The Shy Boston Brahmin Paints The Town BlueSunday, December 07, 2008
In May 1983 I read in the Vancouver Sun that there was going to be a stripper convention, the Golden G-Strings, in Las Vegas" in June and that Vancouver, famous for athletically inclined ecdysiasts ), was going to be represented. I knew that I had to find a way of going to Las Vegas. It was far easier than I thought. I called Western Airlines (it existed then and it flew Vancouver/Las Vegas. I told the PR department that Maclean's was sending me to the convention. They told me I would have a ticket waiting the day the convention started. I called the Province and talked to the Sunday Magazine (in those days it appeared on Saturday) editor and told him that Maclean's was sending me to Las Vegas. "$1000 for story and picture," he told me.
Armed with the Province assignment I called Maclean's and told them I was going for the Province. "One thousand for short blurb and pictures." I flew to Las Vegas first class (the first time in my life) and when I arrived at the Sahara, the convention hotel, I was given $15 per day journalist rate.
In three days I took almost one thousand photographs. On the first morning I photographed the strippers who were registering. There were loud ones, fat ones, thin ones coming from all parts of North America. I greeted the Vancouverites. There was one elegant but quiet and shy woman in a white dress sitting in a sofa. I snapped a few pictures of her. During the convention I noticed that she was shunned and she kept to herself.
I will not write here how it was that I became a judge and sat with fellow judges, burlesque legend Tempest Storm on one side and a Las Vegas mafioso packing heat in his shoulder holster on the other. On the last afternoon I approached the shy stripper and asked her why she kept to herself. The moment she opened her mouth I knew why.
She sounded like President John Kennedy dressed in drag. She had that Boston Brahmin accent. "The other girls think I am stuck up, but I am just shy," she told me. She added, "I haven't had much of a good time."
I have long forgotten her name but I had a proposal for her. "How would you like to walk on the strip with me and have a strawberry daiquiri at each major hotel? " She smiled and said, "Yes, wait a bit while I change."
She appeared a few minutes later dressed in electric blue tights, a skimpy top and high pumps of the same colour. As we walked on the strip we heard all kinds of tire screeches, brakes. Many cars stopped to yell at us perhaps blaming us for their near accidents. I felt like a million dollars and could not believe my good fortune. On the way I managed to take a few pictures. They are not very good as the daiquiris began to take their toll. Sitting at the hotel bars we watched the attendants slip large fresh strawberries into the blender. We would have rejected anything artificial. I explained to her how the drink, properly spelled and capitalized as Daiquirí was the name of a beach near Santiago, Cuba. I wanted to say Cuba so that she would repeat it with that Kenneydyesque r at the end! I told her how the drink (without strawberries) had been a fave of both Kennedy and Hemingway.
We returned to the hotel in a taxi. At the lobby she thanked me for the evening. I felt like a boy scout who had done his duty. She said, "I really had a good time."
I never saw her again.
A couple of months later, the evening of August 31 I was in bed alone. I was depressed. It was my birthday and Rosemary had gone to New Dublin, Ontario to visit her parents. I called up a few of my friends. They weren't home. For years I have hated my birthday so I don't tell anybody about it. Since they don't know they don't wish me a happy birthday. By the time I called my friend Ian Bateson I was so low in spirits that I sang to his answering machine, "Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me..." I went down to the kitchen knowing I would find fresh strawberries in the fridge. I made myself a blender-full daiquiri, and in one of the few times in my life I almost drank myself into oblivion. I was almost levitating on the bed (it felt like that) feeling no pain thinking of luscious blondes in electric blue tights. I heard a noise at the front door, "Happy birthday, Alex, I decided to fly home early because I did not want you to be alone." When she noticed in what state I was she became angry and I was instantly sober and guilty.