CANUTE — Kellie Hurtgam is probably like many other single mothers who own their own businesses. She juggles a busy daily schedule, trying to balance the responsibilities of successful employer and proud soccer mom. There is a difference, though. Hurtgam owns a strip club. "I’m proud to tell people I own this business,” said Hurtgam, 31. "I’m Kellie Hurtgam, and I own a strip club.” The existence of Outer Limits Entertainment is only part of Hurtgam’s bold story. It’s the location of the club that many find shocking. It opened in November 2008 on the western edge of Washita County and across the street from the town limits of Canute, a quiet hamlet on State Highway 66 that boasts 524 people and three churches. "I’m sure people don’t expect it to be where it is,” said Hurtgam, who lives in nearby Cordell. "But we’re here, and we run a clean, legal operation.” Hurtgam said she has gone to great lengths to present a respectable establishment, even going so far as to warn customers of what they will encounter. She posted a sign that reads: "If nudity offends do not enter.” The club is a sore subject in Canute, and the topic has made its way onto a blog site where locals have launched anonymous barbs at it. "I’m not OK with it, but what can I do?” said Jan Camphouse, vice president of First National Bank in Canute. The manager of one store said, "A lot of people are against it ... but you really can’t use my name. It could hurt my business.”
‘I love my girls’Mayor Phillip Root chooses his words so carefully when discussing the strip club, he avoids the issue entirely. When asked about Hurtgam’s club, Root politely sidesteps the subject and instead extols Canute’s positives. "Canute is a great place to live,” Root said. "We have a great school and great people. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.” And Hurtgam would not want to work anywhere else. "I love entertaining people,” Hurtgam said. "And I love my girls. They’re not whores. They’re dancers, and a lot of them are single mothers just trying to make a living.” Crowds flock to the club four nights a week, especially on Saturdays when Hurtgam suspends the dancing temporarily so customers can watch live mixed martial arts fights on big-screen televisions. She said she has more than 1,000 members, and 32 dancers who travel from as far as Oklahoma City and Amarillo for the opportunity to dance topless for wages. "On a busy night?” Hurtgam said. "A dancer can make upwards of $300.” Hurtgam takes home her own pay as well as a sense of pride. "I have money in the bank,” Hurtgam said. "My kids have a roof over their heads, heat in their home and plenty of food in the cupboards. They want for nothing. I don’t rely on the government or anyone else to take care of me. I take care of myself.”
‘A real struggle’The self-proclaimed "military brat” is the middle of three children. Her travels essentially ended when she followed her father, Craig Hurtgam, to Cordell. She graduated from Cordell High School in 1997, soon gave birth to her first child — a daughter, now 11 — and then juggled her time between college and a job at a truck stop in Clinton. Hurtgam later gave birth to her son, now 9. "School went nowhere,” Hurtgam recalled. "I remember something had to give, and I couldn’t give up the child or the job. So school had to go. But it was tough. I made $420 a week at the gas station and $250 a month in child support. I was living in low-income housing, and it was a real struggle. "I wasn’t able to give my kids the kind of life I wanted them to have.” Hurtgam found work at a bar in Elk City, where she discovered her passion for bartending. She managed the bar for four years before venturing out on her own. Hurtgam said she had long wanted to operate a strip club. She found a vacant building for sale outside Canute — a former bar. "I wanted to make money,” she said. "I thought, ‘What will people spend their money on?’ Boobs and beer.” Hurtgam researched for a year before opening. She grilled attorneys and other club owners, researched laws and even approached local law enforcement agencies about her prospective venture.
A memorable lifeCraig Hurtgam said he is proud of his daughter. "Kellie was raised to know nothing was going to be given to her in life,” said the elder Hurtgam, now a truck driver. "She knew she’d have to work hard for whatever she got. I would have supported her no matter what she had chosen to do, whether it was working as a baby sitter or opening a restaurant. I support her in whatever she does.” As for the public criticism, Craig Hurtgam simply shrugs. "My daughter doesn’t take crap from anyone,” Craig Hurtgam said. "I don’t worry about her. I’ve been to her club. Guys tell me all the time they don’t fear the bouncer as much as my daughter.” Kellie Hurtgam playfully smiles when asked about her detractors. "A lot of those people who complain are hypocrites,” she said. "They might complain in public or at church, but at night I’ll see them down here in my club having a good time. I know this much: They’ll remember my name for a long time.”