Originally published November 7, 2003 here.
Before Marilyn Murphy begins her dance routine, I beg her to keep the act PG-13, so as not to scandalize the Lindens-- or even worse, my real life girlfriend.
"Now let's be crystal clear here," she says, "we are [only] talking about animated pixels."
"Well yes," I say, "but there are subtleties involved!"
So Marilyn complies. And as the music kicks in, she unleashes a dazzling-but-relatively-demure flurry of athletic dance moves, karate kicks, and assorted bursts of pantomimed sass, all perfectly timed to the swooping, driving beat of a pounding electronica track. It's the first dance routine I've seen that looks like something other than the generic moves available in the default avatar gesture menu-- in other words, to look like actual, professional choreography.
In addition to performing in it, Marilyn also owns the Vogue, and believes it to be the only successful enterprise of its kind. Before building it, she danced at another club, and while she made money there, the property itself, like so many others like, went belly up.
"And I watched it fail," says Marilyn, "and I learned from it. The reason is, the guy who owns one-- a guy-- has to pay for the building and the land. So he has two choices: a large door charge, or take it from the girls who work there. Now, that don't work either way you try it-- so I built this." She was helped in this by fellow group member Siobhan Taylor, "Who assisted me emotionally and financially to remain in the game, and to Construct Club Vogue.
Now, she continues, "I own the land and everything you see, and I pay for it by dancing, and the girls who work here pay me nothing. I support the club totally from my dancing, and the girls keep all the money they make. How can a man own the club and show a profit?"
"I guess a guy with a hot babe avatar could do it," I suggest.
"I guess," she says, unconvinced. "My experience lets me work with guys much better. The other girls who actually become dancers here are too shy sometimes to cajole a guy into the deal. I can do it, and then turn them over to another girl."
Second Life is Marilyn's very first foray into the world of MMOGs. "My husband plays these games... some Camelot thing and some World War Two thing. He thinks this is for uh....well, not his type. And he showed this to me and he said he thought I could go shopping here-- and I said 'SHOPPING???!!!!'" And when it came time for her to start a business and bring in an income, Club Vogue was the ultimate outcome. And while she's not sure she'd like him to join her in SL, she says her husband's quite proud of the enterprise she runs in here. "I am proud of me," she adds.
I point out that much of the mature-rated content in Second Life seems to be developed by our women players. "Which," I say, "may seem counter-intuitive to many."
"I don't think it's so counter intuitive," says Aesendria Serpentine, a scantily-dressed brunette sitting nearby pipes up. "The anonymity allows you to do things you wouldn't otherwise do. But want to. In real life, I wouldn't be laying around in the nude, or even be in a strip club, in fact I still wont, but [in] here it doesn't seem to matter."
"Club Vogue is also a group," says Marilyn, "it's female only." At 48 members, it's one of the largest-- and only four of its members are in-world dancers. "And most groups may have a theme," she continues, "but I have tried to make the Club Vogue group actually mean something. We help newer girls who come in game with their avatars, and money and advice. So we try to act as a sorority sort of."