It's been a year since we first explored the T&A documentary phenom with Showgirl Stories. Our survey belatedly continues with Live Nude Girls Unite! (2000, 70 minutes) by comedian turned stripper turned activist turned filmmaker Julia Query. Her story is unique from the recent crush of fleshy chronicles of swingers, erotic dancers and the like, as Query somehow couches her first-hand account of the sex industry with an aura of "normalcy" that adeptly avoids muffling the beat of her political diatribe.
The movie: Query was a dancer at San Francisco's Lusty Lady peep show who "never dreamed that [her] first attempt at labor activism would be as a stripper." Quirks of the trade that had been punchlines in her standup act began to irk her, and when she realized her "co-workers" felt the same -- it was time for action. Together they set out to unionize and secure a contract to fight back against bizarre industry rules. Such as if a dancer is ill she must find someone to fill her shift of the same HAIR COLOR and BREAST SIZE. The gals were also annoyed that peepers were illegally photographing their gyrations from behind one-way glass. And only one woman of color was permitted to dance each shift. However, the Lusty Lady's ownership cringed at the possibility of bending to the will of militant showgirls, so more than six months of brutal negotiating against high-priced union-bustin' attorneys ensued. Amid this turmoil, Query decides it'd be super for the documentary to "come out" as a stripper to her mother. She'd already professed her lesbianism, but mom's Dr. Joyce Wallace who has dedicated herself to helping prostitutes get off the streets and will likely take the admission as a betrayal. From that conflict spawns genuine emotion that may distract those who find the work place demands of erotic professionals infinitely laughable.
Notables: 15 breasts. Tattooing. Peeping. Gratuitous Barbara Walters. Knitting. Lesbian standup comedy. Picketing. Fuzzy armpits.
Quotables: Tara dances for the greater good, "I consider myself to be providing a spiritual service." Strikers chant, "No contract, no p@#%y! ... Two, four, six, eight, don't come here to masturbate!"
Time codes: The Exotic Dancers Union is formed (16:00). First strike: No Pink Day (34:10). Mom arrives at the "stripper" house (41:00). Query confronts her greatest fear (49:45).
Audio/Video: Fullframe image quality is consistent with other documentaries shot on consumer video with natural lighting. Voiceovers are strong, but some gal-on-the-street interviews can get a little iffy.
Extras: About six minutes of somewhat amusing deleted scenes including one in which the unionized strippers are called fat hos. Photo gallery with eight images. Theatrical trailer.
Final thought: Outrageously absurd and, at moments, oddly moving. Those looking for more titillation than social commentary should stick with HBO's "G-String Divas." Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.