TV producers ogle strip joint as reality show

Two producers with track records in reality TV plan to bring their cameras to “The Horse,” a strip joint on Industrial Road, then air the shows on Discovery Network’s TLC channel in the coming months.

Darren Maddern, the creator of “Hey Paula” and “The Gossip Show with Downtown Julie Brown,” and Edward Barbini, the producer of “Dirty Jobs” and “Extreme Smuggling,” hope to create what Maddern calls “a reality docudrama.”

The show will focus on the “empowerment of women” against a backdrop of neon lights, stripper poles and scantily clad exotic dancers.

It will be another reality TV show in a city that’s full of them, but Maddern said their approach as executive producers will be unique.

All they need is the seed money from the studio and dancers who are “strong characters,” he said in a telephone inter­view from Los Angeles.

“We’re talking about college-educated girls who either couldn’t get a job or went into the workforce because they were making poverty-level wages,” Maddern said. “We’re talking girls who chose the profession simply because they love it and they love the money that comes with it.

Although the television show will focus on the benefits of embracing the profession of dancing, the cameras will also follow the bouncers and give a good deal of their attention to Mike Galam, who owns The Horse.

An entrepreneur who owns a pair of strip joints in Los Angeles, Galam took a risk when he bought the former Crazy Horse Too earlier this year. The federal government shut it down after the previous owner pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was sent to prison.

Galam, who provides his employees health insurance and is somewhat cutting edge in the industry, said he hopes to rise above the strip joint’s past reputation by focusing on the good that can come from being a dancer. Empowerment is a great place to start, he said.

“This is going to be a great experience. I know these guys are going to do us up right,” Galam said .

Word of the show got mixed reactions from two people who have made careers out of women’s issues, whether it’s directly helping prostitutes or studying the trends in a sex industry that’s alive and well in Las Vegas.

Lynn Comella, a women’s studies professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said she’d like to reserve judgment until the show becomes a reality.

“The experience of strippers, like most people working any kind of job, is varied,” she said. “There are good days and bad days, fun days and boring ones.”

Comella, who teaches gender and sexuality classes, added, “I’m glad to hear that the producers are starting from the premise of empowerment rather than victimization and harm, which is often where stories about sex workers both start and end.

“It’s definitely possible to present a story of stripping as empowering, and to feature stories of women who enjoy their jobs. I think the idea of empowerment might sound contradictory to some people because those are not the narratives of sex workers that the media typically present.”

Jody Williams, who founded the Las Vegas-based Sex Workers Anonymous in the early 1990s, had a word of advice for the producers: “Show the reality. Show everything. Don’t start heavily editing everything and cutting stuff out.”

She contends HBO’s similar reality TV show “G String Divas” did just that. It glossed over the eating disorders, the drug addictions, virtually all the detrimental consequences that can so often accompany choosing such a career.

“When people call me up and they’re strippers, they usually have some horrible stories to tell me,” said Williams, 53, a former Los Angeles prostitute who has since mended her ways by founding Sex Workers Anonymous. The nonprofit organization helps victims and operates on a global scale via the Internet.

“I haven’t met one stripper who has a great story but maybe that’s just me,” she said.

Contact reporter Tom Ragan at or 702-224-5512.