By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Daniella has the figure of a Miami Heat dancer and hair straight and thick enough to pass for a wig. She eyes the clock on her cell phone as the Stripper Mobile chugs past a sleepy stretch of townhouses in Tampa. It's already been two hours on the road.
Like the others, she agreed to the mobile dancing in exchange for "free house passes," essentially cash. Normally, the girls have to pay a nightly rent to work at Déjà Vu, where Friday night garners $400 to $1,000. But it's after midnight now, and her regulars are getting restless.
There's a science to finding the men with cash, Daniella says. Sometimes, she explains, she'll recover a customer's abandoned ATM receipt or peek inside his wallet as he pays for a drink.
"We call the good ones 'juicy,' " she says, raising her eyebrows. "I usually go for the fat, ugly, gross ones because those are the guys who are established in their career and will throw money at you."
"Or the military men," the pregnant Kali chimes in. "They got money stacking up in the bank while they're overseas."
"Yeah, OK, and these are the rules: No sharking that," Daniella instructs.
"Yep," she says, as if explaining the ABCs. "You'll see a girl hanging around the front entrance, like, snatching up all the juicy ones before the other girls can get to him."
Oh, like a shark!
"Like a sneaky shark," she says, completely serious. "You can't do that."
As the bus pulls into a convenience-store parking lot, a TV reporter suddenly materializes. The tag around his neck reads "Bay News 9," and he sucks in his gut as he asks for an interview.
"Sure!" a girl named Twee agrees.
He switches on the camera.
Twee hails from Lexington, Kentucky. She is more like a gymnast, though. Or a monkey. A muscular 110 pounds, she can climb the pole, flip upside down, and hang with no hands by squeezing together her thighs.
The cameraman isn't interested in any of that. He has some pressing questions. "Just to play devil's advocate," he says, "what if a mom with kids is driving by and sees?"
Twee tells a little white lie. "Well, if we see people we're going to offend, we sit down." The answer seems good enough to him, so he shuts off the camera and asks to climb aboard for more footage. The girls gyrate against one another as they ask, "Are you for or against this?"
"Uh, well, uh, I have to remain objective," he responds, zooming in.
When the news segment airs the next day, it's not flattering. The bulk of it is devoted to sound bites from a wide-eyed brunet named Paige Madison, who blames the Stripper Mobile for a near-death experience. "I was scared," she says smugly. "I had to merge over to the left lane because a semi wasn't paying attention."
Kali wiggles her green-bikini-clad booty for a powwow of drunken football fans cradling plastic cups outside Club Deuce on South Beach. She turns to see if they like her moves and then frowns. "I hate looking at them," she says, her voice growing louder. "They're just fucking laughing at us!"
Kali has great dimples, but she rarely smiles. Every ten minutes or so, she gets a call from a different man on her cell phone, at which point there is generally an argument. Her hoop earrings dangle like Christmas-tree ornaments, and she wears dark-blue eye shadow.
Behind her, the sidewalks are jammed with tourists wearing gold New Orleans Saints jerseys. Hummers and stretch limos clog every other block, and a cluster of Miami Beach bicycle cops seem less than worried. One officer elbows his partner and points; they both grin.
Sure, the Stripper Mobile has been controversial in other parts of the nation. But in South Florida — the capital of sexually perverse scoundrels — the bus is a runt in the kennel with the big dogs.
Out on the street, nobody seems to care. It's a big letdown to the girls.
You might think a local professional, such as stockbroker Andrew Buckner, would get riled up about the porn on wheels invading his hometown. But no. "Come on," he laughs. "They fit in here. This city was built on stuff like this."
As he speaks, a gray-haired woman passes by and looks like she's going to make a stink. The girls give her a free Déjà Vu T-shirt, and her thin lips curve into a smile.
A few blocks away, at Club Madonna, strippers sit up a little straighter when they hear about the flashy out-of-towners. But is there rivalry? "Oh, God no," says Gia, a striking brunet wearing Twizzler-red lipstick. "Men come in here because they want a fantasy world where life isn't complicated. That bus isn't going to facilitate that."
After an hour on South Beach, the Stripper Mobile tour proves fruitless: There are no camera crews, no trailing stretch limos, no pockets full of money. In fact, the girls barely get a reaction. Tired and bored, they head back to the Super 8, hanging their heads like a sports team that just lost.