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THE NAKED EMPIRE The Dancer: WHY NIKKO IS #1

The Chamber of Commerce doesn’t mention her, but she’s one of the city’s biggest economic assets.
By Glenna Whitley |

AS THE SLOW ROCK SOUND OF JON BON JOVI FILLS THE dark room, a shapely leg clad in a fringed white sheath of spandex appears, cocked and suspended in midair against mirrors bordering the black stage entrance. Toe pointed, the leg steps onto the stage and a woman’s body follows, prancing slowly down the stage like a voluptuous cat wearing white four-inch heels. As theater smoke rises from the platform, the dancer named Nikko undulates, bounteous breasts straining to escape a tiny fringed white bra. A scanty white G-string and skin-tight leggings inspired by a cowboys chaps complete the look-a sexy cowgirl on every man’s dream ranch.

The white of her costume sets off her perfect skin and lush curves. Only 5 foot-4 and 120 pounds, Nikko is Rubenesque but not plump, toned but not muscular. Radiating good health and unabashed sex, she dances slowly, sensuously to the sound of “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” Through cascades of long mahogany hair, her dark eyes lock with the eyes of the men sitting at tables just beyond the stage’s edge. It’s an intimate look, one that says “Baby, I’m dancing just for you, and boy, am I having a good time doing it.” She reaches behind her back and the tiny bit of materia] covering her nipples gives way. Nikko slings the white spandex over her head like a lasso, her full breasts swinging free.

It’s Saturday night at The Men’s Club, the topless club rated the best in the United States by Playboy for two years in a row. Around the room, 60 to 80 other dancers in G-strings gyrate sensuously to the beat for customers who have requested private table dances. They’re all good-looking, seductive women with bodies men’s fantasies would sculpt, the crème de la crème of the business. In the competitive world of topless clubs, dancing at The Men’s Club is considered the pinnacle of success. Women come from all over the country to work here, women like Lace, a star of televisions “American Gladiators” and a Playboy centerfold.

A man rises from a chair with a folded $10 bill in his hand. Smiling, Nikko dances to the side of the stage and bends so that he can tuck the money in her G-string. He does it slowly, running his eyes over her body as if in awe. Another man beckons with a bill and she spins slowly to that side of the stage. Nikko caresses herself, as if she’s in front of her mirror at home, then bends to accept his token of appreciation. She whispers something to him. He nods, a look of pleasure and relish on his face.

At 25, Nikko is Miss Men’s Club, the woman many aficionados consider the best topless dancer in Dallas. She’s a top moneymaker in a realm where a woman with a high school education can make more than $250,000 a year. Her profession is as old as the tale of Salome and her seven veils, but with a Dallas twist. It’s a world where a man can have a lobster dinner, fax letters, close business deals, and look at mostly-naked women at the same time-a guilt-free zone for these politically correct times, where the tables are turned and it’s the women like Nikko who wield the power.

DRIVING A FIRE-ENGINE RED MAZDA RX-7, NlKKO GLIDES up to the Austin Gym on Coit at Belt Line, near her house in Richardson. The car matches her lipstick, which matches her red exercise shorts and striped sports bra. As she does three or four days a week, Nikko climbs onto a Stairmaster and sets it on a tough program for 30 minutes. Wearing headphones, she turns on a personal CD player and starts climbing. Even sweaty and wearing little or no make-up, Nikko is pretty, one of those women with creamy skin and dark eyes. She looks not like the girl next door, but like the foreign exchange student who lived with the girl next door, the exotic demoiselle who made all the boys crazy in high school.

After the Stairmaster, Nikko heads to the Butt-Blaster, an instrument of torture that costs about $2,000. Nikko sets the machine on 20 pounds, lies on her stomach, and pushes back and up 20 times. She switches legs for another 20, and repeats this cycle five times. Low weights, lots of reps. She’s not after muscle, but coning. Nikko quit lifting arm weights after noticing her triceps were getting muscular and didn’t look good in evening gloves. Besides, exercise burns fat-and breast tissue is fat. That’s not a place any topless dancer wants to lose weight.

Nikko has so far resisted the temptation to surgically enhance her considerable but natural C-cup assets. Though large breasts are not a prerequisite for the job, she guesses that at least 70 percent of the dancers she knows in Dallas have breast implants. Three times, Nikko has made an appointment to undergo the surgery; three times she’s called it off. Going under the knife for beauty scares her. And besides, her size is not hurting business.

“I realized that when it conies down to it, it s not breast size that matters,” Nikko says. “It’s your personality. Men want someone who is smiling, happy, having a good time. They want that energy.”

Just seven years ago she was not Nikko but Leslie Delahoussaye, an Air Force brat who lived on military bases all over the world- California, Florida, Texas, Michigan, and Germany. She also lived in Mexico and Louisiana. Her Cajun father had served in Vietnam as a translator and made the military a career; her mother was French. From moving so often, Leslie learned the art of quickly making friends, a skill that now combines nicely with her musical laugh, deep dimples, and easy smile.

When her parents split up, Leslie stayed with her mother. During her last year of high school, her mother moved to a different neighborhood in Houston, Leslie hated her new school, so she dropped out and got her GED. She worked during the day as a secretary at Statewide Auto Claims, making $200 a week, and took a few community college classes in the morning. One night, Leslie got up enough courage to investigate a place she’d heard about from friends: Rick s, at the time the classiest topless club in die nation. “I heard about how gorgeous the women were,” she says. “It was not sleazy at all.”

Walking into Rick’s was the weirdest experience of her life. “It was like a sea of naked women,” Leslie says. Big-breasted, gorgeous, sexy, outrageous women.

After she watched three girls on stage, the manager invited her to perform. Leslie hesitated. As a teenager she had taken drama, but stage fright struck whenever she tried to perform in front of large groups of people. Besides, she thought she was too skinny and her breasts were too small.

Still, she decided to give it a try. Wearing a G-string from Victoria’s Secret, Leslie managed to dance without falling off the stage. That night she made $300-$100 more than she made in a week as a secretary. The manager invited her back. Thinking she’d work at Rick’s until she had enough money to buy a car, Leslie called in sick for work the next day. And the next day, and the next. When her boss came into the club a week later, he realized with a shock that his secretary wasn’t coming back to Statewide Auto Claims. Nikko was born.

It took a good three months to get over her stage fright, but she quickly became a top dancer at Rick’s. When her marriage {to a male dancer) began to fall apart in 1993, Nikko moved to Dallas to work at the newly opened Men’s Club, where she got a pleasant surprise. “I was so amazed when I came here and went a whole night and nobody grabbed me, ’* she says. Men in Houston acted as if they deserved far more than a table dance for their $25. Nikko learned Co grasp their hands firmly but politely, smiling all the while. But her customers at The Men’s Club in Dallas, Nikko says, are less grabby and more generous with their money. “There’s a classier atmosphere in Dallas.” Dallas men are more sophisticated, she says. They appreciate pretty women but don’t expect to get more than is being offered.

“People make assumptions, ” she says, “that topless dancers are hookers. Men think they can buy you for $ 1,000. ” She points out that a good dancer who works 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. can make a lot more than that.

The Men’s Club makes it known that any woman suspected of prostitution or drug abuse will instantly be fired. Though dancers are allowed to date customers, Nikko says that it’s hard for men to pick up a topless dancer. For one thing, dancers have heard all the lines before: “My wife cheats on me” or “You’re the most beautiful girl in here; no one else can compete.” Or that old classic, “I’m not married.” She has dated customers, but it’s difficult to have a serious relationship with a man who knows she’s a topless dancer.

One dancer at The Men’s Club confides that she has a girlfriend and says a high percentage of the dancers are gay or bisexual. Nikko disagrees, Some of the women are married, she says; others are divorced and are working to support their children. The girls may swat each other on the bottom or exchange air kisses, but that’s mostly for the benefit of the customers, who seem to love it. “I like men and only men,” Nikko says. Perhaps conscious of her adoring public, she declines to say more about her personal life except that she’s not married or engaged.

Last year, 20 girls competed for the title of Miss Men’s Club. For a week, customers filled out ballots for their favorite dancers. Nikko won. The title means special privileges at the club: She can work the hours she wants, she starred in a Men’s Club video, and her picture appeared in the March 1993 issue of Playboy. The magazine offered to pay her $25,000 and make her a centerfold, Nikko says, if she signed a contract agreeing not to dance topless for a year-a requirement that, she assumes, would maintain the illusion that Miss January is the “girl next door.”

Nikko turned them down. Signing would mean a major drop in her income. Nikko looked at the bottom line and said, “What, are you kidding?”

It’s Thursday night, the busiest and most lucrative night of the week at The Men’s Club. The tables and booths are tilled with the business crowd, men looking to entertain clients, perhaps putting the last push on a big deal by showing their guests a good time. Thanks to her status at the club. Nikko usually works only Wednesday through Saturday, Now, just after midnight, it’s time for the first of her stage dances. Tonight, she wears a long, blue-beaded evening dress that hugs her figure. According to club strictures, the dancers’ floor clothes can’t be too risqué; no S/M chic, no lingerie or Frederick’s of Hollywood erotica, The operative word, Nikko says, is classy, “I try to look not too flashy, like you could take me to dinner at The Mansion.” If they want sleazy, she says, poking fun at a competitor, they can go to Baby Dolls. Most of the women wear short leather skirts and jackets or mini-dresses. No boots are allowed on the floor or the stage. Men like high heels, Nikko says, because they lengthen the legs and force a woman to stand with her back arched, breasts and buttocks out.

Each week, she visits a tanning salon (no tan lines) and gets her nails done. It takes Nikko about two hours to get ready for work each evening-washing and curling her hair, putting on make-up, deciding what to wear. The make-up should be obvious and dramatic, but ultra-feminine. None of that trendy Deep Ellum pallor.

After she arrives at work about 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., Nikko roams the room, flirting, talking, smiling, asking each man if he’d like some “entertainment.” If he says yes, she asks him to unzip her evening dress, and peels it off. Wearing only a glittering G-string. Nikko dances at his table, up close and personal. The customer gets an eyeful, but no touching is allowed, at least in theory. Knowing that vice officers could be present, ready to arrest dancers or clients for publie lewdness, a cadre of male managers keeps a close watch on proceedings.

Each dance costs $25, chargeable to a client’s credit card. Considering that a song lasts at the most five or six minutes, that’s a pretty hefty hourly rate. Nikko makes it a point to work the room, attempting to ask every man there at least once if he’d like a dance.

She’s keenly aware, though, that every gill has her regular customers. Other dancers are expected not to poach on another girl’s territory.

“The experienced dancers know,” says Anson, a 28-year-old Dallas chemist who is one of Nikko’s regulars. “The new ones find out quick.” Anson used to visit various clubs until he saw Nikko one night. Now he patronizes only The Men’s Club. When Nikko is dancing, he spends anywhere from $25 to $300 a week to buy table dances from her. “She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s feminine, she’s genuine,” Anson says. “Other girls say what they think you want to hear. She’s herself.”

Anson works long hours and doesn’t have time for daring. He likes The Men’s Club because he can go in by himself, but not feel alone. Even when he can’t afford to spend a lot, he says, Nikko doesn’t ignore him like some girls would.

Another customer, Don, has been a Nikko loyalist for the past four years. “When I’m in there, we have an agreement that she won’t go dance at other tables and I won’t have other dancers, “Donsays. “She’s probably not the best dancer in die club, but she’s classy, sweet, and very sexy.” He estimates that he spends about $2,000 a month on table dances from Nikko; he has also purchased some outfits for her.

Nikko sees herself as a salesperson, selling fun ami a good time. ” It’s the ultimate pampering for men, ” she says. ” Men can tell if you’re just going through the motions. They want to have fun and forget their problems.”

While forgetting those problems, customers have been known to drop thousands of dollars in a night at The Men’s Club. Nikko has met and danced for many well-known men, including actors David Keith, Pauly Shore, and Gary Busey, the members of the band Red Hot Chili Peppers, and lots of sports stars. Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin is a good tipper and a “total sweetheart,” as are pro basketball players Charles Barkley and, surprise, Dennis Rodman. Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman, on the other hand, are a bit standoffish and rarely buy table dances.

Nikko remembers the night country singer George Strait came into The Men’s Club. He had six women dancing for him most of the night and ran up a huge tab. Another evening, a Texas congressman came in and had two dancers sitting on his lap. lie called Nikko over for a table dance, but then got “horsy” about paying her.

At the end of the night, the dancers add up how much they made during the evening and settle up with the 1RS. Because of recent employment regulations governing topless clubs, The Men’s Club now requires dancers to pay their income tax each night.

Nikko says dancers pay the club $25 a night. They used to pay the club $5 for each table dance charged to a credit card, but recently they learned they will only have to pay that $5 for the first 40 dances per pay period.

Nikko declines to reveal her annual income, but acknowledges that she’s in the realm of top earners. Though a few of the girls invest in the stock market and buy annuities, Nikko has put her money into more physical assets, like a small three-bedroom house in Richardson, which she’s decorated in black, white, and gray. She lives therewith four tiny white dogs, which collectively weigh about 12 pounds. She’s paying notes on two vehicles and a backyard pool.

Her major investments are collectibles, specifically Barbie dolls wearing opulent costumes by Bob Mackie or Christian Dior. She proudly shows off one called “Jeweled Splendor,” an elaborately gowned Barbie created in honor of the doll’s 125th anniversary. Nikko bought her a lew months ago lor $250; the doll is now worth $550. Her current investment decision is whether to buy Mackie’s Bride Barbie or “Neptune” Barbie. Both cost about S 1,000. She also likes cartoon cells, original drawings on film, like those of Betty Boop, “I don’t know why,” she says, “but I like little girl things.”

THOUGH THE FLOOR IS WHERE THEY MAKE THEIR MONEY, each girl is expected to do at least eight dances on stage during the evening. And it’s on stage that dancers have a chance to make that all-important impression that prompts a customer to buy a table dance. “You want guys to remember you, to ask for you,” Nikko says.

Each woman performs two dances on the main stage, the first with her breasts covered, the second with her top oft, Then she rotates to the other stages: first to the private club, where men who have purchased memberships can entertain discreetly and use the phone and fax machine; then the stage behind the open bar; then the fourth stage, at the side of the main room.

Dancers choose their own stage clothes. Some girls like costumes and put on a bit of an act. One Asian dancer favors school-girl garb. stripping down to her G-string to a song about a teacher. Nikko remembers a dancer who wore camouflage and toted a toy machine gun as she danced to Edwin Starr’s “War.”

Nikko doesn’t do an act, but she likes to dance to two rock songs that evoke the West: “I Want to Be a Cowboy” and “Wanted; Dead or Alive,” by Bon Jovi. She had a seamstress make chaps, fringed bras, and G-strings in purple, pink, black, white, red, and turquoise. which she sometimes wears with matching hats. Her entire costume can fit in one of the hats. She often has her other G-strings custommade as well. (They must Ht very tightly, so that they don’t shift during a dance. The law prohibits dancers from showing any pubic hair.) Sometimes, customers buy Nikko clothes, either at the boutique located at the entrance to the club or at her favorite stores, Whatchamacallit Fashions or Special Occasion Dresses, both in North Dallas.

Before her stage show, Nikko usually goes backstage and changes into her costume. She has a locker in the dressing room, where the “house mom” rules the roost. The house mom is there to provide assistance and anything a dancer may have forgotten: hair spray, mascara, deodorant, tampons, safety pins. She’ll iron wrinkled dresses or sew up rips. Most nights, Nikko needs the house mom’s services several times; she tips her $5 to $15 a night. The mom gets tips from about 50 girls, so she can make more than S200 on a busy night.

The house mom is also there to keep the peace. With 60 to 80 women in the dressing room on any given night, disputes and jealousies have been known to boil over. Nikko remembers the night at Rick’s in Houston when two dancers locked up in a scratching, biting fight that careened all over the dressing room. The battle didn’t stop until the house mom and several girls waded in and pulled the two women apart.

Fighting is a firing offense, as is getting sloppy drunk. As she works the floor each night, Nikko will usually drink several glasses of red .wine. She doesn’t like beer or mixed drinks. But sipping Evian water or nor drinking at all doesn’t go over well with customers. They’re drinking and they want the dancers to drink as well.

When it’s finally time for Nikko’s stage dance, the opening bars of “I Want to Be a Cowboy” begin to play. “And now, gentlemen, welcome Miss Men’s Club, Nikko! ” the disk jockey intones.

But there’s no Nikko. The entire song plays; still Nikko doesn’t appear. When her second song begins, a breathless Nikko appears on stage in her blue evening gown. She hasn’t had time to change into her chaps. She’s been busy making money.

It was one of those nights when a high -roller walked in. A customer in his late 40s or early 50s asked the manager for two or his best girls; the manager corralled Nikko and Missy. The man paid them each $100 for a table dance, then gave each of them a stack of $50 bills and asked them to sit with him. They could ask other girls to come over and dance for him, but when they were done, he shooed them away, keeping Nikko and Missy at his side most at the night, helping him spend his money. She makes it a policy not to ask customers too many questions about their personal lives, so she learned little else about him beyond the fact that he was from California and “he smelled really good.” And he tipped very well.

It’s another good night for a woman who’s at the top of her profession. “I love the hours, the people, die money,” she says. But Nikko knows thai a topless dancer’s days of earning top dollar are limited before age and gravity take their toll.

She plans to dance at least another five or six years. Then, if she can’t be “a famous movie Stan” maybe she’ll open up a gym and fitness salon for women only here in Dallas. Maybe she’ll finish getting her bachelor’s degree. After attending community college off and on for six or seven years, she has about 70 credit hours to go.

“I would do this forever if I could,” Nikko says. “I can’t think of anything I’d enjoy more.”