Query eventually began tracking the sex workers' struggle for rights, which resulted in the country's only strippers' union. Like the vast majority of dancers at the Lusty Lady, Query took the job to supplement her creative work; she had left graduate school to try her hand at writing stand-up comedy routines. As time went by, the management's exploitative policies (firing dancers without just cause, failing to stop customers who were illegally videotaping peep shows, giving dancers of color fewer hours than white performers) led to a volatile situation. Management found out the hard way just how outspoken and politically savvy these women were. It wasn't long before dancers were standing outside the Lusty Lady shouting slogans such as "Two, four, six, eight, don't come here to masturbate!" and occasionally yelling out chants to remind management why they were there: "No contract, no pussy!"
"We were getting a lot of attention from mainstream media," Query recalls, "but our story was being told with a smirk, as a joke." That's when she started recording the negotiations with a little Sony Hi-8 camcorder: She decided she would tell the dancers' story herself. The result is Live Nude Girls Unite!, an earnest and provocative film that alternates between interviews with dancers about their experiences, the negotiation process, Query's stand-up routines and, in a few truly poignant scenes, her relationship with her mother and how it changes when she "comes out" to her as a sex worker. Her mother had responded well when Query had come out as a lesbian, but the second coming out doesn't go too smoothly.
The dancers do perform some for the camera, and Query and codirector Vikki Funari have edited the film so that comic scenes are well spaced to keep the mood light. (When Query asks her what she thought when she saw the shoes in her closet, her mother replies, "I thought you had a lot of boots!") But this is ultimately a movie about a political struggle -- not an erotic film, and not a comedy.
Query managed to patch things up with her mother and keep dancing for five years, even through the early stages of her return to graduate school, where she's studying to become a psychotherapist. Although she gave up her job at the Lusty Lady a few weeks ago, she still feels good about what she did there.
"I certainly feel better about my work than I would feel if I were creating little plastic things the world doesn't need."