In her 20s Kellie Arrowsmith experimented with a series of different careers. At one point she got a job working as a receptionist for one of the Gold Coast’s biggest stripping agencies. She had no intention of working as a stripper, but after doing the numbers, her life took an unexpected turn.
I’d never really known much about this industry until I’d moved into a large share house in Mudgeeraba. One of the girls who lived with me, Katy, was a stripper and worked for the agency. Before I met her I had no idea that strippers didn’t just work in strip clubs. In fact, I soon learnt that that was a crap way to make money, and that private parties such as bucks’ nights were where the money was at. Whereas in a strip club the girls sometimes have to pay a fee to be there and hustle all night giving lap dances for $50 a pop, the private shows paid up to $500 for half an hour, depending on just how raunchy you were prepared to go.
Spending a couple of nights tagging along while Katy was working was an eye-opener, to say the least.
The agency sent girls to pubs all over the Gold Coast and Brisbane, as well as Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and Gove in the Northern Territory, to work as topless waitresses or ‘skimpy barmaids’. ‘Skimpy’ is a nickname for the girls who work behind the bar dressed in a cheeky outfit, such as a nurse or schoolgirl, and strip down to lingerie or a bikini after passing a jug around the bar for tips. This work is mainly done in mining towns, although a few bars on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane run on the same principle, except the girls wear lingerie then go topless halfway through their shifts for tips. The agency also booked out showgirls for bucks’ nights, birthdays and pretty much any time a group of blokes could find a half-arsed excuse to hire a stripper.
Geez, could these girls put on a show. The things some of them could do with a Chupa Chup and a banana were incredible! People might assume that anyone can be a stripper and it’s easy, but I can assure you that most of the girls I saw perform were either gymnasts or acrobats or they did a lot of ballet growing up. Another assumption many people make is that strippers are uneducated/drug addicts/prostitutes. Okay, yes, this is true in some cases, but most of the girls I met were studying, or raising children and trying to provide for them. One showgirl who was the best dancer I have ever seen had a double degree in chemistry. So there really isn’t a stereotype; like any other industry, it takes all kinds.
Apart from getting to watch the occasional strip show for free when one of the girls was stuck and needed a driver (if I was a bloke I would have been in heaven), I chatted on the phone to strange men about what specifically was involved in a Fruit and Veg duo. Don’t even get me started on the Big Greek Salad. After seeing that particular show, let’s just say I’ve never been able to eat one again. It took a few weeks before I was able to rattle off the ins and outs of different shows to the customers without putting my hand over the phone and asking whoever was working with me, ‘What the fuck is involved in a Bubble Bath show, anyway? Do they bring a plastic pool or do they do the show in the bathroom?!’ I was given a list of shows and their descriptions, but sometimes even the descriptions baffled me – phrases like ‘open leg work’ and ‘double penetration’ (yes, that sounds straightforward but when you’re talking about a lesbian show it can get confusing). After the customer chose the type of show they wanted they would request the girl they wanted to perform the show. Of course they didn’t always get who they wanted, but as I used to say to them, you’re ordering a person, not a pizza. We also booked out topless waitress and promo girls, so to say I was flat out in the office most of the time would be an understatement.