String Showbar is a topless gentlemen’s club in Oslo, Norway that is small in size but huge in style and class. I met the owner and manager, Magnus Morland, at the 2015 Gentlemen’s Club Expo in New Orleans this year. I was not only thrilled to be able to gain a better insight into gentlemen’s club management, but also how the gentlemen’s club industry differs from the United States in both customer experience and the “behind the scenes” management of the club.
C.J. Asher – Hi Magnus, thank you for this interview, First of all, tell me a little about yourself.
Magnus Morland – I am 43 years old and grew up in the south of Norway, in a small city by the coast called Arendal. I always wanted to be a sailor and work on a ship. In Norway, military service is mandatory, so it was natural for me to join the Navy, where I sailed as a machine engineer. When I finished in the Navy, I realized that hiding down in the machine room of a boat was too boring. I had already been doing bodybuilding for some years, so I joined some fitness competitions and wanted to make more out of this. Fitness and bodybuilding don’t make you rich in Norway, so I started to do some male stripping. The money was really good and this was the best way I had ever made money. I worked as a stripper all over Europe and, after a few years, I also started as an agent for a Norwegian agency, sending Norwegian dancers to clubs around the world. Cutting a long story short, after six years of this I got work as a manager at String Showbar, which is where I met my wife; we have two kids together. In 2003 we received the opportunity to buy the club, so since then we have been both owning and running the club.
C.J. Asher – What is your job title and role with String Showbar?
Magnus Morland – I am, of course, the manager when I work, but I also operate as a bartender. On normal weekdays all I need is a guy who takes care of the security and I take care of the rest. The club is around 200 square meters in size so it’s a small club, so I don’t need much staff on. Oslo isn’t a big city, so there’s not a high volume of customers coming through the door.
C.J. Asher – What first attracted you to the adult entertainment industry?
Magnus Morland – After doing bodybuilding and fitness for several years, I wanted to make money in the lifestyle that I saw in a TV program about a male stripper. I realized that I had to give this a try and since then I have never looked back.
C.J. Asher – Tell me about your first ever trip to a gentlemen’s club… what was it like?
Magnus Morland – The first club I ever went to was Blaze, one of the oldest clubs in Norway. I had just started to work as a male dancer, and they had booked a show with me for a group of girls. I was nearly pissing my pants, being so nervous for doing this show, but at the same time, the atmosphere and thrill of being in a gentlemen’s club and being a part of the crew there was great.
C.J. Asher – Having visited the United States for the 2015 Gentlemen’s Club Expo, what is common and different between gentlemen’s club in the United States and Europe? Or, Norway specifically?
Magnus Morland – There are several differences. The average size of clubs in Norway is a lot smaller, because of the smaller population. Norway is only populated with 5 million people and Oslo with 500,000 people. On average in Europe, except for the UK, you will also find a lot of small clubs. The UK have very similar type of clubs as the ones you have in the US, but in the rest of Europe the clubs are more focused on selling Champagne with the dancers in a private room. This is what the dancers’ income is based on, there is very little tips on stage. In Europe, the dancers can travel between the different countries and work for three months, paying only fifteen percent in tax in the each country per year. It’s classed as an artist tax. After being on one of the panels on The Expo, I learned that in the US, you have many challenges when it comes to the taxing and classing the dancers as self-employed. It’s not that big problem here, but it might come. Some countries have big challenges with feminist groups. In Iceland, gentlemen’s clubs were banned some years ago. England has had big challenges after they changed the licensing law, classifying gentlemen’s clubs as sex shops and giving each city council the opportunity to deny licensing of existing and new clubs.
C.J. Asher – Thank you for sharing the information about String Showbar; I checked out the website and your club looks amazing! Tell me a little bit about the club: Is your club topless, nude, or do your dancers stay clothed?
Magnus Morland – String Showbar and all other clubs in Norway are fully nude on stage and during private shows.
C.J. Asher – What separates your club from others in Norway?
Magnus Morland – String Showbar is an upmarket club in Oslo. We are the most expensive and exclusive club in Oslo and have a lot of business people as our main customers.
C.J. Asher – Are most of your dancers local or are the international?
Magnus Morland – Most girls are international, but several of our regular dancers has moved and now live permanent in Oslo. We have a lot of Swedish dancers, but very few from Norway. Unfortunately during the years, there aren’t that many Norwegian dancers any more.
C.J. Asher – I noticed from your website that you offer male striptease; tell me a little about it. Is it part of the main club or a separate area? Do you serve a lot of female clientele?
Magnus Morland – We offer male striptease for special events, like birthday parties and hen (bachelorette) parties. These have to be booked in advance. It’s always great fun having a male show in the club; no one makes more noise and go crazier than girls watching a male dancer. It’s also some good eye candy and fun for the female dancers in the club when we do this.
C.J. Asher – What types of legal issues is the European gentlemen’s club industry facing?
Magnus Morland – Like I said earlier, Iceland has banned gentlemen’s clubs and the UK has started its licensing program that makes it a lot more difficult to get a license for a gentlemen’s club. In Norway they tried to ban gentlemen’s clubs, but luckily the suggestion was voted down.
C.J. Asher – Sex trafficking is becoming a big issue in the United states, and lawmakers are using it as an excuse to come down hard on the adult entertainment industry. What efforts does your club take, if any, to identify and prevent any types of sex trafficking?
Magnus Morland – I do all the booking of the dancers myself; I don’t use any agents. So this part is something I am in full control over myself. String Showbar is a very popular club to work in and I have a long waiting list of girls wanting to come, so I can be very selective and know that its only professional dancers that I book to the club.
C.J. Asher – What types of cabaret/striptease/exotic dancer laws exist and how do they impact your business?
Magnus Morland – There is only one law that gets specifically applied the striptease industry in Norway and that is regarding VAT (value added tax). There is a law that says that there shall not be VAT on artistic performances, but we were charged VAT for this back in 2002. So we sued the tax department saying they were wrong, because striptease is an artistic performance. We won after several years in the court house and got all our VAT money back. Soon after, the government change this law, specifying that there was no VAT exception for striptease.
C.J. Asher – What is the most challenging part of gentlemen’s club management and promotions?
Magnus Morland – Managing a gentlemen’s club has several challenges, the biggest on is the people. You need to be a great people knower and I would say a diplomat. There are issues between dancers and there are challenges with customers. The trick is to get all these different people to work together so that you create the good atmosphere and spirit your clients wants and expects, night after night. Promotions has of course limitations, but I don’t have any problems with them for my promotion of the club. I put most of my promo budget on the internet; Google has some restrictions in AdWords, but they are not a big problem. Organic search is important and that’s where you are free to promote the way you want and follow what trends your potential clients search for.
C.J. Asher – Tell me about Strip-Magazine.com and what other projects you’re working on in the world of gentlemen’s club promotions. How did you first get involved in the website?
Magnus Morland – After traveling as a dancer and agent around in Europe during the 90`s, I realized that this industry was very badly organized and there was no where I could get proper information about the industry. After a trip to a club called the Cacadou in Helsinki, I meet a Canadian feature dancer, who introduced me to The Exotic Dancer magazine. That’s where I got my idea and inspiration to do that same in Europe. In 2001, I started to work on the concept and I made a decision to only publish it on the internet, so in 2002 we went online and have been ever since.
C.J. Asher – Who is your target audience for Strip-Magazine.com? Is it designed primarily for the gentlemen’s club industry or customers/patrons?
Magnus Morland – The target audience is the gentlemen’s club industry; it’s a place where dancers can read inspiring articles about other dancers and discuss issues in the forum, interviews with industry people and a job board. We also have a gentlemen’s club guide; it’s like the “Yellow pages” of the Striptease industry in Europe.
C.J. Asher – And finally, tell me one or two of the craziest experiences that you’ve had while working at String Showbar.
Magnus Morland – You know C.J., after working in that club most nights for over fifteen years, there have been so many crazy episodes that you lose track. My wife doesn’t work in the club anymore, but she always asks me at the dinner table, what went on in the club last night. I normally says nothing special, because I don’t remember and then after a few days I can suddenly say, by the way, I walked straight into an armed robbery at next doors business last night or we had a drunk Finnish customer who took of all his clothes in the club and refused to take them back on again.
I think that the funniest episode was one time when I had a new girl doing her first show in the club, she was supposed to come before working hours to have an audition, but we had already opened the club when she arrived. I decided that she could do the first show on stage that night, so that I could make a decision if she was gonna get the job or not. We had two customers in the club. One bald older guy in his sixties, sitting straight in front of the stage. You could see that it was his first time in a strip club, because he wasn’t comfortable; he was a really snobby guy. In the bar we had another regular customer.
The new girl, started her show and it became clear to me that she hadn’t done this many times before. Every time she touched the pole she was shaking like she got electrocuted, it just looked completely crazy. She was dark, so she had black afro hair and, after several shakes in the pole, her hair started to come off… it was a wig. Suddenly the wig fell off and landed on the stage in front of her. She then took the black afro wig and danced over to the bald guy in his sixties and putted the wig on his head. Of course he looked completely stupid with that black afro wig on his white bald head and his face was saying everything. If he hadn’t been uncomfortable before, he sure was now.
The regular at the bar nearly fell of the bar stool, he was laughing as much as were we. I couldn’t stop, I was nearly on the floor when she had finished the show and walked of the stage, picking up the wig on the way back to the dressing room. The bald guy went straight out of the club and has never been seen again. The girl never got the job, but I will never forget this moment, it was one of those that you can only experience in this industry and I laugh every time I think about it.
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C.J. Asher is a sex and adult entertainment blogger who has interviewed celebrities such as Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, BurningAngel.com owner, director, writer and actress Joanna Angel as well as a sugar baby advisor, burlesque dancer, feminist and many others. His blog, CJAsher.com, also review gentlemen’s clubs nationwide and posts a weekly adult entertainment calendar highlighting adult film star appearances. Follow C.J. on Twitter @CJASHEROFFICIAL