Stripping Off The Weight

The Pole Dancing Diet?

There is no place that's more of a boys' club than a strip club. But in Los Angeles, stripping's most devoted fan may well be a woman.

"These are the most amazing bodies I've ever seen. They are taut, they are tight, they are beautiful," says actress Sheila Kelley.

Sheila teaches striptease, but her students are hardly what you'd expect. They're suburban wives and moms, just like her. And they're learning to strip to get into shape. Correspondent Peter Van Sant reports on the latest health craze.

The highlight of Sheila's class is pole dancing. Sheila says these movements are so great for the body that she's turned it into a workout.

In fact, stripping is southern California's latest exercise craze - coming from the strip club, to a health club near you.

"They don't even know they're working out until two months later when they say, 'I've never had a better body in my life. I'm strong, I'm limber, I feel great,'" says Sheila, who first learned to pole dance while making the movie "Dancing at the Blue Iguana."

"I was just stunned by what incredible shape I was in. I was like a lean, feminine machine."

Sheila decided to spread the word, and started a class called "Stripping for the Everyday Woman." Since news of her class got around Los Angeles, she has found pole dancing disciples in the most unexpected places.

Artist Ali McCauley and actress Kari McDermott are both recently divorced 30-something moms.

Kari discovered the class first, but Ali was shy about joining when she found out that, for the class, she'd need stripping shorts, dancer's g-strings, a push-up bra and six-inch platform heels.

"I can leave whenever I want, that's what I was thinking," says Ali, who finally had the courage to sign up.

At first, it seemed like any other exercise class. Then, things got a little unusual.

Sheila instructed students on touching their bodies: "Bring your hand onto your body, let it roam, testing where your sexual root power comes from."

No men are allowed in the class. In fact, the stripping class wouldn't even let Van Sant inside, and they insisted 48 Hours use an all-woman camera crew. They say only women can truly appreciate the power of the pole dance.

"We do a lot of looking into ourselves, connecting to the power in the room, the feminine power in the room," says Kari, who recently had a pole installed in her own home.

As for Ali, pole dancing has left her a changed woman. "It's powerful," she said.

Since 48 Hours last brought you this program, Sheila Kelley has opened a brand new studio in response to the growing demand for her classes - 240 women are currently on the waitlist.

Sheila's studio is 2,500 square feet, contains three poles, offers twenty classes, and five teachers - whose ranks Kari McDermott will be joining soon. Sheila's new book, "The S Factor: Stripping for the Everday Woman," will be released in January 2004.

To learn more, please visit Kelley's official website.