By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
I'm not surprised by the intelligence and toughness of most of the actresses and dancers I meet. Sofia Staks comes closest to fulfilling the stereotype most people hold of female adult entertainers as wanton airheads. After she decides during our first interview that I have a "cute laugh," she pinches my bottom once as I walk down the aisle, slaps it while we're standing in a truck stop and blocks my entrance to an occupied restroom by jumping between me and the locked door, thrusting her breasts out like a pair of big, mean thugs and winking at me lasciviously.
There's not a mean bone in her surgically enhanced body, but she repeatedly makes it clear -- sometimes in the presence of her husband, who is deaf and mute -- that she is mine for the taking. I don't have the nerve to tell Ms. Staks that if I hadn't begun this bus trip as a gay man, I certainly would have converted to one after these unwanted invitations.
The woman I will come to admire most is Vanity, a Dallas resident who exhibits some truly awesome, athletic dance skills during her club act. She is beautiful in that muscular, force-of-nature, Angela Bassett way. She also possesses guts and good humor in abundance.
I first see Vanity in a state most club patrons never will -- makeup-free, battling a stubborn flu bug with temporary over-the-counter remedies, and clutching Booboo, her beloved yellow-and-white stuffed giraffe, to her chest.
The Angela Bassett resemblance is cemented because, during the trip from Dallas to Houston, What's Love Got to Do With It? plays on six small video screens inside the bus. It took me a minute to realize the nature of Vanity's sniffing and snuffling during the film's brutal abuse scenes, when Bassett as Tina Turner is thrown around like a rag doll by Laurence Fishburne as Ike Turner.
Sundown co-publisher Amy Jo Crowell, a vivacious 33-year-old holder of an MBA from Southwest Texas University, quickly realized, too, that Vanity was crying. Crowell offered the dancer a few words on what an intense film this is, and how she admires Tina Turner.
Vanity laughed at herself for getting weepy during a movie. "I'd love to have Tina's success," she says. "But I'm never gonna have her man troubles."
She feels better the next morning as part of the small group that shows up for the Stevens & Pruett Show. The plan is to promote Ray Hill's candidacy, the goals of Adults for Legal Freedom and that night's awareness party/ fundraiser at XTC, an all-nude men's club on the Gulf Freeway.
A Sundown staffer makes some notes about basic facts to cover and briefs Sofia, Kayla and Vanity. But as it turns out, Stevens and Pruett actually plan on getting the political dirt from Ray Hill, who will appear on the show after the women.
Once in the studio with the performers and on air, Mark Stevens announces: "Okay, our producers tell us you have to lift your shirts and show us what you've got."
There's a pause, and a bit of nervous laughter. Sofia leans forward into the microphone and says, "If you want to see me naked, check out the January issue of Bust Out magazine."
"No, no, we want to see them now," Jim Pruett insists. "Tubby, take these women out into the hall and counsel them."
Tubby is a tall, overweight lackey who plays Robin Quivers to Stevens and Pruett's lightweight Howard Stern, except he's uglier (Sofia describes him as looking like a "giant pimple"), stupider and doesn't talk as much as Quivers.
Kayla Kleevage relents, dropping her top without a fight, and so is spared Tubby's "counsel." Sofia and Vanity, however, are escorted one at a time into the hallway outside the studio door and very sternly given the facts.
Tubby to Sofia: "We don't take no for an answer on this show."
Tubby to Vanity, with a tad less severity: "There's no such thing as no on this show."
Sofia returns, giggling, to display her talents. Before she flashes a quick glimpse of one breast, Vanity lays down the law to Stevens and Pruett:
"Vanity will show you her breasts when you drop your pants and show me your dick."
A toilet flush sound effect barely covers the word "dick," and suddenly, the frazzlers are frazzled. Stevens gives Vanity a nervous, irritated warning about foul language on the show, and after Vanity agrees to weigh the respective bosoms of Kayla and Sofia and decide which is heavier, the segment ends.
In the kitchen area of the station, Vanity can't help but giggle at her delicious coup. She rails against Stevens and Pruett, and snorts derisively at the "fake-ass Howard Stern" half of the pair (that would be Stevens) who wears square, blue half-sunglasses. Demonstrating the symbolic nature of her on-air rebellion, she puts her feet apart, throws her arms up and delivers a kung-fu kick to the air.
You can just picture Stevens and Pruett on the other side of that hit, doubled over, clutching their aching privates and wishing to hell they'd never let this uppity woman near a microphone.