Over the last few months, Time Out Los Angeles' photo editor Jakob and I have been to more strip clubs, topless bars and bikini joints than we (well, I) ever thought possible, collecting research for our story on the best strip clubs in LA. (So much time, in fact, that one of our colleagues in another city sent us this for Hannukah.) And just when we thought we couldn't set foot into another dimly lit venue (even Jakob was boobed out), we realized that our coverage wouldn't be complete until we photographed the very best exotic dancers in the city. Obviously.
We chose and approached the dancers who had caught our eyes over the weeks with the most impressive pole tricks, the hottest bods and the best personalities. Once our list was finalized, the gracious guys at Cheetahs of Hollywood let us set up shop in their club for our photo shoot. Nick, the manager—sporting a muscly physique, hammer pants, a diamond stud and the sweetest, most professional disposition—introduced us to his father Bobby, who's owned the place since 1991. Bobby poured strong coffee with powdered milk and offered up cheese pastries, club history (Irish mobsters! Mickey Rooney!) and kind words about his son and the club's dancers.
We shot eight lovely ladies from four different clubs over two full days, transforming the stage into a studio and capturing everyone's most impressive pole moves. If you're wondering what it was like to hang out in a bar with a bunch of exotic dancers at 11am, let me tell you—it was pretty casual. Except for the fact that said dancers were in their underwear all day. Everyone was friendly and down to hang, and incredibly comfortable in their skin and their skivvies. We chatted post-shoot with almost every girl, getting to know things about them you'd never guess from seeing them onstage: One's a virgin, another's a black belt in judo, etc. One girl smoked a hash pipe while telling us about her corporate past; another insisted we take the photo shoot outside (where traffic was promptly stopped) and lamented the loss of her Instagram account, which was disabled after she posted photos deemed "inappropriate" by the powers that be.
Perhaps there's an openness that comes from baring your bod to the world four nights a week—these women were all engaging, funny and filled with stories. While we weren't shooting, we and the dancers spent our time chatting with Nick, watching daytime television with Bobby and gossiping in the Cheetahs dressing room. Going into the shoot Jakob and I weren't sure what to expect, but now we both feel like we've found our neighborhood bar—and made eight new, very sexy friends.
While Jakob was photographing the dancers, I took some behind-the-scenes shots. Here are some sneak peaks at what we got up to, and what to expect in our upcoming feature. Keep an eye out for the finished product in the new year!