09.17.10

The Worst Strip Club in Vegas

That’s the ignoble title bestowed upon Foxy Girls strip club by a new guide to Las Vegas. Richard Abowitz stops by to talk to the ladies and finds ugliness and charm in equal measure.

When most people think of a Las Vegas strip club, they think bachelor parties, bottle service, and hundreds of dollars recklessly spent one at a time.

What they don’t think of is Foxy Girls, a small, squat club that sits in exile on a stretch of road away from the famed Las Vegas Strip. It’s the type of place that would normally go unnoticed entirely, except for the fact that Foxy Girls recently had the dishonor of being named the worst strip club in Las Vegas by the Sin City Advisor’s Topless Vegas Pocket Guide.

How bad could Foxy Girls be? To find out, I ventured up South Highland Drive on a recent Tuesday evening—past Updated Auto, Paint Sprayers Unlimited, and Discount Firearms—to see the club.

On the billboard out front is a sultry model streaked with white lines of bird shit. A sign at the door warns that gang colors will not be tolerated in Foxy Girls. And inside, the club resembles a typical dive, with one big difference: a large, fleshy stripper who thumps her thick leg across my lap as soon as I sit down.

“Excuse me while I stretch my leg out,” she purrs. Another woman asks me in a long whine to buy her a drink. She’s rail-thin, tattooed, and wearing a tiny piece of silly black lingerie that threatens to slide off her skinny limbs.

It is 10:30 p.m., and I am one of two customers here.

The eight to 10 dancers working tonight could be any random collection of average women squeezed into ill-fitting stripper clothes. (One described her Foxy Girls audition: “I just showed up and they hired me on the spot. No hassles.”) Unlike most other strip clubs in Vegas, Foxy Girls has no house fee. Strippers in this city are technically independent contractors, and are not even paid the minimum wage. Instead, strippers usually pay the bar a fee—at top clubs in Vegas this can range from $60 to $100—for the privilege of working a shift. Along with mandatory tipping for security, DJs, and cocktail servers, the house fee makes being a stripper in Vegas one of the few jobs you can lose money working at.

"I want to strip as long as I can and then marry rich. That’s what my grandmom did.”

But Foxy Girls doesn’t charge its girls for dancing here, so no matter a stripper’s appearance, there’s no risk of working at a loss. The club doesn’t charge its customers to come through the door either—to attract the limited clientele that it has, Foxy Girls is one of the few strip clubs in town that has no cover charge, save for a lightly enforced two-drink minimum. Of course, you sometimes get what you pay for.

After moving from the bar to an empty booth, an obese dancer accosts me, inexplicably furious. She is wearing a black dress a couple sizes too small with the bottom hiked up to expose her underwear as a sliver peeking out from between two gigantic thighs. “Where are the drinks?” she demands. When I shrug, confused, she turns to a dancer sitting at the bar behind me. “Where were the drinks that were at this table?” She storms off, only to return a few moments later. “I spoke to the bartender,” she says. She’s enraged. Her thundering tone suggests she is delivering the closing argument in a murder trial as she continues screaming at me, “She didn’t bus this table, so where are the drinks?

Foxy Girls is a small, empty-feeling place with odd-fitting furniture. There’s a bar to one side and a stage at the other. A few vacant tables are scattered near a pool table in the back. The dirty sofa chairs at my table look completely inappropriate, like furniture from an empty nesters’ abandoned playroom. There is nowhere to hide a person’s drinks. (Another dancer later explains that the stripper who was irate with me waits for customers to leave so she can slurp down the remains of their cocktails before their table is cleared.)

Another stripper standing near me shakes her head. “Too much drama,” she says, profoundly. I ask her what is going on, and she refuses to explain. “There was drama last night and that is all I am going to say.” She tells me her name is Pixie.

“This place reminds me of a strip club in Montana,” Pixie says. One thing Pixie knows is strip clubs in Montana. That’s where she’s from, and where she—and her mother, and her grandmother—all worked as strippers for many years. She’s tiny, and her face is obscured by a thick layer of makeup.

Pixie recalls her mom being angry at her teachers when the school called to discuss a paper Pixie turned in on how she, too, wanted to be a stripper when she grew up. “'What’s wrong with being a stripper?’ my mom said.” Pixie laughs at the memory. Her future plans: “I want to strip as long as I can and then marry rich. That’s what my grandmom did. She and her husband who is old as fuck roam the country in a huge RV. It sounds like a great life.”

Pixie won’t give her age, but she’s certainly under 30. She moved to Vegas about six months ago with her young daughter on an impulse. She’s attractive enough to have also worked at some of the big Vegas clubs like Cheetahs, where scenes for the movie Showgirls were filmed. But she likes Foxy Girls, where her good looks stand out more than they would at a mega-club—something she reasons gives her an advantage. “I used to switch back and forth between Cheetahs and here,” she says while eating a cannoli supplied by a regular. “But at Cheetahs you go into the dressing room and there is a line of beautiful girls. That’s intimidating. I’m not a very a good stripper. But I love doing it.”

Foxy Girls hardly ever sees tourists; its clientele is 100 percent Vegas locals. But for all its faults, anyone seeking an authentic Las Vegas experience will find it at this club. Like many of Vegas’s more intriguing spots, Foxy Girls has a history that goes back well before the Mirage sprung up. It was created by John Herda, a retiree, who was already well known around town as the owner of Herda’s Discount Appliance Warehouse. His son, Nick Herda, 55, can remember when the place was a rundown bar his dad acquired next door to the family appliance and electronics business. “My father bought this bar in 1964. It was a hardhat bar,” says Nick. John used to work his staff notoriously hard. “He once went through 37 waitresses in one year and it was a one-waitress job in there.”

John retired in the ‘80s and, according to his son, mellowed for a few years before deciding to return to operating the bar again. But this time he wanted to offer customers more than a beer and a burger. “Around 2000, dad decided that a topless bar is where the money would be down the road. We thought, ‘Oh geez.’” Foxy Girls was born. For years, John Herda would sit at the door checking IDs. He had business cards printed that read “John Herda’s Foxy Girls.”

In 2006, John was murdered at age 83 during a home-invasion robbery. His killer was sentenced to life without parole. John’s two sons found themselves unexpectedly running the place, which outlasted the family’s appliance store. “This whole thing is new to me and my brother,” says Nick. “I’m still learning. We’re going to keep it going until one day we sell it. It’s paying for itself.” He gets that Foxy Girls can seem squalid compared to the upscale clubs that get most of the attention in Vegas. “Our bar is nothing fancy like Spearmint Rhino,” he admits, “but we try to be a friendly place.”

There is no night friendlier at Foxy Girls than Wednesday: karaoke night. Even the bartender gets in on the action with a clip-on microphone. When a man starts warbling through Garth Brooks “Shameless,” Pixie does an interpretative dance on the stage. The stripper who asked for drinks says she would charge $5 to provide karaoke dancing to a customer. But Pixie gives it away for free. “I just thought it was fun. I like country music. I don’t charge for that.”

One online reviewer notes of Foxy Girls, “The club's shortcomings are a huge part of its charm.” This is certainly true. Nick Herda likes to think of this place as “Cheers with tits.” But Pixie will tell you, if you drop by to ask her, that whatever people think of it, Foxy Girls is still way more exciting than any strip club in Montana. Why?

“Because Foxy Girls is not in Montana. It’s in Vegas. For strippers, Vegas is the big leagues.” And in the big leagues, Foxy Girls offers a very small stage.

Richard Abowitz has chronicled the rise and continuing fall of Las Vegas for over a decade. He is the author of hundreds of articles for Las Vegas Weekly. Abowitz is perhaps best known for writing the Movable Buffet blog and continuing print column for Los Angeles Times. In addition to covering Vegas, Abowitz has been writing about music and culture for Rolling Stone since 1996. In December 2009, Abowitz launched GoldPlatedDoor.com to be an honest broker reporting on all things Vegas.