For the exotic dancers in the area, there's no better publicity than Andy Seawell's Unveiled magazine.
Andy Seawell is standing at the bar at Club Risqu� on Delaware Avenue, an upscale gentlemen's club where the bouncers wear bow ties and a leather-bound cigar menu stands behind each ashtray placed around the bar. He wears a striped polo shirt with a white collar that glows under the black light. Sipping a Coke, he checks out the two seminude dancers treating their respective stage poles to some slow grind-bend-swivel action.
A blond dancer appears behind the bar, and Seawell looks her directly in the eye when she gives his tip-wielding hand the standard boob-hug. Their catch-up conversation is the same one you'd hear between longtime acquaintances in any bar. "I've known her for years," says Seawell after the blond continues her meandering circuit around the bar. "She won't do any pictures, though. She's very shy. This is a good club for her."
Welcome to the life of Andy Seawell, editor and publisher of Unveiled, the Philadelphia area's foremost go-go industry magazine.
Unveiled has been a solid industry commodity since 1993, circulating free copies to roughly 20,000 readers each month at the front desks of nearly 70 area go-go clubs, retail stores and adult bookstores.
Customers read it to find out which clubs to go to, how to behave themselves once they're there and which dancers to watch for. Dancers scan the "Simply the Best" section for their own names, browse advertisements for the addresses of new costume outlets or other clubs that are hiring, and use the photographs as prime fodder for slow-night dressing-room cat sessions.
Club management advertise religiously in Unveiled, both because it's the only industry magazine in the area focused solely on exotic entertainment and because a different club is featured and reviewed each month in the editorial section--which is basically free advertising.
"When I started going to go-go clubs, I was about 18," says the 45-year-old Seawell, who writes most of the magazine's copy, takes the photographs, distributes copies and sells ads. "The first one I went to was some Center City zombie dive, where it looked like everyone there--dancers, customers, all of them--had died about five years earlier and hadn't quite caught on yet. Back then you had no idea what you were getting yourself into when you walked into a club. You'd just see the sign and hope it wasn't a zombie dive."
Seawell started Unveiled at the suggestion of Sophie Ben-Shitta, his editor at Mentertainment, the now-defunct pioneer of go-go industry magazines where Seawell rapidly moved his way up from staff writer to publisher. He was a natural for the job for several reasons.
He'd been writing short stories and publishing essays in various publications since his history-major days at Penn State, where he wrote for the humor magazine and took creative writing classes with popular science fiction author William Tenn. He also owned his own singing/stripping telegram company called Mainline Telegrams for eight years, hiring and managing both male and female performers.
Seawell also had more than 10 years experience as an exotic dancer under his G-string, something he discusses candidly in the pages of Unveiled as well as in person. "That was back before all the 6-foot-tall muscle-men took over. The standards were lower, or at least different," Seawell says of his bump-and-grind years.
Most of Seawell's writing in Unveiled is incredibly honest. His descriptions of club experiences are detailed, dramatic and personal, and his more political editorials are equally opinionated and direct.
In the October 1993 issue Seawell writes of a dancer's banana-eating performance: "One end of a peeled banana was placed on my lap. Faith went down deep on the other end. If I squinted a little it looked like something else altogether--but unfortunately, it wasn't."
In the June 1997 issue Seawell spends several pages painstakingly correcting factual errors published in the area's more mainstream newspapers regarding the Craig Rabinowitz case, in which a middle-aged Main Line man strangled his wife for her life insurance policy, the better to support his favorite Delilah's Den entertainer: "Now and never has there been any 'lap dancing' at Delilah's Den. Summer should not therefore be referred to as a 'lap dancer' ... Delilah's isn't topless because Pennsylvania law requires pasties or latex covering dancers' nipples ... Delilah's truly is a gentleman's club, so there's no reason to put quotation marks around the phrase."
If these discrepancies seem nit-picky, or if the idea of reading a paragraph-long description of someone else's favorite dancer seems excessive, it's probably because the reader is neither a dedicated go-go aficionado, a dancer herself or involved in the executive end of the industry.
But for the thousands who are, Unveiled magazine is an invaluable resource, illuminating the shadowy underworld implications of the go-go industry with a refreshing beam of straight-up, no-bullshit information as well as the simple appreciation the black-lit so often forgo.
"I've had so many girls come up to me and tell me how much being in this magazine meant to them, how much it improved their money, how great it was to be recognized," says Seawell. He gestures to the latest copy of his life's work for the past 12 years: 52 pages of newsprint featuring the skin and smile of a girl who could be any girl--except for the fact that she's featured on the cover of this month's Unveiled.
"She should be proud of herself. She works hard. She's good at what she does, like anyone else who takes pride in their job. Why shouldn't she be on a magazine cover for once in her life? If I can give her that--if I can give that to the hundreds of men a week who go home smiling because of her--then I'm happy with what I'm doing."
Calendar: Sept. 2-9