Can’t Buy Me Love.

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Over the coming years I was to become privy to the eccentricities of a few notable ladies, some with a surprise or two up their sartorially splendid sleeves…

In a fashion house commended for its attentive, one-on-one service, it was somewhat overwhelming when we were faced with numerous customers vying for our attention. My most challenging to date came courtesy of a woman who strutted through the door with an air of majesty, and was very much the mother hen to a clucking dozen of beautiful twenty-somethings that trailed in behind her.

Possessing a presence that overwhelmed, this lady’s polished exterior was considerably rehearsed; her morning’s dressing was done with a well informed consciousness… From her status-bearing Cartier watch and her Chanel initialled earrings, to her Prada pencil dress and the gold Bvlgari band on her ring finger, she was every inch the epitome of an elegant woman of wealth.

Instantly she sashayed towards me, and in a demanding-but-politely-so tone she told me she needed several outfits for her girls; outfits that exuded sexiness but with elegance, that made one appear youthful but accomplished, and that were classy but dangerously so.

The gaggle stood, now silent and hanging on her every word, each one a living version of the girls that graced the pages of the Vogue magazine I was about to thumb through during my lunch break.

As she sifted through outfits and passed them to each appropriate protégé, our upper floor transformed into a scene akin to the backstage dressing area at London Fashion Week; a sea of semi-naked bodies, clad in agent provocateur, hips-a-jutting and making every outfit look a million times what it was worth.

Just an hour and a hefty five figure sum later, having danced circularly within my own head, I had failed to deduce exactly why these girls were being decked out in lavish clothing and I certainly couldn’t fathom what the woman’s relationship with them actually was.

For all the inventive, off the wall scenarios I had fleetingly entertained, the most realistic reasoning I could dream up was that these girls were in fact soon to have their own place on the coveted pages of my fashion magazines, and the matriarch was indeed their agent.

Nevertheless, when I joked to her that surely models were the one envied breed that were excessively showered in complimentary attire, she replied in her plummy, husky voice “darling, I think you and I both know that these ladies are no models, and I am no booker.”

As she and her tribe departed, I couldn’t decide whether to be insulted or flattered when she handed me her business card whispering provocatively in my ear “if any of you ever fancy a change in direction…”.

The card read “Leading London Escort Agency”. Madam she was.

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Bare Faced Cheek.

Confessions9

Just a couple of months of working in SW3 and I had almost settled into the rich comforting cradle of this borough. That said, it was as though the powers that be were aware of my contentment when they decided to prescribe me with a dose of reality, giving me a ruthless reminder of the antics I thought I had left behind in Soho.

In this designer boutique for ladies, once again I was mainly in the company of women, so I was surprised to greet a tall middle-aged man on this particular day.

Hurrying through the door he hastily ventured to our lower floor, one that was softly lit with skylights and favoured amongst the more private customers who wanted the very best in sales attention.

Following the man downstairs I asked if he would like a hand; a turn of phrase I would unquestionably regret just minutes later. At his request to find a dress, I ventured deeper into the basement into our luminously lit stock room, which sat beneath the pavement and the footsteps of the well heeled.

Triumphant in my search I rushed up the stairs, dress in hand, to be greeted by the customer, lingering in the centre of the room, his outfit having seemingly disappeared from sight. The stoic response I had so carefully perfected in Soho scrambled out of the window, as I stood, jaw ajar, staring at the man I’d assumed was lovingly hunting for a gift for his betrothed.

An unfamiliar wail whipped through the room, startling the visitor with its decibels and astounding me when I realised it was emanating from my own throat. As I continued to shriek, I wandered robotically to the changing room, retrieved his clothing, walked upstairs with the pile and hurled it onto the pavement outside. Leaping up the stairs behind me, the visitor hurried outside, bent at the waist, tiptoe prancing and covering himself as though he’d been caught skinny dipping in the Thames during the coldest of Januaries.

As my screaming subsided and I witnessed him cowering on the pavement, I wished for a passer by with an oversized palm to make contact with the cheeks of his bottom, but then again, that probably wouldn’t have been deemed punishment for someone who obviously got his thrills from the most bizarre of acts. He thrust on his socks and scurried along the street, worriedly glancing back as though I could add insult to his injury at any moment. I saw his hand flailing in the air as he drifted… I wonder if he did ever manage to flag down that taxi.

Dragging the Queen.

Confessions7

Saturday mornings were always the most interesting when it came to wandering to work. The daybreak sunshine would cast quite a different light on Soho than the previous evening’s starlight and neon blend, and as I wandered to work I would witness the remnants of debaucherous nights spent getting up to no good.

Besides the usual nocturnal mammals queuing up for coffee and retracing their steps in a bid to find the nearest escape, more often than not I would unearth something a little more eye catching.

My most memorable morning moment came courtesy of a gentleman I shall call Sue, for no male name would be worthy of the feminine spirit and the ladylike attire he was emblazoned with when we first met.

When I approached the doorway of my little girly boutique workplace I noticed something awry. Just like the side bobbing head one witnesses when a film character overtly double-takes, I glanced back and forth several times before I noticed a slender heel sticking out from within the recessed doorway. As I got closer I noticed that one of the previous night’s revellers had decided to give in to his impending coma and slump between the pink framed entrance of my shop, buried in baby like sleep and dressed in an outfit that was definitely deemed x rated.

The Pakistani man from the paper shop opposite smiled at me from his doorway, muttered something about the cesspit of today’s society and its interpretation of fun, and then retreated back inside, helpfully leaving me and the drag queen to settle our differences alone.

After a lifetime of prodding, poking and shoving, this night time reveller definitely wasn’t waking up. Grabbing his stiletto, I pulled. His head slid down the door and curled onto the floor, and across the cobbles we went, an image of sweet and sour, his blonde wig trailing behind him, my pastel chiffon dress getting more creased by the second.

Just as we reached the square of concrete that I had appointed his home for the next few hours, his faux lash adorned eyelids flapped open and his eyeballs danced full circle before focusing on my face.

“Are we in heaven?”

To this day I cannot decide if he was referring to the pearly gates or the nightclub a few doors down.

A Piercing Sight.

Confessions6

By now it had become apparent that many of the bizarre wanderers of Soho were prowling for some sort of thrill. From what I could gather, it was not in their actions that they gained rapture, but in the reaction of those they would play to, which more often than not, was me.

This couldn’t have been demonstrated more so than in my next tale…

It was a glorious sunny day in London, which is such a rarity that I longed to be doing anything other than being slumped inside waiting for customers. Through the sun drenched doorway another eccentric ‘Soho-ian’ graced me with his presence.

Looking like a throw back from the eighties, with a Pat Sharpe mullet and dazzling MC Hammer trousers, he drifted in, instantly looking at odds with this girly dreamland.

To my already pricked ears he told the tale of a looming Rocky Horror Picture Show party; that he was in possession of the obligatory stockings and suspender belt, but that he needed something extra special to ice the cake of his guise.

I pondered on the matter for a second or two, hoping he would realise that our image was the polar opposite to the tranny trash fabulousness of Rocky Horror, but he seemed genuinely enthused. It is a pity I was all too unaware of the real reason for this apparent enthusiasm, for after selecting a sheer chiffon blouse, he had a slight surprise up his sleeve…

Disregarding my initial reluctance I agreed to his trying on of the garment. After all, at our current rate of trade I couldn’t expect a visit from a girl who’d be surprised to see this strange looking man dressed in the blouse she’d had her eye on.

After some time I grew anxious, and it was through gritted teeth that I asked him if he was ok; for I did not want this question to prompt his exit from behind the dressing room curtain. Lo and behold, it did. But instead of the eighties darling in floral chiffon I was expecting, I was confronted with a middle aged man, his curly blonde hair in pigtails, his cheeks rouged, his lips painted, his eyes adorned with fake lashes and his lower half absolutely unclad, the see-through blouse grazing the top of his thighs. The blouse was so see through in fact, that my eyes were consequently violated by the detail of a terribly personal piercing. I believe a Prince Albert is its official name.

As he stood, punch proud with his hands on his hips, belly protruded and groin thrust outwards, I knew this was my very own Horror Show performance.

Extremely careful not to bat a single eyelid, I instead shrugged my shoulders, as though this were an every day occurrence and said “Not very Rock Horror though is it? Maybe for something else though?”

With that I shut the curtain over a very disheartened face.