Ben Krane Credit: Sarah Joyce

Chicagoans is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week’s Chicagoan is Ben Krane, go-go dancer.

I’ve always been the dancing guy in my circle of friends. Somebody knew somebody who knew the owner of Hydrate, and he said, “You know, they’re always looking for dancers.” The first time, it’s like you’re trying to focus on Be sexy, be sexy, be sexy, and it didn’t work. After that, I decided Do your own thing. Do what you want to do up there, and maybe it’ll work out, and it did. I would like to quit my day job and make this my full-time thing.

When you’re up there dancing, you’re scanning the crowd, looking for where to throw attention to. I definitely prefer the older crowds. Young drunk people tend to be very grabby. They’ve already blown all their money on the drinks they’re buying; a lot of them don’t even have cash on them to tip. The older men are very respectful. The older women are just happy to be there, really.

Ben KraneCredit: Sarah Joyce

A typical night is usually two to four hours, with probably only an hour or two of actual dancing. The rest of the time you’re mingling, talking to the customers and keeping them happy. The first question people ask me is “Where are you from?” Meaning “What ethnicity are you?” I guess that’s their way of doing it nicely. I always tell them, “I’m from here, but my father’s from Guadalajara.”

And then the second question is usually “Is it real?” They think there’s a sock or a prosthetic or who knows what. And then the third question is “Are you gay or straight?” When I say I’m straight, people go, “Oh, and you work in a place like this? You don’t mind when guys touch you?” I tell them, “I’m very comfortable with who I am. I’m here to make money. I’m not here to hook up.” Some of them are like, “No, you’re not straight. You’re messing with us.” And some of them take offense, like, “You don’t have to lie. It’s OK if you’re not into me.” It’s like, “Well, I’m straight. I don’t know what to tell you.”

Ben KraneCredit: Sarah Joyce

If people try to hit on me, I stay gracious. I try to play along a little bit without getting too flirty. If it crosses a line, I excuse myself from the conversation as nicely as I can. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt unsafe, but I definitely have felt like, “This could go in a bad direction if I don’t come up with an escape plan.”

One time I was leaving a club, and one of the customers offered to walk me to my car, and I thought “No big deal, I’m right around the corner, it’ll be fine.” We get to my car, and I go to open my door, and he puts his hand against the door to keep it closed. He’s like, “You sure you want to go home? What do you want to do?” I’m like, “No,” and I open the door, and he kind of grabbed at my pants, and I was like, “No-no-no-no,” and I pushed his hand away and said, “Have a good night,” and got in my car and shut my door and drove off. I don’t even pretend to know what women go through on a daily basis, but I feel like I have a peek at what it might be.   v