A true story of dancing dreams and desire, an incredibly frank, enlightening sincere book by Leigh Hopkinson recalling 20 years of exotic dancing, out now from Hachette Australia.
The petite, extremely illuminating Leigh Hopkinson has seen it all when it comes to performing the art of table dancing, usually for men in a surrounding that many may not know. Her fascinating account of twenty years in the unique industry is as interesting as she is charming. I sat with her enamoured in conversation.
Shane A. Bassett – Have you regained faith in the media that at times in your book were not exactly nice to you?
Leigh Hopkinson – Great question to start but I’ll have a better idea on how to answer that after the next few days of my book release. I am cautious but my experience so far has been supportive and genuinely very interested in my motivations behind my story which is encouraging.
SAB – Were there times you just did not want to dance?
LH – Often like all of us, I might have had a bad day and didn’t want to put it all out there, that was the hardest.
SAB – Did you feel empowered at times or going through the motions?
LH – There was a sense of being in control which is an adrenaline rush but at the same time, I didn’t let it change me.
SAB – I assume you changed names of your colleagues and friends that appear in the book and was it all memory recall of events?
LH – I took notes including writing diaries during that time becoming quite meticulous in putting down any dialogue I thought was way out there or could be used. Initially I intended to write a novel then after a while, I remembered what Mark Twain proclaimed that truth is stranger than fiction. The subject matter would have been given a disservice to hide it away like that. It was a fine line between wanting to tell my story truthfully and respect the privacy of the people who are involved. Some names are the same, most have been changed.
SAB – How much of your adventure did you leave out, enough for another book?
LH – Trying to condense twenty years into 300 pages was the most challenging. Wanting to convey the superficiality of the interactions wanting them to be like sound bites from an authorial point of view, there is a danger of having characters come off as unformed. I was mindful of that and wanting to tell my stories as accurately as I could keeping it fast-paced as for me striptease has been primarily about entertainment and I wanted the book to convey that.
SAB – It worked believe me! Was there any thought of putting photos within the pages?
LH – Hachette (publisher) were not keen on using photos which was fine by me thinking it would not be keeping in the style of the book and I don’t have very many pictures anyway. Sad in some ways but as I am more often behind the camera, not in front of one.
SAB – Are those long crossed legs on the cover yours?
LH – (laughs) They are stunt legs. I really like the cover design, the tone I wanted is perfect, a little bit elegant and playful. Not my legs though.
SAB – Did you keep any mementos from the stripping years?
LH – Still have my grungy thigh high boots in a box somewhere, a couple of stage costumes that’s about it. More and more have gone over the years of clean outs, I worked with a woman in London who said I should keep them to show the grandkids one day, it’s still important to keep a few things.
SAB – Do you ever bump into or recognise a customer or colleague?
LH – Yeah there is that little eyebrow raise thinking, I know you.
SAB – Would you describe your book as educational, entertaining or enlightening?
LH – My intention is to entertain the reader, hopefully educational as well challenging a few people’s beliefs of the industry. What really frustrates me over the period of my career is the stigma society places on women who choose to do this type of work. What we do for labour has an essence of identity that’s often untrue and unfair, so part of my motivation to write the book was to redress that to humanise the people I worked with. To show we are not all victims.
SAB – If your story is so successful in print it gets turned into a film, who could play you?
LH – Maybe Scarlett Johansson, she’s less clumsy as I am.
SAB – Do you have inspirations from other writers or films on the occupation?
LH – There’s quite the elaborate hot tub sex scene in Showgirls (1995) but haven’t been to Vegas so don’t know in fact the accuracy of what goes on there. Books by Kate Holden or especially Candy Girl by Diablo Cody have been insightful to my own writing.
SAB – What is next on your agenda?
LH – Working on some non-fiction pieces at the moment addressing issues around the industry delving back into journalism. Also working on short stories like many writers, my ambition is to write a novel, my thoughts are short stories are a great opportunity to hone your craft tightly. My initial manuscript for Two Decades Naked was 200,000 words, clearly too much, so short stories will help me improve to be concise.
SAB – Spending so many hours a night being physical, how do you now stay fit?
LH – Recently taken up rock climbing in a way to seek out other forms of exercise.
SAB – I’ve never danced around a pole, it looks demanding. How intense an exercise is it?
LH – It’s challenging and I don’t think I appreciated the effort as much until I went back to pole school, that was a lesson in itself (laughs).
SAB – Do you miss any part of the profession?
LH – Yes I do, the sisterhood. When you’re working in that environment, you form so many close bonds or become a surrogate family for me. I still see many of them but obviously our lives have moved on. I miss being my own boss, knowing that world so well how to navigate it and knowing what the certainty of my day looked like or routine.
SAB – If the song ‘Call Me’ came on at random, could you drop everything, go instantly into one of your signature moves?
LH – I’ve given up my G well and truly (laughs). You ask fantastic questions.
SAB – How did the advent of the internet adult entertainment boom effect the industry?
LH – It was gradual and a combination of factors although I am not entirely sure why the industry has demised the way in which it has. Table dancing was once considered risque but now considered soft compared to various web cams or other internet features. Generally people may be over stimulated or attention spans have become really short.
SAB – Do you have a favourite place to write?
LH – I can write almost anywhere now, my garden shed is one place I frequent (laughs). My bedroom, these days I get out of the house for a clear distinction of home life opposed to writing life and seem to write often in libraries. Literally my best writing is at night, usually after all day working on something, it clicks.
SAB – If any, what advice would you offer a young girl entering the industry?
LH – Try not to be impulsive as me, do your homework, the industry can be rewarding if an individual has a clear reason for being there. Be mindful of your motivations, go check the clubs out, chat to the dancers.
SAB – Is the book full circle for you, any regrets from that two decades or not?
LH – Difficult to know how my life would be had I not did table dancing, I regret being so bothered by what other people thought taking things to heart occasionally. Now I am less concerned but appreciate respect and being taken seriously. Thanks Shane for a good interview.
Shane A. Bassett