Dancing Bare

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 7


Fears about Saturday's show prompted a long walk to soothe the seething senses. I always think best when afoot, sometimes wandering blindly for hours as the little grey cells wrestle with disorganised thoughts.

Plenty of men were photographic models – I'd been one myself; sitting in front of the fire with an ex Miss New Zealand on an IGA calendar; carrying another young woman over the threshold of a new house for a housing developer's brochure and newspaper advertisements… but they weren't live shows. Men never ponced up and down catwalks… that was for women.

Everyone knows that men are attractive simply because they are men – no matter how old, what shape or intelligence. A woman, on the other hand, is attractive only if she is young, slim, nubile, and beautiful.

Heroes in films were usually ten or more years older than the females they rescued and married, thick of waist, craggy (or saggy) of face, and pretty bloody sexless in my opinion. They were ordinary, run of the mill Anglo-Saxons. Heroines were slim, sexy, beautiful, perky, and yearning to pander to their master's vanity. They could be cunning, deceitful, flirtatious… but never clever, independent or, greatest sin of all, plain.

Comfortable images of masculinity had bred complacency in European men, who swam publicly in brief togs with never a thought about the effect on their 'image'. They ran around shirtless displaying a variety of chests, unworried that they didn't resemble Tarzan. Young men played sport in shorts that barely covered their buttocks, and wandered the streets in clothes that drew attention to their genitals. Men thought they were sexy; ipso facto they were sexy – even if they didn't always look sexy.

Women, on the other hand, have always gazed with apprehension on the impossible images of females in all media; fearing they could never be so beautiful, so slim, so fashionable. However, to their credit, they tried! And they're still trying! Filling to bursting the coffers of hairdressers, make-up merchants, clothing and shoe manufacturers, health, dietary and weight loss clinics, aerobics classes. Women seem prepared to hurl themselves into the clutches of anyone who promises they'll make them look as good as the airbrushed girls in the ads.

Today, men are also confronted by perfect specimens of their sex on hoardings and advertisements, films, and internet porn sites, but instead of attempting to emulate them, they concede defeat by concealing their sex and deficiencies under baggy clothes. They'd rather die of heat than expose their chests to cooling breezes, or swim in anything briefer than knee-length baggies that fill with water and drown several kids every year. Exhibiting an abhorrence of their own flesh worthy of a religious flagellant, they let their bodies run to seed before they're thirty and refuse to show more skin than absolutely necessary.

But all this thinking didn't alter the fact that I had contracted to prance along a catwalk in front of a few hundred strangers, wearing nothing but jewellery. I was going to look ridiculous, conceited, and boring! Two years with Heath Joyce had instilled in me the absolute necessity for preparation. "Never go on stage simply hoping things will turn out ok – they never do!"

While sifting my wits for ideas, I recalled a bodybuilding contest in which, instead of pumped up muscles wrapped in a network of straining veins and tendons, one competitor had been merely lithe and fit. Rather than take up the usual poses, he cart-wheeled in, stood on his hands, flipped onto his feet, flexed his cute body, did the splits, then finished by adopting a pose impossible for his muscle-bound competitors. The audience loved him; the judges didn't. He came last. It was the audience's reaction that interested me.

I was nothing like a bodybuilder. Nor did I consider myself handsome. I had to think of something that wouldn't get me laughed off the stage. I couldn't do the splits, but could just about manage the rest. I closed my eyes and imagined the scene – then immediately wished I hadn't! The whole idea was ridiculous! The sole certainty was that it would be suicide to appear to take myself seriously. I had to act the clown so the audience would think it was all a bit of a laugh. But I had to get them to laugh with me – not at me. It would be my first appearance on a London stage! My dream! Surely it wasn't going to be a nightmare? Ok, so it would be a farce. But it was live, and farce is just as difficult to do right as serious theatre.

Having a plan calmed my nerves and I slept peacefully, arriving at Club Strip after a good hard jog, only to receive my first set back. The show was going to be on the floor. A blue carpet had been rolled the length of the building with rows of chairs placed about a metre from it on either side, making seating for about a hundred and twenty people. The rest of the audience could stand behind them or on the tables. On stage, a small band was playing where I should have been.

The place was crammed with youth and excitement. The bar was crowded. The band belted out rock 'n roll. Dimmed lights left only a glow over the walkway. In the dressing room I'd just time to rub on scented oil to make the skin shine with health, don the muslin harem trousers and the first load of jewellery, when the band struck up a raunchy tune and Blonde strutted forth.

Cheers erupted at the sight of bare breasts. I peeped out. There were only women in the front row, their partners standing close behind. Behind them others stood on chairs, and tables groaned under bodies straining for a look. Blonde took her time, stopping and turning as instructed, fingering and drawing attention to the jewellery, yawning as if bored out of her mind. As she turned at the end, Brown took off. Another cheer.

Watching Blonde sauntering towards me I was shocked. Dead eyes in a dead face. Lips dragged into a sulky sneer. Then I realised she was very clever! Acting the slut. It certainly turned on most of the males. The females looked bewildered as if wondering if they should also walk and look like that. The music thumped on.

Brown was the opposite; a flirting, smiling coquette, walking with a jaunty swing to the hips and handling the jewellery with deliberate eroticism. She reached the end and it was my turn. Heart a-flutter I staggered out as if I'd been unwillingly pushed, then stood as if had no idea what on earth I was doing there.

I started to run along the carpet, did a stage trip, fell onto my hands, flipped into a handstand, converted to a cartwheel and then stood, visibly shaken, mopping my brow in relief at not having crashed into the women sitting so close to the carpet; mouthing 'sorry' to those nearest. Then I beamed a mad grin – and it worked. They laughed – with me. I was a clown in gold chains, earrings and see-through trousers; not to be taken seriously. Brown blew me a kiss as she passed, stroking my chest, raising a lewd guffaw.

In subsequent sorties, more or less incompetent gymnastic exercises raised laughs, and each time I met Brown we danced a bit. Then I had the idea of dancing a few steps with some of the women in the front row, holding them well away from oiled skin. They loved the attention and husbands and boyfriends were rapt that their girl had been chosen. When passing Blonde, I also tried to dance with her, but each time she sidestepped and pretended to hit me. That raised more laughs. I was a nervous wreck by the interval.

Topped up with alcohol the audience became raucous. The roar when Blonde slouched on wearing only a tiny fringe of gold chain at the loins and her spiral bra drowned the band. She glowered an angry sneer – still the sullen bitch. Brown's vaginal medallion proved equally popular, but a shocked silence descended when I bounced on wearing nothing but ball and cock rings, a bracelet and earring. Luckily, it was followed by a roar of laughter.

Unscripted performance is much harder work than it appears, requiring total concentration to avoid repeating actions, to choose different women to dance with each time, to maintain the pace and be funny and sexy, not ridiculous. There was no time to think of anything else – certainly no time to be aware that I was naked or feel sexual.

Afterwards in the dressing room, I told the girls what great actresses they were. Blank stares. They weren't actresses! They were strippers and worked the clubs owned by the boss. This had been a doddle compared with that! But at least they'd warmed a little towards me, grudgingly admitting I was better to work with than they'd expected. Sam nodded in agreement.

"Beats me how you did that, Rigby," he said. "I was sure it was going to be a madhouse and you'd get booed off the floor." He grinned. "The boss wants to keep you on."

I told him there was no way I'd ever do anything for him again. I hated the whole outfit – the boss and his ugly goons. With a nervous glance towards Pock and Red, Sam warned me to be careful. Something in his voice made me uneasy.

The boss wandered in, draped an arm across my shoulders and, with sour, smoke-laden breath, congratulated everyone on a great performance, announcing that sales of jewellery were looking positive and I'd be staying on for a bit – maybe even permanently.

Before I could argue, a policeman barged in to announce that I was under arrest for contravening the forty-five degree law. The boss nodded sagely, took my elbow in a vice-grip, and apologised contritely, asking if there was anything he could do about it.

Phil nodded sourly at Brown and me, and strode into the bedroom we'd used for the photos. Brown followed docilely and the boss shoved me towards the door. I resisted. "You only have to flog the stupid prick with the whip," he whispered. "It's worth another fiver in your pocket. But don't fuck this up! We need him."

I won't go into details; it's enough to mention that the sight of a bulky, hirsute, middle-aged man pounding into a tiny, pretty girl while he's being thrashed, is not an edifying sight. I wasn't shocked – merely sorry for Brown. I tried to hurt Phil with the whip, but the harder I slashed the more he liked it. Short of shoving the handle up his arse I couldn't think what else to do.

My mind drifted until suddenly the dangers of independence hit me. No one knew I was there. If I refused the boss's offer I could be throttled, bagged, and shoved into a hole in the ground with no one giving a stuff. Fortunately, common sense prevailed. Instead of refusing the boss's invitation to join his merry band, I'd go along with it, then run for my life as soon as the next show was over.

Meanwhile, the hands-on experience of heterosexual prostitution was instructive. It was not a glamorous occupation. It was sleazy. No way would I have indulged in such sordid coupling! Sex for me was going to be consensual, fun and relaxed, with someone physically attractive of my own age, who I liked; or better still, loved.

A great grunting and shuddering preceded Phil's ejaculation. He clambered off the bed, dressed and left us to wash off our shame in the bathroom. Back in the dressing room there were plates of fish and chips and bottles of beer and coke. We dressed and ate… I'd had nothing since breakfast. It was too late to go home so we just sat around. I felt like a prisoner. Nervousness racked up a notch. No chance now to get a change of clothes to make myself presentable for Melvyn.

The boss and Red discussed expected financial returns from jewellery sales, but their hopes were premature. It was to be another dozen years before Viva magazine's sexy naked men were wearing exactly the jewellery I'd been modelling. And that fashion only lasted a few years, to be replaced by the age of disfigurement. Piercings – even barbed wire – through lips, noses, eyebrows, nipples, penises, scrotums, labia... mutilation madness! Instead of celebrating the body and rejoicing in its perfection, too many young people began to deface it… perhaps because most of them don't have the bodies they desire?

At 7:30, the girls and I squeezed into the back of an Armstrong Siddeley with Pock. The boss sat in front with Red, who drove. Half an hour later, the car pulled up near the back doorway of a pub. It was freezing. We ran inside to be engulfed in ear-shattering Rock music, the stench of stale beer, and the hum of humanity. Sam ushered us into a tiny room barely large enough to oil up and don the jewels.

It didn't feel good.

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