I didn’t know what Belle Knox looked like, so when the Duke University freshman and adult film actress appeared at HeadQuarters Gentleman’s Club in New York City last night, a friend of mine had to point her out.

Or, rather, point in her direction: With the exception of the time spent on her actual performance, Knox remained completely surrounded by photographers, each intent on capturing as many images and soundbites as possible.

“My career has basically skyrocketed,” she told TMZ. “And that’s really great!” She wore a short black dress and strappy black heels.

On contract for Getty Images, Splash News, WENN (World Entertainment News Network), and a few local tabloids, the scrum followed Knox into, out of, and then into the club again, before she disappeared behind stage to prepare for her routine.

When we entered the club, two tall men in suits asked us if we needed anything, how we were doing, whether we were here to see a specific girl. The club, which is a large, dark room with a small stage in the back, was covered in synthetic red velvet and illuminated by discreet tube lighting. Silhouettes of women dancing, over and over again, played on two television sets hung from the ceiling. The cover was $20.

It was a strip club, in other words, except for the people present. Besides the photographers, there were:

  • A reporter for Business Insider
  • A reporter for the New York Daily News
  • A reporter for the New York Post
  • An editorial assistant at Jezebel
  • A Thought Catalog writer
  • A 2006 MacArthur Fellow
  • An NYU graduate student who said she was conducting a “sociological experiment” that consisted of her “just being here”
  • A 29-year-old TMZ producer who explained, at length, how he managed to locate and photograph (what appeared to be) the glass bong that Amanda Bynes (allegedly) threw out of her apartment window in May 2013.

It was not clear, for most of the night, whether anyone present would have come to HeadQuarters, on the far west end of Hell’s Kitchen, were it not for Belle Knox (or, more precisely, the media’s intense interest in her).

Around 11 p.m., Knox entered from stage right, wearing a black bra, a red tartan skirt, and the same shoes as before. To the tune of “Bad Reputation” and “Cherry Pie,” she slowly disrobed, eventually exposing her breasts. Then it was over. It lasted five minutes.

As everyone was pouring out onto 38th Street, I noticed approximately five or six men seated on the club’s periphery. They were dressed in normal Manhattan-businessman clothing, drinking $8 Coronas, and grinning as each performer stepped off the stage and walked in their direction. These men seemed to be at HeadQuarters for the purpose of watching women, including but not specifically Belle Knox, take their clothes off. It was not a special occasion.

[Photo credit: Peter Jacobs]