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Featuring photographs by: Norman Breslow, Bill Dane, David Fahey, Anthony Friedkin, Michael Guske, Ryan Herz, Beth Herzhaft, Paul McDonough and others

Essay by Patricio Maya

"I don't know if all the women in the photographs are beautiful, but I do know the women are beautiful in the photographs."
--Garry Winogrand

Since most strip clubs expressly prohibit candid photography, Camera Night at the Ivar Theatre in Hollywood was a unique opportunity. The scene drew photographers from all over, many with national reputations. Judging by the number of shooters visible in the photos (Winogrand can be seen lurking in the background of several) that was just the tip of the iceberg.

The photos depict not only the strippers but the crazy voyeuristic scene surrounding it, a sort of sociological study of shared sexual experience, ritual observation, and male fantasy. Photographers cluster around the vaginas like paparazzi around celebrities, some mere inches from the "origin of the world". Some men in the audience stare bug-eyed. Some masturbate. A few look bored. Some manage to do all at once. 

The Ivar Theatre in Hollywood started life as a legitimate performance theater when it first opened in 1951. It later became a rock club. Performers through the years have included Lord Buckley, Lenny Bruce and many others. The Grateful Dead played there in 1966. The theatre changed hands frequently and by the 1970's it became a full-nudity strip joint - one of the last standing "Burlesk" houses in the United States.

The Ivar was lewd and notorious in its day. It was described by its patrons as "a chamber of desperation, a mausoleum for souls -- on and off the runway." Ross MacLean, one time stage manager and spotlight operator for two years, says "It's difficult to convey how bizarrely un-sexy and un-romantic the place was. A lot of the girls just danced around in street clothes, and took them off with about as much charm as someone undressing in a locker room."

Sunday and Tuesday evenings were camera nights, where for the cover charge the customers could take as many pictures as they liked. Each girl's show lasted twenty minutes; she was required to be fully undressed after five, and a minimum of five minutes was to be used with "floor work": moving about either seated or prone on the runway. If a customer put a dollar on the catwalk, the performer would give him an up-close and very personal view of her body.

Camera Night at the Ivar is a record of its time. The images chronicle a post-burlesque era in Hollywood where aspiring dancers or would-be actresses needing a few dollars, expose their bodies- where many noted photographers recorded these naked moments. Limited to its time, historical, photographers photographing people watching people. These photos are as much about the relationship between the women on stage and the men in the audience as it is about the actual image and the photographers who took them