We knew nothing of Nomi Malone’s past, sordid or otherwise, when we signed the leggy, athletic, and disturbingly enthusiastic stripper—sorry, dancer!—for a residency at the Starfire Lounge. She mentioned something offhand about dancing in Vegas before she took the stage and shook her sweet ass for us. I don’t know if what she did was dancing, but good grief the girl could thrust! It had been ages since Susie Diamond and the Baker Boys had played here and we were desperate, okay? So that was all we needed to see. We knew she’d bring the goods. What we didn’t know was she’d be a one-woman natural disaster, laying waste to the establishment—and our clientele—in ways with which our insurance company grew increasingly uncomfortable.
We should’ve known when she high-kicked a customer in the face after he shouted during her first energetic stage routine, “You’re one helluva stripper!” “I’m a dancer,” she yelled back before knocking the poor slob’s front teeth clear across the dining room, where they landed in one of our regular’s whiskey sour. That customer is 83 and foggy on his best days, so he thought the teeth were his dentures sinking to the bottom of the cocktail, meaning we lucked out there. Our luck held with the assaulted patron too, as he was actually turned on by the whole interaction and said he hadn’t had that much “fun” in ages. It takes all kinds, and since we started booking Nomi those “all kinds” had started to scare out our regulars with their hooting and hollering and, um, other extracurricular activities.
Still, the new, slobbering, barbaric crowd loved Nomi—“love” doesn’t cut it; they lusted after her with a frightening intensity. And she ate it up. Nomi was going places, clearly. Those places might be the titty bars over on the seedier side of town, but hey, she was going there. But first she was packing the Lounge night after night, making us and herself some serious coin. Hell, she even convinced us to install a stripper pole, which would’ve been unthinkable in the establishment before her arrival. Every evening she would whip the crowd into a frenzy, as her manic stage show seemed to make men (and women) become equally manic, to the point that performer and audience were writhing and undulating in perfect unison. If it wasn’t so terrifying to witness, it might’ve actually been a beautiful thing. But Jesus Christ it was scary.
The audience couldn’t get enough of her—even when she beat the snot out of them, which, let me tell you, happened more times than I care to remember. But as the weeks rolled by, Nomi seemed to alienate every other performer and staff members. She punched a few of them too, for good measure. When she wasn’t inhaling a burger, fries and soda before rushing onstage to rip off her clothes, she was sauntering around in her new “Ver-sayce” dress, shouting to no one in particular, “I’m not a whore!” Broken mirrors, kicked-in doors, bruised egos, battered faces, and all manner of property disaster and general chaos followed in her wake. Oh, the humanity.
Looking back, it seems obvious we should have terminated her month-long contract after one night. But we’re nothing if not kind souls at the Lounge, and it seemed obvious that Nomi needed someplace to put down roots, temporarily, and work on her “artistic evolution”—a stage show that both titillated and terrified all who witnessed it. And that’s the thing: she wasn’t objectively “good” in the ways we’re trained to perceive “good,” but she was completely, utterly unique. Her performances always carried a sense of danger about them, as if at any moment it could all go crashing off the rails, and often enough it did just that. Spectacularly so, in most cases. So, as weird it sounds now, a little property damage, a few black eyes, and some missing teeth seemed like appropriate compensation for the honor of being in the same room as Nomi’s electrifying presence. Sure, she might break a high ball glass over a customer’s head if they got handsy, but more often than not that just made the customer feel special. I told you, it takes all kinds.
Eventually, as the insurance company started threatening to drop our coverage, and a few less enlightened (i. e, sober) customers began talking loudly about taking legal action, we realized it was time to cut ties with our exotic-dancing banshee. On the night we planned to let her go, we beefed up security and prepared for the worst. Then we waited for Nomi. And waited. All night we waited. She never showed. In fact, she never showed her rockin’ body at the Lounge ever again. She was off, like a whisper in the night, only a whisper that actually yelled pretty loudly and thrust her hips and breasts around with reckless abandon on a regular basis. So, not really a whisper at all. More like a howl. A howling wolf, journeying back into the night, on to the next town, the next establishment. All in pursuit of a dream.
While her mysterious behavior made it hard to know for sure, I always assumed Nomi’s real dream was to be considered a dancer, and a damn good one at that. She had the raw tools—the body, the heart, the stamina, and the desire. Her insecurities drove her hard and she was relentless. For that reason alone, I think it’s safe to say she’s dancing somewhere out there right now, tearing off items of clothing with ferocity while bringing down the house. I’m just glad the Lounge is no longer the house she’s bringing down, because our insurance policy just couldn’t take the stress any longer. Neither could our hearts, because Nomi could stop them like a heart attack just by dancing, or, you know, by scaring the living daylights out of us with her erratic behavior. A brain-cramping riddle wrapped inside a dangerously sexy conundrum, she was hard to know, but we were pretty sure we knew one thing: Nomi had probably killed a man at some point in her life and none of us wanted to share that poor sap’s fate.