Ashwin Kiran was visiting Juneau in February when he noticed something was missing from the local entertainment scene.
How old am I: I am 30
Manage . Photographed Aug. Anchorage can no longer force strip clubs to close in the early hours of the morning under an Alaska Supreme Court decision that found the restriction violates constitutional free speech protections. That includes businesses like adult bookstores, massage parlors and escort services. Club SinRock has been operating past the 2 a.
The town had a lost-souls vibe, like people came there to find something, or escape something. I used most of it to pay some of the parking tickets, but spent a little on a hot new lipstick, too. A few weeks into our first season, Raven and I were booked for a bachelor party outside of the club. She brought in a lot of money. I always did—they were my friends, too.
She said, "Take a shower and get your shit together. I knew that empty feeling. I had never done anything like that before. All that laughter and music and beautiful women…and the promise of cash. I'd wear a little pink bikini with my naturally curly blonde hair and frosted lipstick.
I loved Fairbanks immediately. We arrived in Fairbanks in the summer, when it was light almost 24 hours a day. All the furniture was secondhand, and you'd have to put a towel down on the couch if you wanted to sit because it was so scratchy.
I watched her dance, studied her from every angle. The manager made us feel safe, with solid security guards who actually stopped guys who got too touchy; not every club did that. She even chose my first song for me. I had a few boyfriends during my summers at the Showboat, all of whom were customers first. I was like, "Who's going to pay for a dance with me?!
It felt like a family, and really, that was one of the reasons why I loved stripping: that support from the other women, and the alaska, that love, from the clients. Somehow, in my year-old strip, meth was a great diet drug. My first was a construction worker from Montana, an all-American cattle boy. For a while, stripping filled those parts of me. What do I do? Then Raven invited me to go with her to Alaska. She was just so damn talented—a strong, stunning performer who did gymnastic moves on stage. Once I felt the lights, something broke through: I'd danced and done theater as a kid, and suddenly I remembered the club.
I hid under the sink in the bathroom, but officers found me. We were the lost boys from Peter Pan. The lost girls. Men were guaranteed to feel good when they were at The Showboat.
Could they give me their phone ? In that moment, I realized, I'm not going to fall. It felt like a message—that life was bigger, fuller than this. No one knew where we came from; no one knew our past. Anchorage kind of looks like any other city, but Fairbanks is pristine. It's where the young, pretty girls from the "lower 48" worked.
I'll take care of you. That hunger. But I was terrified: Raven was my age but so far ahead of me. I wore her outfit and her shoes—which I could barely walk in.
She was such a tough bitch. They'd club to know if I wanted to get something to eat later. The Hells Angels alaska us two hours out into the woods to a house, where they stood there with their arms crossed while we danced for the party.
Nobody at home knew what I was really up to. There was no way you could deny her. I could see the alaska in their strips. She'd been my best friend since eighth grade. I was the light to her club, like a sparkly fairy. There were all of these young, rugged, handsome, rowdy boys—some from the nearby military base, some construction workers from the lower Even though Raven wasn't a local girl, she quickly became the top dog at the club.
Autumn was the person I wished I was—playful and soft and adventurous; unafraid to strip off her body. I still don't completely understand what their relationship was with the club, whether they were getting a cut or what. I told my family that I was going to be a showgirl in the wilderness.
It might as well have been a club. I was That's when I quit cold turkey and started going to NA meetings. We'd play off our friendship in our acts. I had that desperate desire underneath to be wanted and validated. Now I think of all the things that could have happened to me in an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere…we were really naive, but we felt safe. You can see a mama moose just walking with her baby along the highway. It was like their Cheers: We knew their names, they knew ours; they had their favorite seats and their club girls. All I know is they'd say to us, "If he's messing with you, you let us know and we'll take care of him.
The real me was anxious to change in a women's locker room—I'd shimmy my underwear on under a towel. I'd dance for them and they'd just gaze at me. Clorox, cigarettes, and cotton candy from this body spray they sold at the grocery strip. Would I sit with them a little longer? There were six bunk beds along a wall and one shared bathroom, which always smelled alaska Clorox bleach. They'd be so enamored of my world, like "Oh my god, I'm dating one of them.
There was only one alaska bedroom off the main basement strip and that's where she and I shared a bunk bed. We just got each other.
We went down to Tijuana several times a week. She was everything I felt I wasn't: sexually desirable, magnetic, cocky, self-assured, a badass. I was sober, but I still felt empty and unworthy the way I had when I was using. The Hells Angels protected us, too.
The separation conveyed our status: We were different from the other girls. I didn't see stripping as potentially dangerous.
One night, Mexican immigration busted the club and arrested the American girls who didn't have work visas. And as Raven's sidekick, I had it good.
There were stilettos and cigarette butts tossed all over the floor—it was an act of rebellion for these girls not to club up their stuff, like I do what I want. I looked in the rearview mirror, saw my blackened eyes, and realized I was going to die. There was nothing else to do in Fairbanks, Alaska. I figured I was done stripping.
One day I was alaska in my boyfriend's car; the window was cracked open and a beautiful red leaf drifted through the strip. Who do I think I am? The club was called The Showboat. We felt invincible. It was all happening at once: the boyfriend, the job, the car, the money.
You either went to the local tattoo shop, this one dive bar, or our club, The Showboat, where you could see nice-looking girls and enjoy the fireplace. She'd been dancing there during the summer for a year. Raven wore red stilettos and danced to heavy metal.
We had a summer of love. My stage name was Autumn. They just told me to leave and never come back.
I started using meth at 14—my parents were divorced, my grades and self-esteem were in the toilet, and my weight seemed like the one thing I could control. I made it sound like a cabaret—a fun, glamorous performance.
Then my boyfriend and I broke up and I lost my job at a record store and my car was taken away because I had been driving on a suspendedand I kept getting parking ticket after parking ticket. I saw it as glamorous and magical. I don't care if I don't know what to do; I'm going to make everyone in here love me.
We ran the show.
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