When you have the urge to get loose in the middle of the weekend, Vancouver may have you scratching your head for options. Add “sexy” and “dancing” to the list and that list gets a bit smaller. Not to say options aren’t out there — just to say that a plethora of choices may not role off of your tongue.
Well, thanks to phone pole posters and the occasional comment and social media, I was aware of an event at the Astoria called “Rent Cheque”. I filed it in my mind as something to look into, curious about if it was amateur strip contest, sexy drink-up, or what.
I finally got a chance to determine that the answer was “or what” in June, plus a whole lot more. Uncertain what to expect, I arrived at the Astoria a little too punctually and newbie-like at ten minute to 9pm. I was the only person there besides the bartender, and she hadn’t even written down the drink specials yet.
By 9:15, things were looking up. My friend had by then arrived and I was deeply enjoying the beer specials. By now the quite-possibly Abby Normal was putting up signs for the event and putting out promo material for something called “Babe Bang.” The music chimed in with “Buffalo Dance” and clusters of folks in the 20-30 year age range were starting to fill the place. Soon enough it was 10:00pm and flashing lights and dance music had morphed the crowd into a larger mass populated with lots of lovelies who I was hoping to see in less clothes by the end of the night. And by 10:30? That dance floor was filling up with a pulsating crowd.
Long story short? I had a ball, despite having to cut out a little earlier than I would have liked. Drinking with friends? Check. Hot and fun stripping and nudity? Check. Dancing? Hell yes, check. Desire to do it again? Check, and also a desire to write about this event to lure in even more people. Not that the team hasn’t been doing a great job at that.
Rent Cheque is celebrating its one year anniversary this week, so I was happy to reach out to Abby to pick her brain on this version of Rent Cheque, what makes it different, and what other sexiness she has in mind to make Vancouver even more erotic.
Rent Cheque actually existed as a party night back at the Lotus Lounge around 2007ish and was put on back then by the Quast Bros. We dug it out of a ditch last year and resurrected it East Vancouver meets Sleeping Beauty style, but Rent Cheque as Vancouver knows it at moment is really just Rent Cheque next generation.
For me and Lex, our partnership started while we were shooting a project for the Dan Savage HUMP Fest called 198WHORE. I had a friend at the time approach me about doing a strip night at another venue and I just yawned at the idea since I had sort of hit a plateau with the Vancouver party scene, but when I had mentioned it to Lex she was super keen on the idea especially as she was stripping at the time. A lot of it really came down to the timing of our friendship and her being enthused on the idea and so easy to work with. It turned out that the venue wasn’t seem super keen on us as we didn’t have an official “following” yet, but we sat down at the Astoria and had some discussions with the people there and they basically just told us “Party on and go to town!” while handing us the Rent Cheque name and formula. Our original DJ CTRL/ALT/DELETE (who was the sound guy at the Astoria at the time) used to be involved in the original Rent Cheque as a regular performer so I imagine it all started for him differently.
As far as how long have I wanted to deliver hot naked fun to Vancouver, I’ve personally noticed a deficit of this sort of thing ever since I hit the bars properly like 6 years ago. Most of my friends are artists or musicians and they’ve been really gracious in putting up with me taking my top off at their bar nights, shows, or after parties, but the only really “naked crowd” events available were BDSM/Kink centred. Even though I love the aesthetic of that stuff, I’m into more of a mixed bag when it comes to what I find sexy.
When I met Lex last year she was still living in the ‘burbs. The city was sorta still new to her, so she hadn’t been pining for this quite as long, but like I said, she’s been a huge driving force in keeping me, and EVERYONE who comes to our night motivated and excited about naked debauchery.
Tell us about the team who makes this complete flesh mayhem happen every month.
Right now Rent Cheque has experienced some changes, and from the original crew we have myself and the delightful Lex Gray. She’s a bangin’ hot 21 year old queer ex-stripper with a righteous sass mouth and a really impressive cup size. I’m a 31 year old divorcee with crooked teeth and a long list of ridiculous sexcapades.
We’ve consummated our love before but only for the sake of porn, and our smut child from that is Rent Cheque and the things we are trying to accomplish in Vancouver. It’s awesome because we both have super different scenes and dreams and ideas, but they really compliment each other well in our greater goal of helping encourage Vancouver to be a wetter, and better place for freaks and sex geeks.
It’s been somewhat controversial, and honestly it wasn’t our first choice. When we sat down at the Astoria and talked with the guys there about what we wanted to do, they mentioned the Quast night Rent Cheque and they thought it would be a good idea to dust it off and give it to us. We were stoked to adopt the same formula and add in a more feminist and porny angle. Plus, honestly we were just happy that they were so receptive and encouraging to us about what we wanted to do that the name wasn’t really given too much thought. The name just kind of came with venue and we grew into it really easily.
I think it is blunt and gets the point across in a no-bullshit sort of way, which works with us, and works with our crowd. We feel like at our night, the sex and body positivity that people would experience there transcends any of the negative connotations. I also welcome anyone who is questioning our motivations and whether we are truly sex positive, to contact me for free cover. I don’t think Rent Cheque is for everyone, but I also don’t think anyone could come by and not see that almost everyone in the bar is stoked to be there for themselves and for each other.
What do you think is the biggest difference between Rent Cheque and other strip nights?
I had a friend come to our night and say, “You can tell by the smile on that girls face that she’s not stripping her way through a student loan, she’s just stripping her way through a goddamn Wednesday night!” which I thought was kind of spot on. Of course we ADORE legitimate strippers! Lex used to be one, and I’ve happily spent a shit tonne of money on them, but there’s something different about someone removing their clothes on stage as a dare, as a way to test their personal boundaries, as an art piece, or as even just a monthly “let loose” thing vs. someone doing it to get their grocery money.
I LOVE handing out a buncha money at the end of the night, and the people who win it absolutely love receiving it, but I have had really positive stories from participants who didn’t place about how empowering or fun it is to get naked and have 300+ people screaming for you. Many of our grand prize winners were participants or 2/3rd place winners before who just wanted to come back and strip again because it was fun.
I was part of the audience in June, and I was impressed by the body positivity. The duo that won that night both had contrasting bodies that you don’t often see represented in stripper events. And while there were no men onstage that night, I know that it is open to any gender. How important is this body diversity and positivity to the event?
If you are talking about June, which I think you are, I’d suggest trolling through the Flickr page at www.flickr.com/rentcheque for a quick memory refresh, as there were definitely a few (talented and sexy!) dudes on stage. One did a routine as Bret the Hitman Hart, and one of them placed in 2nd. I personally gave him $200!
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the gender and body diversity / positivity is the driving force of Rent Cheque, but it’s sorta become its heartbeat for sure. We have a really strict “NO ASSHOLES ALLOWED” rule. We want people to get up and test themselves and express themselves and feel rad and safe doing so. That just isn’t going to happen if they are comparing themselves to someone who they think looks better in this-this-or-that way. We want everyone to leave our event feeling awesome and sexy no matter who they are or where they are coming from. Guess what?! Feeling awesome and supporting other people in what they are doing just has this nifty way of making you ALSO feel personally great, so basically everyone fucking wins by being stoked for each other! Feel free to borrow that one “Corporate America”!
That’s what I get for cutting out early. Memory corrected with those pictures! Plus, the dance floor was so packed at times who knows what I missed. With the existence of a dance floor at a stripping event, things felt very participant-driven rather than everyone spectating. Is this intentional?
Oh yeah, for sure! For the very first Rent Cheque performance I started it with a “routine” where I had coated a couple girlfriends in saran wrap on the dance floor and then unraveled them with my teeth, and the majority of the routines were on the floor that night. We ended it with Lex twerking on my face and me with my hands down my underwear with a circle of people all around us. The stage was moved after that one though as there were a lot of complaints of people not being able to see everything properly, but honestly if someone wanted to clear up a spot on the floor they could – we’d have no qualms. We’ve seen people go out into the crowd for their performances, and one dude even crowd surfed! Also we LOVE seeing naked people on the dance floor. As much as Rent Cheque is for the performers, I think it’s also for the naked and naked-loving party people. They both need each other to make it work, so we’re not really into having things super divided. We usually invite people to come up and dance on stage in between shows lately. I’ve found some people will try this out before attempting their first performance.
Honestly, we started this night because, as I mentioned, we were doing porn at the time and we wanted to meet more like minded people who liked that sort of thing. I’ve personally been lucky to have expanded on a awesome core of people who support me and my weird, sometimes depraved “art” and to see that family and community growing is seriously fucking cool. I would call that the biggest success for sure – the community and support that I didn’t really know or feel was there prior to this.
As for learnings, I have had many discussions over the year with all sort of different people about the body positivity aspect of our night which has made me reassess not just my feeling on myself, but the world around me. I’ve discovered more about the body image and positivity movement, as well as sought out being involved in amateur/artsy porn sites that have a heavy alliance to that sort of thing like “I Shot Myself” through the FECK company. Previous to this the sites I was on were really just hardcore punk porn related.
I’ve also mastered a mean handswipe action to help me clean up ALL sorts of things off of a stage in record time, as well as learned the hard way that shaving a very hairy man’s pubic area during a 3 minute song isn’t exactly 100% possible! Also, if you are walking around half the night with your tampon string hanging out of your underwear at Rent Cheque, it’s likely no one will say anything ’cause they’ll probably just think you are doing it on purpose or something.
Let’s say you all put Rent Cheque to bed in a decade and someone decides to pick up the torch. What advice would you give them?
JUST TRY NOT TO FUCK IT UP AND HAVE FUN! That’s about all we’ve been using as guidelines. Sometimes things don’t turn out exactly as imagined, but heck, sometimes they are even better! I feel like as long as you are being earnest then that’s all that matters.
It’s a mixed bag 100% and always just depends on the crowd. Sometimes it’s all in the “the show” and sometimes it’s just in connecting with the crowd and showing them that you are honestly giving it your goddamn all. We gauge who the finalists are based on the crowd response, and then at the end of the night, it basically comes down to nailing the interview portion with Lex. Again, the “answers” aren’t what matters – it’s how the crowd reacts to an off the cuff question like, “When was the last time your asshole was exposed to the pale moonlight?” or “What tone would your vagina/dick sing in if it was serenading someone?” or something like that.
Finally, I hear that you have something coming up soon called Babe Bang – what’s the scoop?
So glad you asked!!!
Babe Bang is Vancouver’s first seasonal all ladies sex party! Back when I was a “swinger” any of the big sex parties always occurred out in the suburbs and with an older demographic than I was. Even now, there are not many solutions for people who don’t drive or want to take the bus a zillion miles, so we see a huge need for this sort of thing in the city proper.
We found one of the trickiest parts was presenting our event in a way which welcomes and any all female identified and living persons, while also kind of weeding out feminist identified males who engage in heterosexual sex. It’s super difficult to cater to all the crowds, but our event invite officially states:
BABE BANG is an open house sexy gathering for any and all lady-types! This means: queer folk, dykes, femmes, butch folk, studs, tomboy, bisexuals, trisexuals, barsexuals, pansexuals, curious ladies, lipstick lesbians, chapstick lesbians, gender queer folk, cis women, trans folk *plus more! Just leave your politics at the door!
The event is at 8x 6 which predominantly hosts gay male events. They have started a mixed gender one just recently but I think we are the only all female one. They graciously offered to plug up the glory holes for us and we’re amped to include free condoms, free lube, a hot DJ, a (consensual) photo booth area as well as the sex swing/orgy lair. We’ll also have local porn being played throughout the night. As the party progresses into other seasons I would LOVE to extend the invite to anyone interested who is making smut to talk to me about arranging a viewing during the party. There is almost NOTHING funner than watching your own porn projected over naked bodies touching and kissing each other.
For party specifics you can find deets on our Facebook page and tickets can be picked up at Little Sisters on Davie Street or through either of us at Rent Cheque
Thanks for telling me all about Rent Cheque and Babe Bang, and thanks for helping keep Vancouver sexy!
Check out Rent Cheque at the Astoria the last Wednesday of each month, and get wet at the first Babe Bang on August 9th!