Tag Archives: Toronto

Wish you were here: Memories of the Canadian stripper who met a Norse God

Continuing the memories of this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith…

She writes:

The Coronet Motor Hotel in its prime

A postcard from the Coronet Motor Hotel in its heyday

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 bustling centre of Elliot Lake seen from the Fire Tower Lookout

The centre of Elliot Lake seen from the Fire Tower Lookout

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 today

Missisauga today – once a godforsaken suburb of Toronto.

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.

Anna Smith impersonates an Englishwoman in London in 1984. She borrowed the cat

Anna Smith impersonates an Englishwoman in London in 1984. She borrowed the cat

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.

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Being in a video and talking tits on TV

Anna Smith hospital 2013 - CUT!

Anna Smithspent many years in very rude health

Anna Smith spent many years as a fake nurse

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.

The ever interesting Anna Smith

The ever interesting Anna Smith

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.

Anna Smith as her alter ego ‘Nurse Annie'

Anna Smith as her stage alter ego ‘Nurse Annie’

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.

Anna Smith, Chicago Virgin

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Elton John, 29 Canadian sex workers, $75,000, a Toronto hotel, stag parties

Logs_FraserRiver_Vancouver

I have received another email from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent.

She lives in a boat near Vancouver.

She says:


We are in the middle of a series of three huge storms; the next one is the tail end of a typhoon. Last night a tugboat ran aground off a remote section of the coast and it is leaking fifty thousand of litres of diesel, threatening the clam beds at Bella Bella.

We were promised last year that there would be a moratorium on tanker traffic by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (known locally as Donny Osmond), but the local Bella Bella  M.P. says he is still waiting for some legislation that is not filled with loopholes..

I am limbering up to visit Toronto on Tuesday with a delegation of eight hookers from the west coast. We are flying them in from the east coast also. I like saying ‘hookers’ but properly we are called ‘sex worker organizations’. It looks better than Elton John pays out thousands of dollars to 29 Canadian hookers.

Anna Smith with Andrew Sorflee, president of the Triple-X Workers’ Solidarity Association of British Columbia (Photo by William Pritchard)

Anna Smith with Andrew Sorfleet, president of the Triple-X Workers’ Solidarity Association of British Columbia (Photograph by William Pritchard)

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). We are getting our airfare and hotel paid but not receiving a salary.

We are going to stay in a regular downtown hotel on Yonge Street and having the consultation at the University of Toronto but, when I was there in the 1980s, I lived in the Selby Hotel, so I am the missing link between Ernest Hemingway and Elton John because Hemingway also lived in the Selby 60 years earlier.

I don’t know which room he was in. Maybe I shared the same bathtub as him. I did drink a lot while living there and ate mostly salad as there was no stove. I also learned how to cure ham, as there was no refrigerator either. The bathtub was fantastic though: a huge clawed thing in its own room. It was a great place to sleep, drink and bathe in.

Plus, if I wanted drugs, all I had to do was go to the basement, because it was a gay bar and you could easily buy any drug there. The bar was called BOOTS.

Also it was handy when I danced at Italian stag parties. The Italian stags (they travelled in groups) would eagerly drive me home from the suburbs in their comfortable new Cadillacs. I would instruct them to drive into the parking lot and they would say in surprise: “You live here?”

Outside the bar would be guys in leather, groping each other or passionately kissing.

I would say: “Yup! Thanks for driving me all the way home.” Then I would jump out of the car and go into the bar, quickly buy some hash and go upstairs to my room and make another salad.

The Fillmores Club in Toronto

The Filmores Club in Toronto – stag parties, art and poetry

When I was living at the Selby, I mostly was dancing at a club called Filmores. When I walked home at 3.00am, I sometimes found interesting things on the street.

Once I found a huge painting that I liked – an abstract patterned with zigzag lines and bright geometric shapes. It reminded me of a Rousseau – it had the feeling of a jungle with layers of bright yellow and green painted in vivid 80’s style. So I dragged it home to my room and kept it for ages. It felt like a stage scrim and made every room it was in seem larger.

Another time, I spotted a poem glinting from a rainy dark puddle in the street. It was in the handwriting of a young child and was addressed: TO DAD.

I picked up the poem, which was written on a rectangular piece of coloured paper, and carried it home like a treasure.

It was a very beautiful and lonely poem which gave me a sad feeling. I thought it might be a Father’s Day present that the child had tragically dropped on the way home.

TO DAD

All day I hear the noise of waters
Making moan,
Sad as the sea-bird is when, going
Forth alone,
He hears the winds cry to the water’s
Monotone.

What a great poem, I thought. It showed how brilliant children are before they get boxed in and made to conform. I’ve always loved the art that children make.

After having that poignant fragment in my mind for many years I then discovered that the poem had actually been written by James Joyce.

I have been sleeping a bit fitfully. Ferries are being cancelled due to storm. I will now try to wake up, make a coffee and look out to see if the river is flowing onto the road yet.

CONTINUED HERE

A slightly out-of-focus map of Toronto which Anna painted in around 1978.

A slightly out-of-focus map of Toronto which Anna painted in around 1978.

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Memories of being a table dancer, a war between strippers and a Yiddish theatre

This morning, I received an e-mail from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith.

She lives on a boat in Vancouver. She used to be a stripper. Her sister is a priest.

This is what her e-mail said…


The ever interesting Anna Smith

The ever interesting Anna Smith

GOD… It’s taking me forever to get Skype.

I tried to install it myself.

Maybe I have already… It says it’s not working at the moment or something equally annoying.

My priestly sister said she could help me. She is super competent. She can Skype, do funerals and drive like a Mexican. She said it would take two seconds, but sometimes it takes me two weeks to find her. She is going to Colombia next week on a three week pilgrimage walking uphill following some nun around the jungle.

I go on a pilgrimage every second day, to get off of my boat. Yesterday, I went to the drop-in center for street girls to get some technical support from a young lady named Kay.

But Kay was busy leading a tarot card session for a small group of older women who needed cheering up. Kay retrieved the main fortune-telling card and read aloud the message: “You will go somewhere you have never been before, somewhere no-one else has been either.”

“Well,” I said, “that’s gonna be a hard place to find.” They laughed.

I had a coffee and chatted with the receptionist who was a French lady from Quebec. Somehow we got on the subject of strippers. I told her that the only club I worked at in Quebec was Le Folichon, which was the best strip club in Canada. She gasped and said: “I don’t believe it! – I used to work there too!”

Le Folichon club in Quebec

Some shared memories of Le Folichon club in Quebec, Canada

I told her: “Wow! – That was a good club…  It was so good that they fired me on the third day because I wasn’t fancy enough… It was the only time I was ever sent home… It was at Hallowe’en and they had some great acts. The star was a guy who entered the stage like a wicked witch, a drag witch. He had a broom and a cauldron with dry ice. He made all these scary gestures and explosions till the stage was blanketed in fog. When the fog cleared there was a four poster bed and Sleeping Beauty was in it. And he was Sleeping Beauty and he woke up!”

Chantelle, the French lady, sighed: “Yes, that was a nice club all right – all pink and white… and it had lace curtains. That place had class. I was a house girl there for years. I was the owner’s girlfriend.”

“Wow!” I said. ” That’s incredible.”

“Not really,” Chantelle told me. “He dated all the girls who worked there.”

“Oh,” I said, “maybe that’s why he sent me home…”

“He was a nice guy though,” she told me. “When he went to Europe he used to send me jewelry and roses every day. He was like that. His father used to be the mayor of Quebec a long time ago. His dad had wanted him to be a lawyer, but he had wanted something different… And then I was one of the first table dancers to work in Ontario. They sent a group of us out.”

“Oh! We hated the French girls,” I told her. “They ruined the business. Undercutting everyone.”

“For sure,” Chantelle agreed. “The English dancers didn’t like it. There was a war on.”

“I know,” I said. “I was in it!”

Anna Smith, Chicago Virgin

Anna Smith remembers when girls kicked out the light bulbs

“The English girls didn’t know how to table dance,” she continued. “They just ripped their clothes off on the first song. You have to drag it out to make your money.”

“Table dancing destroyed stripping,” I said. “I hated it.”

“You did it then?”

“Only when there was no choice. When it first started, before they started doing blow jobs in the corners. Then the girls used to kick out the light bulbs.”

I waited around the reception area, sipping my coffee and, when the place closed, I walked with Chantelle for  a few blocks.

“I can’t believe you were at the Folichon,” she told me. “You really made my day.”

Then I went into a community cafeteria where it is pretty rough but they serve really good food. My tray was loaded with what seemed like an impossibly huge pile of vegan stuff. I found a small round table to sit at. A volunteer helped an elderly lady to get from her walker to a chair, asking: “Is it OK if she sits here?”

Anna in the dressing room at The Flamingo Motor Inn on August 3 2014 Ian Breslin generously allowed me to dance to his music in order to raise money for children of dancers orphaned by cancer

Anna in the dressing room at The Flamingo Motor Inn, Vancouver, on 3rd August 2014

“Sure,” I said, putting away my phone and rearranging my bags a bit.

The other lady only had a soup and a cookie.

I started into my meal and, after a while, we started talking. She looked elderly and odd, with frizzy black hair and theatrically painted eyeliner. She started talking about her walker. She had only started using it recently. She had had a fall in September and another before Christmas.

“It’s strange that I fell,” she told me. “I’m normally pretty limber.”

She gave a little laugh, which made her pretty for a moment.

I don’t remember what I said next but, somehow, it came up that she too had been a dancer.

“What kind of a dancer?” I asked.

“A stripper,” she said quietly.

“Really?”

“Well, I was a ballet dancer and I learned jazz.”

“That’s crazy,” I said. “You’re the second stripper I’ve met in the last hour. Did you work in Toronto?”

“Yes. At Starvin’ Marvin’s,” she said.

Starving’ Marvin’s club in Toronto

“Places she’d danced & girls she knew. She was 72 years old.”

“That’s unbelievable,” I told her. “I was just writing about that place.”

I grilled her about the places she’d danced and the girls she knew.

She was 72 years old, so she had worked at some famous theaters that had closed just before I started.

She had worked at the Zanzibar, Le Strip and The Victory, a theater which had been North America’s first purpose-built Yiddish Theater – before it became a burlesque palace.

She knew some of the dancers I had worked with. It was hit and miss. Her name was Nina and she had to apologise because she sometimes forgot what she was talking about.

“Did you know Fantasia?” I asked.

“She was beautiful,” said Nina. “But then she couldn’t work. Her boyfriend.”

“What about Mary Lou?” I asked.

“She was a go-getter. She opened a store.”

“I used to do a nurse show,” I told her. “Nurse Annie.”

“Nurse Annie!” said Nina. “She had a good act.”

She smiled at the memory, forgetting it was me who had said it.

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What it was like to work in a Canadian strip club in the 1980s.

Yesterday, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, Anna Smith, mentioned working in a club called Le Strip in Toronto. Today she expands on that:


Le Strip in its heyday

“I was afraid to ask for work there at first. It looked so sleazy.”

Le Strip no longer exists. It was my favourite place in the world to work. It called itself a ‘Private Gentleman’s Club’. Membership was $5 a year and the entrance fee was $10 or $8 for seniors. It was not a bar, but actually a theater.

I had been afraid to ask for work there at first. It looked so sleazy. There was a blurry television monitor on the street which displayed the vague outlines of whoever was on stage at the time and a flight of stairs, covered in worn red carpet.

The guys could arrive at noon and stay all day if they wanted, without being hustled to buy drinks.

We had a proper dressing room with lightbulbs around the mirrors. We used the lightbulbs to dry our panties on. The owner was never there, so the strippers essentially ran the place, assisted by two men who worked the door and the DJ booth.

The ever interesting Anna Smith

Anna Smith in 1980s (or 1880s?)

We had total artistic freedom and were always finding ways to improve our shows. We would dare each other to do ridiculous things on stage. The place was like a second home to us. We could leave costumes there for weeks and they never got stolen and we were almost constantly laughing, exchanging stories about our adventures.

The customers – or ‘perverts’, as we fondly called them – kept asking “What are you girls always laughing about back there?”

It was a daily six hour party, interrupted only by the fact that every hour-and-a-half we’d have to run out on stage and take our clothes off. Then we’d dash down the steps back into the dressing room and demand of our friends, “What happened? What happened?” to find out what we’d missed.

It paid less than most of the clubs, but had advantages.

The other clubs booked us for one week at a time but, at Le Strip, it was a two week booking. It was downtown, close to the record stores, banks, law courts and other conveniences.

As it was not a bar, we were even allowed to rush our children through the back of the theater into the safety of the dressing room.

One time, an extremely elegant dancer named Zelda Scorch was on stage, sitting on a chair, playing with her bra straps. Her gaunt face had been scarred by acne, but it didn’t show because of the lighting. The audience was suddenly startled by the clear voice of a very young girl, who was being ushered through. She had shouted in astonishment:  “Mommy! You’re Beautiful!”

We knew many of the the ‘perverts’ by name.

Anna Smith in the Vancouver bookshop

Anna Smith at peace in Vancouver this year

There was a pair of them who appeared every year with a trophy, like a sports trophy. It was for ‘The Stripper of the Year’.

They would find out who was the newest, shyest young dancer on the roster, have her name inscribed on it and present it to her. I never got one of those, but it was really fun to see happen. The dancer would return from stage in amazement, almost crying, and say: “Look! Look! I can’t believe it! I just got an award! I’m the Stripper of the Year!…”

When I returned to Canada, after an absence of six years, I stopped in at Le Strip, on the way to Vancouver. I thought everyone I knew would be gone, but the minute I stepped through the door I was surrounded by the girls, and the perverts turned round in their seats and called out: “Nurse Annie! Where have you been!”

One of the dancers, Maxine (real name Janet Feindel) wrote a play based on the dressing room conversations at Le Strip. It’s called A Particular Class of Women and it a very good play.

There is a promo for a 2013 production of A Particular Class of Woman on Vimeo.

A Particular Class of Women last year

If A Particular Class of Woman is being produced nearby I usually offer to help with the details. Things that normal people might not get. For example, the fact that we always brought a towel from home to put on our chairs, so as not to develop a rash from sitting bare-assed on vinyl.

Also, if somebody tries to produce the play without Janet’s permission I contact her immediately. She teaches theater now at a university on the east coast. I’m a copyright spy for her.

There was a real spy scandal associated with Le Strip. Not involving the dancers, but one of the DJs.  It’s one of the most preposterous stories I’ve ever heard. It was very, very frightening, even though I wasn’t there when it happened. It involved among other things, a trip to Libya, Neo-Nazis in Toronto, the South African Embassy, the Brandenburg Gate and a leather jacket.


Obviously, I am encouraging Anna to tell me more.

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“When I was a teenager I got a a job at the concession stand at a cinema…”

A Darth Vader mime artist in Amsterdam (No, it is not relevant to anything)

Darth Vader mime artist stands in Amsterdam (No, it is not in any way relevant to anything)

I was going to blog about something else today but overslept, got sidetracked and now have to go out sharpish.

What do you want? Blood?

Fortunately, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith sent me an e-mail.

I never mentioned the movie Star Wars to her.

Nevertheless, she wrote:

__________

I myself am less than thrilled by Star Wars. When I was a teenager I got a a job at the concession stand at a cinema in Toronto. I anticipated an exciting future watching movies for free, saw Casanova, which I found ugly and clumsy, and then the first Star Wars movie arrived and played for months on end, blotting out anything else. I felt terribly guilty about selling the unhealthy coconut greased yellow popcorn and gigantic candy bars, and (possibly) cigarettes. The only thing interesting about the job was that the manager was a terribly obese pale young man who always wore a suit. When passers-by caught a glimpse of him through the lobby’s glass, they could not help but do a double take, which would throw him into a garish rage. He would stare back at them, gesticulating and shouting: “Go ahead! STARE at me… I’m FAT… STARE ALL YOU LIKE!”… That was more memorable than the movies.

__________

And that is what Anna wrote.

Personally, I think a vivid vignette often outweighs relevance.

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Edinburgh and Vancouver – where people are strippers AND comedians

Vancouver’s Folk Festival before the Great Hula Hoop Robbery

Vancouver’s placid Folk Festival before the Great Hula Hoop Robbery of 2013

I am driving up from London to Edinburgh today.

Being at the Edinburgh Fringe for what amounts to four weeks can be like living inside a rather noisy and crowded bubble. But, if you think it’s noisy and crowded in Edinburgh, think what it’s like in Vancouver.

Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent e-mailed me before I set off for Edinburgh at 6.00am this morning.

“Last night,” she told me, “only 200,000 people showed up for the annual fireworks show in Vancouver…. 400,000 had been expected and the Vancouver Police Department had issued a radio advisory that vast numbers of people were going to be performing public urination. I saw no evidence of that at all and the streets smelled normal this morning.

“Vancouver is awash with festivals at this time of year – There’s the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, the International Buddhist Film Festival, the Powell Street Festival (of Japanese Culture), a Brazilian Festival, at least two Latin American Festivals, a Caribbean Festival and Gay Pride Week.

“For the last, a rainbow version of the Canadian Flag is flown merrily on flagpoles all over downtown, all the major Canadian banks have rainbow-coloured feather boas and ribbons fluttering everywhere and a zebra crossing on Davie Street has evolved into a rainbow crossing.”

Anna has been working at one of the festivals – the Folk Festival.

“I was a receptionist in the massage tent,” she told me, “booking massages for the artists. I recognised one of them from his name tag – one of Canada’s top violinists whom I had known thirty years ago, when I was a striptease artist in Toronto.

“I greeted him with the words: Holy shit…It’s Ben Mink! and he was so surprised to see me he immediately telephoned a recluse we both knew in Ontario so I could say Hi

Complementary cucumbers were the order of the day

Complementary cucumbers were on display

“Later during the festival I had a conversation with Marie Lynn Hammond, who cleverly realised that I was ‘Nurse Annie’ – one of the characters I performed as, in striptease AND comedy.”

Yes, Anna was both a striptease artist AND a comedian – so it was not/is not just Malcolm Hardee, Martin Soan and Bob Slayer who combine the two vocations.

Anna continued: “Marie Lynn Hammond’s bass player Dennis Nichol asked me: You are Nurse Annie?? Can I have your autograph?

“I thought he was joking, but he insisted. I was flabbergasted. Nobody has asked for my autograph for the last thirty years – except for building managers wanting it on my rent cheque.

“We had a conversation about the good old days before cassette tapes were invented and strippers had to dance to live music. It turned out that he had once played at the Zanzibar Circus Tavern on Yonge Street in Toronto, which is the first place I danced professionally.

“The only sad thing that happened during the festival was a public announcement that there had been a theft of hula hoops and juggling balls…. WOULD THE THIEF PLEASE RETURN THE HULA HOOPS AND JUGGLING BALLS the plaintive announcement said.

“I thought,” Anna told me, “that perhaps the spirit of Malcolm Hardee was roaming the forests and mountains.”

But no.

With luck, though, it will be roaming the venues, streets and pubs of Edinburgh over the next four weeks.

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