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"I went into stripping for all the wrong reasons."
After Craig Seymour Took It All Off, He Wrote It All Down

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Before Washington leveled Southeast's gay clubs for a stadium, when neighborhood men could get up close and sweaty together without being in the Nats lineup, Craig Seymour, 39, took the stage in a G-string. A PhD student and stripper. This fall, he joins the journalism faculty at Northern Illinois University. He'll discuss "All I Could Bare," his memoir of disrobing, at the DC Center on June 19.

Why stripping?

I always wanted to be a writer, but taking the risk as a stripper allowed me to take risks in other parts of my life. . . . The Post sent me [on a freelance assignment] to New York to interview Mariah Carey. I hadn't even been writing for a year, and all of a sudden I had to do this huge feature on one of the biggest pop stars in the world. Once you can stand on a bar naked in front of complete strangers, that gives you the confidence to stand in front of one of the biggest singers.

There are other things you can do to lose fear.

I wouldn't put stripping on the curriculum for J-school. That was just part of my journey. That happened to be the thing I needed. The better solution perhaps is just to take chances all along the way. I think I had made so many safe decisions in my life, I needed a big decision like stripping. . . . I went into stripping for all the wrong reasons. I went into it because I actually thought it would help me make peace around the issues I had with body image. That's the worst thing you can ever do because you're never gonna feel comfortable with something you're putting out in front of you for people to barter on.

Do you still patronize this world?

Let's say you played college football. You might play a pick-up game. If you're an athlete, you can always understand the psyche of people that go into sports. Me having this experience in this world, I can still relate to the psyche of people who go to these clubs. I still like, occasionally, to hit up a strip club. It's a familiar world.

How is teaching similar to stripping?

I'm not trying to manipulate them to get something out of them, which is what you do in stripping or interviewing. I don't see [teaching] as a performance. My class is very improvisational.

-- Gabe Oppenheim

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