I was sitting at the stage at a San Francisco strip club minding my own business when this stripper walked up to me and caught me in the act.
“What are you doing?” she asked. I had been startled. “Um… er…” How was I supposed to explain without looking like the total nerd that I really am? I said, “The manager said I could sit here doing this as long as it didn’t bother anyone.” What a pathetic excuse. “Don’t interrupt me”, I continued, “I’m almost done.” I started moving my right hand faster to catch up for the lost time.
She looked at my left hand: “That paper towel is almost already filled up. Shouldn’t you get a new one?” She looked at my right hand: “That’s quite a weapon you have. The little pen can be mightier than the biggest sword, you know.” In my left hand I was holding a paper towel from the bathroom. In my right hand I was holding my instrument, which was no bigger than an eyeliner pencil. In fact, it was eyeliner pencil. I was hurriedly writing statistics on a paper towel filled to the edge with little numbers. I was writing even faster for the time lost to the stripper.
I am a statistician and real estate investor. I was given permission by the strip club manager and owner to take statistics on the size of the tips given by the customers. Beer sales are traditionally used because beer is a small dollar purchase and considered a nonessential item that can be reduced when home budgets start to tighten. I would then compare the predictive power of using tips on stage with that of using beer sales as a leading economic indicator. Tips on the stage at a strip club have a wider range than beer, but can still be adjusted down to a single dollar. If my idea worked, I would then use this data for my real estate investments to get an edge on the beer stats investors.
Then she propositioned me. “I gots a good investment for you. I’m a virgin and really don’t want to be in here tonight.” She had just come out of the booth from giving a lap dance. She started to explain, but I had a hard time understanding her. She was clearly of Chinese ancestry. But she had a thick African American inner city accent and used words and a grammar that seemed to be neo-Ebonics. She went on to explain.
When she was a baby in Taiwan, a wealthy African American investor had purchased her on the “black market”. His wife could not bear children. She was going to be a Christmas present for his wife. When the couple came to pick her up, she got suddenly and inexplicably got extremely sick and almost died. The couple rejected her. She was placed in an orphanage by the state.
A wealthy Jewish couple came to the orphanage and they took her on a “test drive” before permanently adopting her. She got sick again and they took her back and got another baby that was not broken. She said she had the misfortune that whenever a couple came to adopt her, she would inexplicably get extremely sick to the point of death.
All of the other little girls at the orphanage got adopted. But she was the little girl nobody wanted. The reason she would get sick turned out to be that she was allergic to shell fish and peanut butter. Finally an African American working class couple from the inner city took her in. She grew up in an impoverished inner city Oakland home immersed in that culture. The home was filled with other foster care kids, her “brothers and sisters”.
The foster parents were good Christians with very strict ethics. She was not allowed to date boys and had to come straight home from school to do her homework.
On her eighteenth birthday, she came home from high school and found that her scant possessions were out on the sidewalk and that the front door lock had been changed. Because she had turned eighteen, her foster parents were no longer paid by the government to love her. So they put all of her things on the street and she was on her own in the inner city as a new young adult. She went from business to business looking for work. But in the Obama-Bush Recession had hit hard and there were no jobs, especially for someone with no experience and no permanent address.
She was sleeping in the back of the BART train for warmth when she met a stripper who told her that she could make enough money to survive in the strip club, where they were always hiring. So this young adult who had never even been on a date with a boy ended up doing lap dances in a strip club to survive.
I thought to myself that this had to be one of the most elaborate hustles I had ever heard. Then came the “investment” proposition. She said, “I have to go get Mia”. She left and came back with her co-worker Mia. In strip clubs, two strippers approaching a customer is called “tag teaming”.
Mia looked like a chipmunk. She was 21 and her wisdom teeth were coming in. They were impacted and had become infected. This caused her jowls to swell up like her mouth was full of food. Since strippers were officially “independent contractors”, there was no health care plan from the corporation that owned the club.
The Bay Area counties also leave a gap in health care coverage for dental plans. Mia was from a foster care family, too. She had flown up for the weekend from San Diego because the recession had hit San Diego so hard that no customers were tipping. She told me that the San Francisco club would not let her dance because she looked like a chipmunk. She was about to fly back down to San Diego. She explained that she had saved every penny she made working as a stripper. She now had $10,000.00 saved up, an enormous amount for a stripper to actually save.
Her plan was to save another $10,000.00 for a down payment to buy a three bedroom condominium. San Diego County had a plan where it would guarantee rent at the prevailing rate for young adults out of foster care who were under 26 years old. Twenty Six is considered “the age of emancipation”, before which a young adult is not expected to be able to fully live on their own. She would then rent out the rooms in the condo with a guaranteed income provided by the government, and thuds qualify for a home loan without a steady income.
Banks like the certainty of a payment from the government. She would then save up more and buy a full home and then do the same thing. Her plan was to both make money and help new young adults who just lost their foster home. She would make sure that they were not homeless like she was. She proposed that I could invest in her plan by contributing the other half of the down payment, and I would have a guaranteed income from the government far more than what my down payment could make in any other guaranteed investment.
As for the first stripper, it turns out she was going to a 4 year college in the east bay and really was a virgin. She was majoring in early childhood development and had all A’s. She wanted me to not only meet Mia, but to invest in a child care facility for single mom’s working in strip clubs, which she wanted to open after she got her bachelor’s degree. My business partner’s grandson was also in college getting the same degree, and they now want to become business partners in her venture when they graduate.
The Huxley Family Foundation did an exploratory survey of strippers in San Francisco that year. Over 100 strippers were interviewed. Twenty Three percent of Bay Area strippers in that survey were from foster families. About 30 percent were single moms. Zero percent had dental coverage. Strippers are typically of the age when wisdom teeth come in, so I imagine that Mia’s wisdom tooth problem was not unique among strippers. The foundation conducted a similar exploratory survey in Los Angeles and found 17 percent were from foster care families. This is a good indication for doing a rigorous scientific study of just where our foster care kids go when they become adults, before the age of emancipation.
San Diego County did a financial calculation and their program turns out to be much cheaper than supporting these young adults just out of foster care in general assistance or other government assistance program. Mia was featured in a San Diego newspaper for her plan. The County of Santa Clara should adopt such a program like the County of San Diego has. Now I don’t often cuss. I reserve fowl language for those times when it is appropriate. This is one of those times and I am about to do it. So if you might be offended you should stop reading now. Here goes. Investing in these strippers not only sounds like a good investment to me, it sounds like a gosh darn good investment! Palo Alto should invest in these here strippers. That’s the plain truth.