True Confessions of a Go-Go Girl
by Leslie Hoban Blake
More than a dozen years after enrolling at Red Bank Catholic, a 28-year-old playwright, documentary filmmaker, actress, performance artist, go-go dancer, pedicab driver, professional dog walker and caterer flashes a slide of a yearbook photograph onto a white sheet tacked to the wall of a theater on the third-floor of a building in the East Village.
On the walk-upâs second floor is a bar; on the first, another theater. To go any farther off-off Broadway, youâd have to book a storefront in Hoboken.
“This is me in the ninth grade at Red Bank Catholic High School,” Jill Morley explains, Although the Superbowl half-time festivities are about to begin, a capacity crowd of 60 is packed in the Red Room Theatre. The audience giggles. Most have no idea if Red Bank Catholic is real or a figment of Morleyâs imagination.
Blurring the line between myth and reality is the picture on the white sheet depicting the countenance of a teen-age wallflower – a Farrah Fawcett wannabe – who in no way resembles the woman in the , ahem, flesh standing before them. Even if she were dressed in something other than a bikini top and G-string, Jill Morley would catch the eye.
Red Bank Catholic, of course, is real – as is the morality tale portrayed by Morley in “True Confessions of a Go-Go Girl.” The one-woman show – women in leather bikini thongs who occasionally join Morley on stage are props – reopens at the Kraine two weeks from today. Ticket, $15, are available by calling (212) 969-0107.
The Colts Neck Township native didnât enter the go-go trade with confessions in mind. Instead, she signed on for a typical reason; Fields such as catering, dog walking and pedicab driving proved insufficient to support the lifestyle of a starving actress residing in the East Village.
So, five years ago, Jill Morley – actress by day – transformed herself by night, into “Dylan.” the name came from the poet who died “face down after 12 shots of whiskey.” (Morley is not the first Village artist to honor the late Mr. Thomas by borrowing his name; Ask the folk singer, formerly known as Robert Zimmerman.)
Chauffered from the Port Authority to some of North Jerseyâs more notorious go-go bars, Morley metamorphized from actress to dancer five nights a week as she made a trip under or over the Hudson River.
“You name the club, Iâll name the exit,” she cracks, during a performance that is as unsettling as it is effective.
In a post-performance interview, Morley maintained that she never lost sight of what the netherworld was all about.
“Itâs a fake power. Itâs about a rush, a high – like a drug user. A momentary rush of power that doesnât last. because when you go home afterward, there is nothing there,” she said. ” Itâs like being a drug user. Except that the track marks are left on your soul.
At night, at home, the self doubt bordering on self-loathing consumed Morley. The eyes of the lonely, the horny and the desperate still embedded on her psyche, she forced herself to ask the question: dancer or whore?
Morleyâs “confessions,” such as they are, are as much the disclosures of fellow travelers on the go-go circuit as they are on her own:
* The wife who finds dancing so addictive while putting her husband through podiatry school that she continues, surreptitiously, until the day her 17 year – old son and his friends wander into a club where she is performing.
* The dancer fretting about the medical ramifications of the breast implants given her by a club-owner boyfriend.
* The Hispanic lesbian who impresses upon Morley the correlation between bountiful tips and the art of “flashing” – briefly revealing parts of the anatomy the law stipulates must remain covered, however barely.
“New Jersey.” Morley deadpans in the show. “The time and money that state spends worrying about (dancers) exposing a nipple they could better spend getting rid of that smell on the Turnpike.”
Created and written by Morley, “Confessions” opened two years ago at the Westbank Cafe. It will continue in an open-ended run. Morley is also producing a documentary on dancing.
What a go-go dancer does for a living is inherently dishonest. Itâs a sham – an equation in which both sides are equally pitiful.
“Itâs a mutual exploitation,” Morley said, following the show. “The men reduce the women to an object. The women reduce the men to a dollar bill.”
Onstage in a very different setting, Morley hasnât the luxury of dishonesty. In this venue, the truth emerges. Dancer or whore? In her closing soliliquy, Morley answers the question:
“Sometimes, I like to think of myself as an actress or a writer,. And that dancing is a necessary sacrifice. Something that needs to be done to pay the bills.
“But deep down,” she whispers, as the stage lights fade to dark, “I know I’m a dancer…..”