Chapter 1: A visit to a Strip Club
I just could not believe I was doing this! I was in London for eight weeks, attending a course on a new machine my employers were introducing, and now I was sitting in a strip club in Soho. We don't have anything like this down in Devon, not even in Exeter, and everyone knows that lots of naughty things go on in Soho. So this course was a heaven sent opportunity to check out all that I had heard. The Central line Tube had brought me from Notting Hill to Tottenham Court Road. From there I walked southward down Charing Cross Road, until I saw a sign for Soho Square. My steps slowed as I came near to my goal, the sensation that everyone was looking at me knowing what I was about to do intimidated and embarrassed me. The choice when I got to the heart of Soho was huge. There seemed to be Strip clubs everywhere. I chose at random, picking one which seemed to have a more imposing entrance. I was stung at the door for a membership, then the entrance fee, but having got to the place I wasn't going to back out. The club itself was dark except for the spots shining on the stage where a weary girl was mechanically going through her paces. That didn't matter to me as I was at last seeing a live woman take her clothes off. Many would be astonished, but that was actually true, Top shelf magazines did not satisfy my curiosity and I had never seen my wife, Jennifer naked nor had I seen her undress. It wasn't right she would insist. She would slide into our bed wearing a voluminous nightgown, and if it was one of the nights she was prepared to allow me sex, would switch the lights off before raising the gown. So technically I hadn't seen a naked woman, felt one yes, seen one no!
This was nineteen sixty four, and a revolution was happening, well happening everywhere else but in the West Country, which as always was content to go its own slow, timeless way. If you were born there it was natural to you if not; and I hadn't been born in the West Country; it could be very aggravating if you allowed it. The funny thing was that I was actually born about fifteen miles east of where I was at this moment. Did that make me a Londoner? Perhaps once I had thought of myself that way, but now I was to all intents and purposes the country boy, up Lunnon! As the West Country vernacular would have it.
I fumbled my way through the dark club, apologising to the patrons as I stepped on toes, or bumped them and eventually found a seat quite close to the stage. I had paid a lot of money to be here, and I was going to get my money's worth. The stripper sort of danced to the recorded music, and gradually divested herself of her clothes. These she threw backwards to the wings of the stage. When she was down to just her skimpy panties she stopped stripping and just sort of danced around the stage. At last she started to slip them down, turning her back on the audience as they dropped below her hips. At that point she wiggled and they fell to her ankles. Stepping out of them she kicked them back to the wings, and then turned to face the audience, keeping one hand over the juncture of her thighs, listening to the music. At last, as the music came to its finale, she stood perfectly still with her legs tightly together and took her hand away, allowing us to see her pubic hair, but nothing else. She remained like that for about five seconds then the spotlights went out and the curtains closed.
I was to learn later that there were stringent rules as to what the girl could do and show on stage, and what she could not. I watched about three acts and whilst the way they got there varied, the last few seconds of the show were always the same.
I knew that there were ten girls performing that night, and I was going to watch all of them. I was actually getting bored after seeing five or six of them, but as I had paid to see the ten, I was bloody well going to see them. As patrons left and seats became available I had managed to get nearer the stage, and just before the next act a bloke got up from the very front and went out. I was first into his still warm vacant seat. Then the disembodied voice announced the next girl.
"Ladies and Gentlemen we are proud to present the lovely Lee!" It seemed stupid to me to announce ladies and gentlemen, there was little chance of any ladies being in the audience. The curtains drew back and the spots came on to highlight the next stripper. Suddenly I went cold. My mind was playing tricks. It did look like her, but it couldn't be, I must be mistaken after all it was ten years since we last saw each other. She would have changed, and she would never be here taking her clothes off for a load of dirty old men. The irony that I was amongst that company didn't occur to me. My front row seat meant that at certain times as the moveable spot followed the girl around, my face would come into the splash of light. It was just as that happened that the girl looked in my direction, and her face was shaken out of the bland uninterested look that all the girls seem to wear. Her routine took her away, but she looked over her shoulder as if to be certain. Then she turned in her dance; which had to be said was better than any of the other girls; and looked again.
At last she seemed to come to a decision, so the next time she came to my side of the stage she manoeuvred much closer than before. She looked down at me, and from the side of her mouth a question came.
There was no doubt now in my mind, this was Leanne, or Len as I used to call her. I looked at her and mouthed.
She smiled, then immediately replaced the smile with the blank plastic face. As she danced my way, she would smile, and then it would disappear as her moves took her away. How did she recognise me? I asked myself.
I was now embarrassed. Here was a girl I had known since I was six years old, and she was soon going to be nude. If it was just for me in private, perhaps it would be different, but she was sharing her charms with about fifty other blokes. Anyway, what a way to re-acquaint yourself with a girl you played with when you were six!
It was a very different Len to the one I used to know. Her dark hair was cut short into an Audrey Hepburn style; she moved well betraying the ballet lessons that I knew she had as a child, and her figure? She was lovely. Her breasts weren't that large but they sat on her chest well, with little sag. She had small areola, with pointed nipples, hip bones that framed an abdomen with just the slightest swell as it flowed down to her pudendum. Her best feature was the long svelte legs, amplified by the high heels she danced in.
Len was getting close to the end of her routine, approaching that point where she would cover herself with her hand for the required time. She told me later that she broke all the rules, but didn't wait for the lights to go out, she moved, turning towards me, and opened her legs slightly giving me a glimpse of that little fissure that men worship. The lights went out suddenly, and the curtains closed. Suddenly the audience broke into applause, something that none of the other girls had received. I was in quite a sweat, my heart beating furiously and all sorts of thoughts crashing around in my head. Despite my determination to see all the acts, I decided after the next act to get out. I got up, and the usual scramble for the front row seat ensued, with a large bloke to whom soap and water were obviously alien, winning the battle. I was glad that I wouldn't have to sit next to him for any length of time. He was sitting in my chair before I had moved more than three paces. I found my way through the darkness to the exit, pushing aside the heavy curtain and I was back in the reception area. Just as I moved to the door a voice stopped me.
"Excuse me, sir. But could I have a moment of your time."
Oh shit, I thought. That sounded just like a copper. The possibility of unwanted publicity, and exposure to my friends and wife back home flashed through my mind. I turned. To be honest the bloke didn't look like a copper, not wearing that grubby dinner jacket (tuxedo) and the obviously fake bow tie. I managed to croak.
"Yes." He approached me much like Jimmy Cagney in many of his films, a sort of menacing swagger.
"Do you know the young lady who just danced?"
What do I answer? Would I get her in trouble, would I get myself in trouble? Clarity of thought is not present at times if it had been I would have known that neither I nor Len could get into trouble just for knowing each other. In indecision I spoke the truth.
"Many years ago I did. We grew up together."
He looked dubious.
"Perhaps then you could tell me her name?"
"Yes. It's Leanne Sergeant, spelt S E R, not S A R." His face lightened.
"That's fine. She asked if you would meet her at the coffee bar round the corner. It's called Olympus." I just nodded.
"I had to ask if you knew her. Some girls will make arrangements with our customers for other reasons. The management cannot allow that. She will be there in about ten minutes."
Soho at that time was very well served with coffee bars, many of which had live music to entertain their clientele. There seemed to be about two coffee bars for every strip club. I found the Olympus and a seat and ordered a coffee. The place was hazy with smoke but I could see the decorations which generally gave the place a reason for its name. Bad paintings of the Parthenon and typical colonnaded temples adorned the walls, with figures of men and women wearing what could be loosely described as Togas. My coffee arrived, it was Espresso, in a thick glass cup, frothy on top and lacking any flavour of the drink it purported to be. I had taken just a few sips when Len arrived. She gave me a brilliant smile which changed dramatically when she saw what I was drinking. She picked it up saying.
"I'll get you a proper coffee." and went off to the counter. Minutes later she joined me with two mugs. This was proper coffee.
She looked at me for a moment. I would imagine her having the same problem as I. How do you start a conversation under these circumstances? Eventually I just asked her how she was. She laughed.
"Danny, I am fine. How are you?"
"Well, thank you." Then the conversation seemed to stop. I got out my cigarettes and offered her one, just trying to fill the gap and decide what I was going to say next. She declined.
"I don't smoke. But you carry on." There was another silence.
"How are your Parents?" I asked.
"They're fine. What about yours?" I looked sombre, and Len picked up on that immediately.
"Oh!" She put her hand to her mouth as if she could push the question back again.
"They were killed in a car crash six years ago."
"Danny!" She put her hand across the table and touched mine. "I am so sorry." That stopped the conversation for a while. It always does. People just don't know what to say upon hearing of a death in the family but they have to say something, when the bereaved was hoping that they would just be quiet. Thankfully Len didn't use any of the stupid clichés that are usual. I smiled at her.
"It's a long time ago, and I am well over it now." We continued to chat in a desultory manner; I was becoming desperate to find things to ask her. Then I noticed she was grinning.
"Danny, you want to know what I am doing in such a place, and are too much of a nice guy to ask. I could also ask what a nice guy like you was doing in such a place. But could we leave that conversation to later? It's so good to see you again. How many years has it been?" I had to give that some thought.
"About ten years."
We had both lived and grown up in a little town just to the east of London. I suspect our first meeting was when there was a street party to celebrate the ending of the War with Germany. After that all the kids in the Avenue hung around together. It was strange really, suddenly there were all these friends, none of whom I had known about during the hostilities. I was six at that time and Len was five. I cannot remember why I called her Len, her name was really Leanne, but for whatever reason it stuck with me and she seemed to be quite happy for me to call her that.
"Where was it you went to?" She was referring to the day my whole family uprooted and moved to the West. My dad had got a good job down there.
"Exeter." I replied.
"Are you still there?"
"Yes. Well I work in Exeter, but I live in a village about six miles away. What about you. Are you still at home, married, engaged, or something?"
"The answer is no to the first." She ticked the questions on her fingers. "No to the second and no, to the third. As for the something I don't know. What about you. Are you married?"
"Yes." Did I see a wave of regret cross her face? I doubt it.
"So why are you up here in London?"
"My company have sent me on a course, to learn how to program this new machine they are bringing out." She looked impressed
"Oh, and what sort of machine is that?"
"It's an accounting machine. Business's keep their bought and sales ledgers on them."
"I have seen those." She said this with a note of triumph in her voice. "I was temping and got a week's work in this office, doing filing, and they were using them. Noisy things aren't they?" I had to agree
"They are, but this one won't be. It's all electronic, just whirrs. The noisiest thing about it is when it prints the ledger cards."
We were just making noises, fencing around before getting to the real issues. Len struck first.
"So you decided to have an evening at a Strip Club?"
"Yes." I replied.
"Go often?" She was sounding like my mother who had interrogated me often on what I had been up to.
"This was the first time." I admitted.
"Of all the joints, in all the world, you had to come into mine." She drawled like Humphrey Bogart. Then she asked the killer question.
"Because I wanted to see what a real live woman looked like in the nude." She sat back in her chair with a look of shock on her face.
"But Danny, you said you were married!"
I had to explain that which I was coming to believe, were the peculiar circumstances of my marriage. Len found it difficult to believe.
"You poor bugger!" I was shamefaced. Len went on. "It doesn't sound to me as if you have much of a marriage." Now perhaps I knew that already, but I wasn't going to allow others to comment on my marital circumstances.
"Oh, and as you are not married, you're the expert?" She saw the anger in my face and backed off. She reached across and again put her hand on mine. I liked her touch.
"I'm sorry, Danny. That was a stupid thing to say, especially from someone who does what I do. How could a stripper know what is normal or not in marriages? I've never had any kind of relationship." I was intrigued at that.
"You have never had a relationship?" Len shook her head.
"No. I suppose it sounds incredible doesn't? Here I am taking my clothes off, and showing everything to men, and I have never had any kind of relationship with anyone. No one's got into my knickers." Then she laughed. "Apart from you that is."
My mind was whirling, and then I remembered the incident. There was a bunch of us, all about the same age, six or seven years old, playing in Len's back Garden. It was a very hot day, and Len had a small paddling pool. It was only about nine inches deep, but it served to keep us all cool. I had put on my bathing costume before I left home, a pair of woollen trunks that at that time were all that was available. The problem with them was that once they got wet, they took an age to dry out. Len's mum was concerned about me walking back home wearing a saggy, sodden bathing suit. So she took me into the house and found me a clean pair of Len's knickers to wear home under my trousers. If I remember right they were pale blue. So Len was right. I had got into her knickers. Len supplied the clinching line.
"Unfortunately for you I wasn't in them at the time." We both laughed at the memory.
"They were pale blue." I remarked. Len was astonished.
"You remember that?"
"Of course I do. What man is going to forget the first pair of ladies knickers he gets to take off?" I grinned and Len giggled.
Now we were laughing it eased the uneasiness of the conversation. Len smiled as she reminded me of the last time we saw each other.
"I was really upset that you had to move away. I know we were in this big crowd, but you were always my mate, even at that age when it wasn't the right thing for a boy to be friends with a girl." I grinned.
"Yes. But I could talk to the other lads about my mate Len. They didn't realise it was a girl." Len was surprised
"Oh! So that's why you called me Len?" That wasn't true. Yes it came in useful at that time when boys could never own up to be friends with a girl, but I had called her Len from the earliest time of our friendship.
"No, Len. That wasn't it. Don't you remember? I always called you Len, don't know why, but I always did." I could see her thinking back. Not easy to remember things from when you were that young. She was nodding in agreement.
"Yes. You did. I never gave it much thought. I would imagine that mum and dad weren't pleased, but I think I was quite happy about it. You had a special name for me that no one else used. When you whispered 'Len' to me when I was on stage I nearly went to pieces, even though you were looking at all my bits and pieces."
"They were very nice bits and pieces too." I had to say. Len laughed hilariously.
"How would you know? This is the man who had never seen a naked woman before." I had to admit she had a point.
We talked for more than an hour, and the proprietor had re-filled our mugs at one point. I had put my hand in my pocket to get the money out, but he put his hand on my arm to stop me.
"It's just a coffee, lad. And as you are a friend of Lee, then it's on the house." Len smiled at me as he said that.
"The girls come in here regularly." She explained. "When we are dashing from one club to another, it's convenient to pop in when you need to grab something to eat or drink." I was confused.
"How do you mean, one club to another?"
"You don't think I just hang around for a couple of hours waiting to do another set do you?" I shook my head. I really hadn't given that any thought at all. Len gathered her things together.
"Where are you staying?" She asked.
"I am in a hotel just off the Bayswater Road."
"That's convenient. I have a little flat in Notting Hill. We'll go to my place and have a drink. I can get all this muck off my face." She indicated the heavy stage make-up.
"Then I'll tell you how I became a stripper. You know you still haven't asked. Aren't you curious?" Of course I was, but also quite nervous about asking that question.
We left the Olympus, and walked. Len had this little bag on wheels with her. She explained it contained all her stage costumes and make-up. She led the way without hesitation. Left for a hundred yards then right for a couple of hundred, then left again, it was almost the same journey that I had taken getting to the Club, now in reverse, so I was not surprised when we arrived at Tottenham Court Road tube station. We took the Central line westbound for Notting Hill.