As a clean-cut farm boy from outback OZ, I usually steer well clear of the seedy underbelly of gay life. The polished six-pack that is its public face quickly becomes an unwashed, vermin-ridden potbelly if you wander into the wrong bars, and frankly it’s a world that I find rather embarrassing. Unless of course that bar contains an Amateur Strip Night, and then my moral stance gets thrown out the porthole with my sailor’s cap. He doesn’t need it anyway.
For this little sojourn I gathered a veritable mince of gay friends, flatmates and sisters (literal, not metaphorical). Unfortunately we suffered our first casualties at the door; anyone wielding a clitoris was denied admittance, so we entered the pub a diminished party. This was probably fortunate as there are some things you don’t want your sister to see, especially when she has a tendency to de-knob any man who offends her feminine sensibilities.
Inside, murky figures loitered in the corners waiting for newcomers to wander too far from the pack. We made as much noise as possible to scare them off and gathered near the stage. After an hour or two a sizable crowd had gathered, and on the stroke of midnight - like some blow-up Fairy Godmother - a Drag Queen appeared to announce the beginning of festivities. Members of the audience were invited to participate in the public removal of their clothing for the enjoyment of others; just your usual Wednesday night down at the local.
Act One was pretty special, and I mean special as in Special. No one seemed to have explained to him that stripping is an Art, one that requires timing, enthusiasm and a basic level of personal hygiene. He didn’t so much tempt us with the sensual suggestion of hidden flesh and forbidden desires, as get up there and undress for bed.
Shirt off… then belt… trousers… hmmm, stained white undies next... bit baggy those, must go to Primark tomorrow… wait, I’m forgetting something… hang on… oh yes, my shoes… just bennnnnnnd over to unlace those… tum tee tum.
I was left with the distinctly unsettling impression that Act One entered every week in the desperate hope that he would be the only entrant, win by default, and thereby double his dole cheque. He certainly didn’t do it for a love of showbiz.
Act Two seemed more promising, despite the shadowed form of man-boobs lurking ominously beneath his white T-shirt. Fortunately these proved to be massively over-developed pecs instead, a slippery distinction that is best illustrated by photos of Arnie in consecutive issues of Hello! magazine. Next came the trousers, revealing a rather startling red jockstrap. And then... Oh my god my eye! Oww oww owww! What the fuck was that!? Fuck me! Get out of the fucking way, I need to wash the fucker out before go blind!
Yes, it seems that Act Two had had to grapple with a decision that had never even crossed my mind, but that shits all over Hamlet’s To Be Or Not malarkey for moral complexity; to go soft, or to go hard? The former lends a more Renaissance feel to the performance; think Adam in Cappella Brancacci’s Explusion From The Garden of Eden. However, if one is going for a more robust and virile performance, nothing says it better than a white-meat bratwurst standing at attention. As an additional bonus, every dance moved is emphasised with a nodding, metronomic beat, a kind of visual interpretation of Hard House. Very Hard House.
Now gentlemen, I can sense you all reaching for The Best of Kylie: 1993-94 in an attempt to try this at home, but first a word of warning. Firstly, Act Two was obviously a professional. He had prepared himself beforehand, and sealed the deal with a constrictive mechanical device. No attempt should be made to recreate these conditions at home with any form of rubberband, rusty wire from the garden shed, or dental floss. Stripping is not a game.
Secondly, once the act is completed there is the difficulty of deflation, or rather lack thereof. One finds it rather demanding to communicate the complex metaphysical inspiration of that Flashdance-esque backflip at the best of times, let alone when one’s boner keeps snagging on the interviewer’s cocktail dress. No really. Sequins are like velcro to cock.
A hard act to follow (as it were) but some gentle alcoholic persuasion convinced two fourteen-year olds to give it a go. Yes, Act Three was prepubescent and preputial, but sadly not prepared. As their performance crashed and burned, the Drag Queen intervened to suggest some romantic snogging may save the day. Instead it gave it the air of 3am at a Eurovision afterparty; not what one needs to see on a Wednesday night.
Despite a flagrant breach of Health and Safety regulations, Act Two achieved a comfortable victory. For his efforts in personal moral degradation he was awarded one hundred English pounds and a peck on the cheek from the Drag Queen. If you wish, you may play Hunt The Euphemism.
Sadly no Mr Right came forward that evening, but it was not an entirely fruitless adventure; I left with a useful list of everything I wasn’t looking for in a man, from Abnormal Areola to Zoonosis.
Or just grey Primark undies.