When Boise Weekly first sat down with Kahlua in 2013 at a downtown coffee shop, she was already one of the longest-performing exotic dancers in the State of Idaho. More than seven years later, she hung up her heels for good at Spearmint Rhino Gentleman’s Club on Oct. 18 after more than three decades in the business.
“Thirty-six years is a good run. It’s a damn good run,” she said.
Kahlua (her given name is a trade secret) is astoundingly energetic—a grandmother and a business owner who rumbles around Boise in a pearly white, late-model sports car. Never shy, she sat down with BW again at the same coffee shop where we interviewed her before to talk about life after retirement, her heroes, and how the pandemic has affected exotic dancers and gentleman’s clubs.
BW: What does retirement look like for an exotic dancer?
K: I get to sleep for once, I’m looking forward to that one. I have my own business. I have two of them: I have a clothing line [Kahlua’s Kloset LLC] and I also have a jewelry business [Kahlua’s Bling].
BW: How has the job changed over the years?
K: When I first started, it was a man’s syndrome. You had to be in gowns. If you were not done and showroom material, you’d get fined, and that was in the ‘80s. In the ‘90s, it kind of relaxed a little bit. Fast forward to 2015, and I’ve seen more of everything for men, women, for lesbians, for gays, the whole shebang.
BW: How did you feel about those changes?
K: I got so used to wearing gowns and being made-up. Each woman who’s in the business, they’re unique and they’re different. That’s what makes them who they are for the job we’re in. If you keep changing your clothes a lot, they won’t remember who you are, especially if you’re looking for them to get a Champagne room. So you try to stay in the same outfit unless something spills on it.
BW: How have the dancers changed?
K: More pronounced, more tattooing, more of the ear-piercing going on. Everybody’s a showcase in their own way. Full-sleeve, full-body. Everybody has a type. If everybody were the same, it would be boring. You want the variety.
BW: What are the markers of a performer with a long lifespan on the stage?
K: It’s hard. I’ve sustained it 36 years, and that’s a miracle in itself. I’m not going to lie: My body aches. My best advice for someone who starts in the business: If you start it, be smart with your money and invest it. Don’t be dumb with your money. I had to learn the school of hard knocks.
BW: What is the curriculum of the School of Hard Knocks?
K: My number one is “why.” Why do you want to be in the business? Let your parents know. Do you have children? Do they know? Because when you have children, they are the ones who have to know what’s going on. Make sure you tell your family. Make sure you invest your money. Are you going to school? Go to school, because you can’t rely on this forever.
BW: You have performance wear and jewelry lines—did you have other businesses?
K: Through the jewelry [business], I’ve met a lot of cool ladies. I’ve also gone to senior homes. Their eyes—they light up. It’s like a little spark, like in the diamonds.
BW: What got you visiting nursing homes?
K: I got a phone call one day last year, because I sell Paparazzi jewelry, they said they’d spotted my consultant number and asked if I wanted to do [a party]. I meet all kinds of people, all kinds of ages and walks of life through the industry.
BW: Retirement is a time of reflection. Has anyone said anything prophetic or insightful that has given you pause?
K: No, I’ve created my own situation. You want things to happen, you have to do them yourself. Otherwise it’s never going to happen. People have come up to me and said I should make a movie, and I was, eh, that’d be a tough one.
BW: Why would making a movie be a tough one?
K: I’ve been through the ringer and back in the business. It’s no different from being a rock star. I’ve spent most of my life either in bikinis or nothing at all.
BW: How has the pandemic affected your line of work?
K: You have social distancing, and you have to wear your masks and you have to be careful. When you’re done with an appointment in the club, is what I call it, I’m saying it nicely, you wipe yourself down. Each person gets screened and signs a piece of paper before they even come in. I feel like I’m in another country right now. I used to mock people like this and now I’m one of those people.
BW: Will you continue to wear a face mask?
K: I’ll probably take it off. I spend about 18 hours a day in my mask already between my night job and my day job, and I’m burned out of wearing it. I go around, I come in looking like Dolly Parton and come out looking like Tammy Faye Bakker.
BW: Who are your heroes?
K: I love Dolly Parton. She says what’s on her mind, created her own industry for herself. That’s my hero. Joan Collins, believe it or not. She’s old school, but I love her ways, and she didn’t give a shit about anything.
BW: What’s the secret for feeling young?
K: Having grandkids, because they keep me on my toes, and I love it. Dancing has done it. Also, working out at the gym, watching what you eat.