LOS ANGELES — Sarah Tressler received two phone calls on the same day in January that changed her life.
One call came from the Houston-based Di Angelo Publications expressing interest in turning her Diary of an Angry Stripper blog into a book. The other was from the Houston Chronicle, the largest daily newspaper in the city offering her a full-time job as a reporter.
Tressler, who has a Master’s degree in journalism from NYU, accepted the job and put the book deal on hold because she didn’t think the two would mix well. She was right.
On March 27 after less than three months on the job, Tressler got fired by the Houston Chronicle a day after the Houston Press, an alternative weekly paper, outed her as a part-time stripper.
Tressler says the Houston Chronicle told her she did not disclose that she had previously worked as an exotic dancer on her job application, and that was the reason she was terminated. But Tressler believes the Chronicle wrongly fired her and in May filed a gender discrimination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is now investigating the case.
“I feel women should not be denied other employment because they worked as an exotic dancer,” Tressler said on May 11, when she announced the complaint at a press conference with her attorney Gloria Allred. Her story since has generated national media attention.
Meanwhile, Tressler worked out a deal with Di Angelo Publications to publish her book this summer based on almost two years of her blog entries on DiaryofanAngryStripper.com, which first launched in the Fall of 2009. Tressler next week will embark on a 16-city promotional tour that begins in Phoenix and will take her to gentlemen's clubs from LA to Miami.
“I took my blog entries down because they’re going to be in the book,” Tressler explained. “I’ve organized them in a way that made sense for the architecture of a book. It’s not chronological, it’s categorical.”
The 30-year-old native of Houston started stripping at 22 to help put herself through college. Since then Tressler has danced in New York, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Calif., Dallas and Houston, where she continues to work to this day at The St. James Cabaret.
She said the blog began as an outlet for her to vent.
“It was sort of a way of just getting stuff off my chest so to speak,” Tressler said. “I was really frustrated about not being able to land a job in the journalism industry after I had earned a Master’s degree from NYU in journalism. And I was just kind of tired of dealing with customers at the strip club who were condescending or not on their best behavior.”
Tressler told XBIZ she would always take the high road with unpleasant patrons.
“It’s the customer service industry. I can’t be rude — even if the customer is making you mad you still have to keep a happy face on because you don’t want to upset the customer,” she continued. “I would walk away and leave it alone. So the blog became very cathartic.”
DiaryofanAngryStripper.com included “little vignettes of what played out in the club” on a nightly basis. Tressler also frequently wrote reviews of strip clubs where she visited or worked.
“I wasn’t actively promoting it,” she said. “It was a place for other strippers to air their complaints and share stories. I wasn’t planning for it to be like a big deal.”
But several of her readers told her she should consider turning it into a book, and "It started to get to a point in the blog where I had enough material there to do it,” Tressler said.
Before she was hired at the Chronicle, Tressler freelanced for the paper for five months, taking any assignment that came her way. Then when she officially joined the staff she covered the “high society” beat which often involved her attending philanthropic events.
“On one end you get to go to a lot of parties and galas, but they all kind of wind up being a little alike,” Tressler said.
She said the The Houston Press ran with the story that she moonlighted as a stripper because they “just thought it was a good story,” and also due to the rivalry between the two papers.
Tressler said she would still strip occasionally during her three months at the Chronicle, but “rarely.”
Today she continues to freelance for Houston magazine, a glossy monthly about the luxury lifestyle in the city.
“I just got done doing a profile of a chef at a prominent restaurant in Houston,” she said.
And Tressler also teaches a writing lab at the School of Communications at the University of Houston. This Fall will be her third semester as an adjunct professor.
“I couldn’t have planned this. I definitely didn’t know it was going to happen this way,” Tressler said. “I guess it’s like people want you to be one thing; they’re comfortable with you being one thing. Like, ‘I’m just a reporter. I’m just a stripper.’ Once you start mixing things, it seems like it makes people uncomfortable.”
“… It doesn’t matter how accomplished you are or how hard your working. A little stereotypical tweak can take somebody down and it doesn’t seem fair.”
She hopes her book, which will be released nationwide in mid-July, can be a light, fun read.
"I want people to buy it and read it on airplanes, like when they’re flying from here to Cleveland and sitting next to someone they don’t want to," Tressler said. "It’s a little treat, not a tome of literary greatness. It’s a girl writing about stripping, an easy kind of reading. They are short little stories, something to take your mind off everyday life. I’m a stripper. It’s kind of my job to entertain you and take your mind off stuff that’s bothering you.”
She cited Tucker Max and David Sedaris as styles she likes to emulate with her short stories.
And Tressler said she’s not necessarily an “angry stripper” any more.
“I’m just angry for a different reason," she said. "I’m angry I got fired for being a stripper."