HEIDI MATTSON SEEMED THE PERFECT girl next door. Valedictorian of the class of 1985 at Bucksport High School in Maine, she played the organ in church and won an $8,000-a-year scholarship to Ivy League Brown University in Providence. Tuition was $22,000 a year, but, says Mattson, "I figured I'd pull it off."

That she did—one piece of apparel at a time. Earning up to $2,000 a week at Providence's Foxy Lady strip club, Mattson, known as the Kinky Cop, danced with handcuffs, billy clubs and, ultimately, little else. Now the 1992 Brown graduate is baring all again in Ivy League Stripper (Arcade Books), the saga of a girl who discovered the naked truth about financing an education. "It was pure economics," says Mattson, 27. "Also, when I dropped my top, I didn't feel any different, and I found that guys will cheer for anything."

For two years, Mattson had struggled to pay her tuition by waitressing and painting houses. But it had been exhausting, and so she took a leave with the intention of returning to school when she had enough saved. Although a 1989 lumpectomy for breast cancer wiped out her savings, she reenrolled in 1990, anticipating she would receive full financial aid—only to discover she wouldn't. That's when Mattson recalled a radio ad for the Foxy Lady. A phone call got her an audition—and $400 in tips on her first night. "Before, I thought nude dancers were prostitutes," she says. "That was not so. And soon I realized stripping did not offend my own sense of right and wrong."

Since graduation, the literature major has kept in touch with the Foxy Lady. For one thing, her next book, a suspense novel, is set in the world of stripping. For another, Mattson admits, "I could see stripping again. It's fast cash and freedom of expression. It's my American Dream."