I Hung Out With Honey Boo Boo's Mom at a Strip Club on New Year's Eve

The extravaganza was everything I'd hoped it would be and so much more.

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Jan 5 2016, 10:20pm

If you're wondering what the best way to spend New Year's Eve in Nashville, Tennessee was, look no further than the above poster. Deja Vu, one of Nashville's many prestigious stripping establishments, set out to distinguish itself over the New Year's weekend by enlisting both Sassee Cassee, the self-proclaimed "World's smallest stripper," and Mama June Shannon, who you might know better as the mother of the child beauty queen/reality star Honey Boo Boo. Judging from the poster alone, the event promised a dessert buffet of trashiness. I am relieved to say that it did not disappoint.

June Shannon, whom the Deja Vu DJ odiously referred to as "Honey Boo Boo's Mom" for the duration of the evening, is not exactly refined entertainment. "Mama June," as she is also known, began her unlikely rise to the reality television equivalent of stardom by managing to be even more off-putting than her fellow outlandish pageant moms on TLC's Toddlers & Tiaras, an exploitative cringefest best known for its pernicious attitude toward prepubescent sexuality and normalizing the ingestion of energy drinks by children.

That grotesque display begat a solo vehicle for the family, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, which largely exchanged the then six year-old, eponymous Alana's pageant preparations for a crash course on her mother's grammatical cock-ups and couponing.

Boo Boo captured America's attention, if not its heart, for four brief seasons before being snuffed out amidst tragic rumors that Mama June had renewed her relationship with the man—Mark McDaniel—convicted of molesting her eldest daughter in 2004. The family denied that McDaniel was back in the picture, but it was too late to save the show or the family. The victim, Anna Shannon Cardwell, remains estranged from her mother, even as erstwhile paterfamilias Mike "Sugar Bear" Thompson has returned to co-star with June in the beyond-contrived Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars. In many ways, the journey for this family has been sadder than it has been strange. It arguably peaked at a strip club on New Year's.

It's a well-established fact that Honey Boo Boo's Mama June marches to the beat of her own drum. When her absurdly folksy reality show was at its peak, TMZ reported that the five-figure per episode salary the family earned went directly into accounts designated for June's children, while she and her partner Mike "Sugar Bear" Thompson lived off his income as a contractor. Just three years later, after two revelations that she was involved with convicted child abusers temporarily obliterated her marketability and forced TLC to cancel the show, she's spent the year being trotted out as a strip club side show. Shannon is represented by a management company who lists among its clients Scott Disick, 2 Chainz, and several Real Housewives of various municipalities.

At around midnight, I could barely hear what the dancer literally and figuratively in rotation at our table, was trying to say over the oppressive din of Lil Jon and what sounded like every single one of the Eastside Boyz. Strip clubs are not known for their conversational atmosphere for a variety of reasons, and Deja Vu was no different. The combination of the thick granite tabletop, her even thicker high heels, and the condition of the worn, sagging leather seat cradling my ass meant that her mouth must've been a good seven feet from my ears. It was more than enough distance to turn her stoic declaration that "Nobody is here to see Mama June" into an unintelligible warble. Looking around, I wasn't so sure.

Strip clubs are filled to the ceiling with the word "no." No, I would not like a lap dance right now. No, your free cover coupon won't work tonight, you can pay at the desk. No, please don't take away the case of Keystone I lugged here because Tennessee law won't let you see nipples and buy booze in the same place. And so on. But by the look of the floor, very few people had said "no" to an invitation to the club that night. The place was standing-room only, and desperate-to-sit patrons (such as myself) were quickly being ushered off the reserved couches near the stage.

"What kind of crowd are we trying to attract here," a stripper asked no one in particular. She didn't stop dancing, but I could finally make out what she was saying once she squatted on the table like a much sexier Buster Posey. Though, yes, the place was packed to the gills with onlookers, the VIP rooms were curiously empty.

"It's so busy," a flustered and irritated dancer said to another employee as I looked on, sixer of beer in hand. "And I've only had one dance all night!"

When the time came for the meet and greet with Mama June, patrons jammed themselves in line like they thought June could be whisked away at any moment to catch a limousine and a private jet. I jumped at the opportunity to get myself out of the corner that had until now been the domain of a trash can, an ATM, and a dopey, bearded writer (me). I eased into the back of the line as the DJ played Eminem's "W.T.P.," which, given that the song's full title is "White Trash Party," felt a bit on the nose. Nobody seemed to notice.

Luckily, there was plenty of time for both meeting and greeting, first with June's bodyguard, and then with the big Mama herself. There were pictures and hugs and a lot of yelling, owing mostly to alcohol, noise, and the patent absurdity of the evening. The group of women in front of me were totally starstruck, speaking with June for longer than I talk with most of my closest friends.

Mama June's bodyguard took the pictures. "That's fuckin' bright!" June said of my phone's flash.

The author and Mama June. Photo by Mama June's bodyguard

Whatever disdain the dancers had for "Honey Boo Boo's Mom" and the crowd she attracted has disappeared around one in the morning, when Mama June's WTF Weekend co-headliner Little Sassee Cassee took the stage. According to her official website, Cassee stands at just 2'10"—the height of your average toddler—and having seen her in person, even that figure might be generous. But the crowd went wild for her. Dollar bills peppered the stage as she cartwheeled around, and the men who'd seemed glued to their seats all evening were on their feet and tipping, spurred on either by Cassee's show, the DJ's insistence that the crowd's inaction "made [him] wonder whether they play[ed] for the other team," or both.

If you're now contemplating the ins and outs of the show "The World's Smallest Stripper" puts on, allow me to describe it, but please note that words may fail to encapsulate some of the finer points of the performance. I encourage you to seek Cassee out for yourself; you really do have to be there to appreciate it. It goes without saying that in the next paragraph, there are spoilers aplenty.

As you might expect, Sassee Cassee's repertoire of stripper tricks is somewhat limited when compared to what a dancer of average height can accomplish. It's a bit slower and, yes, the view from your seat isn't great. It does take Cassee a bit longer to maneuver around the stage, but she breaks out a hell of a handstand push-up between moves. There isn't a tremendous amount of pole work overall, but she did climb the thing damn near to the top, at one point disappearing altogether behind the drop ceiling. She calls her technique for scaling a pole "the koala," and it's easy to see why. Much of the choreography seemed more impressive than erotic, which was more than alright in my book. Cassee might have been nontraditional, but she was nothing if not a crowd-pleaser.

The good times kept rolling well into the morning, if this very special final dance is any indication, but by the time Little Sassee Cassee was picking her underwear up off the stage floor, my sixer of beer was long gone and my enthusiasm for full and partial nudity was as drained as my wallet. It was time to go find a way home (the taxis were swirling around the club like vultures) and wonder whether 2016 would bring anything half as entertaining as that.

I doubt it.

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