First the lipstick, pure fuchsia. She slathers it on the wide, full mouth, already fuchsia-glossy from an earlier paint job. Then the mascara, black as her wig, black as her painted eyebrows. She slips out of her faded jeans, the tight turtleneck, the wedgies, and pours her extraordinary body into silver lame, mermaid-shaped at the bottom, and up at the top, large enough and low enough and wide enough to accomodate 44 inches.
Later, of course, she will take it all of.But for now, her dark eyes sparkle with excitement as she glimpses herself in the mirror of her tiny dressing room at the Plaza Burlesque Theater: a great, curly-headed, painted silver fish.
"Every time, it's an adventure," she says, smiling still into the mirror. "It's a different way of packaging yourself evey night. I love to exhibit myself and to watch the men go crazy. I think God put me on this earth for that.
"Not to make them sin," he cautions hastily, for she is very, very serious about the avoidance of lust - especially lately. "I admit," she says with a helpless little shrug, "Some of the men feel lust. But what can I do about that?You can't help the sins of others."
Now there are those who might argue that a lady who strips down to her 44 inches for a living, which is precisely how Kellie Everts will be bringing home a minimum of $1,500 this week, isn't really doing her best to promote pure thoughts and a clean spirit. But there you are. Kellie Everts moves in mysterious ways, which is what allows her to say:
"In fact this act I'm doing here is dedicated to the souls from purgatory, and that's why tears come to the eyes of my audience and they see the light."
She is deadly earnest as she says this: graver still when she recounts the tale of the man who saw her strip in Philly, "who told me that when he saw me, tears came to his eyes, he felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, and he thought he was in church."
Angie Baby walks into the dressing room with a six-pack of beer, which Kellie Everts refuses. She doesn't drink. She doesn't smoke. And lately, she avoids sex, "but I can't talk about that. The Virgin Mary told me not to about my private life."
Angie Baby tries again. She walks into the dressing room with a dozen sweetheart roses, and is rewarded this time with a glorious fuchsia smile.
"From the Blessed Mother and a friend," explains Angie Baby with a shy smile. Then she introduces herself: "I'm Kellie's daughter."
"My spiritual daughter." Kellie Everts explains hastily, for spiritual thought she may be, she is very touchy about her age which she gives as 28 - and then, after a bit of close questioning, rescind without offering a credible substitute.
"Angie Bany," she continues, glancing affectionately at her fellow stripper, "is really my disciple. I wish you'd say that, Angie Baby," she says to the young woman with long lanky hair, "you're my disciple.
"It's like we have this invisible monastery," Everts sums up. "Angie Baby gives thousands of dollars to support our mission."
If you're not willing to fork over the S5 charged by the Plaza Theater on New York Avenue to see Angie Baby and Kellie Everts do their stuff (along with a bunch of X-rated movies), you can catch them for free at noon today at Lafayette Park. But in a noticeably different posture. At that time, Everts will be saying things like, "I am a slave of the Blessed Virgin Mary." And Angie Baby will be passing out 100 free pink and blue plastic rosaries.
"We go where a lot of priests and nuns fear to tread," explains Angie Baby, calmly covering up the scars from her breast-lift with flesh-colored makeup.
The two women exchange glances of mute comprehension in the middle of the Plaza Theater, which smells of disinfectant. It is easy, given-the environment, the smells, the sad feeble-looking clientle, to scoff at Kellie Everts and her religious fervor.
It is simpler to suppose, as one reporter did, that she is spouting spiritualism to hype her carrer. Especially since she has told at least one member of the press, "I am a stripper for Christ." Especially since she casually informs you that she has talked to the spirits of Marilyn Monroe ("a saint") Rudolph Valentino, and Elvis Presley's mother while her boy was still alive.
Not being one to pass up a chance at getting a few good insights, Everts asked Valentino if he was homosexual ("He replied that he was above sex") and inquired after Elvis from his mama:
"She told me that I was to virtuous for her son," Kellie Everts replies with a modest smile. "She said he liked girls he could have some fun with."
The stripper shrugs with perfect indifference. None of the matters now. "I'll never marry again," she says, "and I'll never have a serious relationship. I took a vow of chastity in 1975, but the Blessed Mother told me not to talk about that."
It is, finally, her nonchalance, the unstudied cheerfulness with which she imparts her revelations that cements the appearance of sincerity. Blithely she doffs the two dangling crosses that are her earrings and attaches a heavy choker around her neck. "You have to search and search for things like this," she says with a small sigh, "It's a real science. Wherever I travel, I search."
She looks, at last, like 1958 incarnate, like nothing one can see or buy any more. One can't help believing she believes. Back in 1971, she was ready to kill herself. That's how it all began.
"I was going to go out to Death Valley and starve myself to death and die of exposure," she says, taking out a green rosary to admire.
"I was very depressed with myself,with the world. But God reached me in 1971. I went to a faith healer, and the golden light of Christ went into me."
For a while she,decided to give up stripping, telling the faith healer, "I want to be your servant." But than the faith-healer came back at her with, "Kellie - you know what God kept telling me over and over again last night? "Make money with Kellie's body."
"Maybe she was taking advantage of me financially," concedes the stripper. "But in some ways I was paying God back for my sins."
And in some others ways, she's been paid back herself. You can find her in the July issue of Playboy (her third appearance); she was once Miss Nude Universe. She says she spent two years working for the Youth Coros in Fun City helping delinquents and kids."
But the kids drove her crazy. She went, once again, back to stripping, her occupation since the age of 19.
"See. God doesn't want me to be in a monastery," she says with sublime gravity. "Sin or the lack of it depends completely on your motives. And my purpose is to bring glory to God - perfection in an artist way."
It is, in fact, virtually impossible to keep the stripper off the subject of religion. All the things one has ever wanted to know about her end up being answered somewhere in a pile of celestial rhetoric. She's a widow, yes, and sees the spirit of her dead husband who is in purgatory. It's wonderful to have big breast, yes, but . . .
"It's also a cross," she says without much conviction. "It distracts from spiritualism. I like it when every guy whistles on the street. And I admit I buy all my clothes to show off my body."
She thinks about this terrible paradox. Finally: "I know that some day I will overcome all that stuff. But not now."
No, not now. Angie Baby lights a few candles in the adjoining room. "She thinks of me as an instrument of God," Kellie Everts says proudly. "I buy her flowers, too. Oh sure, I bought her flowers just last week when she went to jail [on charges stemming from her act in New Jersy]. That's her cross."
Angie Baby smiles beautifully. "Kellie got jealous I went to jail."
"Yes," concedes Kellie Everts sadly. "yes, I was almost jealous. God does you a favor when you suffer. God put you in jail. Suffering puts you in touch with the Blessed Virgin and Jesus. "Yes, I was jealous."