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Scarlett Kapella, Bitch! You Strippin’
Scarlett Kapella, Bitch! You Strippin’Photography Scarlett Kapella

@therealbitchyoustrippin chronicles life inside a legendary LA strip club

Photographer and dancer Scarlett Kapella documents the formidable women from eccentric Hollywood strip joint, Jumbo’s Clown Room

@therealbitchyoustrippin is the Instagram account chronicling life inside the famed Hollywood Boulevard strip joint, Jumbo’s Clown Room. Founder and photographer Scarlett Kapella isn’t simply moonlighting as a stripper, she’s shooting whilst working shifts in the club. “BITCH! You Strippin’ is my ongoing photo project that started in 2018,” she tells Dazed. “I wanted to document my unique perspective from the dressing room of Jumbo’s Clown Room, the legendary bikini bar where I perform, so I started bringing my camera to work.”

Kapella’s images offer an insider’s view behind the scenes of this landmark of Los Angeles nightlife. She portrays an eccentric world ruled over by a close sorority of formidable, unconventional women and populated by a wildly mixed clientele, including the likes of Lemmy from Motörhead and X-Files enthusiasts in silver lamé pants. 

“I had my 21st birthday party at Jumbo’s and basically never left, it felt like Cheers meets Twin Peaks,” she tells us. 12 years on, despite having observed elements of this marginal subculture being appropriated by the mainstream, there’s still an “outlaw aspect” to her life as a stripper that remains enthralling and compels Kapella to keep taking pictures of this “endangered species of niche adult entertainment”. 

Take a look in the gallery above for a glimpse into the BITCH! You Strippin’ universe. Below, we talk to Scarlett Kapella about her striptease mentors, legendary pole dancers of Los Angeles, the continued allure of strip clubs, and the unique and offbeat world of Jumbo’s Clown Room.

Could you tell us a bit more about the world of @therealbitchyoustrippin

Scarlett Kapella: Often described as a stripper photo vault, BITCH! You Strippin’ was once a personal hobby but has now morphed into a pervert’s wet dream. Offering limited edition prints, home goods such as rollings trays and coke mirrors, and, most of all, a glimpse into my life as a stripper. 

What’s special about Jumbo’s Clown Room? Could you tell us about the culture, atmosphere, clientele, and the women etc?

Scarlett Kapella: Jumbo’s thrives off its heavenly combo of kitsch and cool. Compared to most adult entertainment venues, it has a lighthearted energy, serving up no-fuss cocktails in moody red lighting. Instead of a skeezy DJ announcing lap-dance discounts, we use a well-stocked jukebox to pump out stuff like The Cramps, Danzig, & Black Sabbath.

I had my 21st birthday party at Jumbo’s and basically never left, it felt like Cheers meets Twin Peaks. At the time, Jumbo’s hosted eccentric dancers like Velvet who would hit the stripper pole with a chain from Home Depot to Slipknot deep cuts. Or there was a Hollywood Boulevard version of Marilyn Monroe whose banger move was to put her hand down her panties and pretend to pass out after smelling her own fingers. 

I’ve watched Jumbo’s evolve in the last 12 years. While the dancers are less offbeat these days, expect to see bitches standing on the ceiling and tattooed girl-next-door types that are sure to leave a hoofprint on your brain. 

After 51 years in business, Jumbo’s has earned its place as a Hollywood institution with a mixed clientele. Any given night there’s a wide range of customers from boomer pervs, to high-dollar flexers, and bachelorette woo-girls with penis crowns.

Both the club and the audience are accepting of unconventional stripper behaviour, like when I dressed as a slutty Huell Howser for Halloween I was still approached for lap dances and management didn’t say, ‘Get the fuck out.’ 

You can bring your parents into Jumbo’s and I will flirt with both of them, respectfully. 

What’s the striptease subculture like in LA?

Scarlett Kapella: Because of my photography, I’ve gone beyond my Jumbo’s bubble into other pockets of the multifaceted LA stripper subculture. There are so many different scenes, from burlesque to kink, sex-worker activism to online stripper broadcasts. I can’t speak on the behalf of all LA strippers, but I feel the most celebrated and respected by society than ever before. Years ago, my agency dropped me when they found out I worked as a dancer, but it’s now a profitable form of exposure. The stripper subculture continues to bleed into mainstream life, offering more performance and commercial opportunities. 

“You can bring your parents into Jumbo’s and I will flirt with both of them, respectfully” – Scarlett Kapella

Who are your favourite customers? 

Scarlett Kapella: Generally speaking, my favourite type of customer is someone who comes into the club with a positive attitude and lots of cash. My all-time favourite customer would hands-down be Lemmy from Motörhead, he was so kind and funny, I really enjoyed his company and can’t wait to see him in the big lap dance booth in the sky. 

As far as regulars go, Gus takes the cake. He is always supportive and enthusiastic, even donning a gimp mask for a BITCH! You Strippin’ photo series. I really miss the creatures of the day shift, like Bob Sinclair who had many aliases and would constantly make X-Files references dressed in silver lamé trousers and pointy cowboy boots.  

Are you back to work after Covid? How do you think the pandemic will affect the long-term future of strip clubs? 

Scarlett Kapella: After a year of living as a furloughed stripper, I’m back to work post-pandemic with a new stage name – Pantera – and slightly less jaded outlook. Working in clubs can start feeling like Groundhog Day, so the break was honestly nice... scary at times but nice. When COVID cancelled everything I was able to focus on my photography and merch. 

I sampled all sorts of shit, and did the virtual club for a while but bending over in front of a webcam in your living room just doesn’t hit the same as bending over while headbanging on stage to a roaring crowd.  

Good clubs are an endangered species of niche adult entertainment. Judging by the reopening response they were greatly missed during the pandemic and I hope they continue to thrive. 

Your pictures give the impression that there’s a really strong sense of community among the women. Could you tell us more about your friendships and feuds?  

Scarlett Kapella: In my 12 years in this industry, I’ve interacted with many dancers and developed a bitch posse who are prominently featured in my photography and other projects. They are also prominently featured in my best memories and are absolutely my jailhouse call.

I’ve learned a lot from having big sister-stripper mentors, like Lola, a fellow JCR veteran dancer. After 25 years in the biz, she’s still down to dump out them titties or help me dump a body, no questions asked. 

Like any job, there’s gonna be some fuckin’ assholes — sorry, challenging people — you try to avoid. By its very nature, this business attracts extreme personalities and edge-runners. Even as OnlyFans has gone supernova and Saint Laurent is making a Pleaser knock-off, dancing still has an outlaw aspect that I cherish. 

That said, gone are the days where dancers would launch cups of piss at each others’ faces or sabotage someone’s music. Just as the peep booth has gone digital, today’s dancer drama also takes place online. Snooze!

How would you define your aesthetic?

Scarlett Kapella: I try to keep my photography a bit seedy but sexy, playful with a dose of voyeurism, honest, and in the moment.  

After having modelled professionally from 2006, I got to work with some incredible photographers and a ton of fucking sleazy ones, and I learned a lot from both. I never anticipated I’d be on the other side of the camera but once I took on that role I knew what not to do around models. I like to think I make models comfortable when they’re posing for me, even when we’re shooting the more provocative stuff. While my work is raw and in your face, there’s also a layer of femininity and softness. 

What do you think is the continued lure of strip clubs? 

Scarlett Kapella: Strip clubs offer an escape from reality where one can leave society’s troubles at the door, flirt, get drunk, and be entertained. It’s less taboo these days, clubs provide a safe setting as more people are exploring their curiosities. What attracts me is the sense of community in an unconventional setting, but I also really like hot chicks. 

“Strip clubs offer an escape from reality where one can leave society’s troubles at the door, flirt, get drunk, and be entertained” – Scarlett Kapella

If you could choose one definitive image which would you select? And why? 

Scarlett Kapella: Naomi getting a lap dance is one of my favourite images, you can tell she is having a fucking blast coated in fake blood and surrounded by babes during her birthday stage dance.  

What are your future plans for your artwork? Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions planned? 

Scarlett Kapella: In the future, I want to publish a photo book that includes all the shit social media platforms deem too offensive to share.  

Follow @therealbitchyoustrippin on Instagram for updates, merch, and visual dispatches from the frontline at Jumbo’s Clown Room