Owen Clark is an actor, beer slinger, serious vinyl collector, and the brother I never had. Based in London, he recently made a pit stop in New York on his way back to Montreal to pick up some records. We downed some whiskey and talked strip clubs, communism and theatre.
Tell me about the first time you went to a strip club.
I was in Geraldton, Ontario and it was my 23rd birthday. I was tree planting. My crew hadn’t seen a bed, hot shower or clean clothes in two weeks. When we got into town, we went straight to the nearest bar. It was called The Blue Lagoon. The only strip club signifier was a pole on a stage. There weren’t any strippers. We all got drunk, and then one of my friends jumped on stage. He was immediately rushed by the bouncer, who said, “If you wanna dance you gotta pay the $50 stage fee!”
The second time I went to a strip club, there were four dancers. None of them seemed particularly...keen. We sat down, paid $8 for our Molsons, and stared at an empty stage. There wasn’t any dancing, but there was porno on the TVs.
Were you disappointed?
I was kind of relieved, actually. I just wanted to get drunk. I’m kind of shy, not really a strip-club kind of guy.
What kind of person do you think goes to a strip club?
Probably a lot of regular guys… but also a lot of scumbaggy types. I have a friend who likes to go, like, every other night.
And he’s a scumbag?
No, he’s just a good ole boy. He’s a rough-talkin’ tough guy from Halifax; a really nice guy. He’s just… lonely. I was raised by feminists, so I have all these politics in my head that prevent me from ever considering going. That, and I don’t have any money.
What kind of feminism made you think strip clubs were bad?
My mom’s a big fan of Gloria Steinem. I’m programmed to think ‘THIS IS SOMEHOW SO WRONG. I am objectifying and exploiting someone…’ It’s funny, because it stems from a really feminist upbringing, but it’s kind of chauvinistic. Like, ‘I want to protect these women, and keep them safe from these atrocities!’ But I also I think consenting adults should be able to do what they want as long as it they’re not hurting anyone. I’m completely supportive of the idea that you should be able to sell a service, and that right should be protected, not stigmatized. In my head, it’s this unshakable binary.
At the pub where I work in London, I have this friend, he’s a sort of ‘posh communist’ in his early twenties. And then there’s this older, hard-lined and weather-beaten communist. They were sitting and having a conversation about whether or not women are more oppressed than men. They tried to bring me into the debate, and I was like, “Well, from a communist perspective, you can’t say that, because everyone is oppressed under capitalism.” The younger guy got really offended, saying, “What about prostitution? Don’t you think that’s exploitative?’ And the older guy piped up and said, “Have you ever fucked someone for money? I have. It’s just a fucking job. It’s boring after a while!”
With acting you have to take your clothes off all the time! I did an ad for a person lubricant (laughs). It was actually really fun. The girl who I shot the scene with had a great sense of humour. We were basically naked, on top of each other, and giving each other massages.
That sounds like a strip club.
Pretty much. Only we were in a cold room with twenty people pointing cameras at you.
So you took your clothes off for money?
Yeah. It’s exactly the same thing. (we both laugh) I was at Sleep No More last night, and for the first twenty minutes of the show, every room I went into there was nudity.
Not just boobs! Completely naked people were having baths and taking showers. One girl even handed me a towel and I was asked to dry her off.
How much was your ticket?
Tits are never free.
It’s weird, that one is considered ‘art’ while one is… something less than. Twice this week I’ve seen completely naked women and men on stages. And I haven’t even set foot in a strip club!