Shaking it UP
in the bars of New Jersey

by Lou Lumenick

Jill Morley opens her one-woman show, “True Confession of a Go-Go Girl,” with a slide show of road signs.
All of them are stops along the go-go trail in North Jersey. “I honestly think that it’s some sort of cultural thing for men here,” Morley said over lunch in a Soho bistro. “It seems to be passed from father to son.”

It should be stressed that Morley is a Jersey girl herself — she grew up in the exclusive Monmouth County community of Colt’s Neck. Which may explain why she avoided the rash of bars along Monmouth’s bay shore and headed instead for the fleshpots of Bergen, Passaic and Morris counties.

“It should be stressed that Morley is a Jersey girl herself!”

She ticks off the names: The Hitching Post in Paterson. Satin Dolls in Lodi. The Palace in Passaic. The Jungle in North Arlington. The Funhouse in Lake Hopatcong.

Lake Hopatcong?

“I heard they had a swing, and I figured that would be something fun, something new, to do. It turns out they didn’t.”

Well, that’s getting a little ahead of the story.

A self-described tomboy and graduate of Red Bank Catholic High School, Morley wasn’t real comfortable with the idea of scanty-dancing in bars in the first place. But as an aspiring actress she needed the money, and she figured if it helped her express her sexuality in her acting, that was an added bonus.

A friend from New York University got her an audition at Stats, a sports bar in South Hackensack she says was a favorite of that town’s since-disbanded police department. It was an easy place to break in, since the audience was mostly interested in watching sports on TV.

She graduated to the Halfway House in Carlstadt, where she started out “virtually doing stand-up comedy. The more I got comfortable dancing, the more I explored the sexuality of it.”

‘Flashing’ breasts – ILLEGAL in New Jersey !!!

State liquor prohibit nudity in New Jersey bars, though some look the other way when dancers hustle customers for tips by flashing their breasts. A few owners encourage it. In general, she says, the women are “treated like cattle.”

She didn’t feel threatened or unsafe, though. One time a drunken customer “leaned over and tried to kiss me,” says Morley, who unfortunately for him, has taken boxing lessons. “I checked him, then realized that if I had thrown a combination I would have knocked the guy out.”

The Halfway House draws “a lot of truck drivers, people who work at the Meadowlands,” while Satin Dolls, where she later worked, has more of a yuppie crowd. That was about as far up the go-go food chain as Morley got: She unsuccessfully auditioned for the ne plus ultra of North Jersey go-go bars, Shakers in Carlstadt. “They like them blond and big-breasted,” explains Morley, who is neither.

Morley and the other “girls” — a misnomer, since at least one of them has been strutting her stuff for 20 years — rode from Manhattan to their New Jersey jobs in a hearse. She averaged $300. in tips and salary for a couple of night’s work, which typically involved six or seven half-hour sets a night. “The money’s good, it’s fast, and it’s cash.”

But she quit after a couple of years.

“This is the only industry where women earn more than men!”

“I felt it was starting to use me rather than my using it for what I wanted,” she said. “The club owners in New Jersey have been cutting the dancers salaries. Now some of them want the girls to dance for tips.”

Morley plays herself and four of her colleagues in the show, which has been running one night a week since April at the West Bank Cafe in Manhattan. She’s been trying to turn it into a screenplay. Meg Ryan and Jodie Foster have been by, and both are said to be toying with the idea of playing Morley.

“The sex industry is the only industry where women earn more than men,” she says in the show.

And for Jill Morley, it may keep on paying.