Let’s get a few things straight about Lynsie Lee, this vegan stripper in Portland, Oregon who has become something of a Twitter pen pal with Newark mayor and surefire future presidential candidate Cory Booker:
She’s not vegan. Lee, 26, works at a vegan strip club. It’s called Casa Diablo, and I have been there. For research. More on that later.
She’s not famous. “I don’t think I’m famous,” she told me yesterday, which means she’s either very humble or very humblebrag. She’s totally famous. Joe Scarborough talked about her on MSNBC on Wednesday, and The New York Times wrote about her, and so did Time and so did Jezebel, though in fairness to Jezebel they were mostly mocking Buzzfeed, the media outlet that “broke” the story.
So yes, she is too famous. And she knows it, and she is being hilarious about it. On Wednesday she tweeted “my favorite part is that Buzzfeed is what I named my vibrator.”
She is also unfailingly hilarious. She is not the least bit shy about the crush she has developed on America’s most eligible bachelor, and told me her Twitterrific intentions are perfectly clear:
“When he’s president, I want to be his first lady. I think a stripper would make a great first lady. I have better arms than Michele Obama, OK?”
She is not going to torpedo Mayor Booker’s presidential aspirations. Because the mayor sent no pics of his privates and was nothing but a “perfect gentleman.” Sure, he flirted, and with a (gasp!) stripper. But compared to the other “people of interest” who regularly exchange direct messages with Lee who are “way dirtier,” Booker was “a gentleman,” she told me. “I think I’m the creeper in this relationship. I want him to be interested in me, but it’s not going to happen over Twitter.”
The mayor’s flack is handling this nonsense scandal quite well.
“The mayor talks with people from all walks of life on Twitter,” said Booker spokesman Kevin Griffis, in a statement emailed to the Times. “The most shocking part of the story was learning that there is a vegan strip club in Portland.”
The mayor’s flack does not know his Portland very well. There are actually soon to be two vegan strip clubs in Portland. There’s Casa Diablo, the one I went to for journalism research, and then there’s “Johnny Diablo’s Black Cauldron,” which will soon open in a new location in southeast Portland.
It’s a vegan strip club because they serve vegan food there. In Oregon, you have to serve food if you serve alcohol. And in Oregon, they serve alcohol at strip clubs. Alcohol and food. Vegan food. Also they don’t allow the dancers to wear anything leather. When I interviewed the owner, Johnny “Diablo” Zukle last year, he insisted the vegan thing isn’t a gimmick to lure weird Portlanders and to prove it, he started “grilling” me (like you would a fat juicy bratwurst) about whether I ate meat. When I admitted I did, he lectured me for five minutes about how the animals suffer. Casa Diablo’s official slogan is “Vixens on veal, sizzle not steak, we put the meat on the pole, not on the plate.”
The food is very good. For vegan food. It’s way better than the bland blah meh vegan burrito Chipotle unveiled in July. It’s not quite as good as meat, but a very close second.
Veganism is not why people go to Casa Diablo. At least, that’s not what any of the customers I talked to when I was there for journalistic research told me. They said they came to Casa Diablo either because it was the closest strip club to wherever they lived or because the drinks were cheap and stiff or because they thought the strippers were hot or because the club was, shall we say, permissive, about letting customers get all handsy feely with the dancers. Zukle swears this isn’t true, for what it’s worth.
Veganism is also not why strippers work at Casa Diablo. They work there—or at least, they say they work there—because Zukle has a very strict “no drama” policy that keeps the dancers from getting all catty with each other.
“The girls get along here better than any other club,” Natalie “Dre” Poff told me last year. “One of the number one rules is no negative attitudes.”
Also, at Diablo you can only tip the dancers with $2 bills that are tinged in fake “blood,” which is kind of a weird gimmick but ultimately results in better tips for the dancers. It also resulted in a federal investigation last year, though nothing has come of that yet.