Continuing the memories of this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith…
The only person whose tyres I ever wanted to slash was my agent Jules Rabkin, because he overbooked girls all the time. He would send eight girls to a bar in the middle of nowhere that needed only six and the last two to arrive would get bumped and be out of work for a week.
He ripped off my friend Tiffany for $300 and she did something better than slashing his tyres. She marched into his office and set his desk on fire.
“How did he react?” I asked her, full of admiration.
“He handed over my money through the flames,” she said. “After that, he never dared fuck me over again.”
But we also knew how to be discrete back then …yes we were so discrete.
I can’t imagine why all those motels had to give us all those ridiculous lists of the rules… like we weren’t supposed to walk through the lobbies naked or tie up the switchboard phoning each other’s rooms and we weren’t supposed to lie down inside the club either. And there was a $20 fine if you got caught ‘taking a man in the ladies room’ at one club. So, obviously, it must have been a terrible problem there. And we weren’t allowed to smoke or drink on stage. One really terrible place said that ‘horseplay’ wasn’t allowed. Anyone would have thought it was a building site.
We were in motels for the same reason rock bands were in motels. Touring.
Did I mention the time I met Thor at the Coronet Motor Inn, in Ontario?
Nothing happened between me and Thor. I don’t really go for the God type. I just crossed paths with him in the hallway and felt a bit sorry for him that he had to dress like that. It seemed like even more work than dressing up as a stripper.
We were often in motels. We were often on the road. We could make more money out of town (Toronto).
The furthest north I went was Elliott Lake, a uranium mining town. I was scared travelling alone to such an isolated place. At the time, the ratio of males to females was 10 to 1, so that in itself was scary, plus I was afraid to drink the water so I only drank juice.
The motel was on the outskirts of town – strip clubs usually were.
The owner was a really nice woman so I didn’t have to deal with the usual come on we always got from the male managers. And there was a nice painting over the front desk .
It was a landscape, done locally and given to the owner’s father by the artist.
There was another dancer working there the same week as me: a friendly young Jewish guitarist and songwriter from Ottawa. So we spent time in each other’s rooms, watching television in bed, sharing our plans for the future. She wanted to be a famous singer and I wanted to be a famous comedienne in movies. This was in about 1980.
We went for meals together. I remember she was the first person to introduce me to Caesar salad, prepared by the chef at our table in the traditional manner.
The audience was made up of uranium miners who were very rowdy, enthusiastic but not obnoxious. I had so much fun doing my show that I flew off the stage and landed in the audience and broke my foot – luckily it was a Saturday so I only missed one show. I think I was spinning around semi-blindfolded when I went off the stage… I used to often break my feet in those days, but that was the first time I did it while performing.
I met one of the uranium miners years later. He was a little guy from Chile known as ‘Loco Misissauga’. I was surprised he would be in Elliott Lake which is such a remote place, but then he had been a miner in Chile.
Missisauga was a godforsaken suburb of Toronto. It was one of the places I went to for work. It was where Jules Rabkin, my agent, would send us. I worked there in 1977 when I was just starting out. As I became more experienced I worked in better, more central clubs
The bars in Missisauga were awful, usually run by Greeks. I remember one club called The Oasis which was anything but an Oasis. The small stage was covered in orange shag carpet, with the ceiling done the same. Can you imagine trying to dance in stilettos on that? Another club out there used to ask the dancers for a $50 deposit to rent a locker for the week. There was no dressing room, just a narrow hallway. So most of the dancers went to sit with the customers between shows and the waitress would take their keys off the table so they would lose their key deposit. Eventually the owner was shot dead, which was hardly surprising.
I don’t have any photos of that time, though I was one of the first adapters of the selfie with my Olympus OM 10 which I bought from a hunky Italian boy stripper I met in a Belgian porno cinema. We had to do a show together because his girlfriend was ill. I became quite close to them and bought the camera and we stayed in touch.
The last time I ever saw them was in about 1985. They were doing a sex show in Soho, London. They invited me upstairs. They were living above a sex shop, with its lights flashing LIVE SHOW. I went upstairs, and was surprised to see the mother of the Italian boy was up there too.
She was tiny and dressed like a stereotypical Sicilian old lady: all in black, with the headscarf and the gold earings.
I asked the boy: “But your mother? Doesn’t she mind that you are doing a sex show?”
He introduced us and the mother was all smiles.
“She doesn’t have a clue,” he told me. “She never leaves the flat. She’s actually a complete moron.”
The mother kept nodding, smiling away cheerfully, thrilled to meet me, but I must have looked worried, because her son then reassured me: “Don’t worry, she doesn’t speak English.”
I thought about my mother. I didn’t tell her everything I did but no way could I have deposited her above a sex shop in Soho for a couple of weeks.