An excerpt from Mattress Actress. The seventeen year-old Annika has just started working at a high-class brothel in Sydney, and we pick up the action just after her first trip to a sexual health clinic.
That evening I fronted up to work ten minutes early and Louise greeted me. She took me into what’s called the ladies’ lounge. That’s where the girls put their feet up, watched TV, eat, smoked or just gossiped. Adjoining the lounge was the dressing room. I noticed there was no curtain or door between the two rooms. I later found out it was so that the management could scrutinise the girls while they were dressing. They were always waging war against drugs. Mind you, this day I did resemble a pincushion, thanks to the Randwick clinic, as we called it.
Louise told me to put my bag in the locker in the ladies’ lounge and get dressed. While I did that, she sat and explained the rules to me.
‘Don’t talk to the other girls. Don’t wear black. You must buy a new dress every fortnight, and bring it in for inspection before wearing it. Don’t socialise with the other girls outside of work. Hand in all tips. Do not exchange personal details with clients, this includes accepting business cards. No drinking unless your client is partaking. No personal calls in or out during working hours. No leaving in the middle of a shift, for any reason. Refusal of a client must be based on medical reasons, for example he has warts or VD. The only other reason you can refuse a client is if you know him, like he’s your brother or so forth.
I thought if I just watched TV and fucked I should stay out of trouble.
We went on a tour of the place. It covered at least four other three-storey terraces. There was a bar room that adjoined the office and a formal lounge that extended the length of two terraces but had concertina screens separating the rooms if need be. Also on ground level were four small TV rooms that played hardcore videos all day. Louise explained that one of the receptionists always answered the door and brought the client into room one, if that was busy he would go to room two and so on. If all four rooms were taken he would be escorted to the main lounge. If we were still filling up, the screen would be pulled across and the second lounge could be used. If everything was full, gentlemen could sit in the bar and be offered a drink. Louise didn’t like the place getting this busy but it often did. Some evenings you could find ten to twelve men sitting in the bar.
There were also three spa rooms. Each had a bar, a shower, a large spa, and a plastic-covered double bed that would have looked more at home on a boat. Each room was decorated a different colour, so they were distinguished as the blue room, the pink room or the peach room.
The office was also on the ground floor, right beside the front entrance. It was a small room but very detailed. There were twenty buzzers on the wall, all linked to one of the fifteen rooms upstairs or the spa rooms or the ladies’ lounge, the laundry or the dressing room. There was a specific knock to gain entrance to the office. The desk inside took up most of the room. Behind the desk was a lady who would have been about fifty. She never said a word but had a brain on her like a computer. She was in charge of buzzing the girls ten minutes before their appointment was up to remind them to wind it down, then again at the correct time. I tested her so many times; she was always right on time. Another lady collected the money and did up the pay at the end of each shift. As there were always two shifts a day, there were two managers, two pay ladies and two ladies in charge of the buzzers on any given week. Then there were always two gofers who made drinks, tidied, or stood in the ladies’ lounge inspecting, handbags, make-up and hair. It was also the gofer’s job to inform us of who the client had chosen.
Louise explained the drill to me and I knew that if a girl deviated from Louise’s rules it would be instant grounds for dismissal. I listened intently, all the while wondering if this ice-queen routine was a put on in order to gain our respect and obedience or if in fact she really was like this, even in the quiet of her own home. I also considered that maybe once she got to know me she might chill a bit, realise that I was honest, hard working and not drug dependent at all.
Louise told me I should arrive promptly for every shift, get dressed and wait in the ladies’ lounge for inspection and announcements. The girls all walked together to meet the first client of the evening. We’d stand in a semicircle and introduce ourselves: ‘Hello, my name is Kate.’ When everyone had clearly said her name, we’d leave and go back to the ladies’ lounge. The receptionist would then call on the girl the client requested.
‘Some clients will make their decision directly, if that’s the case take a seat beside him, but don’t speak to him until the last girl has left the room. Ask him whether he cares for a spa—this of course will cost him extra—according to his decision take him to the appropriate room. There, ask him how long he would like to stay, take the money from him, and ask if he wouldn’t mind being inspected first. If you find anything out of the ordinary, come downstairs and we’ll have one of the available girls give a second opinion. If everything is in order bring the money downstairs, and tell us your name, your room number and how much.
‘At your first buzz, say nothing but OK, any other response will lead us to believe you are in trouble. At the end of every job shower, touch up your make-up and show your client out. Let us know you are in the lounge and wait for further directions.
‘At the end of the night you will be called in to the office to receive your pay. You are given fifty per cent of everything you earn and tips are all yours, but don’t let us catch you with money in your condom purse. If you own your own car you can leave on your own, if not, a taxi will be called in your work name. When that arrives you may leave.’
I wanted to pinch myself – surely I had fallen asleep and woken up in an episode of Mission: Impossible.
‘Are we clear on everything?’ Louise asked. ‘Good, then let’s get to work.’ She ushered me into the ladies’ lounge, where about fifteen of the most beautiful women I had ever seen were sitting. ‘Ladies, this is Kate, you all look lovely, have a good night, now, go to rooms one and two. Sue, your regular is in the bar.’ And with that, Louise left. Talk about being thrown in head first!
Like cows going for a milking we made our way downstairs. I tried to remember the names, but there were too many. The funny thing is the names were the same, it was just the faces that varied. In every brothel you go to there will always be a Tiffany, Amber, Storm, Cindy and Bridget.
Thankfully I wasn’t chosen by either of the first clients. That privilege went to Grace, a tall girl who was about nineteen, was almost too thin, and had waist-length fair hair. The gentleman in room two chose Anne. Anne was eighteen, short and stocky but extremely well-endowed.
This gave me time to acquaint myself with the other ladies even though I was under strict instructions not to speak to them.
Finally one girl piped up and said, ‘Welcome.’ Her name was Toni; I later learnt that she used to be named Anthony. But she was stunning and always friendly.
‘Darling, don’t listen to Louise, she’s a ball-busting lesbian who couldn’t cut it as a model because she wouldn’t fuck her way to the top. She’s never actually worked in the sex industry, but by the way she goes on you’d think she invented it.’
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