What it's really like to work in one of the Gold Coast's biggest stripping agencies.

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.

Kellie writes…

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.

Kellie Arrowsmith. “‘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.”

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.


Sometimes when I described shows on the phone the customers were more gobsmacked than I was, because soon it was just second nature to rattle them off. But after a while, not only was I used to describing what the shows involved, I was getting pretty sick of it. You could tell when guys didn’t actually want a stripper, they just wanted to hear you talk about girls playing with sex toys so they could get their rocks off. Guys would ring up and not say anything apart from ‘What are you wearing?’ My response was usually: ‘My pyjamas.’ Or sometimes they would ring up drunk, mainly on a Saturday night, just wanting to chat with me like I was some helpline for drunken horny men. I wasn’t getting paid enough for that. I basically just wanted to tell them to fuck off. In the end, if I had to take the phones on a Saturday night, I made sure there was wine in the fridge. Once I got the hang of things, I could see that some of the men who booked girls with us had a lot of pressure on them.

It was usually the businessmen in the penthouses who were the real pricks. If they had a lot of money, were a little bit older and were ‘someone’ in society, they were usually a fucking nightmare to deal with. And because they were ‘buying’ girls – they were paying for them to be there – they just thought the girls were objects, and that used to drive me nuts. The worst offenders were arrogant more than sleazy, and I started to get impatient with the ones who would ring up and be difficult about things. They were paying the exact same amount of money as that 22-year-old guy who had organised a bucks’ night for his mate, who had saved up for months with his friends to get that party going, but this dickhead thought he could treat me and the girls like shit just because he had a bit of money. The young guys on the bucks’ nights would say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘oh my god I’m so grateful’ and then I got some guy who was spending the same amount of money per girl thinking he was better than anyone else because he was richer. I much preferred dealing with the 22-year-old guy who was grateful for my help. It was the Gold Coast, though, so dickheads with too much money and no manners were unavoidable.

Image supplied. Photograph by Daniel Gowans

As well as handling the administration side of things I had to interview potential staff. This is not the kind of job where you need a résumé detailing your education and work history – unless you just graduated with a bachelor’s in exotic dancing and have references from a strip club owner. All we really cared about was that the girl had a hot body, a pretty face (or at least knew how to use make-up to make herself look pretty) and nice boobs. This last part was a bit awkward for me at first. Making sure the girls had nice boobs meant I needed to see them. This was compulsory after I accidentally sent a girl I’d just hired to a topless bar without realising that after three kids her boobs resembled those of an eighty-year-old woman. It might sound superficial and nasty but that’s the way it is in an industry based solely on looks. Besides, if I was overweight and had saggy boobs the last thing I’d want to do is strut half naked around a pub full of blokes. So the words ‘show me your boobs’ came out of my mouth at least once a week.


I also handed the girls a list of tips on how to keep their bodies in tip-top shape. My boss had written this up, along with a set of rules she called ‘The Constitution’, when she first started the agency, and I handed these out to all the new girls. The advice included eating a vegetarian diet, cutting back on dairy, working out, and making sure hair, nails and spray tan were always done to perfection. It’s bloody lucky the girls made so much money, because if you followed these tips you would look smoking hot but, trust me, they cost hundreds of dollars. And that’s before you added regular Botox injections into the mix, which is pretty much standard procedure in that line of work.

It wasn’t usually my job to drive the girls around, but as I mentioned sometimes they got stuck and I had to come to the rescue and get them to their job. One stressful Saturday morning the topless waitress originally booked for a pub shift cancelled at the last minute and the only way I could get someone to replace her was to drive the replacement there myself. So that Saturday afternoon I drove for two hours all the way from the southern end of the Gold Coast to Burpengary, which is at the southern end of the Sunshine Coast, so that the waitress could get to her pub shift on time. The girl – who wasn’t paying a cent towards the cost of my petrol – would work for two hours and make $250. I, on the other hand, sat in the car park on my phone taking bookings for the grand total of $30.

“I called my mate Katy. ‘I’ve decided to start doing some skimpy work – whaddya think?’ ‘I’ve been waiting for you to come to the other side,’ Katy laughed.”

While I was in the car park, a little thought popped into my head: why the fuck am I sitting here dealing with phone calls from drunk blokes wanting strippers and being paid a measly $15 an hour when I could be in there selling raffle tickets for $125 an hour? It had taken me two years to reach this earth-shattering conclusion.

I called my mate Katy. ‘I’ve decided to start doing some skimpy work – whaddya think?’ ‘I’ve been waiting for you to come to the other side,’ Katy laughed.

‘How about we book into Gove?’ I said. The agency sent two girls every fortnight up to Gove, where they worked in skimpy outfits or lingerie then went topless for tips. The girls made, on average, four to five grand for the fortnight. ‘If I’m allowed back there, yeah, for sure.’ Katy, a tall, busty blonde, was always getting banned from pubs, mainly because she was nuts. This chick didn’t drink but was a complete sugar addict who would dose herself up on grenadine (which is like the crack cocaine of cordial) then hang from the ceiling fans. She was always allowed back within a year or two, though.

While my boss could be a tad on the scary side, when I told her I wanted to step out from behind the desk she supported me 100 per cent. Although she was a bit disappointed she’d have to look for a new receptionist. She sent me on my way with costumes, shoes, advice and a plane ticket. She even paid for me to do my RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) certificate, which you can do online in half an hour – I’d need that to work behind the bar. It was August 2010, I was twenty-seven years old and I was now officially working on ‘the other side of the fence’. I hoped I had the balls to see it through.

This is an extract from Skimpy: Outrageous True Tales of Crocs, Snakes & Pulling Beers in the Top End by Kellie Arrowsmith, published by Hachette, RRP $29.99. You can purchase the book here

If you liked this, try these:

BOOK EXTRACT: ‘I lived among the most privileged women in the world. And it was tough’

‘I am a blackout drunk. And there is always a price.’

Genuine question: What do strippers do about their period?

“As a sex worker, being told that I’m a victim is offensive”