Storms have been in Pittsburgh’s forecast ever since spring broke — but May 3 and 4 held a different kind of storm in Downtown’s forecast.
The adult film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, performed two shows on both Wednesday and Thursday at Blush, a strip club on 9th Street. Clifford allegedly had a consensual affair with President Donald Trump in 2006 and announced Monday that she is suing the president for defamation regarding one of his tweets. In her first show Thursday, she donned an American flag when she entered the stage — for her later show, she showed up in a red sequined dress and matching firefighter hard hat. She’s an icon in the adult entertainment industry, and Blush dancer Molina proudly showed off the photo she got with Clifford.
“She was so nice. She’s just amazing,” she said.
Blush was one of more than 25 stops on Clifford’s “Make America Horny Again” tour — a reference to her ongoing feud with President Donald Trump. And in between her two nights of performance in Pittsburgh, she made national headlines again.
She took the stage Wednesday just 10 minutes after President Trump’s newly appointed lawyer Rudy Giuliani revealed to Sean Hannity of Fox News that the president had reimbursed his personal lawyer $130,000 for a hush payment made to Clifford just months before the 2016 election. Trump told reporters last month he knew nothing of the payment and maintained that assertion throughout Wednesday.
The next morning, the president’s tone shifted, as he said via Twitter that he was aware Cohen paid Clifford and that he reimbursed Cohen through a series of monthly retainer fees.
Some think the payoff was a violation of federal campaign finance laws, including the government watchdog agency Common Cause, which filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission in January.
But for a lot of the dancers who work at Blush, none of this was a priority — in fact, having Clifford there didn’t even feel that different from a busy weekend night for Amber, who started working at Blush 10 years ago.
“The thing is, she’s been here before,” Amber said, referencing two previous times Clifford performed at Blush. “It’s just what she does.”
Amber is admittedly “anti-Trump” but said she and her coworkers represent a broad range of political beliefs — including “pro-Trump” dancers like Scarlet.
“I couldn’t condemn him for something he did 20 years ago,” Scarlet said. “Anyway, [the tour] is just a money-making pit. If you were that woman, wouldn’t you use this to your advantage?”
Scarlet was on the third floor of the strip club sharing a drink with a regular customer while Clifford finished her first performance of the night. When Scarlet went to the bar to order some french fries, she stopped, noticing a man holding a book under his arm. The bright red text above President Trump’s furrowed brow on the cover is already iconic — “Fire and Fury,” by Michael Wolff, an account of the president’s behavior through his first year in office.
“I wanted to get it signed, of course,” the man told Scarlet. “Have you read it?”
Isaac, the man who was holding the book, is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University studying politics. He declined to provide his last name and year of study, citing professional concerns. While waiting in line for a chance to meet Clifford, he said one of his professors contemplated having her as a guest speaker in class but balked at the idea of registering the event with university administration.
“So I came to ask her in person, ‘Will you come teach one of our classes?’” he said, laughing. “I’m not much of a strip club guy, but I had to come see this.”
Isaac’s book wasn’t the only iconic political symbol Clifford signed last night. Before him in line was a man with a handful of signed magazines, which he carefully placed in a padded envelope, and several bright red “Make America Great Again” hats, which he nestled in a backpack.
But everyone had a different reason for buying a ticket. For Derek Lang, the special guest was enough to get him back to the club he hadn’t visited in years.
“I used to come here when it was the Edison Hotel,” he said, a name the 9th Street building retained until 2000. Lang, 47, moved to Florida for 25 years, but has always been a devoted Pittsburgher — proving it with a Pirates tattoo inside his lower lip and a Steelers tattoo on his left bicep. In vulgar terms, Lang said he came just to see who the president had sex with.
“I wouldn’t want anyone in my family up there doing that, but money is money,” Lang said.
Ten minutes before her performance began, Clifford walked backstage with a bodyguard, a basket full of props and two assistants.
While a voice over the loudspeaker introduced Clifford’s accomplishments and claims to fame — emphasizing that she “trumped the competition” at the annual Adult Video News Awards and starred in the most-watched episode of CNN’s “60 Minutes” — people in the packed audience began waving their money in the air, rising to give Clifford a standing ovation.
Someone at a VIP table held up a green T-shirt with a caricature of Trump wearing a clown nose.
Isaac took his front-row seat — a ticket worth $40 — and went to the bar to order a drink. He set his drink down and neatly placed a stack of dollar bills on top of his freshly signed copy of “Fire and Fury.” When Clifford came out from backstage, Isaac — and the rest of the front row — grabbed a handful of bills and started tipping.
She will continue her “Make America Horny Again” tour this week in Oregon.