I’ve been asked by tandem students how I got started with jumping thousands of times. Almost every time, I’ve given the exact same answer: “Just like you really … I went out to the DZ in Vegas to cross skydiving off the list, but the instant I left the plane, I was hooked! As soon as I landed, I walked into the office, handed them my credit card and said charge it ‘til it says declined!” That was the answer I gave to my students because it sounded good, and because it let them know that they were in for a wonderful ride. A much more full, truthful and up-front answer would have been, “I took off my pants.”
Okay. Let’s skip back quite a few years here, and I’ll see if I can’t fill in all the blanks. As it turns out, I can trace pretty much my entire adult life back to one seemingly innocent lie to try and get down a girl’s pants. I was working at the Holiday Inn banquet department in Sacramento, where I’d ended after having crashed a motorcycle in L.A., attempted to live off the land in Canada, then hitchhiked back to California after being attacked by a bear. Back then, the idea of making a skydive had been brought up quite a few times, but I never seemed to have either the time or the money to give it a shot, so although I daydreamed about it, I was resigned to the fact that it probably wouldn’t happen. Like a lot of dreams, it got shelved.
For some reason still unknown to me, while on a break waiting for a banquet to end at the Holiday Inn, I told the girl I had a crush on—as well as a few other female co-workers present—that while living in Los Angeles I moonlighted as a stripper for extra cash. It was a complete bullshit lie, and even as it was oozing out of my mouth, I couldn’t have explained why I thought it was gonna get me laid. As I cleared dishes off the tables in the hall, I remember not only feeling like a complete idiot, but hoping above all else that the girls would forget all about it.
Two weeks later, it looked like the coast was completely clear. Right up until the girl I had the hots for came running up to me with a HUGE favor I just HAD to do for her … “I really wouldn’t ask, but we kinda just waited ‘till the last minute, and now we’re in a jam! You just have to strip for my sister’s birthday! You just HAVE TO!” The word NO was so loud in my head that I was sure she could hear it bouncing around between my ears, just as I’m sure I must have had a completely idiotic expression on my face as the word “sure” came sliding out of my mouth. Wait … What?!?
I was 165 lbs. I hadn’t been to a gym for years. Nothing below the neck on me had seen the sun in ages. The bottle of self-tan I’d stolen from the supermarket (fuck you, I was broke!) would help the tan part, or at least even out the stain on my crotch I’d gotten when I shoved it down my pants, but no amount of pushups in the world would make me any less skinny. Then again, with a thong as my wardrobe, skin color and skinny arms were the least of my problems.
The stupid shit guys will do for women is simply mind boggling.
I had managed to put four or five songs on a tape that I’d be able to use for my “show,” but the real problem was, there was no show! With only a day left to try and figure it all out, I opted for complete denial, and pretended that it just wasn’t happening. Yet …
The next thing I knew, I was at an apartment with a loud party taking place just inside the door, while I was on the ground just outside, furiously doing push-ups while dressed in an Air Force flight suit. My good friend Pat was happily laughing his ass off knowing full well how completely freaked out I was, and knocked on the door while I was mid-push ‘cause he was tired of waiting. The next 40 minutes or so went by in a complete blur.
I walked through the door into a brightly lit apartment, stuffed to the brim with semi-drunk screaming women who all went dead quiet and sat staring straight at me as I entered. Fuck. The birthday girl had been placed in a chair in the dead center of the room, and Pat, trying to help, had already started my music which was now blaring through the stereo speakers. What’s a boy to do?
Really there isn’t a whole lot to be said about my performance. It wasn’t particularly hot inside, but about the time the first beat of Bel Biv Devoe’s “Poison” (fuck you again, I’m old) reached my ears I began to sweat. By the time the flight suit hit the floor, leaving me dressed in a pair of combat boots and an ill-fitting thong, I was dripping wet, and a mere minute or two later, so was the birthday girl. She wasn’t dripping with excitement mind you, she was dripping with the sweat coming off me, because the only dance move I’d come up with once I was down to my thong and boots was to bury my dick in her lap and dry hump the hell out of her. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it ladies …
The next thing I knew, it was over. I’d managed to walk out of there with a little over a hundred bucks in my pocket, a bruised ego and a minor case of dehydration from all the sweating. The birthday girl said she’d had a blast, the rest of the crowd had screamed and tipped me, and the girl I had a crush on had given me a hug and kiss. Yet as I walked back to my car, I swore there was no chance in fucking hell I would EVER do it again. And getting laid? As far as I was concerned, after that horrible experience, she could go fuck herself! That was the last time I would ever put myself through something like that.
“So my name is Mark, and I’m the owner of Masquerade telegrams … ” I stared at the phone like it had sprouted ears. “I was given your number by one of the girls who was at your show last week, and she said you might be interested in some work.” If he’d have taken a break in between sentences I would have screamed that there was no fucking way, nothing he could say … And then he said it. “It’s a stage show in Fresno that pays $500 in cash, plus whatever tips you can make.” I mean are you kidding me? I was broke, I hated my job, and I had a complete and total aversion to responsibility. If it weren’t for the fact that I had to work naked, it would have been the perfect job!
I of course agreed to do the show. As it turned out, the show itself was a hell of a lot of fun, even though I was the only white dancer in an all-black club (but that’s a whole different story). And, as it turned out, I managed to add close to $900 cash for one night in my pocket, I just had to subtract my pride. And so began my career …
Four years of stripper telegrams later, I moved to Las Vegas and started working for the only male strip club in that town, the Olympic Garden. About that same time, the grand opening of the Las Vegas Flyaway wind tunnel took place, and after finishing my very first flight there, I knew I had to go make a skydive. The timing almost seemed like fate! The itch I’d had to go and jump over four years before was back with a vengeance! The rest of the story is now pretty much just like I’ve told all those tandem students. “I went out to the drop zone in Las Vegas, just to cross it off the list … ”
My stripping career lasted on and off for 11 years, and it is the only reason I was ever able to afford not only to become a skydiver with all the cool toys, but also the only reason I became a working pilot as well. And all of it from one bullshit lie ‘cause I wanted to get laid. I’m sure there are stranger “before I was a skydiver” stories out there, but for me, this is the strangest life I have ever known!
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