Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out
They leave the west behind
And Moscow girls make me sing and shout
That Georgia's always on my my my my my my my my my mind

    -- John Lennon & Paul McCartney, "Back in the U.S.S.R."


A friend of mine (I'll call her "Satine") has worked in strip clubs in Columbus, Ohio and in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to her, a significant minority of the strippers, showgirls, nude models and prostitutes working in the U.S. are immigrants from Russia and other countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union.

She says that the Eastern European girls tend to share one prominent trait: they tend to work much harder and are far more motivated by money than most U.S.-born women.

"They'll really hustle," she said. "They'll work as many shifts as they can get, work as many songs as they can, and they get more money out of the men they dance for. I mean, I make decent money working just three days a week. I couldn't physically keep up the kind of pace those girls have. I can't imagine the kind of poverty they must have come from to make them so focused on getting cash."

She said some U.S.-born models and dancers who don't want to get tans or bleach their hair will adopt a Russian persona and fake an accent to make themselves seem more "exotic". Most American clubgoers aren't well-traveled enough to tell a faked accent from a real one.

So, how can you tell if the lovely hustler calling herself "Svetlana" you're watching onstage or via a webcam is the real thing?

Look at the soles of her feet.

According to author Brian A. Hopkins (who talked with me about research he'd done for his latest mystery novel about the murder of a webcam girl), Russian mobsters don't usually beat up strippers and prostitutes who displease them.

Instead, if they decide a girl needs to be put in her place, they'll slash the soles of her feet lengthwise with razor blades. Another common punishment is to slash a girl in the crease under her buttocks where the scar won't show.

The Russian mafia is nothing if not coldly practical. A girl with a battered face won't get many customers, but a girl with sliced-up feet can be made to put on shoes, dance and smile and her customers won't be any the wiser. A cut girl can continue to make them money while suffering even more from her punishment.

Satine was horrified when I told her of this form of punishment. "That's pretty fucking cruel," she said. "My feet ache all the time from dancing as it is, and I don't have any foot problems. Those girls must be in an incredible amount of pain.

"Damn. No wonder they're desperate to get out here and make their pile so they can quit this business," she said.

That is, of course, if they're ever actually able to quit. It's possible that the girls work so much harder than most because they're still under the control of mobsters from their homelands. Satine doesn't know if any of the girls she's worked with are slaves to organized crime, but she agrees it's a possibility.

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