From 1972 to 1975, I spent my summers photographing and interviewing women who performed striptease for small town carnivals in New England, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. As I followed the girl shows from town to town, I photographed the dancers’ public performances as well as their private lives. I also taped interviews with the dancers, their boyfriends, the show managers, and paying customers.
The women I met ranged in age from seventeen to thirty-five. Most had left small towns, seeking mobility, money and something different from what was prescribed or proscribed by their lives that the carnival allowed them to leave. They were runaways, girlfriends of carnies, club dancers, both transient and professional.
They worked out of a traveling box, a truck that unfolded to form two stages, one opening to the public carnival grounds, another concealed under a tent for a private audience. A dressing room stands between them. Again and again, throughout the day and night, the woman performers moved from the front stage, with its bally call—the talker’s spiel that entices the crowd—to the stage, where they each perform for the duration of a 45 pop record.