The can-crushing poetess of the Clermont Lounge reveals even more
The aluminum cans do not stand a chance.
In a move that combines burlesque with recycling, Blondie Strange crushes Budweiser empties flatter than platters between her breasts without flinching, dismounts the stage, and pulls a Sharpie from behind the bar to autograph them for the hooting frat boys, intown scenesters, and gamy night crawlers who are waving dollar bills. Most of the unconventional sirens of the Clermont Lounge strut some trademark gimmick, tic, distinguishing tattoo, or cesarean scar, but Blondie’s trick—a gesture of unbowed, Hellzapoppin’-style showmanship that yields a lasting and curious souvenir for fans—has established her as the most famous stripper in a city renowned for its adult entertainment.
“I only work with Budweiser and PBR cans,” she says, referring to the brands of choice in this sticky, threadbare Ponce de Leon landmark that adamantly refuses to pour microbrew drafts into frosted mugs.
Over the years, Blondie has had to develop a thick skin. A visually arresting black woman who is part Cherokee, French, and German, she stands around five foot four or taller, depending on the strappy stilettos, and weighs about 145 pounds, with a bust of pendulous boulders that she wields like stage props, party favors, and, in more assertive moods, Shiva-like weapons of mass destruction. A youthful, “black-don’t-crack” fifty-four, she is not as seasoned as her Methuselah-like myth suggests, nor is she the eldest ecdysiast in the Clermont lineup—Porsha in the Little Bo Peep getup is in her mid-sixties. However, Blondie has been stripping for thirty-five years, longer than most of her lissome industry peers have been alive. She writes poems, dispenses den mother advice in a husky voice, and, in public, always wears a wig. The platinum shade started as a concession to mainstream ideals of beauty and has evolved into an impudent twist on minstrelsy. “It’s always helped me stand out from the crowd,” she says, patting the feathered bangs.
And she did, back when she was the “only colored girl dancing for a bunch of rednecks and bikers,” helping to integrate a forest’s worth of poles as a XXX-rated civil rights pioneer. She still does, in fact. In Atlanta’s multitude of exotic dancers, Blondie Strange is the most exotic of them all. A documentary titled AKA Blondie, which filmmakers Jon and Brantly Watts hope to premiere at the Atlanta Film Festival in 2012, is expected to burnish her brassy-gilt legend and, she hopes, enable her to retire, or at least command a better pay grade among the ranks of bohemian sex workers—more like Annie Sprinkle or Dolores French.
Photograph by Tatum Shaw