Naughty photos from the Doll House

In July 1975 I was 27-years-old and had just gone to work selling advertising for the Sioux City Journal. The first week on the job I was accompanied on sales calls by Mike, the assistant advertising director. Mike a great young guy a couple of years my senior.

On this particular afternoon Mike announced that we were going to call on the Doll House, a local strip club.

Now, I was aware of this establishment as I had driven by it a number of times and had seen its ads in the newspaper. But as a nerdy small town guy who had been raised to avoid such places, I had not visited the Doll House… yet.

Mike parked his car behind the single-story building and we entered through a back door. Entering the unlighted bar from the bright out-of-doors was problematic. We couldn’t see anything except for a strip of light from under a distant door.

“That’s the manager’s office,” Mike explained as we stumbled through a maze of tables and chairs in near total darkness.

Mike rapped on the door and shouted, “It’s Mike from The Journal!”

“Come on in,” came the reply.

Mike opened the door and we walked into a dimly lit office. Mike introduced me to the owner of the club, a middle-aged man who looked like he was short on sleep. Let’s call him Jake, not his real name.

The man was gruff but he shook my hand and invited Mike and me to sit on a couple of folding chairs.

Mike made some small talk and finally addressed the reason for our visit. “Who’s dancing next week?” he asked.

Jake opened a file drawer and pulled out a folder from which he withdrew some glossy 8×10 photographs. When he laid them on his desk my jaw dropped. There before my country bumpkin eyes were two photographs of women adorned only in G-strings.

The promotional glossies included the stage names of the dancers ̶ Dallas Cash, a voluptuous gal probably in her late 20s, and Marsha Mallow, a corpulent woman with an alluring smile.

These were, I learned, the dancers scheduled to “entertain” the following week and whose photos we apparently would include in the Doll House ad.

I kept my mouth shut until we got back to Mike’s car where I exclaimed, “We can’t use those photos! Those women are darn near naked!”

“It’s okay,” Mike said calmly, “John will draw clothes on them.”

Back at the newspaper we entered John’s office. John was our promotion director and chief artist at the time. “We have some work for you, John,” Mike said as he handed over the photos.

John was in his early 60s, I would estimate. He retired a few years later. I had previously observed that John had a tremor in his right hand.

John looked over the photos and then reached for a fine-tipped brush. Amazingly, the instant the brush touched the photograph the shaking in John’s hand stopped. Within about five minutes John had expertly painted full bras on each of the two dancers and expanded their G-strings into more family-appropriate briefs.

Mike helped me prepare the ad for the composing room and we scheduled it for publication. When the ad came back from composing as a proof the next day it was appropriate for a family newspaper. The photos gave no hint of the risqué state they were in before the “touch up” work John had done with his fine-tipped brush.

Until I was promoted several months later I made weekly trips to the Doll House, chatted with Jake and took back two more racy photos for John to make decent. Though in my bachelor years I had frequented a few go-go clubs, now as a family man I felt a bit awkward entering the darkened building that reeked of stale beer and cigarette smoke.

I learned early on in sales that it’s good business to patronize your clients but I never did visit the Doll House during business hours. I had a pretty young wife and young son at home. Enough said.

As a photographer myself, however, I studied the dancers’ photos carefully each week to be sure they were, you know… technically acceptable.

COMMENTS