They were all nice girls doing a job

They were all nice girls doing a job

Fri 01 Feb

On Ham Yard I worked in one of the first discos in the mid-Sixties. It was just before the Krays killed Jack the Hat. He was in there having a drink one night with a friend. He was a very flash man, very nasty. He had a go at one of the young kids standing at the bar. "What are you effing looking at?" he said. The poor kid didn’t know what to say. He was only there for a dance. The next thing we heard Jack was dead.

The strip club in Gerrard Street was next. I used to work the curtains and the record-player. The girls changed in the back room. We kept cold drinks for them. You could see them all running round Soho with their cases with underwear hanging out. They were always in a rush because they did spots starting at nine o’clock in the morning. Some didn’t finish till two o’clock the following morning. They’d go to one place, do a quick strip, then they’d go on to the next one. Some would do eight or ten a day. They didn’t get paid much but they did a lot – I mean one was putting her boy through private school. They did all right but they were always rushing about.

You used to get the odd dirty-mac. One of the girls came off-stage and said, “We’ve got one.”

I said, “Where?”

She showed me through the curtains. He had his mac across his lap. I went and shouted very loudly, “Hey, get out, you dirty old man”. The rest of the audience cheered.

They were all nice girls doing a job. Rushing all around Soho. In our place they might do one spot, then an hour or two later, another spot. All in all they’d do maybe four or five with us. All the dashing about. No wonder they were so slim. They never got a chance to eat.

We didn’t have a name for the club. We rented the premises from a Chinese man. But it wasn’t Chinatown then. There were just two or three Chinese restaurants then. There were two Indians. The family of Henry Cooper’s wife had an Italian there. That’s where he met his wife. She was the daughter of the owner. That was the Shaftesbury Avenue end. There was a big post office.

The club was on the ground floor. Just one room with a reception area. You went in and there were lots of seats and a small stage. There was no bar. No refreshments. But the punters would stay all day. At the side was a back room where the girls dressed.

They used to bring their own records. I can’t remember what type of music it was – something to take your clothes off to, bump and grind really. They did their routine to it. they’d give me the LP and I’d say, “how many tracks do you want?” Usually they wanted one track played one and a half times. It got so that I didn’t even hear the music. I just kept an eye of the stylus.

The outfits were great – feathers, lace, silk, ruffles, leather, plastic. One girl came into the club with a see-through plastic raincoat on and a customer sent a message round the back “Could you please ask the girl with the raincoat if she could come onto the stage with it?”

It wasn’t part of her act. She was wearing it because it was raining outside. But she said, “Yeah, I don’t care”, and on she went with it.

Another customer once sent five pounds to the back and asked if one of the girls would do her act the other way round. She’d just done her spot. He asked when she was coming back and said, “Instead of taking your clothes off, can you come out naked and put them on?” Five pounds was a lot of money. They only used to get about two pounds a spot. She said, “I’ll do it hanging from a ceiling for a fiver.”

All day long it would just go by.

In the late Sixties we turned it into a cinema showing strip movies.

Tina prefers to remain anonymous. She is 85 years old and has retired to West London.

 

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