I Was A Stripper's Runner In 1970s Soho - Sabotage Times

I Was A Stripper's Runner In 1970s Soho

Homeless aged 14 in 1973, a chance meeting with a stripper gave me the chance to eat, buy a new coat and fight with dirty old men for knickers...
Publish date:


It's 1973. There is an oil crisis in the Middle East. The IRA are blowing up anything and everything. Richard Reid the shoe bomber is unfortunately being born and J. R. R. Tolkien has unfortunately just died. There is a secondary banking crisis that causes negative equity in the housing market and the UK has finally admitted to being within 30 miles of the near continent and has joined the European community.  A new value added tax has been stuck to everything, the Conservatives are in power and Sunderland only go and beat Leeds 1-0 in the FA Cup final. Sort of sounds a bit familiar doesn't it.

It was during these series of events that I tripped and fell on a feisty and now angry stripper on a chilly and crisp November afternoon just off Soho Square in the West End of London...

After being called something clearly physically impossible to do by myself, I offered to carry her heavy bag as an apology. She accepted and pushed me into the club shouting at me to hurry the fuck up, I passed the big fat Greek doorman and followed her down the red-lit stairs. "Look after my bag" I was instructed with a long red finger nail pointing within an inch of my eye. She also warned me not to move. So I didn't...

Another reason I didn't move was because I was in the second row of a smoky and dark sparsely attended strip club watching a brightly lit stripper do what strippers do. As I hadn't seen many naked woman in the flesh, this became an instant highlight of the previous four days.

My next surprise was Cathy. A brunette, pale skinned and curvy, full lips with the reddest of lipstick, was now wearing a blonde afro wig and on stage taking her clothes off to the now iconic song Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed.  That song still stops me in my tracks at whatever I'm doing. I remember her perfectly arched back and fine arse moving and gyrating to it.

I felt compelled to make myself useful for the privilege of watching her unbelievably perfect bottom and picked up the knickers and basque thrown to the side near the front of the small stage and I put them in her bag.  Within minutes Cathy the stripper now minus the wig, was marching towards me on the way out of the door. She grabbed the bag I was holding and sped off past me, I followed her out, willing my hard on to go away.

She watched me collect her outfit and gave me fifty pence, thanked me and rushed off.  I ran after her and asked were she was off to next. She was already speed walking to another strip club 100 yards up the street, one of about fifteen or so she would perform in rotation most nights.

So the deal was done. Cathy often called me a cheeky little bastard, but I got £2 a night from her and in turn saved her money buying new outfits because either the top or the bottoms were nicked during a performance by the other girls or snatched away by paying punters wanting souvenirs. I was a goalkeeper of knickers, the comedic fighter of old men to rescue a bra. I even ended up on my arse on one occasion with two old men fighting it out over her black satin knickers. I say ‘old’, anyone over thirty would’ve been old to my 14-year-old self. One fight even stopped the show and Cathy and three other strippers on the stage were wetting themselves at the tug of war I was having with her now stretched and torn frillies.

I'd like to think she regales her exploits to her grown up children today.  Maybe, she tells the tale of a young man who she once paid to pick up her knickers. Maybe, she has never ever told a living soul of her life as a stripper. Maybe...

Why was seeing naked women the highlight of the days before I fell over Cathy? Apart from the bleedin' heterosexual obvious, I was going ‘home’ every night to the bits of cardboard I stashed away to sleep in.  I was homeless. A runaway. I slept with one eye and a two-inch penknife open in my oft-shivering young fist.

The £2 a night deal with Cathy kept me fed on a breakfast, lunch and dinner from Wimpy's and bought me a warmer coat, she probably saved my life from the heroin oblivion that I was offered by gay pimps and some of my fellow street sleepers. In fact she never knew I slept on a cardboard mattress near Centre Point underneath the warm air ducts that kept me in a constant state of damp...


A Day In The Life of Bart Simpson Aged 33

Holidays In The Slum

Less than ten years later I was running some of the more exclusive menswear boutiques of the day in the west end of London. I was dressing a multitude of major and minor celebrities, minor royalty and had Esq. printed on my business cards. Everyday, on my way to work, I passed some of the doorways I had slept in and strip clubs I had frequented. My own shop doorway had its homeless sleepers, I kicked them out and got rid of their cardboard, and I didn't give them a second thought. Ever.

During my time as a perfectly dressed, groomed and manicured twat I even masked my cockney accent with something more agreeable for my clientele. Now of course, I am full of eternal contrition and until now have never really told of it in any great detail.  I have had some amazing careers in my life, adapting and reinventing myself as required, and I think those days on the streets and now my life as a Taxi Driver and budding writer are as close to the real me as I'm ever likely to get.

I am also aware that I'm only ever a pound away from being homeless. We all are...