Monday, June 27, 2011

Exploited

Exploitation involving scantily clad women parading around on a stage, cheered on by a drunken mob, has been going on since Adam was a boy. No matter what kind of uproar comes from the wider community, this exploitation is allowed to continue and proliferate unchecked in our society. It is disturbing to say the least. The way that these poor defenseless blokes are parted from their cash by a near naked woman is expoitation in the extreme. Where are the rights of these poor men? Why is there nobody to protect them? With the Fever exotic dance troup rolling in to Broome for one night only, Marty and I decided to go along to see if we could survive these modern day sirens as they plotted to remove all of the cash from our pockets. The door tickets were only twenty bucks, which seemed a good start. But we weren't counting on the cunning of these wicked women. The crowd was comprised largely of Broome locals, predominantly men, a few excited teenage boys who looked like they might have obtained their older brothers' fake id and a scattering of women dotted around the venue. Marty and I arrived early enough to obtain a seat at a table right at the front of the stage. Undoubtedly the best place from where to view the cabaret style show that was to unfold before us. Eventually after a few drinks, the smoke machine blew into action and we were greeted onstage by Lady Dee who, as the owner of the troupe, was to play ringmaster (ring mistress?) for the night. She was all glammed up in leather gear with a thick coating of makeup caked over her plastic surgeried face. With a crack of her bull whip she laid down the rules for the evening. No photos, no touching the girls, no being rude. If you wanted special attention from a girl, all you had to do was wave some money in the air. Lady Dee must have been pushing 60. I expect that she had been doing this gig for years as she had the face and demeanour of a glammed up hardened carnie. With an introduction to the much younger and more attractive girls, the show was under way.

I guess I've always been somewhat attracted to the seedy side of life. I recall driving through Kings Cross for the first time as a youngster while up in Sydney with my parents, back in the early 70s. It was around midnight and the traffic was at a stand still along Darlinghurst Road all the way from the iconic coke sign to the fountain at the top of Macleay Street. The slow crawl gave me opportunity to take in the scene of flashing neon signs, masses of people and tarted up girls of the night. Even though I didn't really understand the scene I saw before me, I felt an energy about the place that acted like a magnet. Every time I visited Sydney over the years I felt a need to spend at least one night wandering the streets of the Cross. I was fascinated not only by the overt sexuality on display, but also by the colourful people that frequented the place. Hookers, alcoholics, heroin addicts, drug dealers and the sex show touts mingled seamlessly with the more refined folk dolled up in their finest attire for a night out at one of the neighborhoods swanky restaurants. The upmarket Sebel Townhouse hotel where the wealthy and the showbiz fraternity would stay when in Sydney slotted in alongside the legendary Bourbon and Beefsteak, a 24 hour drinking den that was the refuge of all manner of people seeking a late night drink after all of the other venues in town were closed. It was such a far cry from my life in the suburbs. Much more exciting with the constant scent of danger and excitement in the air. When I was old enough I had to check out the inside of the strip club establishments to see what they held. I was actually somewhat disappointed by what I found. They tended to be quite tacky affairs in dingy rooms of smoke and grime with overpriced drinks. But on a good night, as well as the titillation from naked girls writhing around on the stage, the crowd would go off. The girls always seemed in control and had the ability to direct the male clientele into all manner of actions including some quite humiliating. Essentially the macho bravado of any guy gave way to the demeanour of a lamb once removed from the male flock by one of the girls. And while the female encounters at these places were essentially shallow affairs, the nights were inevitably interesting. And unless fleeced by the unscrupulous establishments with their standover men, it seemed essentially harmless fun. Though in hindsight, I expect that some of the girls in those places didn't have the best of employers and probably had their own stories with how they ended up working in these clubs. Just like the parade of girls and transexual hookers that used to line up down William Street, selling their bodies for a pittance outside the high end car showrooms of Maserati, Ferrari and Porsche. I'd walk past them with wonderment as I'd make my way back to one of the more sedate parts of Sydney where I'd  be staying. And it wasn't just the Cross that held the fascination for me. And it wasn't just the naked women or sex for sale that led me there. More the desperate edginess and possibility of adventure. Back in Melbourne, the inner city suburb of St.Kilda had a similar seedy appeal. Through the 80s it also had the added bonus of being the centre of live music in Australia, with a number of venues regularly having bands that were to become legends of Australian music. The music industry sat very comfortably alongside the sleaze and the drugs of Fitzroy Street. It was well known that heroine could be bought easily in a local fish and chip shop. LSD could be bought out the back of the Prince of Wales. Girls plied their trade on Grey Street. Some guy was beaten to death by a moari bouncer out the front of the Linden Tree, a venue that closely resembled the bar in Star Wars where you could expect to meet any kind of strange character from any planet. The bar didn't open until 10pm but was still going until around 6am. I had a lot of fun nights in there. One night in full flight, I got talking to a couple of guys who couldn't believe I'd "allowed" Tori to go off and dance with an elderly guy who had requested the pleasure. The taller one was being egged on by his mate to then "show me the thing" which resulted in him popping his glass eye out of his head and plop into his drink. His friend picked the drink up and drank it down, rolling the eye around in his mouth for a while before spitting it back into the glass. I thought it was the greatest trick I'd ever seen and requested he repeat the performance for Tori when she returned back from the dancefloor. When a large moari bloke who had been menacing me earlier came back to invite me to be beaten to a pulp, my new friend stood up, revealing that he was around 6 foot 7, and instructed the guy that any beef he had with me he also had with him. I have no doubt he saved me a visit to the hospital. But it was that kind of place. Incident passed and then on with the next. On travelling abroad I'd seek out the equivalent centres of town. The places where the extreme natures of people would be on display in all their naked rawness. Sometimes I'd be repulsed. Sometimes fascinated. Mostly I'd be entertained, some part of me that I can't quite explain feeling fulfilled.

Broome is mostly a pretty quiet little town, but it has the colourful history that seems to accompany pioneer towns where riches are to be made. And while Broome in 2011 is a far cry from the Cross of the 70s or Fitzroy Street of the 80s, the seedy centre seems to have been the Roebuck Bay Hotel since 1890. I'm sure that all manner of goings on have happened here over the years. But on the night that Fever came to the Roey, the only link with there and the Cross of the old days seemed to be Lady Dee. She had probably been treading the boards of the dodgy establishments there as a young woman back in the seventies. And coming "all the way from Sydney" as she proclaimed, she had picked up a trick or two on the way of how to separate the fools from their money. "For twenty bucks you can have a Fever T-shirt that you can personally strip off the body of one of our beautiful girls and keep for yourself". The T-shirt sales went through the roof. A raffle during the intermission with prizes of T-shirts, posters, photos and the first prize of a 20 minute personal lap dance on stage saw money being exchanged by the handful for tickets. And my favourite one of all, a bid between the three front tables to see who would be table number 1, table number 2 and table number 3. The members of each table threw cash out on to their tables to see who would come in first to be the premier table where the girls would dance. Lady Dee pocketed just under a grand, made in around 5 minutes, for the tables to be labelled 1, 2 or 3 respectively. Apart from the order in which the girls took to the tables, I couldn't detect any difference that had been so eagerly paid for. Marketing brilliance! When the raffle was drawn, I knew I was going to win. I can't quite explain why, but I felt absolutely certain. And so it was that my ticket came up and the lap dance that came with it. Both Marty and I had consumed a large number of drinks by then and were having a rollicking time. Having been a little down in the dumps recently, I felt that Marty needed the experience more than me. So I thrust the winning ticket into his hand and with a helpful shove, he was up on the stage to claim the prize. More being a part of the show than getting to live out any kind of fantasy, Marty was great. He went along with all of the stage shenanigans coming off somewhat bruised from several hits from the handbag of a costumed up "old lady" and having had the bird's eye but "hands off" view from the girls writhing around him. After the show we retired out to the garden bar for several more drinks while Lady Dee was still harversting money from the guys who wanted to have their photos taken with the girls. She didn't miss a trick.

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