Suzie's Travel Tips (Paris-Finland-London)
London . I can now safely attempt to enter the left side of a car without raising the eyebrows of the driver, I am no longer living in a pole studio (ok, that was actually pretty fun) and I need to put on every single item of clothing I have brought with me in order to leave the house.
Suzies travel tips #1 Shopping
If you do not speak the local language approach the male assistant/waiter (always the male), smile broadly and accidentally drop an English word into your sentence Je voudrais un café crème please
Oops, sil vous plait and smile again. At this point the man will usually exclaim ah, English to which you should reply Oui, je suis Australienne (another big smile). Failing this you can always point to what you want and say ca (that). Should you require multiple items, simply sandwich the word et (and) between each ca.
Suzies travel tips #2 Local Language
My biggest job in Paris (apart from a four-hour pole workshop!) was my shoot for VirtuaGirl (no theres no L). Two twelve-hour days of photo shoots and filming in front of a blue screen: on a pole, off a pole, on a table, in front of the table, behind the table in order to secure myself the title of desktop animation (now available for download from virtuagirl.com). I was having a ball (they were letting me pretend I was on an escalator to appear/disappear from behind the table) until lunchtime on the second day when I was stung by un guepe
some kind of badass French wasp. One minute I was sitting eating lunch, the next I was hopping up and down screaming Owowowowowow and clutching at my leg. Now I fully admit I am a sook and a hypochondriac, but this felt like some kind of fiery needle being driven in to my knee. This slowed up production considerably as I was only able to do a couple of minutes at a time, interspersed with a couple of minutes of ice (Im sure theres some hilarious footage of me somewhere doing a sexy pole trick, then howling and running off set in the direction of the freezer). My makeup artist took this opportunity to teach me as many colourful French swear words as possible (determined to do my country proud, she is now able to exclaim wanker in a perfect Australian accent). Three days, lots of hydrocortisone and antihistamines later it stopped hurting.
Suzies travel tips #3 Airport Customs
I loved Finland after Paris, people smiled at me, people talked to me, and when I was on a zebra crossing cars actually stopped for me (as opposed to trying to run me over!). I only had one small crisis upon arrival, I got separated from my pack (ie my fellow flight passengers) as I was distracted by the airport signs and the blatant exoticness of the Finnish language I never thought you could fit that many of the letter k into a single word I accidentally ended up outside the airport, without my bag and without going through customs! Luckily I found my host (by calling her phone and scanning the arrivals hall for a young pole dancer-esque girl whos lips were forming the words I was hearing) who explained me back into the baggage claim area.
Such a relief to be back in the UK! I settle quickly back in to what freakishly resembles my usual life routine in Sydney. I teach pole classes and workshops, do photoshoots and shows. This is either really good "hey, look I can fit in anywhere" or really bad "am I truly making the most of my European adventure?"
My main pole workshop is organised by AJ.
"They're not going to be better than me are they?" I ask nervously.
"No, of course not" he assures me.
I rock up to the class which is being held in a club in Piccadilly. Unlike Australia, there aren't so many dedicated pole schools over here (not like the newly opening "Suzie Q Pole Studio in Parramatta!!!). My three students walk in. One of whom is Elena Gibson.
For those who don't know she is Miss Pole Dance World.
Argh!! Not better that me?!?!? Silently cursing AJ, I begin teaching. Luckily she doesn't have a huge amount of experience on spinning poles and I am able to blag my way through with same fast combos. She is incredible. A classically trained ballet dancer she picks up new moves effortlessly and looks truly beautiful on the pole.
I bump into her again at the "Erotic Awards" a showcase of Britains "best" erotic performers. Although some of the pole dancers and burlesque artists are amazing, some of the acts are so bad they are almost embarrassing to watch.
One male "stripper" who's body resembles a sack of potatoes rather than the requisite washboard abs does absolutely none of his "routine" on (or anywhere near) the beat of the music. For his climax he strips naked and soaps himself up, using his member to flick the suds into the eyes (and dinners) of the audience (the tune of "Everything I Do" by Brian Adams). Its so wrong its
its just really wrong.
Another guy sings a song with a couple of teddy bears stuffed down the front of his pants, while members of the audience are invited to come and rip strips of stickytape off his naked chest. Still don't know what the message behind that one was.
On my way home from this event I receive a phone call from the manager of one of the clubs I've been performing at. She tells me that the next day Channel 5 will be doing some filming for one of their sex programs. My ears perk up, I've become an avid viewer of "Sexcetera" and "Sextastic" (there is little else of interest on at 1am ok?) and I'm thinking "yeah, great publicity"
"It's a segment on female ejaculation" she continues
you're doing whatnow?" Thinking "what the hell could this possibly have to do with me?"
"And the girl who was going to do the deed has her period and has pulled out"
I have a sinking feeling that I know where she is going with this, and I don't like it one little bit.
and we thought might want to do it"
I'm so horrified I can barely speak. She must mistake my silent dismay for quiet contemplation.
"It pays 250 quid"
£250????!? For something that will be around forever??? What if my mother saw it??? There is no way, nor amount of money on God's earth that would ever persuade me to do such a thing. I politely decline, saying I have a prior commitment with some quality cow-viewing in the English countryside. She then asks me to come to an R'n'B club launch on Friday night, I tell her I've already booked tickets to "Lord of the Rings: The Musical". I can hear her disdainful look down the phone line.
What can I say? I'm a nerd through and through.
Myself and Simone spend the next day harassing highland cattle (they have hair the same colour and length as mine, in fact, if I hold my fingers up like little horns you can barely tell us apart), eating lavender ice cream (not as nice as it sounds) and scones and visiting castle ruins. Ari and I visit Greenwich park and entertain the locals with our attempts at acrobalance
and "Lord of the Rings: The Musical" is amazing and completely magical.
I've just got to get through the whole "24 hours in a tin can" thing
and then I'm going to start organising my next trip!!!!
Suzie Q Does Paris (No, Not Like That)
Felt very displaced and lonely when I first arrived, I did all the things that normally make me feel excited and European: visited the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, ate croissants and drank good coffee. Perhaps it was the weather? Whoever went on about "Paris in the Springtime" was way off. Its rainy and cold. To ease the "lost in translation" feeling I decide to start work right away (hey, its me
work is pretty much my solution to everything).
The Pink Paradise (the club I am working at) is amazing. The entrance is a long red velvet hallway with pink leopard print carpet and low lighting, the stage and stairway are made from perspex and lit from within and the handrails are completely covered in diamantes. The girls here are incredibly glamorous. Yes, the girls are glamorous everywhere, but this is a new level of elegance. They are all manicured, pedicured and coiffured to within an inch of their lives. The customers seem more upmarket too. To get into the club is 30, which allows you to stand at the bar. If you want to sit down at a table (quite a reasonable desire) its 250! (about AU$500).
I spend the first two hours of my first shift too petrified to approach anyone because of the language barrier (people could ask me for a dance and I wouldn't even know!). But on that first night most people speak English which is a relief. Later in the week its more like this:
Me: "Vous parlez anglais?" do you speak English
Me: "Au Revoir" (Suzie leaves the table)
Over the week I gradually learn "French for strip clubs" which the staff find hilarious
"Voulez vous un danse? Je suis célibataire"
Would you like a dance. I am single.
And by my last night I manage quite a few conversations entirely in French *very proud*.
As the week continues I find it harder and harder to stay upbeat. Each night finishes at 6am
but I try to get up in the afternoon so I can fit in a little sightseeing before work. Every night the manager springs a new theme on me "oh no, tonight is pink night, you have to wear a hot pink evening dress". Then it's a black evening dress, then a white one. I haven't brought these things with me, so I borrow what I can. As I grow increasingly tired that "French arrogance" becomes more and more apparent
Him: "Ah, you Australian. You surf?"
Me: "Yes" (its ok to bend the truth sometimes)
Him: "No" (guy grabs my stomach) "You too fat"
Me: (wishes she knew how to swear in French)
I did not fulfil my lifelong dream of snogging a Frenchman. I think after a week of working such long hours in a strip club I'm a little bit over men in general. On my last night there was a kind of cute boy who spent ten minutes explaining to me how difficult it must be for me to find a boyfriend and how he could never even consider going out with a girl who did my job
before asking for my phone number.
*sighs and shakes head*
Sharing sleeping pills seems an odd way to bond with someone, but then I am the pharmaceutical queen of sedatives and the cute German boy on the plane next to me was so desperate to nap (incidentally, he awoke a complete Xanax convert).
AJ (the UK’s leading male pole dancer who I met on his Australian tour for those of you who keep asking “who the hell are you staying with?”) met me at the airport. It is always such a relief to have someone you know waiting for you when you get to foreign country. We journeyed out to his place in Bromley (just outside of London, near Kent) after staying in the city on both my previous visits this was a complete breath of fresh air (quite literally). The countryside was beautiful and I bonded with his heavily pregnant girlfriend on a random sunny day when we sat in the backyard, she sunning her bump and me sunning my bottom. Yes I may be Miss Nude Australia but it would appear aeroplanes can make me break out in pimples in the most unlikely places.
My fist show in London is at CandyBar, a lesbian nightclub in Soho. I arrive with an entourage or queer boys (led by the Amazing Ari) who let out a huge cheer of “Soooooozzzziieeeee” whenever I appear onstage. Three shows later it is about 2am and I am dozing up against the wall of the change room (jetlag can be quite a killer). Now, Bromley is too far to travel home to at this hour so the club manager has organised for me to stay with the DJ. The DJ comes in and asks if we can go out for a drink. My eyeballs feel like they are practically breathing and there are heavy bags unde my eyes. I stare at her in incomprehension. Thankfully the “dollars girl” (who sells tipping dollars to the patrons) offers me a room at her house. The other dancer is going back there too, so I figure I’ll be ok. Besides which, by now I am so tired random Soho alleyways are looking appealing.
I wish to god I’d had a tape recorder in the cab on the way to this girls place. I’m pretty sure I will never again hear conversations like (picture this with a thick South-East London accent) “I cooked my girlfriend the best breakfast the other mornin’. I cooked her grapes and yoghurt. I think the thing is see, that when you’re taking loads of recreational drugs, and drinking loads of alcohol it makes such a difference if you eat healthy”.
The house is a three storey terrace in a state of complete disrepair. There are sheets on the windows and graffiti murals in each room. Declining the offer of some MDMA I settle onto a mattress trying not to think too hard about the mysterious stains on the duvet (its England, we don’t call them “doonas” over here). Don’t get me wrong, I am exceedingly grateful to this girl for putting a stranger up in her house, but it was a long way out of my realm of experience.
I catch up with Ari the next day, we sit on his bed and choreograph shows for each other. We eat salads and go for a jog along the canal. Feel more normalised I am able to head back home, only having one more “moment” when the train I’m on goes straight past Byron’s old apartment. It’s a strange feeling, but also kind of positive: new memories in old places and all that.
My last week has been spent down in Adelaide at the Crazy Horse Revue competing in Australia's most prestigious Exotic Dance Pageant: Miss Nude Australia. Add into the usual craziness of a bunch of stressed out strippers competing every night for a week, an ABC film crew trying to produce a thought-provoking documentary and you have guaranteed hilarity and insanity.
The Sydney girls arrive on Sunday afternoon hauling their excess baggage (Trinity has brought along a 1 metre high cat scratching post, I have my lira and feathers are protruding from all corners of everyone's bags). We battle to our respective hotels, grateful to drop everything off before taking a perfunctory tour of Adelaide's town centre. Everything in Adelaide is contained within this kind of kilometre square, which means everything is walking distance. The city itself is fabulous, it has more of the vibe of a big country town than a state capital. The people are a slightly different story, I have never had so many drunk men come up to me in the street and make comments about my breasts/bum/body before in my life.
Monday night we all rock up to club for our initial briefing, everyone's hair has been curled, fake lashes have been added and every exposed inch of skin (well, it is Miss Nude) has been covered in glitter hairspray. I quickly realise that both Ellashaye and Ashlee Adams have both brought Amadeus-style costumes (as have I), looking around I notice there are quite a few double ups: Ice Princesses, Rock 'n' Roll, even two girls have thought to wear mens shirts for their erotic sets. Once the names have been called of who is competing (not me unfortunately... I was all psyched up and ready to go) the negotiations begin: "If I do my ice princess tonight, you can do it Thursday and she can do it Wednesday".
We are all paraded out in our eveningwear then asked to "unrobe" into our swimwear, we parade again, line up so we can be judged for "best legs" and then the 7 girls who have been chosen to compete each perform a three minute "erotic set" followed by their 15 minute feature shows. The two top scorers from tonight will automatically go through to the final on Friday.
This is everyone's goal for the week and the mantra "I just want to make it to Friday" is repeated often and much. At the end of the night all competitors take part in the "nude parade" (one more lap of the stage), by now it is after 1am and the club is getting close to empty. We go home and I collapse, I'm exhausted but less nervous. Its nice to know I am definitely performing the next night.
Tuesday I roll round to Trinity's hotel so Ciara can curl my hair. I stare jealously at Trinity's tiny bag (she competed the night before) I am lugging a massive suitcase and suit bag. We are briefed again by the club owner, he basically reminds us to "bring it" because the top two girls from each night make it through to Friday. I am just delighted to finally be able to get out on stage. My erotic set goes ok, its hard not to grin, I have to keep saying "sexy face" over and over to myself. One of the girls in Sydney put it best "whatever you're doing, do it with an expression on your face like someone is f***ing you and you're loving it" I try to stick to her advice but I love being onstage so much I let a few goofy grins slip in.
For my main show I have drawn 7th (out of 7 girls), which I soon learn means I cannot go last OR FIRST on any other night! The realisation settles over me like a golden glow: I cannot go first! I will not be covered by the "first curse". Last is always a better place to be, the audience has warmed up (and have a few jolts of liquor in them) and so are going to be more vocal in their appreciation. Its a cyclical thing, the more vocal they are, the better your show is, which in turn tends to encourage them to be louder.
My show feels amazing, I have so much fun I actually catch myself singing a few times. Its my first time trying out "naked lira" and it goes really well, the crowd roaring in support (hell, who can't resist a girl taking her knickers off upside down in a hoop).
I spend much of Wednesday wandering in the Botanic Gardens with Martin (the Director of the aforementioned documentary) trying to find some tranquillity (and also the perfect Chai Latte) because I'm starting to feel stressed again: its this not knowing whether or not I'm performing that night. A few minutes later the phone rings: I'm not on. I relax.
On my 'night off' (I still have to do eveningwear, swimwear and a nude parade at the end of the night) I watch a few of the girls perform. The standard is really high. I think I was hoping there would be some dodgy girls here. It didn't really click that in order for them to make it to the finals here in Adelaide they would have to be pretty damn good. To distract myself I attempt to table dance. I approach a table of guys, introduce myself and we have a bit of a chat about what I do. I leave for a while, and ten minutes later I return to their table...
Drunken boy: "Hi there, what's your name?"
Me: "Its Suzie, I just met you a minute ago"
Drunken boy: "So what do you do here?"
Me: "We just had this exact conversation ten minutes ago"
Drunken boy: "So, what's your name"
Me: *gives up in disgust*
Thursday is everyone's last chance to make it into Friday's final. The atmosphere is drawn and tense. Everyone is exhausted. I wasn't even hugely excited to be onstage and it showed... little things started to go wrong: my shoe fell off, I couldn't quite stay upright and kept slipping and stumbling, the poles were very slippery and I couldn't bust out my best moves, someone forgot to turn on the fountain for my bath and I sat there bathing without water for a few minutes. I came offstage and cried, hoping my show on Tuesday had been good enough to get me through.
Friday morning I wake at 10am and without even opening my eyes tap the number for the Crazy Horse into my phone: moment of truth.
"Hi, this is Suzie Q" I croak into my mobile "did I make it?"
"Hang on" says the voice on the other end
Suddenly I am wide awake, blood pounding in my ears
"Yes you did"
"Can I ask who else did?"
I made it! I'm in! I'm so happy and excited. I spend most of the day prepping, patching up places where my spray tan has chipped off and repairing bits of my costume.
At the club I draw 7th again (is this some kind of sign? It is my birthday after all) I power through my show enjoying the vibe from the crowd. They are really into it tonight. So much so that when Destiny does her Snow White theme and holds up her poisoned apple to take a bite several people cry "No! Don't do it!". I bask in their applause and feel content that I did a good show. I am still convinced (as I have been all week) that I can't win this comp because I don't have the right "look" but as the names of third and second are called out I can't help crossing my fingers and start to wish "please say my name". When she does I can't quite believe it. I stand in shock and everyone backstage turns to look at me. I am dumbstruck and hands push me out onto the stage to collect my sash, trophy, tiara and novelty cheque. Even writing this now, several days later, it still seems surreal. Last time I entered this competition was in 2002 and I was so bad I didn't even make I to the nationals. To go back and win the whole thing is incredible. Miss Nude Canada is the next stop for me. Stay tuned!!!