Late, very. Short, or at least shorter in the way that celebrities always seem in real life.
That was Stormy Daniels, last seen on “60 Minutes,” “The View” and litigation against President Donald Trump stemming from an alleged affair, opening a three-night show at the Fantasies strip club in South Baltimore on Thursday night.
She dashed into the club in the industrial neighborhood of Curtis Bay about a half-hour after the 9:30 p.m. show was supposed to begin, and finally took the stage before more than 100 patrons shortly before 11 p.m.
Daniels strode onto the elevated stage in the center of the bar dressed as Little Red Riding Hood — if Little Red Riding Hood’s village was Las Vegas, that is. She wore a red sequined and hooded cape and a flouncy skirt, and soon dispensed with both.
To cheering, and an occasional “Stormy, Stormy” chant from patrons who had paid a $25 cover charge, Daniels worked the stage, sashaying and tossing her blond curls, and twirling on the poles. After her performance, she circulated on the bar, crawling and scooting her way around, collecting tips and chatting with customers.
“You were awesome on 60 Minutes,” one man called out.
“She’s exploiting what she has – good for her,” said Jonas Lindlaw, 46, a graffiti artist who lives in Hampden.
Lindlaw said he hopes her suit against Trump brings him down. “I’m a liberal, and he doesn’t stand for anything I stand for,” Lindlaw said.
Asked about such a takedown, Daniels demurred and said she didn’t think so.
Nonetheless, her legal efforts continue.
Daniels, 39, arrived in Baltimore at peak public interest for her role in one of the multiple investigations circling the president.
She is suing to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed shortly before the 2016 election to remain mum about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump 10 years earlier. In exchange, she received $130,000 that the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, said came out of his own pocket, even though he also said Trump “vehemently denies” the encounter. Trump himself said he didn’t know about the payment.
Cohen has explained the payment by saying in a statement: "Just because something isn't true doesn't mean that it can't cause you harm or damage." Daniels has sued him for defamation for insinuating she is lying about the encounter.
Investigators have looked at whether the payment violated election finance laws that require reporting contributions to campaigns and caps their amount. The FBI, acting on a reference from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, recently raided Cohen’s home and office, seizing material related among other things to l’affaire Daniels.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, lists on her Instagram account a schedule of coast-to-coast strip club appearances that stretch into November. She’ll be at Fantasies Friday and Saturday for two shows each night.
She has long appeared in strip clubs as a “featured” performer — as opposed to the “house” dancers who regularly work in them — as many adult film actresses do. She also directs films and has been nominated and won multiple industry awards both in front of and behind the camera.
Neither she nor others have much patience for the accusation that she is opportunistically taking advantage of her new, more mainstream fame by appearing in strip clubs.
“Tell me one person who would turn down a job offer making more than they've been making, doing the same thing that they've always done?” Daniels told Anderson Cooper in an interview that aired in March on “60 Minutes.”
Judith Hanna, a University of Maryland, College Park anthropologist who researches exotic dancing, could not agree more.
“Anyone who wants to survive in the capitalist economy wants money,” Hanna said.
“She already got the money,” Hanna said, referring to the $130,000 from Cohen, “and if she wants more money, why not?”
There were some Trump supporters in the Fantasies crowd, those who didn’t care one way or the other, and those who thought he would survive his latest troubles.
“I think the guy’s smarter than the rest of us,” said Sean Kenny, 50, an artist whose work was part of Light City’s Neighborhood Lights exhibit at the Bromo Seltzer tower.
Dave Dickens, 47, of Brooklyn Park, is a warehouse manager who likes to get pictures of celebrities. He has one of Trump on his phone from when he was in the area several years ago, and on Thursday night got one with Daniels. He supports Trump.
“I think she’s just trying to have her 15 minutes of fame,” he said.
Another man, Randy Bradford, 60, who retired from advertising and lives on the Eastern Shore, said he couldn’t get his Republican friends to join him at Fantasies. He said he came to support Daniels.
“I’ve been bullied, and she’s being bullied,” he said. “If she helps one person stand up to bullying, it’s worth it.”
Bradford said he found her “so articulate and genuine” in media appearances, plus, “she has a pretty face.”
Melissa Gardner, 46, a personal trainer who lives in Columbia, blew Daniels a kiss and gave her a $20 tip as the performer worked the horseshoe shaped bar after her set, gathering bills in her g-string and in a bucket.
“I’m not a Trump supporter and if she can bring him down, I love her,” Gardner said. “She’s standing up to him. She’s powerful. I have to support her.”
Before her set, and surrounded by bodyguards, Daniels checked out the stage and then went to the deejay booth to go over her song list.
Kirk McEwen of 98 Rock, who emceed the show, chatted with her in the booth and later said he found her “very down to earth.” He said he told her he was surprised she hadn’t emailed the song list in advance, and she said she messed up.
McEwen totally understood.
“She’s had,” he said, “a lot on her mind.”