Sarah Tressler, ‘The Angry Stripper’, talks Journalism, Stripping and Jeremy Piven [INTERVIEW]
The name Sarah Tressler might only sound somewhat familiar to you at first, yet it’s certain that you’ve heard her story and undoubtedly seen her. Perhaps some of you have seen her quite a bit actually. She is more famous by the title ‘The Angry Stripper,’ a moniker she herself came up with when birthing the blog ‘The Diary of An Angry Stripper.’ Since beginning that blog roughly three years ago Sarah’s life has taken an interesting turn.
While working as a stripper at night as a way to pay the bills and being a freelance writer during the day, Sarah was eventually picked up as a full time high society journalist for The Houston Chronicle. When the Houston Press discovered she was not only a journalist but also a dancer, they used the information against the Chronicle, which ended in Sarah’s termination from her position. However, instead of allowing herself to be ostracized and ridiculed Sarah has stepped up to the plate and decided to take a few swings at the very people attempting to hold her back from the thing she loves dearly: journalism.
Your story is a really interesting one. Having been a journalist before, is it weird being on the other side of interviews now?
Yeah! [laughs] I remember when I was a reporter I used to think if I had to answer questions how would I do it? What would I look for? But this happened so suddenly, it’s weird.
So your book comes out in this summer?
Right now it’s out on eBooks. You can download it on Kindle, Nook and such. People have already been downloading it and reading it. In fact, somebody I knew from New York, but I didn’t have his number, texted me the day it came out and was like, “I’m two hours late to work because I downloaded your book and have been reading it all morning.” I was like, “Oh that’s great! Who is this?” [laughs]
How do you feel about the book? Are you nervous? Excited?
I feel good about the book. The blog had a lot of readers. It had a blurb in Maxim a couple of times even before all of this stuff happened. I think the stories are good. I think they’re kind of short. It’s very readable. I like reading books by people like Tucker Max where you’re not going to learn anything exactly. It’s just something to take your mind off of other stuff. It’s kind of what I was shooting for with these stories, and also to kind of get people to understand the point of view of a stripper, I guess.
For somebody that doesn’t know the story, how would you describe the book?
The book is a collection of stories that I accumulated over the past two and a half years of dancing around the United States and different clubs mostly in Texas. It’s kind of a lot of cautionary tales, maybe more than a few gripes about bad customers or bad clubs, bad management, even bad dancers in some cases, embarrassing situations like when I set my hair on fire one time on stage, things like that.
Working for the Chronicle, did you ever think that if they found out about the stripping it would really matter?
I had this discussion with somebody that I know and trust. He told me I should stop dancing and that I should probably take the blog down. I was totally against taking it down because I had readers. I felt it was an interesting body of work that was worth reading. I wasn’t ready to take it down. But I also was like dancing is legal! What are they going to fire me for doing something legal? Why would they do that? It doesn’t make sense, but then of course they did it anyway.
You mention in the book that you didn’t hear a peep from the the university you worked at.
So why do you think the Chronicle made such a big deal over it?
I don’t know actually. But I think part of the reason is that the story the Houston Press wrote, the initial story, spun it in a very negative way toward The Chronicle. The Houston Press has a history of trying to get digs on the reporters at The Chronicle and I think this was a juicy nugget for them in that regard. The headline was something like ‘Chron Society Reporter Is Stripper By Night.’ The headline wasn’t ‘U of H Instructor Is Stripper By Night.’ You know? They just went on about how the ladies from lunch are going to be uncomfortable if they know they’re hosting an active stripper at events and such. It was all so silly, but the professors were okay with it. I think it was the way in which it was spun. Though I’m just speculating.
There’s some weird discomfort that pops up when the subject of sex comes into play. Not saying that stripping is sex, of course. People just get very touchy.
Yeah. Anything kind of sexually charged, we’re kind of prickly about that. I don’t know why.
But then the university said nothing.
Yeah, I’m very grateful to them for not making any knee-jerk reactions.
Are you still teaching for them?
Yeah! I’ll be there in the fall.
And you’re still stripping?
Yeah, I still have to pay the bills. [laughs]
What's the general reaction been to the whole story? Are more people on your side?
Yes. Definitely. There’s a few Internet trolls who will say something really mean and uninformed but I’ve had a tremendous amount of support from the general public.
Are you allowed to comment on anything about the case?
It’s just an EEOC investigation. They’ve assigned an investigator and it’s ongoing. Gloria [Allred] told me it takes months.
The title ‘The Diary of An Angry Stripper’, did you come up with that? Would you say you’re still angry?
Well, I started that blog like two and a half, three years ago. It was a very different time in my life where I couldn’t get a job in journalism. I had just moved back from Los Angeles in frustration where I couldn’t find a job to pay my rent so I was flying to Houston to dance and then flying back to LA to pay rent, and that was after I got a masters degree. So I was having to deal with customers who were very condescending. They’d tell me they were from Argentina and would be like, “Do you know where that is?” Somebody once called me aloof and asked if I knew what then meant. I have a master’s degree from NYU in journalism. I know what aloof means. But it’s just guys that were like ‘why aren’t you in school?’ ‘You could be doing so much more with your life.’ Don’t come into the club to give us a pep talk about how we could make our lives better. We don’t need that.
Do you think it caused so much controversy because you were working on the high society section of the paper?
I think it may have had something to do with it. But I was fired about 24 hours after that story had come out so it’s not like high society had much of a chance to react to it. Plus, I was friendly with a lot of those people. I don’t think they would have just turned on me like that. But I don’t know because I wasn’t given a chance to find out. When I got the phone call to come into the editor in chief’s office on that Monday when the story broke, I was on my way to a socialite’s house. She invited me over for tea to get to know me. These people were friendly with me.
With the book, is there anything you’re hopeful for?
I just hope people who read it find it interesting and enjoyable. It’s not meant to be very serious. It’s a humorous book that’s about 200 pages so it’ll get you through a flight from here [New York City] to LA. It’s really light reading. It’s meant to be a laugh.
Is the Jeremy Piven story in there?
Yeah, it’s at the very end.
That must have turned some heads.
Initially, that was the thing people latched onto whenever they found my blog. I guess some people thought I met him at a strip club, which wasn’t the case. I was a red carpet reporter for US Weekly here in New York City and they had sent me out to interview him. Jeremy Piven is the kind of guy that will just pull down a girl right after he meets her and that’s exactly what happened. He was my celebrity crush for a long time and I was gunning to get that interview because I knew he was the kind of guy that did that and I was like, ‘oh man, I feel it coming.’ And it did. So yeah, that story is in there. I was still at NYU when that happened so I was writing a lot. My natural inclination is to write about things that are unusual or things that bother me and so I wrote that and turned it in as my final assignment for one of my classes. My prof really liked that story. He thought I should have pitched it to GQ.
Has the whole situation been blessing in disguise?
I don’t know yet. It’s only been a few months. The story came out on a Monday and I was going to my meeting with my editor on Tuesday where he was going to fire me. I didn’t know I was going to be fired but that Tuesday when I walked out of my house ABC had a producer waiting for me. It was weird. If they had let me keep my job I wouldn’t be doing any of this right now. I would have been happy just staying there and burying this but when I got fired I was like all bets are off. I don’t need to protect The Chronicle and I’m not.
Catch up with Sarah Tressler and her book on her official site.