That Tramp May Be A Lady
By Rosemary Grayson
The pavement was wet. It was hideously cold through the thin silk dress. My shoulders become slowly soaked, and then the skirt clung round my thighs. That new bouffant hair was intact. Nothing came through for a few seconds time to glimpse legs, trousers and high heels marching along in the sulpherous yellow street lamp light. I was at ground zero.
A metallic slam of the Embassy Club’s security door marked the evening’s end. Manchester, the UK’s second city, is a live wire metropolis without London’s terrifying drawbacks. What Manchester thinks today, London thinks tomorrow, proud Mancunians boast. It’s an extended family. With a China Town, a flourishing red light district and a swelling organized crime wave, in the early 70’s the city was set for a big future.
Yet I despised Manchester’s pseudo familial chumminess. Such chumminess was the problem. My landlady had taken pity on the prospect home alone for me that evening. My petty thief, drug dealing, guitar playing boy friend was a million miles from wowing them in some appalling working men’s club. Still it helped pay the rent minus the booze bill and pot for the evening.
Maureen was a homely woman, in looks and demeanor. Perhaps that was essentially the secret of her success as a madam. The girls looked to her for so much more than just their work place. And vitally the clients adored her. She was touchingly concerned about the disabled son of one. He was perhaps the UK’s top comedian at the time. Oh, and such a celebrated family man, too.
Twenty five years later in Barbados, at a party thrown by a multimillionaire gay TV impresario friend of our family, we finally met. He was sincerely concerned I had just been widowed. I had no heart to mention mutual friends. Though yet to burst on to an unsuspecting public both sides of the pond in 1994, back in 1970, Whalley Range, Manchester at a call girl establishment, nestled the Spice Girls in prototype. Maureen’s corporate mission statement was: Give them what they want, what they really, really want.
Ground floor and first floor were vaguely look alike Scary, Sporty and Ginger Spice. But next floor was Baby Spice to the life. Blonde hair in bunches, soft toys, lisp the full Monty; she hit the spot. Top floor was the star, our own wannabe Posh Spice. Modeled on Shirley McLaine as Irma La Douce in the film, she too came with the green tights and poodle.
I and a chap called Steve were on the marketing side. He lived in the basement. I shared a comfortable little second floor flat with my musician boyfriend, whom later I had arrested and imprisoned for domestic violence. In my defense, he was 6.4 and weighed 240 lbs.
Steve’s marketing expertise was based on his whizz kiddery with electrics. His specialty was electric guitars and sound systems. It was the flowering of the working man’s clubs in Manchester. So the place sprouted a hellish harvest of miserable piss poor and useless guitar players with even more piss poor equipment. My boyfriend was one such.
So Steve had a unique selling proposition. Musicians could choose to relax in any one of five rooms on site for while you wait repairs. He made our introductions to Maureen. She needed a more snazzy front than poor little Steve, who incidentally was also the only rubber fetishist I have ever knowingly encountered.
I was a rising corporate star. What better for the police to see me marching out daily and early with briefcase and white shirt? Even more Kosher, I was happy to chat to the local police sergeant about my work. Since he was often there, enjoying post prandial chess with Maureen, our conversations over many a lazy late afternoon tea, were happy and relaxed.
So imagine Maureen’s horror and embarrassment when I was physically ejected from the club, where she had so proudly introduced me that evening. It had all snowballed. Maureen tempted me out after a couple glasses of wine at home. I warned her that I didn’t drink. Predictably I fell for the ‘what’s the harm’ argument. Steve, Maureen her mink and I then swept off to the Embassy Club. It was below street level, so we took an elevator, manned by a couple of friendly heavies.
At the entrance desk, trouble started. They refused to allow Steve in. He was wearing a polo necked shirt and perforce had no tie. I weighed in with words to the effect: “What in this latrine?” I hung onto the gate of the elevator stretched horizontal by the heavies shouting, “I write for a national newspaper, you know!” But outside, I was laughing from my prone pavement position more so I could rant, “I’ve been thrown out of better joints than this,” than from the fast fading effects of the wine.
Maureen’s parting shot effortlessly topped mine. Clacking in her stilettos passed me, still lolling on the wet flag stones, she hissed: And I fort yer wuz a bloody lidy.