Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Thonglateer Extraordinaire Chapter 1, Part 3

Eventually, my relationship with Flora waned and we went our separate ways. We had, by that stage, got to know each other on a very intimate level, though with the python always in the room I’d say the sex was good but not great unless you were into wildlife. The end slithered into view once I told her that there was one too many pythons involved in our relationship. She took it as an insult to her pet. I just claimed it was justifiable pride in my body.

Now the years have eased the hurt, I can see that so much of my success is owing to Flora. Without Flora, the stripping phenomenon known as The Thonglateer might not have happened. Flora was the first person to teach me that stripping is an art. Some argue that wiggling your hips and waving your genitals at an audience doesn’t take that much skill. The same people have never tired to make a living out of it or they’d know how easy it is to take an eye out. The physics involved in matching your hip thrusts to the natural swing of your testicles would make Einstein pale. Not that I suggest that Albert ever waved his pipe at an Austrian audience but I think you get my drift, if not my swing.

Stripping isn’t easy, even for a young man born without a single natural inhibition. You might even say it was more so until Flora who taught me that the tease is more important than the nudity. For the rest of my skills, however, I owe a huge debt to the second important person in my professional life.

‘You must have a mentor,’ said Flora after she’d come back off stage one night shortly before we parted forever. She was naked and the glitter of stardust rode the sweat slaloming down the twin inclines of her breasts.

‘I have you, don’t I?’ I said, helping to uncoil the python from her shoulders.

‘I can’t teach you everything,’ she answered as though bothered by my presumption. ‘You need somebody who knows the ins and outs of male dancing. Here,’ she said, thrusting a piece of paper in my hand. ‘Go to him. He’ll teach you everything you need to know.’

The name on the paper was that of Tony ‘One Eye’ Buchanan, one of the old school dancers who had fallen out of fashion with the rise of the techno-strip. Flashing lights, the return of disco beats, and advances in smoke machine technology: they had all led to a new breed of dancer who replaced those who still practised the traditional form of the strip. Men like Buchanan had fallen foul of the new tastes. A man had to have something more than a couple of glittering baubles. I hadn’t heard of him in many years and doubted if he was still alive. I was sure his baubles no longer glittered.

A day later, I said goodbye to Flora at Bangor station and headed south to Cardiff where I intended to find the greatest stripper in living Welsh history, the ‘king of the testicle swing’, Tony ‘One Eye’ Buchannan.

My search didn’t begin well. On a damp, unbecoming morning, I was mugged outside Cardiff station and had my belongings taken from me. I had tried to fight back but it was another hard lesson. Knowing how to strip like a karate master doesn’t mean you can fight like one. Two guys roughed me over, took my notebook full of ideas, as well as three pairs of my best training thongs. It took all of my resolve not to drop my shoulders, walk back into the station, climb on a train, and return to the safety of Flora. But something in my heart had been stirred by the very thought of being taught by a stripping legend. Picking myself up, I checked that I still had my money rolled up in the security thong I always wear on long journeys, and with the scrap of paper still lodged in the deepest corner of my pocket, I set off, walking to the outskirts of a grey and unwelcoming Cardiff.

It took me three hours walking through the rain before I finally reached the house. It was a huge disappointment. Standing on a dingy corner at the edge of the city, the house was more like a mausoleum in a city of crypts. It resembled the home in the TV show ‘The Munsters’. In the wet murk of an afternoon in early Autumn, the house carried foreboding as though it were a mere undercoat to the more overt threats it possessed. I wondered if this was what became of all the great men who personified dying forms of art. Had all the great silent comedians retreated to similar decaying houses in unvisited corners of cities?

A pizza box packed against the gate leaked old cheese and grease over the hinge but did nothing to prevent the yawn of metal as I pushed the gate open. I walked up the overgrown path, my feet sending a brown ale bottle rattled across the concrete before it rode the cushion of lawn’s unmown edge.

The door opened before I reached it.

‘Who are you?’ shot a voice.

I barely recognised him. A grey vest, a body that had grown slack with age and abuse. His six feet six inches were no longer the embodiment of male power. They were a testament to how tall men can sometimes dwindle horizontally. He was stick thin, the flesh nagging his bones like wraps of wet cloth.

‘Are you One Eye?’ I asked.

He looked at me with his bright blue instincts shining bright in the dying light. ‘Nobody had called me that in nearly five years,’ he whispered. His voice recovered with a lean spring to volume. ‘What do you want? I ain’t doing gigs any more, if that’s what you’re after. And I don’t care how many bottles you’re offering me this time. And if you come again, I’ll report you to the RSPCA and tell ’em what you’re wanting me to do to those poor donkeys. I won’t do it again, I tell you. I won’t do it again!’

‘No, no,’ I said, hastening to explain myself. ‘Flora Betteridge sent me. I’m Chip Dale. I want you to teach me to become the best stripper in Wales.’

The figure wavered as he examined me.

‘How old are you, son?’ asked One Eye, finally, his mouth in slack lipped amusement.

‘Seventeen,’ I said. ‘I’ll be eighteen in October and I want to be ready.’

‘Ready?’ he laughed, revealing teeth once perfect but now chipped as though they had been chewing on bottles for too many years. ‘You want to be ready for what?’

‘Ready for the ladies,’ I answered truthfully. ‘I’m going to dance for them on the night of my eighteenth birthday and I want them to know that I’m already the best stripper they’ll ever see.’

The skin on his arms rippled as he laughed.

‘They’re tear you to pieces, son,’ he said and moved to close the door. ’Go on. Clear off and don’t come back wasting my time.’

I stepped forward, full of that indignation that had sent my old career’s teacher to a life in Bangkok brothels. ‘If you won’t teach me,’ I said, ‘I’ll dance on my own. It might take me years and I might make mistakes, but I’m going to learn to dance the old way. And I’m going to become the best stripper in Wales.’

He leaned on his door and sucked air between a gap in his teeth. ‘Sheesh,’ he said. ‘You know I was one considered the best dancer and you have the guts to come to my door and tell me that!’ In a single motion, he pulled a set of dentures from his lower gum and wiped his nose on the back of his hand. He then rubbed the teeth clean on his vest as he inspected me. The teeth returned to his mouth with an audible liquid sigh. ‘You’re too damn cocky to teach.’

‘I can be humble,’ I said. ‘But if you won’t teach me then I’ll…’

He waved down my protests and looked to the street. It had started to rain again and my already wet clothes had begun to repel more moisture.

‘Come on inside,’ he said. ‘If I’m going to interview you, we might as well be comfortable and dry. You like pizza?’

‘I’m watching my weight,’ I said, thinking it a good thing to say.

‘You’re full of the right answers, aren’t you kid?’ said One Eye, closing the door behind me and pushed me on through the house.

‘So, you’ll teach me?’

He stopped and gaze me the eye as though taking my measure. ‘You might have something about you,’ he said and nodded me through to the front room.

The interview was the oddest I’ve ever had in my life. It took place in One Eye’s living room, a museum to the old days of male peelers, as we men of the thong were known in the old days. Bill posters were tagged unevenly on all the walls and over the windows, and various props of the stripper’s trade littered the room. The were workman’s helmets, cowboy outfits, a full set of plumbers tools. A faded Zorro mark was hanging from a mirror frame, and a Red Indian costume was moulting in the corner of the room where it would die now that Rain Dance routines are no longer considered acceptable in the days of the modern Native American.

A full length photograph of One Eye, mid strip, caught my eye, hanging above the fireplace as if providing evidence of what this shambling mess of a man had once been. His hair having thinned and gone grey, One Eye had lost nearly everything that had once made him the dream of every Welsh housewife. Only his eyes remained, those bright blue pools that rarely showed warmth but had convinced so many women that he was the answer to all of their dreams, if only for a night.

‘Sit yourself down, Chip,’ said One Eye, settling himself in a seat in front of a large TV screen. ‘You like The Bill?’

I said that I didn’t own a TV.

‘Best show on the box,’ he said and smiled as though waiting for me to add something. ‘Well, you’re not here to talk D.C. Lions, are you? You want to be a stripper and you want old One Eye to help you. Is that right?’

‘I want you to be my mentor. I want you to teach me everything you know.’

‘And what would I get for doing you this very great service?’

I felt in my thong where I had five hundred pounds. He seemed to misinterpret my gesture.

‘You’ve come to the wrong place if you’re into that sort of thing, my lad,’ he said. ‘I’m always been one for the ladies and nothing else. Not even donkeys, though the money was good and I was a little drunk…’

‘No, no,’ I said, pulling my money from my trousers. It was the only money I had in the world and looked so miserable in the glow of his TV screen. ‘I can pay you, if that’s what you want?’

‘Money?’ he laughed and raised his hand to the room. ‘Why would I want money? I’m happy with everything I’ve got.’

‘Then teach me and prove that you did it right all those years,’ I said, inspired by the room and the posters. ‘If you teach me, I can show the world that there’s still room for men who can dance sexy and don’t need smoke and mirrors to entertain the ladies. I can prove to the world that baby oil and a plumber’s wrench is all that it takes.’

He nodded as I gave my speech and at the end of it he reached down to the side of his chair and brought out a bottle full of clear liquid. He pointed it at his lips, paused as he noticed me watching him, and them casually tossed back a swig of what I later discovered was vodka. He immediately yawned and his eyes began to water.

‘You have to know what I want before I agree to teach you,’ said One Eye his lips pulled tight into a grimace. ‘You understand this isn’t going to be easy? I ain’t no schoolteacher. You live here with me. I work you hard. You learn hard. And then when you’re done learning, you work to pay me back. You work to tidy this place up. Make it look respectable again.’

‘You want me to do your housework?’ I asked, feeling insulted that the skin that I had worked so hard to keep tender, even during my geological days, would be jeopardised by manual labour.

‘If you want to be the best dancer, you’re going to have to work for it. And I’ll be wanting you to fix my plumbing. And any odd jobs. The roof needs repairing and then there’s the drains that need cleaning.’ He laughed as the disgust began to register on my face.

‘You think that’s a bad deal?’

‘It doesn’t sound good,’ I replied.

‘Well if you think that, you got no right to claim to be the best stripper in Wales. How do you think you can strip like a plumber if you’ve never worked as a plumber? You think you can take off your clothes and look like a grocery delivery man if you ain’t delivered groceries? No you can’t. It’s impossible. Not until you’ve gone out and walked the beat can you even begin to pretend to be a real policeman.’ He nodded his head. ‘I’m going to teach you, Chip, and by the end of my training, you’ll have wished you took some easy job working in a bank. You’ll come to hate me but when I’m done with you, you’ll be the best male stripper in Wales or my name ain’t Anthony ‘One Eye’ Buchanan.’

4 comments:

mutleythedog said...

I would like to book you for an event - it is a combined parents Golden wedding and Grandmas funeral.. do you have a suitably sombre performance and how much??

Jep said...

great blogs enjoy reading them jep

Big Chip Dale said...

Mutley, I have a lovely gravediggers waltz routine where I dance with a corpse. Would you grandmother's cadavder be avalable. I could make it all very tasteful.

Jep, I'm so glad you're enjoying it. It does me a lot of good to know that my time and energy is not being wasted. Many many thanks.

Elberry said...

Inspiring.

i've read many a martial arts tale of the young brawler seeking out a master atop a mountain, never thought i'd read the Welsh male stripper version.