Tessa Hughes-Freeland’s ‘Baby Doll’ is a tiny slice of cinema-verite from 1982 about the girls working the now defunct Baby Doll Lounge on Church and White St. in downtown Manhattan. It captures a moment before NYC got sanitized.
A lot of the dancers working at the Baby Doll were the girlfriends of rock musicians, so it was a bit of a punk hangout. A red velvet curtain separated the Baby Doll Lounge into two sections; bikini and topless. I knew more than one young rock and roller who fell in love with a stripper at the Baby Doll. “Let me take you away from all of this. Escape with me to my 4th floor walk-up on Ave. B. You deserve better than this.” But the girls had the power, they were making good money, better than most musicians.
My preferred strip joint was Billy’s Topless where students from the Fashion Institute of Technology were known to dance on their lunch break. Billy’s is gone. In its place stands a bagel joint.
From Tessa’s website:
Tessa Hughes-Freeland’s films have been shown in a variety of venues, from international museums to seedy bars. The subject matter of her films is confrontational, transgressive, provocative and poetic. She works in a wide variety of mediums and formats. The personality of her work makes it hard to categorize.