GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA — As President Trump’s alleged porn star paramour Stormy Daniels waited back stage, the DJ at the Trophy Club struggled to get the crowd excited, spinning a strange remix of the Mission Impossible theme song and plaintively assuring the sparse crowd that, “I mean, I’ve seen some big titties…”
Just after 11 p.m., amid a few half hearted cheers from the hundred or so patrons and a gaggle of her fellow dancers, Daniels — whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford — emerged from behind the curtains, officially kicking off her “Make America Horny Again” strip club tour Saturday night in the heart of Trump country.
Making her first public appearance since news of the alleged affair first broke, Daniels gamely worked her way through a medley of songs, including an odd cover of "Like a Virgin," a big smile frozen solidly on her face. Within minutes the performance was over, and the DJ was vigorously promoting a two-for-one hourly couch dance special. There were commemorative t-shirts for patrons who bought a lap dance — or who happened to find one discarded at the bar.
For the past week, the 38-year-old adult film star has found herself at the center of what is arguably the slowest mushrooming scandal of Trump’s presidency, following a Wall Street Journal report that she received $130,000 in the weeks before the 2016 election in exchange for keeping quiet about a sexual relationship she'd had with Trump a decade earlier. Further details of the alleged affair were revealed Friday with the release of a 2011 interview with In Touch magazine, in which Daniels detailed her sexual encounters with Trump, and confidently declared she could pick his genitals out of a line up if necessary.
In another universe, a public striptease from an alleged former mistress of the president of the United States would have been a major event, drawing throngs of people eager to celebrate her courage, or judge her sternly for bringing shame to the nation's highest office.
But this is Trump’s America now. And for better or worse, as the president celebrates the anniversary of his inauguration and the government is shut down, such a spectacle barely merits notice, let alone elicits emotion.
“Why would I give a fuck? Have you seen the stock market,” said a union sheet metal worker, who for obvious reasons asked not to be named. “Why would I fucking care who he gets a blow job from?”
Other patrons, who similarly did not want to be identified as strip club patrons, were frustrated by the $20 cover charge, which was significantly higher than the Greenville Trophy Club's usual Saturday night fee. Even the other dancers didn’t realize who Daniels was at first. “At first I thought she was just a featured dancer,” said Autumn Edwards, one of club's regular performers.
A few people had clearly come for the MAGA; one man in a crisp new black cowboy hat used the improbable “Trump follows me on Twitter” pickup line with one dancer, who smiled politely before turning back to the bar.
But the Trophy Club was very much a microcosm of the country itself, gawking at the spectacle that has become the presidency, before ultimately turning away with a shrug and trying to get the attention of a “shot girl” who plied the crowd with test tubes of sugary sweet liquor.
As patrons milled around between sets, one of the three TVs above the bar silently showed CNN, which had interviewed the club's owner earlier in the day. Mimi, a tall, redhead dancer looked up, puzzled. “The club was just on,” I explained.
“Really?" she asked. "Why?”
John Stanton is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New Orleans. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.
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