At the age of 31, she is a veteran of 10 years in five downtown strip clubs, an oldtimer in a business not unlike professional football, with a few good, high-paying years and an early retirement.

In 1967, she was eking out a living as a telephone switchboard operator at a local hospital, supporting two children on an 11th grade education, when the big break came. Employment in a strip joint offered good money, short hours.

Now, finally, after working as a waitress in five downtown strip clubs, she's a woman of leisure, sitting in the living room of her suburban home, sunlight streaming through the front bay window warming the plants that hang from the ceiling. She has time now to care for her four children and her husband and to reflect upon a career in a business that left intact her basic middle-class values, if not her innocence.

"Most of the waitresses are married," she said. "Most have children. Most are down to earth, nice people. They're there for the same reason I am - money."

The money, she said, amounts to as much as $350 a week - only $28 in salary, the rest in tips. "Most of us report tips of $200 a month.

The waitress and the dancers who sit with customers work closely together keeping the champagne flowing and the credit cards in use. The waitress fills two small champagne glasses and then places the bottle upside down in an ice bucket on the floor, she explained.

If customers complain about the rapid disappearance of the wine, she said, "I tell them they're not paying for the champagne, they're paying for the company of the gorgeous young lady that's sitting next to them, blah, blah, blah, whatever they want to hear."

Unbeknownst to be customers, the waitress said, and police sources confirmed, some dancers who don't dance "bottomless" at downtown strip clubs are transvestites. "I always wanted to tell a customer he was sitting with a man," she said.

Although she finds much of the strip dancing "rather disgusting," she said, the sexual activity that sometimes goes on in the club's darkened interior between customers and dancers "keep the customer off the streets. Where would these men be if they weren't here? On the corner of 14th Street. They don't get rolled in here."

Discussing her career, the strip club waitress expressed pride in a job well done, and some disdain for bottomless bars.

"We don't really associate with those people," the waitress said. "They're not in the same business we're in. Take a waitress from one of those places, she couldn't work where we work. She wouldn't know what to do."

When she worked at the Silver Slipper, she said, the club closed at Christmas and employees exchanged gifts. "We usually get a present from the owner; last year, I got perfume," she said. "And there is a Christmas party with a buffet to which you can can invite your husband or boyfriend."