Stormy Daniels came to Tigard, and all we got was a really expensive T-shirt.
I'm not sure what I was expecting. Protests? A Trump statue burning in effigy?
Turns out, it was pretty much an average strip show—albeit it one with significantly more buzz surrounding it.
As I drove up around 8 pm, I found the parking lot already completely full. The front of the venue was plastered with signs and there were television crews milling around, interviewing patrons as they arrived. At least one couple considered leaving for fear of their image ending up on the evening news.
Once in the club, two people immediately caught my eye. Sitting at one end of the bar was a couple who reminded me of my grandparents. The woman was a retired school teacher who seemed absolutely tickled to be at the show. This was her first time at a strip club. I asked if she was there for Stormy and she replied that yes, they were big supporters.
"My white wig is saying I'm old, but my thinking isn't old," she said. "I'm 79 and my husband is 83, and we're the most liberal now that we've ever been."
Two young women came in and sat at a table near us. One of the girls just turned 21 a few weeks ago, and this was also her first strip club experience. She wanted to come give Stormy a high-five.
The next couple I talked to appear especially straight-laced. They explain they've been Stormy Daniels fans for 10 years, and love that she makes what they consider "couples-friendly films." The woman opens her purse to show me the DVDs she's brought to get signed during the meet and great.
I thought there would be at least a handful of hecklers. But everyone I talk to is #TeamStormy.
You'd think a big crowd would be good news for the club's regular dancers. But one tells me that, having done two stage sets, she's made less than $20. On an average night she'd have made a couple hundred by now. Another dancer explains it's because the real money comes from selling private dances, and this crowd isn't buying.
The next couple I talked to actually approached me. They were curious about why I was taking notes. I ask their stance on Stormy's politics. "None of your fucking business," said the woman. Her husband chimed in: "I think Trump is an idiot." His wife told him to stop talking.
Finally, more than an hour after the performance was scheduled to begin, Stormy Daniels took the stage. The first song she danced to is "American Woman." It was a good fit with her red, white and blue outfit. She started her set with some acrobatic moves on the pole, her sparkly bustier glinting in the stage lights. Her red skirt clinged to her curves, though it didn't stay on her body long.
The audience ate it up. As she stripped, the DJ took up a constant refrain, asking patrons to hold $20 bills over their heads to get Stormy's attention. She spent a full song coming around collecting money in exchange for brief close encounters. Every time the DJ prompted, the audience yelled, "We love you Stormy."
Her set lasted only four songs. Most of it was spent auctioning off a shirt that the DJ kept reminding us had been "up against her vagina." It sold for $380.
Given the hours of anticipation, it seemed anticlimactic. Perhaps I was naive to expect deeper meaning. But one of the dancers told me this was "better than most featured dancers—way better than when Charlie Sheen's ex was here."
A long line formed with people waiting to take pictures with Stormy, or get her autograph. With most of the patrons in line, there was a bit more room to move in the club. I looked around again, thinking surely I'd find at least one curious, perhaps aggrieved Trump supporter now. I saw a red hat across the room and got closer. I finally saw that it read, "Make Red Hats Wearable Again."
As I was about to call it a night, the regular dancers took to all three stages again. And once more, I spotted a red hat. I got closer, but it was hard to read while the dancer was moving, and the black lights made the white lettering glow. I sat down at the rack and put several dollars in front of me. I was the only one at the rack—everyone else was distracted—and the petite blonde dancer comes right over to me. Finally I could make it out, and sure enough it read, "Make America Great Again."
"Is that ironic, or are you a Trump supporter?" I asked.
"I'm a Trump fan, sorry," she said.
"How is it here for you tonight?" I asked her.
"Oh, it's fine," she said. "Everyone in Portland is open to different ideas."
And with that, she moved on. Several people had taken seats around her stage and she had to pay attention to everyone. As I watched, all the seats filled and people were tipping generously. I was a bit surprised that so many people who were just cheering for an avatar of Trump resistance were now throwing money at a dancer sporting MAGA pride.
Maybe she was right. Maybe Portland is open to different political ideas. Or maybe they're drunk, and a naked body is a naked body.