Transcript of 6th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Lisa Benjamin, Tuesday, June 16, 1998 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Lisa. Oh, are you all right?
Ms. Benjamin: Do I look that bad?
Dr. Balis: It looks like you have a rash on your face.
Ms. Benjamin: No, I just pick at my face when I get anxious--and this week has really been a doozy. It's a terrible habit really. I get it from my mother, I think.
Dr. Balis: What happened?
Ms. Benjamin: Uh, it's something I should have figured out would happen. But I would rather start by telling you about my camping trip. It's sort of the setup for the big fall.
Dr. Balis: Okay.
Ms. Benjamin: Well, I'm actually all right physically. But emotionally, I've been feeling really crazy lately. So let me start with my trip. I think it'll help if I talk about everything in the order that it happened.
Dr. Balis: All right. So you went to Point Reyes?
Ms. Benjamin: Yes, and it was just fantastic. That was the weekend after I saw you. I drove out in a car that I managed to borrow from my mom's friend. Did I ever tell you that my mom lives in Walnut Creek?
Dr. Balis: No.
Ms. Benjamin: Well, she lives out there. And one of her neighbors has let me borrow this old Toyota a few times, like when I moved. So I went out to my mom's place on Friday to pick up the car, and we had a monster, giant, huge conversation.
Dr. Balis: About what?
Ms. Benjamin: About what I'm doing with my life. Of course I hadn't told her about my job at the Lusty Lady, and she was getting on my case about SII and how great that company is. She's all fired up about their stock prices and the news about this Mole. She thinks I can get in on this new technology wave and take over corporate America or something. I kept trying to tell her about the video I was working on, hoping she'd see that I was involved in some cool stuff. I was really proud of the footage that I edited so far--I have only about four minutes edited. Finally, she said, "Okay, let's take a look at it." So I popped in a VHS tape I dubbed off my master. I was carrying it in my bag, because I showed it to someone at Video Free America.
Dr. Balis: What did she think of your work?
Ms. Benjamin: Well, she was completely fascinated, and she laughed in all the right places--some of it is funny. And she was actually very impressed. When it was finished, she just looked at me in amazement. She couldn't believe that I had done it. And she kept on saying, "It seems so professional!" I said, "Mom, all of these shots are poorly lit. They're fuzzy red because the chroma levels sucks..." But she couldn't even believe that I knew what I was talking about. Actually, I just learned these terms, so it was funny that I came off sounding so informed. Then she hit me with the killer question: "How did you get such wonderfully candid interviews?"
Dr. Balis: And did you tell her the truth?
Ms. Benjamin: Yes, I did. I felt that it was exactly the right time, because there she was feeling so proud of me. The reason my video is going to be good is because I'm so incredibly close to the material. I wanted to be honest with her about that.
Dr. Balis: What was her reaction?
Ms. Benjamin: At first, she was very surprised. And then, she got really worried. She'd just heard these women talking about very graphic stuff, and I could see those images going through her head. She didn't like it at all. She was really concerned and scared for me. But the video also talks about how the Lusty Lady is different because it's owned and managed by women. So we talked about it for a while, and she did seem to calm down. She's actually a pretty liberal person, a child of the sixties. But I think she was more open-minded to the concept of someone else's daughter being a stripper. Eventually, she did start to see that I was doing it to get close to my documentary subject.
Dr. Balis: So do you think your mother took the news rather well?
Ms. Benjamin: Yes, I think so. And then I told her that I really thought I was living a kind of adventure. Of course, I didn't tell her how gritty or how depressing this job can be. But that word "adventure" seemed to strike a chord with her. I know that she would have liked to do a lot of things in her life, but she had kids instead. I think she understood that what I'm doing is my way of not settling for less. Anyway, it was a very long conversation. We talked about how I edited and my thought process for the film, and she was hanging on my every word. Poor mom. I do think she could have been a creative person, maybe a writer.
Dr. Balis: What does your mother do?
Ms. Benjamin: She works at a hospital, doing administrative and insurance stuff in this little room behind the emergency room. She's great at it. But they work her to death and don't pay her enough.
Dr. Balis: She thought you were doing something exciting with your life?
Ms. Benjamin: I guess so. I left early the next morning, and that conversation got me started off on a great weekend. I set up my tent near the water, and everything was just so damn beautiful. There was this tall grass, and this one perfectly bending tree, and some wild blackberries. I just listened to the ocean and wrote in my journal. And I got very involved in mapping out the rest of the video based on my conversation with my mother. I had such a great time being by myself. I got so much done. And I thought a lot about my life and what I've been doing. And I came back completely refreshed. And then last week, Thursday, the big fall happened.
Dr. Balis: Tell me about it.
Ms. Benjamin: Someone from SII came into the Lusty Lady.
Dr. Balis: Who?
Ms. Benjamin: Scott Collavito. He works in graphics or something. He came in with a bunch of other guys. It was probably some kind of bachelor party or some get together with a lot of friends thing. Scott is hardly a regular type customer. Actually, he's a pretty good looking guy. Every kind of guy comes to the Lusty, but I would never picture this guy going in there. It must have been one of those spur of the moment things. Sometimes a group of guys will come in just to see what a peep show is really all about.
Dr. Balis: Do you think Scott recognized you?
Ms. Benjamin: Doctor, that very question is what has me picking compulsively at my face. I skipped work on Friday because I just could not deal with possibly seeing Scott there. And then yesterday and today, I went to work, but our paths didn't cross. I'm completely stressing out about it. I was wearing a long, red wig, and my whole persona at the Lusty is so incredibly different from my secretary persona. But I'm not sure how long he was at a window booth before I caught sight of him. He might have been there long enough to be able to put things together. God, just thinking about this...I'm sure he did. Of course he did.
Dr. Balis: Do you think he'll confront you?
Ms. Benjamin: I don't know, I don't know. I hope not. But on the other hand, I'd prefer that Scott confronted me instead of spreading his suspicions around the company. Crap! That's what has me really worried. Am I going to have to defend myself to the entire office? Should I just quit? I was feeling like I wanted to get more involved at SII. But if this gets out, will I be able to even show my face there? They can't just fire me for having another job, can they?
Dr. Balis: I don't think so.
Ms. Benjamin: But maybe they can find other reasons to fire me if they really want to. Jesus, why did this have to happen right when I started to actually care about SII? It's so ridiculous. I do want to try and move up there. But on the other hand, maybe I should just quit now and have more time for Video Free America. This incident has pointed how impossible it is to have a straight job world and do stripping on the side. I could make the same amount of money in twenty hours at the Lusty Lady that I make in forty at SII. And if I audition at some other strip places, I could make much more than that.
Dr. Balis: Are you seriously thinking of quitting SII?
Ms. Benjamin: I'm so confused right now. I don't know what direction I should go in. I don't want to end up like my mom. She never got to do what she wanted to do in her life. She should have been a writer. She should have traveled. But if I quit SII now, am I throwing away an opportunity to eventually make more money, get more skills, and all that stuff? What if my video really sucks? Then I'll just be a stripper. And I'll have to explain this gap on my straight job resume if I'll ever want to work in an office again. And I don't want to be struggling when I'm my mom's age. But I want to make films. And I guess I have to struggle for a while to do that. But then again, maybe I'll just end up struggling forever. God, who wants to see another movie about strippers anyway?
Dr. Balis: You are thinking about your life and your future, that's good. But I wouldn't advise making any major life changing decisions while under stress. Why don't you find out if Scott recognized you first?
Ms. Benjamin: Under stress...I can't imagine calming down right now. I'm having trouble sleeping. And yes, I'm doing speed. I told the whole story to Gabby, and we both snorted a few lines together. Then I did more this weekend. That's another reason my face is such a mess--I pick more when I'm doing speed.
Dr. Balis: Lisa...
Ms. Benjamin: I know! Okay, it's stupid to take speed while all this other stuff is going on. I'll stop. I'll stop. I know it makes it worse. I think I like the glamour of making it worse. Maybe I want to impress Gabby by freaking out and losing my job at SII. I think part of me wants to be a stripper addicted to speed!
Dr. Balis: I hope that part of you doesn't win out over the next few weeks.
Ms. Benjamin: Can I call you if I'm just completely losing it, like if I actually talk to Scott?
Dr. Balis: Of course.
Ms. Benjamin: We're out of time, right?
Dr. Balis: Yes, but definitely call me if you're having difficulties, and not just with Scott Collavito.
Ms. Benjamin: Okay. Thanks. See you in two weeks.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye, Lisa. Take care of yourself.
Ms. Benjamin: Thanks.
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