Glasgpw great thing about towels is their anonymity: without clothes these guys could be anything, tinker, tailor, dustman, bank manager. Everyone uses false ones anyway. The girls favour the frilly and ultra-feminine, or smirk-raising excursions into Bond-girl exotica. The men prefer a bloke-next-doorish cover, so many Johns, then the dummies pay by credit card.
Within these walls, just about everything is called something else: the services on offer, even the place itself. This is no Bacchanalian rite, no intimidating exhibition of priapism.
It could be a youth club pyjama party. Or we would be, if we could agree on the words. And misery? Not at first glance. The punters seem happy enough, sitting there in their dingy togas, basking in all that attention, complete acceptance with no emotional obligation, intimacy without strings.
Strewt girls talk to me and to each other animatedly enough, but one eye is always scanning the room. We chat desultorily. Caroline is telling us how he lost a false nail in the neck of an assailant; he considered sticking the head on him. After a time Penelope and her customer reappear, puffy-faced, eyes unfocused, among us but apart, subject to other gravitational forces.
Taboo or not taboo, that is the question. The prurient indignation perfected by the News of the World has a dwindling constituency. Louie was the man who brought the cotton gusset in from Hong Kong. A sales executive with a major public company in those days, but always something of a ringmaster of sleaze, hiring call-girls to celebrate the clinching of a deal.
There came a time when there were fewer deals to clinch. It started off as a legitimate massage parlour, he insists. Members only, very swish, a home from home for business people up from London and over from the continent. A lot of Chinese too.
That was the late Seventies when there were just two saunas in Glasgow, both sticking to the rules. Then a new place opened and started playing dirty. During the brief golden age of the Glasgow sex boom there were odd massage parlours around the city. Big money. Bosses driving fancy convertibles. Aids and the recession, Louie says.
Promiscuity is past, sex is out of fashion. And there are too many girls on street corners doing it for fifteen quid. Listen to Louie and Strathclyde should be subsidising him as a branch of the social services. They get the lonely, the disfigured, amputees, all manner of deserving cases.
They save a lot of marriages. At least in the massage parlour they practice safe sex. Or she went off him.
Louie pays a high price for all this philanthropy. Massage parlour bosses are a colourful crew. One hangs his washing in the sauna cabin, another used to set wyere girls up for the day with a bible reading. And Louie? Certainly the police seem to be the least of his worries. If customers get over boisterous, as has happened a couple of proxtitutes, the boys in blue arrive promptly, eject the troublemakers, and say their goodnights.
Not that he wants anyone getting the wrong idea. The husbands know, though not all of them admit it. The best masseuses tend to be ex-nurses. Everyone has their own threshold of shock. Some find the very notion of prostitution offensive. But which particular brand of reality does he have in mind? Party time again, and the usual cross-section of pseudonymous Scottish whete.
sfreet Wants to give me his lucky necklace. The electrician arrives in his shop window wig and fetishistic clobber to provide the cabaret and persuades Serena to surrender head and hands to a medieval stocks hijacked from some community centre production of Robin Hood. One by one the men in towels drift away. Eventually the dominatrix tires of the pantomime ows and ouches of his victim. The windows have been painted out and covered with acres of beige gauzy drapes. Sometimes they sit around for hours before a punter darkens the door.
By the s Glasgow publicans prostitktes selling their own blends of Scotch whisky. As late asthe city had fourteen breweries, producing porter, stout, India Pale Ale and lager beer.
Cheap adulterated whisky, known as "kill-the-carter", possessed stupefying and inflammatory properties. Dead drunk individuals were picked up by srreet police and transported to the cells on a handbarrow.
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