Jumbo’s Clown Room has always been a staple for me when visiting L.A. – it’s the perfect intersection of strip club meets dive bar. Originally opening in the 80’s, it has become a Hollywood landmark. From the outside, the club is unassuming and blends in with like venues along Hollywood Blvd. Jumbos is intimate and small, which explains why you may often have to wait in line to get inside. Once you enter the club, it feels like walking in to an adult circus tent that is blasting AC/DC. Red walls and dim lighting surround a center stage that is lined with voyeurs. It’s an overwhelming combination of grit, sex, and Miller Lite.
I’ve always been curious about life on the other side of the stage. My favorite Jumbo’s dancer, Violet – off duty name Scarlett Kapella – gave me insight on what it’s like to have a boyfriend while dancing, her favorite Jumbo night ever, and the ‘male gaze’. Previously studying ballet and modeling for photographers like Terry Richardson, Scarlett is not new to commanding attention from others.
LF: Tell me a little about yourself.
SK: My name is Scarlett Kapella, I’m from La Quinta, CA. I love cheeseburgers, sleeping, building pinewood derby cars and my chihuahua, Norma Jean.
LF: I know you were previously signed to a modeling agency, what was life like before dancing?
SK: I was scouted in my hometown by Elite when I was 18 and started modeling. I traveled a bit, worked a decent amount but never really felt comfortable in that industry. I never felt like I fit in. I did enjoy my time with Next Models but when I switched back to Elite I was done. I was still signed to an agency when I started dancing at jumbos and at first I tried to keep it a secret. Eventually some of my agents found out I was dancing and turned their nose up to me, said that clients wouldn’t book me because of the stigma of Jumbos. I knew I didn’t want to work with anyone who’s that socially judgmental. To be honest I’ve gotten more work from being seen at jumbos. I shot with Terry Richardson there and have been a part of really rad dance projects that I’m actually proud of. I’m still with my commercial agency, jumbos has never been an issue for them. As far as trying to get back into that full time, no thanks. I make a good living dancing and have the freedom to choose who I talk to, dance for, work for… And not answer to a panel of agents.
LF: How long have you been dancing at Jumbo’s Clown Room?
SK: I’ve been at Jumbos for six years, it’s the first and only club I’ve ever danced at. I studied ballet and ballroom dance for years but quit most of that in high school due to a knee injury.
LV: Do you have a crazy most interesting night that sticks out?
SK: The most crazy nights at jumbos are during our birthday parties. The girl on girl dances are always really hot. We like to throw themed parties, my last birthday was a Dazed and Confused party, I got a stage dance from all the dancers to Ted Nugent “stranglehold” it was the best eight minutes of my stripper life. There was a great Lolita party where everyone dressed as little girls, all the perverts went nuts.
LF: Who is your favorite regular/character that you have encountered?
SK: Hands down my favorite regular is this guy Adam. He’s a veteran, fuckin rad musician, a total badass who makes every shift a party. He got kicked out once because another dancer noticed he had a hole in his jeans and tried to touch his dick. This dude got me the motor I needed for my ’54 Chevy. He’s the best. We get some characters, there’s a guy who thinks he’s a rabbit who rides a razor scooter into the club, he carries a stuffed bunny and puts dollars in the bunny’s paws to tip girls.
There’s another man who calls himself Johnny Romance who wears silver pants and snake skin boots and walks around shaking hands with everyone like he’s the mayor.
LF: What draws you to the world of dancing and voyeurs?
SK: I’ve always had an interest in burlesque and sexually charged performance art. I started getting into voyeurism and perversion shoots a few years ago. I don’t have an explanation for my interest in that stuff I just think it’s hot.
LF: Dancing while dating, what struggles have you come across?
SK: Yes I’ve had problems in the past dating guys that either pretend to be ok with what I do or genuinely think they can handle it, than a few months down the road there’s a shit ton of resentment and jealously. Every couple has issues like that but having a job like stripping or dancing doesn’t help. I dated a guy once that would try to start fights and upset me right before my shift started. He wanted to drop me off and pick me up from work in MY car. Needless to say I don’t miss that guy or any of his subpar parts. There will always be men who hate on women that own their sexuality. My current babe is really supportive of me and we’re honest with each other, dancing hasn’t been an issue in our relationship. I briefly dated one guy who I feel just wanted to shock people by bringing a Jumbos girl to his pretentious fake hippie parties. He mentioned me and my hair flips in a song, that whole thing turned me off to dating people I met at Jumbos.
LF: Have you ever had someone approach you post performance?
SK: Yes, daily. I get all types. Guys who approach me as if they can “rescue” me from jumbos or “take me away from all this” as if I’m being held at gunpoint and am some sort of financial victim. I’m always amused by the guys that come in and tell me they can help me get a modeling contract then want to give me a link to their model mayhem account.
Jumbos draws in a lot of celebrities, it’s pretty interesting to talk to an actor who has an innocent bubble gum persona about kink.
LF: What is your favorite part being a dancer?
SK: My favorite thing about dancing at Jumbos is that I get to work with some really beautiful and rad girls. I’ve made some of my best friends there, especially Lola, she’s such a fuckin’ babe and a total boss. I don’t think I could have danced here as long as I have without her on my side.
LF: How did you decided on your stage name Violet? Is she a character/alter ego you created?
SK:I choose Violet as a stage name because I always thought it was pretty. Also I knew there is always girls using Scarlett as a stage name. Many entertainers adopt a different persona while performing, but that’s not really for me. Whether working at Jumbos, at home in my pajamas, having fun with my friends or anything really I feel like I have the exact same personality. Violet is just a little more flirty.
LF: Do you have a routine that you do before you go on stage to get in the right mind set?
SK: I like to get to work early to spend some time talking to the bartender, bouncers and the owner when she’s there because they’ve become a second family. I usually finish my hair and make up at the club and if Rev is working drink a few mimosas with her and shoot the shit. It’s a normal job to me at this point. I don’t psyche myself up or try to get in any kind of zone. I get there, put on lipstick, take my clothes off, and bend over.
LF: Do you face stigmas being an exhibitionist? I see it as empowering where others might say it’s degrading. Where do you stand on the feminism discussion?
SK: I think that what I do is empowering, I’ve never felt degraded, this is my choice, I would never put myself in a position that would make me feel not in control. I wear what I want, I talk to who I want, dance how I want. If I start to feel uncomfortable with something I put an end to it.
As far as feminism goes… It’s a double edge sword, yeah we get to be badasses but men need to pick up the pace – It’s becoming an utter role reversal.
LF: The ‘male gaze’- is it a turn on to be the dominate person in the situation while on stage? Do you focus on one person in the crowd?
SK: It’s more fun to play towards one guy at a time. If there’s a group of guys, pick one who seems the most shy and try to make him feel like he’s the only one in the room. I try not to be too self involved on stage, girls who stare at themselves seem nervous or like they’re at dance practice, yuck. I like to think I’m a decent eye-fucker so I stick to that.
LF: As a female who frequents strip clubs, Jumbo’s has a pretty even ratio of men to women. Do you have a preference on who you dance for?
SK: In my experience women are more aggressive, they’re more likely to try to put money in our underwear, touch us during lap dances and even try to get on stage, all of which is not allowed at Jumbos. Most of the girls who come in are really into watching crazy pole dancing and expect a lot from dancers when they’ll have only a few dollar bills to give. They want a cheerleader or side show act, anything that’s not sexually threatening. I definitely prefer to dance for men.
LF: Favorite song to dance to?
SK:”New kind of kick” by The Cramps
LF: What outfits do you like to wear on stage?
SK: My favorite thing to wear is my “no snow no show” crop top from Bandit Brand but everyone likes when I wear the sparkly shit my mom buys for me.
Guys don’t usually care what a girl is wearing as long as she’s clean and put together but fishnets don’t hurt.
LF: What are a few things that have been inspiring you lately?
SK: I love Russ Meyer, Kenneth Anger, 70’s exploitation film starlets, Danzig video babes, Miraculous Mutha’s old advice column from Easyrider Magazine. Anything kitchy or provocative is it for me.
LF: What would you say your ultimate goal in life/career is, what’s next?
SK: I think my career has been in reverse compared to most entertainers. Many aspire to a modeling contract that may come from attention gained by performing. I started out in the modeling business and now I am a dancer. I wouldn’t have it any other way I love what I do now. As far as what my next job will be, I’ll worry about that tomorrow.