[Confessions of a Showgirl]

The naked truth: A showgirl’s topless trauma

Is it Saturday or Sunday? Hmmm.
Photo: Patrick Rivera
Maren Wade

Have you ever had that dream where you’re at school or work and suddenly you realize you’re naked? One showgirl had an experience like this, only in real life. I’ll call her Sarah (which means the only thing you can be sure about is that her name isn’t Sarah).

I remember when Sarah told me she got the job to be in one of the top shows in Vegas. It was a topless show, but she was very excited. She was quite proud of her assets, never hesitated to show them off, so it was a natural fit. (They weren’t natural, of course, but she paid a lot of money for them to look natural and they did!)

Fast forward to a few months later. Sarah had been doing so well that the production had upgraded her to a featured status. She was the showgirl to open the entire show. Night after night, it was thrilling for her to be the first bedazzled showgirl the audience saw onstage.

She worked 12 shows a week and one of those shows was covered (not topless). The show was just as spectacular with tops on, and families and children would come to this version.

You know when you mix up your days on your calendar? You think it’s Friday when it’s actually Thursday? You arrive a day early for a meeting or miss it by a day? Sucks, doesn’t it?

It was a rough Sunday. Sarah had been out late the night before for a friend’s going-away party. She told herself she was only going to have one drink. Right. Now, her head was pounding, and all she wanted to do was stay home. But as the saying goes, “The show must go on.”

So she peeled herself off the floor and made her way to the theater. Her day off was Monday. She told herself she only had to make it through this one Sunday show. Then, she would have an entire day to recover.

Since Sarah wasn’t at 100 percent, she had to concentrate a little harder on getting ready. The great thing about a topless show is there are fewer articles of clothing to put on. Headdress? Check. Jewels? Check. G-string? Check. Sarah was ready.

The opening music came on and she set her position. Her arms were spread out wide. She beveled and stood tall. (Meanwhile, she could smell the alcohol from the night before seeping through her pores.) The curtain opened. This was usually the part where the audience looked at her in awe. There she was, the quintessential showgirl setting the tone for a legendary production.

Well, they looked awed.

Turns out it wasn’t Sunday; it was Saturday. On Saturdays, her show was performed covered, not topless. Now you know what happens when a showgirl mixes up her calendar.

A common misconception is that we can’t see the people in the audience from onstage. Well, Sarah saw her audience. Their mouths dropped. She heard loud gasps. In the front row, a mother covered her little boy’s eyes. After months of performing topless onstage, this was the first time Sarah felt exposed and humiliated.

Her first instinct was to improvise a dance move with her arms to cover her chest. Her second instinct was to very awkwardly leap offstage.

The next morning she woke up, wishing it was all one bad anxiety dream. Then, she went out and bought a calendar.

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