The Very Foolish Sarah Tressler

Let’s play The Empathy Game.  Put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a moment.  Let’s say you’re a young writer in your 20s.  You’re highly educated with a couple of internships under your belt which allowed you to gain some experience working for the media.  All of this leads you to a job interview with a well-established newspaper.  But there’s a problem.

Because media internships are usually unpaid (you’re essentially a volunteer worker), you need to make money elsewhere.  Even if you’re lucky to get a side job at a restaurant or a retail store, the money’s not great.  But if you’re good looking and in decent enough shape to become a stripper, you’ll get paid considerably more.

So, let’s say you get the stripper gig and your financial situation brightens.  But you really want to make an impression on this newspaper that’s looking for a reporter to cover a particular beat, a job you would much rather have.  Here’s the big question:  do you tell them about your other gig?

Sarah Tressler didn’t inform The Houston Chronicle that she had been stripping in gentlemen’s clubs off and on for years.  (ABC News reports she started in 2004 although she herself notes here that she had entered one at age 16.  She doesn’t specify whether she was an employee or a patron at the time.  April 2 UPDATE:  Tressler responds in a comment on this entry that she was just a customer.  I appreciate the clarification.)  Starting out as a freelancer, the 29-year-old ultimately became a full-time reporter covering high society stories for the conservative Texas city broadsheet.  (Besides the stripping, she’s also a lecturer at the University Of Houston, according to her LinkedIn profile.)

But after this story surfaced, she got fired.

It turns out that Tressler has been maintaining a blog about her stripping experiences since August 2009.  Entitled Diary Of An Angry Stripper, she lays out everything you’d ever want to know about the strip club business.  Having gone through a number of her pieces, I’m relieved I was never one of her customers.  She might need to talk to Dr. Drew about her chronic addiction to complaining.

But back to her firing.  Did the Chronicle have any legal justification in letting her go?  From what I can tell, no.  Did Tressler really have an obligation to inform the paper of her other gig at any time during her employment?  Probably not.  She wasn’t doing anything illegal and wasn’t really embarrassing the paper in any concrete way.  Furthermore, she wasn’t on company time when she was stripping.  What she does away from the paper is her own damn business.

That being said, Tressler’s whining about being exposed by that Houston Press article is absurd.  First, her site is publicly available.  Anyone can access it.  Second, Tressler didn’t exactly hide her identity on there.  After every single entry and comment she makes you’ll find “sarahtress”.  Guess what her official Twitter account is.  You guessed it:  sarahtress.

Let’s go even further.  On her Angry Stripper Twitter account, you’ll find this and this.  On the Sarah Tress account, there’s this.  No one needed to hire Adrian Monk to solve this mystery.

I’m no clinical psychologist but Tressler appears to be suffering from Megan Fox Disease, a terrible disorder that affects beautiful young women in their 20s.  It works like this.  The MFD sufferer, secretly insecure and uncertain, projects an overly confident personality that rubs lesser mortals the wrong way.  They can be irritable, hypercritical, and generally unpleasant company, either in the workplace or in social settings, all the while blissfully unaware of the potential consequences said behaviour can inspire.  While they themselves find their antics absolutely hilarious, MFD sufferers are the only ones laughing.

They’re also horrifyingly indiscreet.  Fox, herself, dumbly compared her Transformers director Michael Bay to Hitler (which ultimately cost her a job in the second sequel).  As a result, she hasn’t had a hit movie since.  Tressler went much further about another famous person in a deeply embarrassing piece on her blog.

When she interned for US Weekly, she interviewed the actor Jeremy Piven.  They apparently hit it off and ended up fooling around.  She wrote about it on her Angry Stripper blog in a piece called “About Sarah, Contd” which I’d link to but she has since deleted it.  (You can’t find a cached copy, either.)  However, Gawker, among many other websites, quoted from it, before it disappeared.

One wonders what she stood to gain from publicly sharing this anecdote from her private life other than humiliating Piven who simply wanted to get it on with her.  (No crime was committed after all.)  Let me pose an obvious question:  what if the roles were reversed?  Would Tressler have been ok with Piven writing critically about her sexual skills, particularly if they were lacking, for all the world to see?  Would anyone want to read a public blog entry about how bad they suck at sex?

For someone as admirably educated and hardworking as Tressler to be so reckless like this is, quite frankly, perplexing.  Why would any self-respecting guy date someone this self-absorbed, disconnected and indiscreet?  Where is her common sense?  In the end, if she didn’t want anyone to know about her stripping, why would she make it so easy for anyone to find out about it?

While being interviewed by Good Morning America, she claimed the Houston Press story was “mean” and couldn’t understand why anyone would write about her like that.  With regards to her blog, I’m sure Piven and the guys who see her strip are wondering the exact same thing about themselves.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, March 31, 2012
11:17 p.m.

UPDATE:  Tressler responds with two comments under the name “sarahtress”.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 1, 2012
10:17 p.m.

UPDATE 2:  Tressler has posted a couple of recent entries on her Angry Stripper blog since being fired from The Chronicle.  In “OMIGOD I’m tired!”, she reveals that she deleted “most of my posts” but later says, “I’ll add some old posts periodically.”.  I guess she’s waiting for the fallout fom this story to die down, hence this sudden desire for literary housekeeping.  For a writer who wants to project an image of fearless outrageousness, this seems odd.

“Money and Media” is her first public attempt to make sense of her firing.  For the most part, it’s a thoughtful piece.  Tressler seems genuinely confused as to why her stripping gig was reported on in the first place and why she lost her reporting job over it.  She asks a lot of valid questions.  As a result, for the first time she comes across as a sympathetic figure.

That being said, she reiterates her feeling that the Houston Press story was “mean…because my termination was, I think, a foreseeable outcome.”  But is it really The Press’ fault for reporting an interesting fact that was in no way a big secret?  (And how would they know she would be fired?)  As I stated originally, Tressler made no real effort to conceal her identity in connection with her stripping.  Anyone who wanted to put two and two together could do so very easily.  Based on her above statement, she correctly determined that disclosing her stripping gigs to The Chronicle from the very beginning may have prevented her from even getting that reporting job in the first place.  She was essentially put in a no-win situation.

Her downplaying of her lucrative stripping gigs (“a little hobby”) and the Angry Stripper blog (“a little blog to write about it”) is an interesting albeit transparent defense tactic.  She told Good Morning America she can make 2000 bucks in a single night.  Her fearlessly bold writing style (see this as a key example) didn’t escape the notice of Maxim Magazine which mentioned her blog in its October 2010 issue.  (Tressler seemed deeply conflicted about it at the time.)

I suspect this attempt to minimize this part of her life is to persuade readers of the overall unnewsworthiness of the Houston Press story.  Certainly, in the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure many care that a professional writer strips on the site.  This revelation won’t affect many people’s daily lives.  I certainly don’t give a shit.  But when that same person maintains a public blog about it, well, it’s hard to argue with the Press’ decision to cover it.  It’s an entertaining media story, whether Tressler likes it or not.  In the end, the fact remains had The Chronicle not fired her, this story wouldn’t have gone global.

While it’s nice to see her in a more reflective, questioning mode (it sure beats the grumbly narcissist she usually is), I wonder if she has any regrets about being so cavalier about publicly revealing the general awfulness of stripping.  Surely, being professionally fulfilled matters more than a huge payday.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, April 2, 2012
3:40 p.m.

UPDATE 3:  Tressler offers a rebuttal to my previous update in the comment section of this entry.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, April 2, 2012
10:56 p.m.

UPDATE 4:  She must’ve made a great impression on Good Morning America.  According to this, Tressler has quickly rebounded with a new gig covering the aftermath of the recent Texas tornadoes for the ABC morning show staple.  Even though I’ve been critical of her, I do want to wish her well with her new job.  May she make the most of this new opportunity.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
3:14 p.m.

UPDATE 5:  Tressler has hired controversial attorney Gloria Allred to represent her as she pursues a recently filed complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding her firing from The Houston Chronicle.  The New York Daily News has more here.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, May 11, 2012
10:46 p.m.

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Published in: on March 31, 2012 at 11:17 pm  Comments (21)  

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21 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dennis, your blogs are always insightful and entertaining. And it is good to know that others are annoyed by the MFD sufferes as much as I am. Excellent blog!!!

  2. Hi,

    Just because you walk into a place doesn’t mean you work there.

    Thanks,

    S.

  3. Oh, and P.S. …

    It’s called Diary of an Angry Stripper — that should give you some indication that the content might not be like, “Hey, today was wonderful! I’m so happy …”

    I started the blog as a platform to rant about bad experiences. If you don’t want to read stuff written by an angry person, I wouldn’t recommend reading something called Diary of an Angry Stripper.

    Thanks again —

    S.

  4. Well…there’s no effort to defend herself here, nor any effort to disparage what you’ve written here, Dennis. Seems pretty inconsequential to me, ya think?

  5. Well, it’s not like Sarah is disparaging what you’ve written here, Dennis, and she doesn’t seem to feel the need to be apologetic for her anger either.

    • You’re right. I got the “if you don’t like it, don’t read it” routine instead of a rigourous defense of her words and actions. That second comment was quite condescending not to mention thin-skinned and defensive. (The first one actually helped clarify something I wasn’t clear on initially so I appreciated her help with that.) But I’m not surprised. Many people who work in the media, unfortunately, have that attitude, as well. If you can dish it out, you got to be able to take it. She’s learning that lesson the hard way right now. Thanks for the comments.

  6. Great blog post! I hadn’t even heard of this incident.

  7. Incidentally, I never expressed the desire “to project an image of fearless outrageousness.”

    Further, by the time this story was reported, I was dancing maybe twice a month for the workout more than anything else. I’d go in for three hours at a time, do as many stage rotations as the DJ could use me for, then leave. Not that you would know that, but it’s disheartening to see the conclusions people jump to.

    Also the MOST I ever made in one night was $2,000 — in almost eight years of dancing. I’ve also left a club in the red, having not even made my tipout back. But by the time this story broke, I didn’t need to strip for the money, so that wasn’t the issue. I was happy to do it for the workout.

    Thanks again for your continued interest in my life. Glad I can give you something to pontificate about.

    Truly,

    Sarah

    P.S.
    Two back-to-back blog posts seems like a lot from a guy who “certainly don’t give a shit.”

  8. “Why would any self-respecting guy date someone this self-absorbed, disconnected and indiscreet?”
    This line made me laugh. Just like a dude to all of a sudden out of the blue judge a gal’s dateability. If you want to judge her for her choices as a reporter/stripper fine – let’s chalk it up to social commentary but to then just say, she’s undateable like she was LOOKING for a date in the first place is pretty unreasonable. I don’t think Sarah would date you even if you hadn’t written this piece and I also highly doubt that this beautiful, smart and entrepreneurial chick is hard up for dates from self-respecting dudes.

    • My question was quite clearly posed in the context of the Jeremy Piven part of the story. His sexual skills were publicly critiqued in a negative manner and I didn’t think that was a particularly honourable thing to do, especially since Piven is famous. He didn’t commit a crime (it was consensual sex) so I pondered why any self-respecting guy would get involved with someone who doesn’t respect the privacy of a lover.

  9. ‘I strip for the workout’ -really, are you kidding?? Some people go to the gym or join fitness classes – but I guess why not get paid for ‘working out’ by ogling men. This is almost as outrageous of a comment as men only going to a strip club for the food!

  10. I have to defend Sarah. You don’t give a shit? Well, you sure spent some time on a subject that you don’t give a shit about.
    Besides, people talk about their hook ups all the time, have you ever listened to the (male) guests blabbering on Howard Stern?
    As far as Megan Fox goes……she is not the only one that has something negative to say about Michael Bay. Maybe she didn’t want to be another Hollywood ass kisser.
    Btw, I did read some of your other posts, I like your poems.
    Bye, from another stripper with tons of opinions AND a blog!

    • Let me make this clear. I don’t care if she is a reporter/stripper/professor which is why I wrote that. I care that she got fired from The Chronicle because it wasn’t just and she did nothing wrong to lose that gig. Also, I don’t believe she was “outed” by the Houston Press (she didn’t really bother to conceal her identity very well) and I don’t believe the story was “mean” (she was a reporter who also stripped and blogged about those experiences which was the essence of that report). It’s not easy for a member of the media to become the focal point of a story but Tressler has to live with that.

      Yes, men are just as bad for publicly blabbing about their hook-ups as women and they look just as callous and foolish. My point was that Tressler was critical about Jeremy Piven’s sexual skills in a public forum. If the roles were reversed, would she have been ok with that?

      I’m well aware of Howard Stern having listened to him many times in the past during his terrestrial period, continously reading about his satellite shows on MarksFriggin.com and HowardStern.com, and having written about him a few times in this space. In between his two long-term relationships he claims to have hooked up with a number of famous women. With the exceptions of Angie Everhart and Robin Givens (who both revealed they were his lovers which Stern later confirmed), he never, ever mentioned any names and as far as I can remember, never said anything critical about any of their sexual skills. Tressler would be smart to follow his example.

      I agree that Michael Bay has his share of detractors for various reasons but Megan Fox comparing him to Hitler was just stupid. Yes, we would all benefit from fewer Hollywood asskissers but Fox doesn’t have the resume (nor the proof, for that matter) to get away with saying something like that. Rightly or wrongly, her career has yet to recover from it.

      Thank you very kindly for the compliment about my poetry. Thanks for posting this comment, as well. Best of luck with your blog.

      • I was more referring to what Wilmer Valderrama was telling Howard. And Howard was loving every minute of it. Of course. But that is Howard and I like him.
        So what that Sarah had something to say about JP’s oral skills that didn’t paint him out as a master? Big deal! Maybe he can take it as constructive criticism.
        As far as Megan goes, since when do you need a resume to have an opinion? If there are others that share her views of Bay, then maybe she isn’t too far off? Maybe Megan is ok with not having that huge career. That path is so glorified in Hollywood but surely not an easy road and not for everybody. We can not all be ass kissers. And that is a good thing I think.

  11. Hey Dennis,

    I’ve never read your blog, but I have been an avid reader of Sarah’s for some time now. After 6 years of being a stripper myself, it’s nice to read divergent view points on the experience from others who have gone through it as well. That being said, I’m not really here to comment on the scandal of her being outed/fired/angry or what-have-you. I’m also not here to criticize or support your review of said scandal.

    I just want to respond to one thing you said: “I wonder if she has any regrets about being so cavalier about publicly revealing the general awfulness of stripping.”

    Not sure if the “general awfulness” of stripping is your personal opinion of the industry/profession or what you perceive Sarah’s opinion of it to be– but in any case, I’d like to offer an alternate view of what stripping can be like.

    Like Sarah, I’ve been actively blogging about my career as a stripper too– for about 2 years. I won’t say too much about it here since if you’re interested you can look through it on your own, but I will say this: I love my job. There are few things on earth that I love more and I would never use the phrase “awfulness” to describe the experience. Is it hard? Incredibly. Rewarding? Infinitely. And I don’t mean financially.

    If you’re curious, feel free to stop by; Bodyofindulgence.com And I’m more than happy to chat with you if you’ve got questions. You can follow me on Twitter @LilahQuinn.

    Best,
    Lilah

    • Hi Lilah.

      I was referring to Tressler’s opinion of her profession. Having never stepped foot in a club I have zero idea what it’s really like for the patrons or the staff beyond what’s been covered in the media.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Best of luck with your blog.

      P.S. Sorry to hear about your foot. I’m glad the pain is starting to go away.

      • Thanks for the well wishes! It really did suck, quite a lot, I won’t lie. But it’s starting to heal and I’m back to training 3 times a week and working 6 nights, so I suppose that’s progress. Hope to see you back at the blog again.

        Best,
        Lilah

  12. You just say the word, bro…. ill take you to a club. we’ll call it “journalistic research”!
    🙂
    Great article.

  13. […] all the new blog offerings this year, none got as much reader feedback as The Very Foolish Sarah Tressler.  Back in late March, the Houston Press website did a story on her secret life as an […]


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