Maybe when you are waiting for your favorite exotic dancer to come out at the RI Dolls clubs, you might be wondering how gentlemen’s clubs got started. You may wonder if everyone has always been able to enjoy the entertainment or if it was something reserved for certain people?
Gentlemen’s clubs were originally setup as a members only club for the British upper class back in the 18th century and then made popular in the late 19th century and into the early 20th century. As you likely know, these days both men and women are welcome at the clubs. And as you know, as you are attending in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, these clubs have long since expanded from Britain.
Many of the gentlemen’s clubs in Britain did not start as a strip club, they were originally setup for the aristocrats as a place that they could go to gamble. Gambling was illegal in London except for those establishments which were for members only. If a person spends time reading books that happened in these time frames, quite often clubs such as Whites, Brook’s or Boddle’s will be mentioned as they were the gentleman’s clubs at the time and most people of the upper class had memberships to at least one.
At the height of popularity, there were over 400 establishments in London. This was due to changes in the laws which allowed more men to vote and men then felt that they had elevated their status in society and they should join a club. But the existing clubs had limits on membership causing long waiting lists so men ended up forming their own clubs.
As more clubs were founded and established, each became known for the interests of the members. The club may have been based on politics, travel, sports, literature or other reasons including being in the armed forces together or attending the same school. Regardless, these gentleman’s clubs were considered respectable and as a result, men could attend them without shame or problems at home.
By the end of the 19th century, men who were able to claim gentleman status, could find a club unless there was something objectionable in his background. Men who had to work to earn an income were now able to join these clubs. Many belonged to only one club which usually corresponded to their trade or social/political beliefs but some belonged to multiple clubs.
At this point, the clubs did not have entertainment provided. They were more of a second home where men could spend time with their friends, relax, play card games, eat and possibly spend the night. For those that travelled, their clubs could end up being like a home base for them. Many men spent a lot of time here to avoid their homes or because they could not afford to buy a home in London.
With that said, having strippers in Britain did not happen until the 1930s. There were places that had exotic dancers already such as The Moulin Rouge and The Folies Bergere. Part of the reason was that Britain law prohibited nudes that moved. With some creativity, the British found a way around this and created “living pictures” where the women were nude but did not move. Before long though, the demands of the audience meant that they had to be more creative. One trick was a “Fan Dance” where the dancer was concealed by fans and then at the end of the dance, attendants moved the fans away and the exotic danger would hold the pose for a short time.
In the 1960’s, due to not being able to police the clubs, the laws were changed and there was a boom in strip clubs opening in London. Pubs also started to have these types of shows due to the popularity and ease for people to get to them.
Fast forward to the 1980s and 90s, when gentleman’s clubs allowed men to enjoy exotic dancers where the women performed both pole dances and private strips for the men. Even though pole dancing had been around for a while, it reached its peak at this time and many women enjoyed successful and financially rewarding careers in the gentleman’s clubs.
In the United States, the oldest gentleman’s clubs date back to the 1700s in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. These days, you can find gentleman’s clubs in most major cities in the United States including Woonsocket, Rhode Island with New York city containing the most clubs. That said, typically gentlemen’s clubs are the same as strip clubs.