In yesterday’s blog, Vancouver-based occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith mentioned: “An HIV researcher has been given a $75,000 grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation in support of his work to prevent HIV infection among Canadian sex workers. The money is going to facilitate the consultation (and possibly record a pop video of it).”
She is flying to Toronto tomorrow to take part in a discussion at the University of Toronto.
In a further email, she says:
As a long term fake nurse, I am thrilled to be involved in a real public health consultation at a university.
When in Toronto I will be collecting a copy of a short safe sex film I made in 1986. It is not online anywhere. It is in the private collection of Martin Heath, an ex Londoner and friend of the late (eccentric comedy performer) Ian Hinchliffe. Martin is one of the founders of The Toronto International Film Festival. He is equally devoted to film and bicycles and he owns a private cinema and bicycle repair facility in downtown Toronto called Cinecycle.
In London, he worked as a film librarian for a totally eccentric wealthy left wing film collector who ordered him to destroy with an axe any film in his collection which was not in impeccable condition. Martin was supposed to document these ‘executions’ with photos. He could not bear to destroy all the imperfect films so he became adept at faking the executions and fabricating evidence of their destruction. Thus began his extraordinary collection.
I have not seen my film for over 25 years and I wasn’t even sure where it was until a year ago, so I’m looking forward to seeing it again. The last place I had seen it was at Cinecycle.
I hired a fantastic young cinematographer just out of school called Gerald Packer to do the camerawork. He is now one of the top cinematographers in Canada. He is currently doing a television comedy series called Schitts Creek.
I used the film as part of my comedy stage act which I performed dressed as a nurse at the second AIDS benefit in Toronto.
The film shows me in my World War Two nurse outfit (complete with navy blue cape) making a home visit to demonstrate the proper use of condoms. I use a gigantic plasticine penis for the demonstration. It also demonstrates why penises should not be made of plasticine. I showed the film to 200 gay men who were very excited and then gave a collective shout of No-ooooooh… when the giant penis broke in half.
I had had ten seconds of fame in a previous video in London for an Al Jarreau music video, Raging Waters.
I am the big girl, centre frame, eight seconds in, giving the big wave, then on the left of frame, stepping towards the ship. I have vanished by 19 seconds in. The barely recognisable Sir Gideon Vein (Tony Green) is disembarking directly behind Al Jarreau. Shooting the video took hours of being on a freezing dock, for a fee of a few pounds and the opportunity to wear a snood for the first and last time ever.
I was in one other pop video in London in 1984. It was for some rock band I had never heard of. I still have no idea who they were and no idea of the song. I don’t think it was David Bowie unless he was having a really bad day.
They had rented the most amazing derelict ballroom – possibly in Bromley – that had three kinds of ceiling lights all combined on its low ceiling: mini chandeliers, those ones the mini pink lampshades and one other style, maybe fake Japanese.
I always took my own stripper costumes to any audition because invariably they were better than anything provided. At the ballroom I was immediately cast as ‘The Cigarette Girl’ and given a cheap, ill-fitting costume which I discarded and put on my much nicer outfit. The costume they gave me to put on was a corset that was ten sizes too large and some frayed fishnet tights. I had the same things in my bag but the corset fit and my tights were new.
The rock band was significantly older than us healthy young extras and they looked horribly dated to us, with their big blond hair, shiny pink or blue lamé 1970s clothing and their songs were old too, like they’d been disinterred.
But they weren’t as old as the venue, which looked like it hadn’t been used since the 1920s. We wondered how such an out-of-date band could afford to make a video.
I was also in a couple of the first pop videos in Canada but that was because my boyfriend was a Canadian rock star who will remain nameless until further notice. He is now a recluse and lives in a forest.
I recently saw him described as a legendary blues singer. I used to strip to his recorded music. All the other strippers thought I was so cool for that reason and he recorded some songs especially for my act… Lady Strips the Blues was one… I was on one of his albums making loon calls.
I let CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) know that, if they ever needed a stripper to appear on TV – or radio – I was available.
One day they called me up because they were doing a talk show about breasts. This was instigated by a middle aged couple from New York who were in Toronto to promote a very serious coffee table book called Breasts. It was a very boring book. Each page had a large black and white photograph of a pair of breasts on it and none of the sets of breasts were spectacular in any way.
It was meant to show the variety of shapes and sizes breasts come in.
Being a stripper, I was used to seeing all kinds of them anyway, but it was a lot nicer to be laughing with your topless coworkers and seeing your friends laugh or bitch about their breasts. The way they were presented in the book seemed terribly clinical – in black and white, all photographed at the same angle, head-on and without the faces or anything. It was like seeing a series of mugshots of breasts.
As well as the CBC lady host and the couple, there were three guests on the TV show. One was a woman who had had her breasts made larger; one was a woman who had hers made smaller; and there was me.
First, the couple were interviewed; then the other two ladies were interviewed about why they had changed their breasts; and then the hostess turned to me.
Now Anna, she said, You are a stripper. Why is it, do you think, that men want see your breasts?
Well, I said, lots of the men who visit strip clubs don’t get to see them that often…
The hostess nodded: Yes. And…?
And also, I added helpfully, I think they want to suck them.
The hostess’ reaction was just to say: Thankyou Anna.
At that time, it was risqué just to say the word ‘breast’ on television. I think she was trying to be ‘modern’ and ‘with it’.
It was broadcast live across Canada.
I was pleased with being on the show, as it had seemed a very easy way to make $100. The couple said they were thinking of doing a sequel book and asked if I was interested, so I said Sure and gave them my phone number. I thought it might be good for my career. Soon I was going to be a page three girl. In the meantime, though, I went to work back at the same old strip club.
One night, not long afterwards, I got home from work and my boyfriend – who was older and normally placid – was in an extremely agitated state. He told me: Some asshole phoned up and wanted to talk to you about your tits so I told him to Fuck Off.
I had to calm him down and tell him it was just the guy from the CBC show, and then I got upset because he had wrecked my opportunity to be in Breasts: Volume Two.