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The Last of the Live Nude Girls: A Memoir

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In the last of Times Square’s peep shows, a man pays $40 to watch a girl strip naked behind glass. These institutions, left over from the days when 42nd Street was the vicious center of vice, will soon disappear completely from a rapidly gentrifying New York City, their stories lost forever. Yet, the story of the peeps is too interesting and too vital to the history of Tim In the last of Times Square’s peep shows, a man pays $40 to watch a girl strip naked behind glass. These institutions, left over from the days when 42nd Street was the vicious center of vice, will soon disappear completely from a rapidly gentrifying New York City, their stories lost forever. Yet, the story of the peeps is too interesting and too vital to the history of Times Square not to be told. In The Last of the Live Nude Girls, Sheila McClear pulls back the curtain back on the little-documented world of the peep shows and their history. A late bloomer from the Midwest, McClear became a stripper in the peeps after finding herself adrift in New York. But after-dark Times Square seeped into her blood, and she ended up staying much longer than she imagined. The story she tells is not just of her own coming-of-age—nor is it one of sex and vice and salaciousness. Rather, it is a redemptive narrative of modern life on the fringes of society in New York City.


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In the last of Times Square’s peep shows, a man pays $40 to watch a girl strip naked behind glass. These institutions, left over from the days when 42nd Street was the vicious center of vice, will soon disappear completely from a rapidly gentrifying New York City, their stories lost forever. Yet, the story of the peeps is too interesting and too vital to the history of Tim In the last of Times Square’s peep shows, a man pays $40 to watch a girl strip naked behind glass. These institutions, left over from the days when 42nd Street was the vicious center of vice, will soon disappear completely from a rapidly gentrifying New York City, their stories lost forever. Yet, the story of the peeps is too interesting and too vital to the history of Times Square not to be told. In The Last of the Live Nude Girls, Sheila McClear pulls back the curtain back on the little-documented world of the peep shows and their history. A late bloomer from the Midwest, McClear became a stripper in the peeps after finding herself adrift in New York. But after-dark Times Square seeped into her blood, and she ended up staying much longer than she imagined. The story she tells is not just of her own coming-of-age—nor is it one of sex and vice and salaciousness. Rather, it is a redemptive narrative of modern life on the fringes of society in New York City.

30 review for The Last of the Live Nude Girls: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Wren

    This is an interesting story structured well and told with a surprisingly honest level of self-reflection. McClear has a great ear for dialogue and works hard to put her experiences -- as a white, middle-class girl dealing with depression and hiding from adult life by working in the peep shows -- into the context of the larger peep show world, where many people she worked with were dealing with much bigger challenges. She doesn't see herself as "special," nor does she see herself as extraordinar This is an interesting story structured well and told with a surprisingly honest level of self-reflection. McClear has a great ear for dialogue and works hard to put her experiences -- as a white, middle-class girl dealing with depression and hiding from adult life by working in the peep shows -- into the context of the larger peep show world, where many people she worked with were dealing with much bigger challenges. She doesn't see herself as "special," nor does she see herself as extraordinarily fucked-up; rather, her take seems to be that she was dealing with the same shit a lot of people in their 20's deal with, only instead of becoming an alcoholic or a drug addict, she worked in the peep shows. It's refreshingly un-Millennial. The ending hits a hopeful note as it describes her new life as a writer post-peep show lifestyle. It feels a little rushed and tacked-on, maybe even a bit too rosy. Part of me wished she'd waited another 10 years before writing this book, just to have more perspective on how her 12+ months stripping fit into the longer narrative of her life, but I can understand how selling a memoir like this was a big step for her in launching a career that didn't involve taking her clothes off. She's said in interviews that she won't be writing any more memoirs, but I hope to see essays from her 10, 15, 20 years down the road that at least touch on this time in her life. Overall, it's a powerful story told in a compelling voice and an interesting peek into one peculiar facet of New York life. Glad I picked it up.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne Urbanski

    I chose to read this book as part of a book review assignment for a magazine and wasn't sure what to expect. There have been many books out there in praise of the sex industry or who simply serve up salacious details as a means of getting sales. Thankfully, McClear doesn't do this. Rather she gives an honest depiction of working as both a peep show girl and a stripper, showing how the work numbs her and leaves her feeling nothing. Eventually she seeks out sadistic sex as a means to feel somethin I chose to read this book as part of a book review assignment for a magazine and wasn't sure what to expect. There have been many books out there in praise of the sex industry or who simply serve up salacious details as a means of getting sales. Thankfully, McClear doesn't do this. Rather she gives an honest depiction of working as both a peep show girl and a stripper, showing how the work numbs her and leaves her feeling nothing. Eventually she seeks out sadistic sex as a means to feel something as her job has led her to distance herself so much from her body. As I am only a few years younger than McClear and moved to New York City around the same time, I found that she captured the feeling of being a new twenty something in the city well. We went to the same bars and actually surprisingly knew some of the same people, all of which she authentically renders truthfully. My own criticism is that McClear doesn't offer as much inner reflection as she could or paint a clear picture of what her sexuality was like before her time in the sex industry, so that we could better understand her transformation and damage due to the work. The memoir would have been more compelling and moving had she rendered more of her inner self on the pages and not just retold stories of her coworkers and work. Nonetheless, I found this pretty riveting and couldn't put it down. I finished it in just a few days as it was an easy, compelling read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    juicy brained intellectual

    this reads sort of social experiment-y (in the same vein as barbara ehrenreich's nickel and dimed), which is really unfair because it wasn't an experiment on mcclear's part; she really was just trying to earn money in a strange, dying profession steeped in a really... off brand of sexism. that said, some parts of this really did not sit well with me--she makes gross, racist generalizations, is presented with a situation in which she "has" to say the n-word, and she makes no apology about using a this reads sort of social experiment-y (in the same vein as barbara ehrenreich's nickel and dimed), which is really unfair because it wasn't an experiment on mcclear's part; she really was just trying to earn money in a strange, dying profession steeped in a really... off brand of sexism. that said, some parts of this really did not sit well with me--she makes gross, racist generalizations, is presented with a situation in which she "has" to say the n-word, and she makes no apology about using a certain t slur. i don't want to discount her experience because 80% of her thoughts are totally valid (again with the racist shit, which is really prevalent) but i'm left wondering about her coworkers--which were primarily women of color-- where are their stories?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    This was a decent read, but very irritating to have the author depicting a specific time and place while neglecting to give dates for most of the book. I found myself looking up references to current events (who was elected when in NYC, a passing comment on "an incident in Lebanon" impacting immigration) in an attempt to situation the novel. The author also seems incapable of introducing anyone, sex worker or otherwise, without stating her perception of their ethnicity. I'm aware that appearance This was a decent read, but very irritating to have the author depicting a specific time and place while neglecting to give dates for most of the book. I found myself looking up references to current events (who was elected when in NYC, a passing comment on "an incident in Lebanon" impacting immigration) in an attempt to situation the novel. The author also seems incapable of introducing anyone, sex worker or otherwise, without stating her perception of their ethnicity. I'm aware that appearance and racial classifications are central to earning potential within sex economies, but she did this with social acquaintances as well.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    I read the Kindle version of this book. It really made me wonder about whatever automated software exists for turning books into Kindles. There are always some problems, it seems like, but this one had a whole host of them. It has the unfortunate effect of making a book seem like it was badly edited. This one had a unique thing I'd never seen before. Every time the author meant to use the word "bum" (at least, I think it was "bum"), the word "burn" was used instead. Why is that, I wonder? I mean I read the Kindle version of this book. It really made me wonder about whatever automated software exists for turning books into Kindles. There are always some problems, it seems like, but this one had a whole host of them. It has the unfortunate effect of making a book seem like it was badly edited. This one had a unique thing I'd never seen before. Every time the author meant to use the word "bum" (at least, I think it was "bum"), the word "burn" was used instead. Why is that, I wonder? I mean, an r and an n next to each other look a little bit like an m. This is why I am assmuning that the word "bum" was intended, along with context - bum works in context. I briefly thought maybe a writer of this type might not use the word bum when referring to homeless people in Times Square who hang in front of strip joints, but, I mean, I suppose what else do you call them, right? Anyway, isn't it weird that "bum" would be autocorrected to "burn?" This would imply some sort of slightly faulty OCR (optical character recognition) translation from printed book back to digital. But does that really happen? How weird would that be? You type a book on your word processor, then typset it digitally, and then someone makes a printed book of it, and then that printed book is scanned back in for digital. Digital - Analog - Digital. Remember when they used to have those labels on CDs? Recording, Mixing, Mastering, either Digital or Analog, so you'd see ADD or AAD or DDD on a CD? The one you never saw was DAD. But that is what seems to have happened to this book. Of course there is the possibility, I suppose, that the actual printed version of the book is also fraught with typos, extra spaces and "burn" instead of "bum," but for some reason I have a hunch it's not the case - publishers are supposed to be good at that sort of thing. I mean, they've been proofreading for hundred of years or so, right? Anyway, this book was pretty solid. Interesting, and the dying out of the peep shows in time square gives the author a nice position to be in as one of the actual "last of the live nude girls," instead of being one who was there in an era past its prime. it's a subtle change of perspective, but it works. I especially like the chapter where she meets a real boyfriend, and they seem to start to help and heal each other. The crush on the acupuncturist was adorable, too. Someone referred me to that same acupuncturist a while back. Maybe I'll go. Also, a friend of mine introduced me to the author of this book about six weeks before the press onslaught began, so I had no idea about her. He just said "you should know this person." She gave me her card, which I lost, and now I am sad about that. She says in the book she was shy, and she did seem shy in person, but very nice.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany Ten

    I suppose in rise of the memoir, it's becoming common to read one written by someone you actually know, but I wasn't entirely prepared for how diving into the mind of a known soul would shake my own. I don't know Sheila well, working with her for only a few months in the final stages of her leaving Detroit phase. I was angry at her desolate grafs on Detroit, but then proud of her emotional honesty. Then angry again, though I realized soon that I was angry at what I recognized but was not willing I suppose in rise of the memoir, it's becoming common to read one written by someone you actually know, but I wasn't entirely prepared for how diving into the mind of a known soul would shake my own. I don't know Sheila well, working with her for only a few months in the final stages of her leaving Detroit phase. I was angry at her desolate grafs on Detroit, but then proud of her emotional honesty. Then angry again, though I realized soon that I was angry at what I recognized but was not willing to say in so much black and white. The Sheila I do know is a confident writer, creative, bright at finding the story in the drudgery. Her tell-all attempt on her years in New York's peep shows is hella interesting to read: I finished her book in 3-days from arrival. I personally wanted to know much more about Sheila than she gave, as she wove stories of the people and scenes that played out garishly in front of her. She ends up being the real story, and she needs more words. Regardless, Sheila McClear could write about a trip to the bathroom and I'd read it. Kudos!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    I stumbled over this - entirely by accident - yesterday morning while going about my regular weekend bookstore crawl. You know how it is, you're heading towards the cash register with your selections and something catches your eye and before you know it, you're shelling out your hard earned dough for a straggler. This book is the horrifying story of a Midwestern girl who goes to New York City to make it big and finds the only job she can find is peep-show stripping. With horror one reads her desc I stumbled over this - entirely by accident - yesterday morning while going about my regular weekend bookstore crawl. You know how it is, you're heading towards the cash register with your selections and something catches your eye and before you know it, you're shelling out your hard earned dough for a straggler. This book is the horrifying story of a Midwestern girl who goes to New York City to make it big and finds the only job she can find is peep-show stripping. With horror one reads her descent into a state of emotional numbness & detachment - laced with anecdotes that shock - and sometimes amuse. It is a door swung open to reveal a very different world from the one I live in - and for sheer, brutal honesty it just can't be beat. I couldn't put it down! I'll definitely be on the lookout for her next book!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Blanchard

    The first thing you notice is the title and the cover, guaranteed to catch your attention or turn away from it. The idea this is a memoir of a peep-show girl who worked quite a few places around Times Square (known as Slimes Square by its detractors). The book is a record of her time coming from a dying Detroit, Michigan leading to a vacation to New York City where she stayed and did not return home at that time. I don't offer here a treatise on the whys and wherefores of those in the sex indust The first thing you notice is the title and the cover, guaranteed to catch your attention or turn away from it. The idea this is a memoir of a peep-show girl who worked quite a few places around Times Square (known as Slimes Square by its detractors). The book is a record of her time coming from a dying Detroit, Michigan leading to a vacation to New York City where she stayed and did not return home at that time. I don't offer here a treatise on the whys and wherefores of those in the sex industry. Their back stories and the reasons they do it. The best answer is they are earning a living in a city where everybody is hustling for a job and everybody needs a place to live. And, the sex industry could pay well or keep you there over the years scratching from day to day. Insert the rest of us and that is what we do. Leave your morals at the door. Ms. McClear's memoir is a peep into her life and the lives of the others around her whether they are her coworkers, shady bosses, the denizens of NYC. A tad bit about family, though not much, as her scene is odd jobs to supplement income, her shifts as a stripper or peep-show girl, finding places to live, fun times out with the girls, and some her relationships with those around her. It's a sort of pick and choose the moments relating her experiences where she is hustling and trying to make sense of her life. Much like us only it's the Times Square sex industry. Little vignettes of her life in the city that never sleeps. The language is not titillating and along the lines of the practical, the every day struggle to survive.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Not quite as lurid as expected This was more like a story of bored but desperate women who became live Girls out of desperation and their inability to handle or find more legitimate jobs. What I’d anticipated, having grown up in the NYC that was very seedy was more of their backstories. The prostitution, porn movies, stalkers, and activities they provided. This book often made it sound like all they did was strip, with no “show”. But it certainly was captivating learning about all these differen Not quite as lurid as expected This was more like a story of bored but desperate women who became live Girls out of desperation and their inability to handle or find more legitimate jobs. What I’d anticipated, having grown up in the NYC that was very seedy was more of their backstories. The prostitution, porn movies, stalkers, and activities they provided. This book often made it sound like all they did was strip, with no “show”. But it certainly was captivating learning about all these different women coming together in such a bizarre way.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie Cramer

    I remember the 'pre-Giuliani' Times Square as being a very strange, seedy and fascinating place--with people and businesses that don't typically find their way into the history books, so I'm happy to see that world documented. Unfortunately, the author of this so-so memoir is something of a smug know-it-all, completely lacking in insight, and the book paints a very limited portrait of the era it covers. The best part (by far) is the brief peep-show history included at the end of the book. I remember the 'pre-Giuliani' Times Square as being a very strange, seedy and fascinating place--with people and businesses that don't typically find their way into the history books, so I'm happy to see that world documented. Unfortunately, the author of this so-so memoir is something of a smug know-it-all, completely lacking in insight, and the book paints a very limited portrait of the era it covers. The best part (by far) is the brief peep-show history included at the end of the book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    May Su

    It's clear the author was not emotionally invested in being a peepshow girl. It's a job. She needed to make rent. It's unfortunate that her being blase about her peep show job carried over to her telling of her tale. I wish she made me care about her or any of the characters in the book. Each chapter was a parade of lost souls who didn't seem to know why they do what they do. It's clear the author was not emotionally invested in being a peepshow girl. It's a job. She needed to make rent. It's unfortunate that her being blase about her peep show job carried over to her telling of her tale. I wish she made me care about her or any of the characters in the book. Each chapter was a parade of lost souls who didn't seem to know why they do what they do.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Randolph Rossu

    An Inside Look At the Peep Show Business in Times Square, NYC The author has presented her experiences as a performer in the Peep Show Business that was located in Times Square. Some the stories were very funny and others were heart wrenching.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    Very Interesting Read I really enjoyed this book. Ms. McClear has told about her time working at the peep shows in NY very openly and honestly.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Mildly interesting

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    "This is not what I had imagined when I moved to the city. The exhausted 4 AM cab rides from strange, desolate parts of Brooklyn, all the nameless, faceless men, the heaviness. It was the heaviness that got to me." "I realized that things never changed in this world. I could hop from city to city and from club to club, but there was no geographic cure, and no upward trajectory or arc or hope for the future. There was simply the grind, and the money." So summarizes Sheila McClear about her experien "This is not what I had imagined when I moved to the city. The exhausted 4 AM cab rides from strange, desolate parts of Brooklyn, all the nameless, faceless men, the heaviness. It was the heaviness that got to me." "I realized that things never changed in this world. I could hop from city to city and from club to club, but there was no geographic cure, and no upward trajectory or arc or hope for the future. There was simply the grind, and the money." So summarizes Sheila McClear about her experience working as a Times Square Peep-Show girl, and NYC stripper in her memoir The Last Of The Live Nude Girls." She chronicles her transport to New York from Detroit in 2006, and her year spent surviving the city that never sleeps by working in the last of the live peep-shows operating in Times Square. It is an honest account, funny, tragic, and cathartic journey of establishing one's self, exorcising demons, and finding ones way in the courageously dark world of the sex industry. McClear is now a features reporter for The New York Post, and this journalistic memoir is sure to inform, entertain, and please.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I found this book to be a bit less salacious than what I had expected, but it was still a good, quick read. It was mostly well-written (not counting the numerous Kindle-edition typos, which are obviously not the writer’s fault) and the style worked well with the story- things jump around a bit, but it seems to fit with the dissociation the writer was experiencing. I did find the end to be a bit rushed, and the writer really never followed up on certain issues (such as her apparent alcoholism). A I found this book to be a bit less salacious than what I had expected, but it was still a good, quick read. It was mostly well-written (not counting the numerous Kindle-edition typos, which are obviously not the writer’s fault) and the style worked well with the story- things jump around a bit, but it seems to fit with the dissociation the writer was experiencing. I did find the end to be a bit rushed, and the writer really never followed up on certain issues (such as her apparent alcoholism). Also, it generally bugs me when interesting female memoirists cap off their tales of self-discovery with “and then I met a man and we lived happily ever after!” (see also: Eat, Pray, Love; How to Make Love Like a Porn Star; etc). I really enjoyed the chapter at the end that talked about the history of peep shows, but I think it would have been better if it had been organically integrated into the story instead of just tacked on at the end. There are a few instances where racism and transphobia peek through, but generally the author does a good job of describing individuals, not stereotypes.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicki

    It's funny how a book can hit your TBR and stay there for over a year, and then when you finally get to it, it is awesome and you kick yourself for letting it stay there so long. This was definitely one of those for me. Gripping, fascinating real life memoir of a girl who works for peep shows and "dancing" as a way to pay the bills after moving to New York, while waiting for that elusive something better to come along. I really found this interesting reading. It's a very honest account and the d It's funny how a book can hit your TBR and stay there for over a year, and then when you finally get to it, it is awesome and you kick yourself for letting it stay there so long. This was definitely one of those for me. Gripping, fascinating real life memoir of a girl who works for peep shows and "dancing" as a way to pay the bills after moving to New York, while waiting for that elusive something better to come along. I really found this interesting reading. It's a very honest account and the descriptions of the venues and the other girls really do make you feel like you are living it with the author. I have to admit, I do tend to enjoy this type of memoir which is far removed from my own life. It makes you realise that those in the adult entertainment industry really don't have an easier time of it or make easy money at all.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    I read this over a year ago and somehow never got around to reviewing it, and now I don't remember a thing about it (which I guess says something right there). Here's the notes I left for myself while I was reading. Apparently I can be kind of a bitch. there's no analysis, only surface description; the pacing is uneven & terrible; she gives trivial things lots of weight & draws them out, including totally inconsequential conversations, but then big things she totally glosses. the appendix about t I read this over a year ago and somehow never got around to reviewing it, and now I don't remember a thing about it (which I guess says something right there). Here's the notes I left for myself while I was reading. Apparently I can be kind of a bitch. there's no analysis, only surface description; the pacing is uneven & terrible; she gives trivial things lots of weight & draws them out, including totally inconsequential conversations, but then big things she totally glosses. the appendix about the history of peep shows was really good tho. Soooo, I guess I didn't like this very much.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rose Moore

    A memoir of Sheila McClear's time in the peep shows of NYC, and a little about how she left them to become a writer. Often sad, she works her way through a few establishments, meeting a diverse cast of characters - customers and other peep show girls alike. It's a great read if you are interested in the industry, and especially the more recent history before Times Square was cleaned up into the tourist attraction it is today. There's something vicarious for those who have never been in the indus A memoir of Sheila McClear's time in the peep shows of NYC, and a little about how she left them to become a writer. Often sad, she works her way through a few establishments, meeting a diverse cast of characters - customers and other peep show girls alike. It's a great read if you are interested in the industry, and especially the more recent history before Times Square was cleaned up into the tourist attraction it is today. There's something vicarious for those who have never been in the industry, but it's a straight-up memoir and so doesn't have too much novelty for anyone who has done similar work. Worth a read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    The author comes off as dramatic at times, but being a peep show woman seems to lend itself to drama. The book was not as juicy as I imagined it would be, instead it was in part a feminist's look at stripclubs and peep shows from the inside and part lost woman fresh out of college in her early 20s vacantly trying to make ends meet in NYC. Pretty well written and conversational, but, as I already said, dramatic. I read this in three days, so it is easy to blow through. The author comes off as dramatic at times, but being a peep show woman seems to lend itself to drama. The book was not as juicy as I imagined it would be, instead it was in part a feminist's look at stripclubs and peep shows from the inside and part lost woman fresh out of college in her early 20s vacantly trying to make ends meet in NYC. Pretty well written and conversational, but, as I already said, dramatic. I read this in three days, so it is easy to blow through.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    Not particularly well-written or edited - there's a weird chronology to the book, it jumps back and forward in time without reason - and McClear's experiences as a peep-show girl aren't nearly as interesting as she thinks they are. Also, as others have pointed out better than me, I don't really care about a skinny white college-educated girl working in the sex industry, sorry. Definitely disappointed in this one. Not particularly well-written or edited - there's a weird chronology to the book, it jumps back and forward in time without reason - and McClear's experiences as a peep-show girl aren't nearly as interesting as she thinks they are. Also, as others have pointed out better than me, I don't really care about a skinny white college-educated girl working in the sex industry, sorry. Definitely disappointed in this one.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

    What can I say? I am a fan of seedy memoirs. Sadly and surprisingly, this memoir was kind of tame. Also, the author describes bailing on a bunch of jobs (bartending) or relationships just as they started to get interesting, so it was difficult to know or care about much of what went on.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Interesting topic (that's an understatement) and observant writing, but the editing was so poor that I was often re-reading sentences looking for the noun or trying to figure out the meaning when words were missing or repeated. Interesting topic (that's an understatement) and observant writing, but the editing was so poor that I was often re-reading sentences looking for the noun or trying to figure out the meaning when words were missing or repeated.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    A great fascinating peep into the lost world of peep shows. Sheila McClear is a hugely gifted story teller with a terrific eye for telling details and memory for all the aspects of her tour of this netherworld. A brilliant debut!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andie Atwood

    Blunt, raw, and honest, Sheila McClear details how she found herself in the live sex trade. She portrays it as long period of extreme boredom, punctuated by short moments of interactions with undesirables.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    Sheila wrote a masterful memoir. Read it!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is well written interesting account of the last days of the times square peep show.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Johnson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Swapnil Ramesh

  30. 4 out of 5

    black blood diamond

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