to me that she thought the club treated us poorly, but that it was still the best club in Minneapolis, so she wanted to keep her thoughts a secret from powerful people in charge at Seville. She began talking to me about worker rights. I had never spoken to her about my lawsuits or website before, so it was great to me that she already knew about the issues. I felt kind of bad about the fact that I had my audio recorder on while she was confiding in me, but very happy to learn that Gilbert was aware of the stripper rights issue. Specifically, she stated that we were actually employees at Seville, and that the only thing Seville did to make us independent contractors was allow us to come in on whatever days we wanted. She didn't explicitly say “the economic realities test,” but she went through some of the factors in a way that demonstrated she was versed on the issue. She told me to never tell ANYONE about what she just said, then changed the subject.
I went back to the subject of stripper rights with her a couple of times after that initial conversation. I offered to join forces with her. She told me there were already people at Seville working on some stuff. When I used the term “labor,” she didn't know what I was talking about. Not having the right vocabulary for the issue was ok with me though. However, any time that I brought up the treatment at Seville, she would reiterate that she didn't want to lose her job and have to go to a different club. She'd always change the subject after that. I respected her wishes while I worked there and stopped bringing it up after the first couple of times.
Mara and Ben, the two bartenders who were harassing me, were friends with Gilbert and Freitag. After I told on them for harassing me, Gilbert stopped acknowledging me entirely, and would just glare at me. I was fired not long after that, as reiterated in previous posts. We still texted a couple of times after I was fired.
I was surprised to see her in the arbitration office last July, with Chris Freitag by her side in the waiting area. I didn't feel betrayed, as I never considered Gilbert a friend. I had been prepared by a previous generation of suing strippers. I showed no emotion in front of them. While I knew Gilbert was a pseudo-rebellious, disingenuous, drug addled moron from Chanhassen, I didn't think she was so bad as to switch sides and testify for Seville. She had established to me in previous conversations that she understood we were employees being duped by the club. My guess is that one of her floor host confidants convinced her to do it, that she did a lot of drugs that Summer, that she is so terrified of going back to Augies or Choice that she will do anything to stay at Seville, and that she is so starved for attention that she will hoola-hoop for anyone who compliments and praises her.
In Gilbert's testimony, she admitted to feeling obligated to tip staff. She admitted that the club exists because of the dancers. Both of those factors were in my favor. She lied about her work history, because she didn't want to bring up Augie's or Choice. She only named higher end clubs she worked at in the past.
Seville's attorney, Casey Wallace, attempted to make me feel sad, by taunting me that I had trusted and texted Gilbert about testifying on my side. Jessica isn't that special, so Wallace's taunts didn't hurt that much.
Gilbert brought her hoola-hoop with her for the hearing, to demonstrate skill required for her job. However, she admitted that her skill improved while she was working at Seville, which is something consistent with being an employee. Her hoola-hoop is a tool that she uses for work, so while no other dancers hoola-hoop and 99% of us did not use a prop of any kind, the instance of Gilbert's tool was an economic realities factor that swayed away from employee status.
I don't think that Gilbert's testimony would have been very effective if she was the only dancer there, but combined with Melanie Christiance's lying and random privileged Serafina Richman coming in, Seville won. Even if the sexual harassment was severe enough to win a lawsuit, it wouldn't have mattered, because only employees are protected against sexual harassment laws-- not independent contractors or lessees.
I don't think Gilbert really believes she is an independent contractor. I believe she is starved for praise from adult men who work in strip clubs, and that she loved the praise of Casey Wallace when he cheered her on for hoola-hooping in the arbitration office. She grinned like an emotionally starved latch-key child for him after he told her that he saw her on stage in nights previous to the hearing when he visited the strip club. It wouldn't surprise me if she was coaxed into testifying by being told that she could hoola-hoop for the audience.
There are all kinds of reasons why scabs exist. In the strip club industry, it is often because of deeply rooted psychological issues, drug addiction, or a sad desire to please one's oppressor. I've never been that pathetic, so I cannot speak from personal experience on why Gilbert did what she did. I can only post her name and photo, while my own photo is on the front cover of the Star Tribune, to let everyone know what happened. I can only offer the audio recordings that I have of her, describing how she knows that she is an employee at Seville. She was only around twenty when I knew her, and Jessica Gilbert has secured her position at Seville for many years to come. If she doesn't overdose, I am sure she will continue to exchange texts with litigious strippers who don't know her past, and perhaps surprise them at future Seville arbitrations.