Sunday, June 08, 2014

58) Ripper Stripper.

Arthur returned to Sydney from Europe, gazed around him and wondered why he’d rushed back so quickly, Australia looking like the backwater at the bottom of the planet it was known as. He drifted towards the only area that had any colorful action, Kings Cross, the infamous red-light district, but that was like a moribund desolation-row, just a few old young hookers, mummified junkies, gentrified pensioners and wide-eyed tourists wandering up and down the sun-dried Darlinghurst Road. Oh well, he was home, broke, disowned and hungry, same as it ever was, he’d have to keep surfing the turbulence of the gutters, a sport he was a champion at.

He’d hung around Kings Cross from the moment he’d gotten stranded in Sydney in Nineteen-seventy-seven, its inner city, deviant ambience fitting his rambunctious character like a storm-warped boxing glove. Even though a new freeway had cut a swathe through the district, doing away with many funky cafes, galleries and picturesque tenements, the area still struggled to maintain a Bohemian milieu where artists continued to starve in the back streets, and the strip-joints, sex shops, brothels and night-clubs provided an underground culture that demimonde desperadoes thrived on, and had done so in the area for a hundred years. The Pubs were rowdy fun to drink at, the Cafes sometimes intellectually stimulating and the Rock clubs pumped enough electric music to get Arthur up riding the sound waves with glee.

And there was always his personal freak club, the Prick-o-low Café, open till dawn and host to countless deadbeats, Arthur could always count on that hole in the wall to provide a laugh or a nasty punch in the face. Yes, he found the junkies and prostitutes pinned to the walls of the main drag were a bring-down, so were the pimps, crooks and touts, so was all humanity pouring in to ogle, spend their money and give grief. The district was a real freak-zone where anything could happen and that was what made it interesting, even exciting to hang about: a local denizen shot with a shotgun while withdrawing money from an ATM, a tourist hacked to death with a machete as he stood at a traffic light, an old poof strangled in a park by a male hustler, the gang wars, the bitch-fights, the burning backpacker hostels, all of it kept him on his toes and jumping.

The only murderous monsters he was actually terrified of, lurking in the background of the Cross, were the corrupt cops who had a history of secretly running the whole sordid district, as they seem to in every city of the world. They’d bullshitted the populace with a propaganda campaign that they had cleaned up themselves and all the crime in the city, but Arthur’s personal experience of them had him paranoid it wasn’t so. There was a notorious cop named Rod Dodgerson, kicked out of the “Service” for giving false testimony, but he was implicated in several murders, among them a heroin dealer he did business with and a hooker who was about to give evidence against him. He was teamed up with others in the “armed hold-up squad” and possibly helped organize the very robberies they were paid to stop or investigate.

Even if all this was just Urban Legend there was still the fact that much of the drugs stored in the drug-bust safe at the Surry Hills Central Cop-shop, (one block away), had often gone missing, the safe itself referred to as “the tuck shop” by the cops who used the station. This really freaked Arthur out, a little fairy like him would be toe-jam in the hoofs of these marauding beasts. The “War on Drugs” seemed an obvious method to keep the people down, paying fines, doing time, paying exorbitant prices for substances they could forget their troubles with, but mostly only drinking alcohol to kill their brain-cells and fighting spirit totally. 

There was no humanism, little compassion, only the worship of money as a god and the ruthless drive to accumulate as much as possible. Dodgerson was now doing “Talk Tours” around the country, promoting his memoirs and thrilling the gronks with tales of what a cute villain he had been, the fools rushing him like a pop-star for his autograph. And his partner, the top cop promoting the “Say No to Drugs” campaign in schools and Community Halls, was eventually busted with him for murder and dealing in ICE. These were the guys who really made the streets of the Cross dangerous. And They’d tried to frame Artie as a bad-arse, he was Shirley Temple in comparison.

Keeping his distance from the cops, never doing crime, Arthur had loads of memorable experiences on those mean streets. A tough cookie like him survived every brutal attack of the zombies with panache, using his gift of the gab and quick feet to run or aim hard kicks to their guts.

On several New Year’s nights he dropped acid and sat in the gutter, letting the entire shebang trundle over him, the hookers disrobing out the front of the bordellos, the yobs roaring in horny appreciation, the fire brigade clanging away as if to hose down the rampant, flaming, collective lust. Arthur couldn’t resist having a peek at what went on up in the sex-clubs on such nights of “gay abandon”, where mugs who usually kept their distance formed daisy chains in the video lounge, piling on top of each other, grappling and slurping as if it were the end of the world and all inhibitions could be thrown to the winds with the celebratory New Years streamers.

He’d spent quite a few nights on his knees at the Cross, once vomiting from alcohol and Mandrax after a rock show at the grotty Manzil Room before he passed out; worshiping a pickup’s David-like body at the back of the Pleasure Chest Sex-shop; bashed by a brutal bouncer outside the Sheraton Hotel disco because he gave lip when refused entry; wrestled to the ground by a schizo-bum at the Outcast Café or falling down laughing on Roslyn Street over a cutting joke practiced on Vitto, the ring-master of the flea-circus.

In all the vales of illusion, there was one legendary hotspot Arthur loved to get lost in, notorious throughout the land, called the Rex Hotel, down on Macleay Street, where one could always count on a convict chain-gang barracks/South Seas pirate port/space-ship launch pad extravaganza. Crowded into the “Bottoms Up Bar” would be packs of poofs caterwauling and drooling over the roaming studs; over-dressed, shock-value drag queens mincing about shrieking curses; male prostitutes touting their wares, sailors up from their harbor-base shoving and grabbing; male strippers prancing up and down the counter; gangsters arranging deals up against the glowing fish tanks, it was the greatest freak show in the city for many years and Arthur patronized the dump into the wee hours on many nights.

Famous Polynesian Queen Carmen.
He would always remember the night it closed, The Last Drag Queen Competition was in full swing, every tacky bitch in Sydney dressed up like Phyllis Diller and strutting her scrawny stuff, lip-syncing camp favorites, drunkenly trying to outdo each other in breakdown histrionics, pulling off wigs and clawing at sequin gowns while badmouthing Shirley Bassey numbers.

Then this big, fat, black Polynesian queen in a red satin, New Orleans get-up flounced onto the stage and belted out a classic, jazzy “Red Hot Mama”, sashaying about, rolling her ample hips, pouting her gorgeous red lips, she literally squashed the skinny, white trash competition, who looked like malnourished waifs from the rag-heap in comparison. Arthur boogied ecstatically down the front, hopping and bopping, and the red, hot mama played up to him, wiggled her dusky flesh to his head-banging, the crowd jumped and cheered, and she won Drag Queen of the Year with a landslide of applause, it was the last, great pagan event on the Cross and Arthur was forever stoked he’d stumbled in there that night and participated.

Sitting in the Alamein Fountain Park he thought back on the “European Vision Quest” he’d just completed and wondered why the concept, image and experience of the Mother/Virgin/Goddess kept recurring for him throughout his journey across the continent. He was anti-Christian, a militant atheist soldier, yet he had inspirational visions of the Virgin Mary in Catholic churches and festivals. He surmised his Celtic soul simply saw the historical pagan truths that underlay the Christian religion and he felt the numinous vibes in all those ancient sapient sites. 

Looming large in his own mind was his mother, whom he’d always tried to remain lovingly connected to but there was no denying the gulf between them of early 20th century naivite vs. 21st century enlightenment/Het woman vs gay man/Mills and Boone education vs. eclectic University of Hospitals, Technology and the Underworld/normal house-wife vs. alienated freak. He needed a rapprochement with her, let her know he really loved her and was willing to go out of his way for her. Perhaps She stood in for all women, he needed to relate better, understand, sympathize with, help if he could. Women were where everyone came from and to whom they ever belonged.

Then there was the over-arching symbolism of the Goddess representing Planet Earth, Gaia, one living organism of which he and the human race were an intertwined part. She had to be cared for, succored, saved, cultivated as a garden for all living creatures. There were many Green/libertarian causes he could support, that would get him embraced by the Goddess, the reason She’d shown Herself to him. And there was always his craft as a ‘sewer poet’ to perfect, She’d inspired him to keep treading that path as well, the nitty-gritty of downfalllen humanity, it might somehow give others an uplift who were fucked up but not as fucked up as he. How to get close to women when he was gay? He cogitated upon it furiously.
Several of his girlfriends had been strippers, on and off, and he often went with them to their shows in the dingy strip-joints on the main drag of the Cross, at Porkies, the Pink Pussy Cat or the Love Machine, sitting in with the hungry punters to eyeball their cheap desire for the flashed flesh in the halfhearted, flip-flop dancing on the stage. Or he sat waiting up in the dressing room, the girls realizing his queerness and ignoring him as they tugged on their torn, harem costumes and splattered their make-up hurriedly in great globs upon their harried faces, gossiping about the boss hoping to pimp them or the mugs in the audience trying to get a free grope.

A lot of the acts were spent twirling around a junk-yard pole: why it was deemed sexy Arthur couldn’t fathom, unless the pole stood in for the penis; and last but not least, the salacious move every girl resorted to to get the punters panting, bending over with her head between their knees and exposing their precious arseholes. A few of the girls did mock ‘live sex’ shows with their boyfriends, or called dicks up from the audience to fondle and make fun of, entertaining for Arthur in a lame way, very scungy, cheesy and queazy, the audience looked like they’d escaped from a chicken-gutting factory and the girls from an East European, work-camp brothel. The money wasn’t that good and Arthur cringed at the idea of showing his genitals in public as a pseudo-stud, it seemed silly what humans got up to in the name of sex.

Then there came the night he was in need of money for a meal and the horrid Sylvia Saliva, punk wood nymph, was doing a strip act at the Barrel Club on Bayswater Road, going under the moniker of Raquel Squelch. She demanded he accompany her onto the premises for moral support and sordid amusement. Being a middle-class brat, she didn’t need the money, she thought it was perverse fun, reverse voyeurizing the desperate male drones, flashing her luscious pussy from fabulous costumes she’d designed, Snow White as licentious slut or Dorothy Lamour as temple whore. Arthur was settling into the restless audience, a strange mixture of male and female wasteland gronks, when Sylvia rushed up to him, dragged him out back and prattled earnestly on about the ugly, warped boss of the Club being upset because there were lots of women in the audience and he had no male strippers for them, lone Punkettes and scraggy junkies not interesting enough.

 “So what? Tell that gross lump to take his baggy suit off and show his saggy arse, that should rock them,” huffed Arthur, spotting the hunchbacked strippers’ pimp lurking in the doorway.

“No, he’s an arsehole, he’d rather burn the dump down. He says a double act would cover it, and he won’t let me go on unless I find a guy to do it with. He told me to go find a spunky kind of guy. A guy like you could cheat it, those suburban handbags won’t know what hit ‘em, you’re a natural and you’re a great dancer.”

She wheedled on and on, a crazed exhibitionist hassling for her next hit, and he refused three times, freaked out at the idea, naked in public was his biggest nightmare and the shifty audience was severely redneck-straight. The old whore-monger of a boss, waiting in the wings with a big wart on his cheek, kept gazing fondly upon him with hope in his bulging eyes. Sylvia Naked had always had a way of conning Arthur into the zaniest of escapades, romping antagonistically across the country like Sid and Nancy, having delirious fun, and soon he found himself giving in and being reluctantly led to the tiny dressing room at the back of the stage.

He remained cynical of the strippers' typical revealing antics, their tacky S and M leather harnesses, their mock-macho poses, their faux stallion prowess, he figured he’d do it as his natural self, as if he’d come in off the street, a punk construction worker. Shy as a platypus, he decided to hide his identity, wearing sunglasses and pulling a black woolen balaclava down over his forehead, looking like a cat burglar on the lam. He was asked to choose a song he felt he could dance to and he stupidly chose “Frankie Goes to Hollywood”, thinking it only went for three minutes and had a great funky rhythm that would move him around with all pistons pumping.

He had danced with Sylvia uninhibitedly, fast, dirty and slamming, in most of the Punk clubs of New South Wales and it was no stretch to jump about with her on the shonky stage, swiveling his hips, shaking his butt and grinding his groin into her crotch while she tried to do a gypsy flim flam. After an endless minute of swaying and thrusting to that hypnotic pop beat, he looked into the audience and glimpsed the peeved mugs of the urban gronks, quizzical, as if they smelled something phony, they wanted a bit of real action and he figured he’d better start stripping or they might start throwing eggs. 

He tried to wrench his bother-boots off but they remained glued to his hoofs and he hopped about the stage like a one-legged kangaroo, heaving and jerking, trying to move with the music and give some semblance of a professional dancer but for endless moments he teetered about, the boot would not come off. Finally he just wrenched hard and fell back on his arse, thankfully on a bit of a musical crash, so he rocked his legs back as if if to give them a sneaky peek at his butt in tight jeans.

Hauling angrily at the second boot, he threw it across the stage, just missing Sylvia’s head, she ducked as she lifted her many petticoats to show the men she had no panties on at all. The audience remained impassive, wondering what in Hell was happening, they wanted some real live fucking, the show was going nowhere. In nervous haste to get it over with, he bounded up, tossed off his socks, tore off his t-shirt, ripped off his jeans and flung them in every direction, all over the stage, into the audience, as Sylvia wafted about, laying on a table, spreading her legs, pretending to be ravished by a devious intruder, him. 

Realizing he was then reduced to only his undies and the song wore relentlessly on, he shimmy shimmy shook shook, staring into the baleful eyes of the discontented women, squashed in the rows of ramshackle seats and nudging their grim husbands as if to say, “What a dill!” Praying for the song to end soon, he did the Elvis hip-swaying and leg-shaking dance as he staggered on beat around Sylvia scissoring her legs open and shut upon the table, her black bush surrounded by a nimbus of frothy white petticoats. He pretended to mount her and fuck her piston-fast, his undies still on. She threw herself across his shoulders and whispered for him to show his butt a bit, it was dumb to fuck her with his undies up.

He stepped back, threw the crowd of grumps a look of defiance and daring-do and dragged off his undies, throwing them in the hapless face of a blond frump in the front row. He did a few pelvis thrusts, exposing his limp crotch, hoping to run coyly off stage as most strip acts do when the music winds down, but the cursed song churned on and on, and he was naked for all the gronks to ogle and snigger at, his cock shrinking the more they stared.

He lurched about the theatrette, his willie shriveled like a dried mushroom, bluffing macho sexiness as he shoved Sylvia violently to and fro, his little bobby bobbing like a cork in turmoil to the endless, repetitive techno beat, “Frankie, spanky, manky, hankie…”, it churned on and on like a washing-machine, sweat flying off him till he seemed to lose body weight under the hot harsh spotlights. He looked down at himself and his lithe, muscular body looked drug-fiend skeletal. On and on, round and round, in and out, up and down, for ten exasperating minutes that fucking song lasted, his tortoise-head dick and hairy butt eternally exposed. The audience sat riveted, morose, sullen, nothing was going to satisfy them except a juicy cock in hole fuck and Arthur’s camp mimicry and disappearing cock act did not cut the ice.

Finally the rotten song klunked to an end, Sylvia flung off her last petticoat and gave the mugs one last glorious glimpse of her big bush, while Arthur ran behind the curtains and covered his eye-ball seared crotch. The spectators sat silent, unmoved, not a clap, a whistle or a grunt, as if he’d turned them to stone with the horror of his nakedness. He then remembered he’d left all his clothes scattered about the stage and, in the torrid quiet of their displeasure, he had to hobble back out in front of them to snatch up the rags, one hand clasping his nuts, their beady eyes squinting as if to say, “What next?”

Backstage the slimy manager appeared even more disgruntled than the mugs, turning his back and scurrying off to his ticket box, leaving Sylvia to happily croak bullshit and nonsense to placate an embarrassed Arthur. He squeezed out of her the fact that the scumbag boss refused to pay extra for the double act and she was keeping the fifty lousy dollars he had given her for herself. Arthur was incensed by their turpitude and stomped out of the club, he’d been stripped and ripped and he wandered the streets of Kings Cross in a blue funk, angry yet resigned to the harsh vagaries of show business that was ever his lot. He hoped the Goddess was happy, he’d done it for Her.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.