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For Stormy, controversy blows up into a club scene bonanza

Updated 8:21 AM ET, Mon March 12, 2018

POMPANO BEACH, FLORIDA (CNN) - A propeller plane pulled an advertising banner across a darkening sky on Saturday afternoon.

"STORMY DANIELS LIVE TONIGHT @ SOLID GOLD POMPANO," it said in large black letters.

The winds picked up and slow, heavy raindrops started to fall as beachgoers gathered their belongings to seek cover, some of whom chuckled while taking photos of the banner.

It was about to get stormy.

A few hours later, the rain had passed. But Stormy Daniels was in full force, meeting her fans in the presidential suite of the Solid Gold strip club in between performances.

If she found the setting ironic, it was one of the few things she did not show that weekend as she barreled through four appearances at the expansive south Florida strip club, which is equipped with hot tubs, a full-service restaurant and roof deck.

The 38-year-old porn actress and exotic dancer, who is in the midst of a legal battle to void a nondisclosure agreement with President Donald Trump over an alleged sexual relationship the two had more than 10 years ago, isn't shy about the fact that she's taking advantage of the situation she's found herself in.

"If someone came up to you and said, 'Hey, you know that job you've been doing, I'm going to pay you quadruple for doing it ...' no one is going to say no," Daniels told CNN in an interview between performances Friday evening.

For Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, her tour of engagements at strip clubs around the country is just an extension of what she's been doing now for 18 years -- acting, writing and directing porn, and performing at clubs across the country. She's quick to remind those who are new to her world, that in the adult entertainment community, she's a bona fide celebrity.

"I am one of the most successful adult movie directors in the business. I have a contract that has been in place for several years. I actually just renegotiated, and got a new contract ... and I got a raise," she said under the watchful eye of her ever-present assistant, Michaela Catando, and a team of burly security men who now travel with her at all times.

But there was no mistaking the extra buzz and publicity surrounding Daniels at the Solid Gold, located in a slightly isolated industrial area about 40 minutes south of the President's Mar-a-Lago club. A member of the security team described the clientele as higher end, "white collar."

On its Facebook page, the club advertised the shows as "we the people of the United States present Stormy Daniels, this P*ssy grabs back Mr. President world tour."

Screens around the club advertised Daniels' performance with revealing photos and the slogan "#MAGA -- Make Adult Great Again" in the hours leading up to the main event, as the club's house dancers entertained patrons on the one main stage, on smaller stages around the club, on their laps or in private rooms. (Daniels' team is quick to point out that the clubs do all their own branding without its participation, and that Daniels' performance makes no mention of the President).

Around a dozen members of the media awaited Daniels' arrival Friday evening, showering her in paparazzi flashes as her bodyguards helped her out of a black SUV.

As a white Cadillac pulled in before the main event on Friday, a young valet apologetically told the man driving, "I'm sorry we gotta charge you tonight, it's busy."

Daniels' acts consist of her entering the main stage in an elaborate costume, such as a "Little Red Riding Hood" outfit replete with a red-sequined cape and layers of very short petticoats, or a Wonder Woman-inspired bustier with a long cape.

The music to her sets are rock classics that match the theme, like The Meteors' 1984 classic "Little Red Riding Hood" or Lenny Kravitz's cover of The Guess Who song "American Woman."

"Little Red Riding Hood, you sure are looking good. You're everything a big bad wolf could want," The Meteors croon as Daniels skips across the stage like the little girl from the fairytale.

In minutes, though, Daniels has removed the multiple layers of her costume interspersed with moves that show off her flexibility. Each act ends with her gyrating on a black fleece blanket, spraying herself and patrons with liquid from a squeeze bottle, and for a price, giving a lucky few a face full of herself.

"God bless America," the DJ called out during Daniels' set. "Welcome to the United States of America, with the Bill of Rights and the freedom of speech!"

While Daniels collected dead presidents on stage, the current one was on everyone's mind, partly because his doppelgänger was present.

At first glance, Gregory Leznevich, 58, founder of the business consulting firm Elite Advisors Group and a Solid Gold regular, looks like a Trump impersonator, especially when dressed in a suit and a red tie. Tall, with that unmistakeable strawberry blonde hair swooped back in Trump's style, Leznevich, who is also originally from New York, even has a similar tan. Every few minutes people at the club stopped him to shake his hand, some even thanking "President Trump" for his work.

"[Stormy] joked to me when she first saw me, 'Oh my god, you gave me a flash back,'" Leznevich said.

For a club promoting the work of a woman whose story threatens the presidency on not only legal but also political terms, Leznevich was one of several staunch Trump supporters in attendance who approved of not only Daniels' performance, but also her fight to tell her story.

"I believe Stormy has a right to do whatever she wants to do," Leznevich said. "If it's true what she says, I'm 100 percent behind her. I believe in women's rights and believe in them to do whatever they need to do."

Others came specifically to see the woman they hoped would end Trump's presidency.

Eric Olsen, 64, a junior high school teacher, took a last-minute flight from Dallas to catch the performance.

"She's a part of history -- a scandalous part, but a part of history. I wanted to see her in person," Olsen said. "I teach American history through literature, and I think a lot of the country has lost integrity, especially our President. He's all about distraction, and I think it would be poetic for me to see Stormy, this big distraction, have an impact, or be so impactful on him."

Saturday's performance attracted more women than Daniels' team is accustomed to seeing at a strip club. At one point, there were more women than men lining the stage, angling to snatch a few moments with Daniels and tuck some bills into her garter or literally paste them on her body.

Daniels reveled in performing for the women, blowing kisses, hugging and grabbing their hands and having short conversations -- unintelligible over the blasting music -- but clearly saying, "thank you."

"Oh, gentlemen we are being taken to school. Look at the ladies in the house tonight," the DJ called out.

Nivia Kiernan, a 27-year-old studying to be a medical assistant, was one of those ladies.

"Women, we love to cheer on other women and we love to promote them," she said when asked why she came to see Daniels.

The Trump connection at the club goes farther than Daniels' alleged relationship. Michael J. Peter, the general managing partner of the Solid Gold chain of strip clubs as well as several other brands, said he use do to do business with Trump.

"We did business for two or three years," said Peter, who was one of the pioneers of the more upscale "gentleman club" trend.

In an extensive interview, Peter said he helped arrange a party for Trump more than two decades ago featuring 12 of his dancers and almost went into contract with Trump to open a club at his Atlantic City casino, but that the relationship soured over contract disputes and unpaid bills. The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the company's history with Peter.

"[Trump and I] parted ways unfriendly, we couldn't come to terms," Peter said. "In any event, Stormy is an old friend of mine as well. They actually go back in time simultaneously."

As Daniels met with her fans between performances in the presidential suite, she said she's been letting the new found social media trolls roll off her back.

"I've been in the adult business for 17 years, so to make it that long in that business you have to really tough skin, so most of it rolls off my shoulders because it's an opinion. Like, oh, you think I'm a whore, or ugly, or too old, or I'm fat or my boobs are too big or too small or whatever," she said. "There's nothing that anyone can say that I haven't heard. So, they say, 'Hey, you're a whore ...' I'm like, 'That's 'successful whore' to you!'

Daniels is constantly toeing the line between taking advantage of her newfound mainstream fame while also carefully avoiding talking specifically about Trump, though her fans constantly bring it up. On Friday, one even brought two copies of Trump's "Art of the Deal" for Daniels to sign.

Asked if she had a message for the President, Daniels put her hands on her hips, cocked her head, pursed her lips and smiled.


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