In the last blog here, occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith, based in Vancouver, wrote about how A Migrant Trans Sex Worker’s Murder Has Set Off Protests Around the World.
The murder took place in Paris and, after reading it, I said to Anna: “You have lived everywhere… You must have lived in Paris at some point…”
This was her reply…
I have not lived everywhere. But I did live in Paris for a couple of months when I was in my early twenties.
My trip there and accommodation was paid for by the Canadian government, because I had organised an exhibition of paintings at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris.
I supervised the hanging of the paintings.
The young workmen were very happy and friendly.
Although I was already a striptease artist, I felt lonely in Paris, where the only people I knew were the distinguished administrators at the Cultural Centre.
The Cultural Attaché took me and a couple of Canadian artists to dinner at an expensive restaurant, where I ordered skate because I had never tried it before. The skate arrived covered in white sauce and I didn’t enjoy it much.
I spent most of my days walking for miles across the city and visiting art galleries. It was November and the walking and the galleries were very enjoyable.
I visited a small theatre on the Left Bank, whose name I forget, which specialised in erotic performance. I did not see the show but inquired of the staff whether it was possible to work there. I was told yes, indeed I would be very welcome to work with them. As usual in those days, there was no mention of work permits.
They showed me inside the theatre. It had a nicely sized stage which could hold about a hundred people and everything was painted black. It was daytime and there were no performances until night time. There were strong nets high above the rows of seats and I was made to understand that the actors would be performing in the nets as well as on stage. It looked like fun.
I asked when could I start.
They said I could start right away.
But then they asked: I did understand that I would be doing a live sex act show, didn’t I?
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m only a striptease artist…”
They looked at me sympathetically and kindly told me that I was very welcome to come back if I changed my mind.
The only other job I could possibly have done at the time was jello wresting (defined by the Urban Dictionary as “When women wrestle in a pit of jello – UK jelly – in their bikinis while a bunch of horny men sit by and watch.”)
But I was pretty snobby at the time and thought that was beneath my level of artistic excellence…
I would not mind trying it now though.. haha.
I wonder if Lynn Ruth Miller would consider joining me….or maybe I could rent a sex robot, if she isn’t available…
Woman versus machine…hmmmm…
When I was in Paris, I also visited The Folies Bergère – the haunt of one of my idols, Josephine Baker – and The Crazy Horse.
The Folies Bergère were a disappointment, more like a light show than a human performance. The dancers’ costumes were illuminated with thousands of tiny lights which glowed in the dark when the lights on stage went out. I have seen more interesting displays of Christmas lights on houses in suburban Minneapolis.
The Crazy Horse was slightly better. Although I had bought the least expensive ticket possible, the hostess seated me in the front row, likely because I was the only single woman in the house, young and dressed sexily.
The show was highly choreographed (as it still is) and I later wrote a critique for Canada’s national newspaper (the Globe and Mail), that “not one spontaneous wink” escaped from the performers.
I visited Paris a couple of times after that, when I was living in London. One time I went there with Sir Gideon Vein (Tony Green).
We stayed at The Hotel Lima and in the daytime we performed in the plaza of The Pompidou Centre. We did a sort of burlesque style performance art piece.
I was dressed in a black outfit, wrapped in flecked hat netting, my skirts trimmed with silver and violet spangles, like a nineteenth century ‘dame perdue’ and Sir Gideon Vein resembled Jack the Ripper, with his frock coat and usual blood-stained cravat.
We played Death and the Maiden on a ghetto blaster and had a rubber knife with which we eventually stabbed each other to death. I remember slowly sprinkling corn flakes over Sir Gideon’s dying body…
We did not make very much money doing this, a small crowd gathered to watch and afterwards a kind man bought each of us a vanilla ice cream cone.
I remembered being mystified that a fat, dowdy middle aged French woman wearing ordinary clothes and playing a penny whistle badly was pulling in a small fortune in coins at the same time.
But now I realise that people must have felt sorry for her.