When I awoke that morning I never imagined I would be spending the afternoon watching “Bob the Builder” videos in a brothel with my girlfriend and a midget Ian Botham look-alike waiting to get laid.
The male showers on our landing were out of order. An Australian guy with a badly-fitting chin was brushing his teeth at one of the sinks. He gave me directions to another washroom through a lethal cloud of Sensodyne and spittle. It seemed I had to go downstairs. This posed somewhat of a dilemma. I was dressed only in my underwear and The “Miracle Travel Towel” that was draped nonchalantly over my shoulder was too small to wrap around even my modest girth. Unfortunately Beth had locked the door to our room and taken the key with her into the female shower cubicles. Rather than standing around shivering in my fraying, grubby Y fronts or embarking upon some Carry On style farce to retrieve the room key, I decided to try my luck on the ground floor.
Although the hostel was only small, the stinging minty paste in my eyes had disorientated me and I staggered blindly along its corridors scattering neatly folded piles of laundry in all directions like an underdressed Mr Magoo. After scraping the last of the plaque removal agent off my iris I found myself stood in the small reception area, several pillow cases wrapped around my feet like oversized clown shoes. A surly teenage girl checking her e-mails directed me to the other end of the passageway and through the back room. The back room turned out to be a lounge complete with pool table, TV, armchairs and six blank faces staring at me as I padded through in my pants.
The ceiling had collapsed in the shower leaving an ugly gaping hole into the darkness above my head. Someone had rather ingeniously fashioned a makeshift loofer from the plaster flakes, pubic hair and toenail clippings that had accumulated in the luke-warm water in which I stood. There were still enough raw materials in there to sustain a fairly successful cottage industry.
After scrubbing myself down with what I hoped was a thin slip of soap, though could have been a large foot corn, I realized to my dismay that I had left “The Miracle Travel Towel” on top of the computer screen in the reception area. And so after pulling my soaking arse back into my undies I took a deep breath and strode confidently out into the lounge. Unfortunately two people had started playing pool by this point. I had to stand there dripping whilst an overweight lad wearing a “Makin’ Bacon” t-shirt, depicting pigs in various positions of the Karma Sutra, tried to pull off a particularly tricky cannon into the middle pocket. He missed the shot by some margin and scowled at me as I squeezed my wet pants past him and around the table.
It was another twelve hours until our train was due to carry us across the vast Nullarbor Plain to Adelaide. As Beth and I took our breakfast on the forecourt of a gas station with a “Subway” sandwich shop attached to it, a badly photocopied flyer advertising “Brothel Tours” fluttered between the petrol pumps, coming to rest between the slats of our picnic table.
“Well that’s this afternoon sorted, “ declared Beth with a triumphant smile.
We had a few hours to kill so I bought a copy of “The Australian” from a newsagents on Hannan Street. The shop boasted more gun, crossbow and other weaponry magazines than I ever imagined existed. The knife section alone carried “Blade”, “Knife Enthusiast” and “Australia’s Knife Quarterly” with its “Edge-itorial” about the “Big Apple Blade Show”. Its subtitle, “The best quarterly for Australia’s knife-minded” suggested somewhat alarmingly that there was in fact a whole range of quarterly knife journals to choose from.
The town of Kalgoorlie, stranded out here in the middle of the outback, felt like exactly the kind of place that would attract white right wing survival nuts. The terrorist strikes in the US probably brought a welcome feeling of relief and self-justification to those who two years ago had locked themselves in underground bunkers with decades worth of food, ammunition and subscriptions to “Australia’s Knife Quarterly” as they waited for the Millennium Bug to bring civilization crashing to its knees. Although saying that, most of the locals I had met here so far had been perfectly charming.
I was nervous about our impending tour of Langtrees brothel. I had convinced myself that the whole set up was some elaborate ruse to steal our money, passports and possessions. In my darker moments I envisioned a sophisticated trap delievering us into the hairy palms of an antipodean vice ring looking to peddle our asses in some S and M dungeon. Beth tried to put me at ease by dismissing my fears as those of “a big fucking pansy”. After lunch I tried once more to convey to her the indignities of being sodomized in a rubber gimp outfit, but there was no changing her mind. When 3’ o clock came I found myself turning down the infamous Hay Street. It seemed a strange location for a red light district. There was “O’Brien’s Windscreens”, “The Tile Centre” and then three brothels. It was as if people were thinking,
“I know, I’ll go to Hay Street, I can see about replacing that chipped glass, purchase some more grout and if I’ve got time, get some hand relief.”
After knocking three times as the flyer instructed, the door of Langtrees 181 opened automatically, taking us into a pleasant well-lit reception room decked out with large plants and expensive-looking chairs. There was a second even more solid set of doors in front of us, and a small booth to our right in which a pretty young woman sat perched on a stool reading a DIY magazine.
“Are you here for the tour?”
I nodded awkwardly but remained standing perfectly still in the centre of the room. Beth took me by the hand and walked us up to the booth.
“We’re here for the tour, yes,” she smiled in reply.
“That’ll be twenty-five dollars each please. Would you like me to take your coats and things?”
“No, “ I snapped instantly, clutching the straps of my backpack tightly as if it were the last parachute onboard a doomed aircraft.
Beth looked at me, shaking her head slightly before handing the girl her bag and coat. After we coughed up the fifty dollars, the receptionist gave us an id sticker each and buzzed open the two sturdy wooden doors. This led us into a much larger, darker room.
“Help yourself to a hot drink and some biscuits, “ she offered as she put away Beth’s things.
Whilst waiting for our teas to brew I took a look around. Once my eyes had become accustomed to the gloom I noticed antique chaise-longues, ornate faint chairs, impossibly long sofas and deep leather armchairs. There was a full size snooker table, tall dignified cheese plants standing around patiently like butlers and a western saloon style old piano in the corner. The walls were completely covered in sports memorabilia, signed cricket bats, old photographs, rugby jerseys, etc. It was like some absurdly opulent turn-of-the-last-century London gentleman’s club. You could almost taste the lick of swilled vintage brandies, smell the sweet flames of pipe tobacco and hear the whispered spilling of sensitive state secrets.
“Good day, “ I jumped backwards with shock when he stepped out from behind the snooker table.
He was tiny, his proud moustache barely reaching the immaculately smooth green baize.
“Hello, “ I replied, unable to think of anything more imaginative.
The man stuck out his hand and I shook it carefully, not altogether confident with midget etiquette. I had nothing to fear however, the man had a firm and yet at the same time, somehow relaxed grip.
“You’re tall aren’t you? How tall are you?”
“Six foot six,” I replied automatically.
This exchange has, for the past ten years or so, been at number one in my list of most frequent and frustrating dialogues with strangers. Also up there is,
“So what part of Germany are you from?”
“I’m not, I’m from Stockport.”
“Can you tell me where the [……….] are please?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t work here.”
And yet I felt I could allow this particular gentlemen the benefit of the doubt. Much the same way that black rappers used to call each other “nigger”, size references are restricted to those who possess some defining physical characteristic of their own. Being the same height as a snooker table drops someone comfortably into this category.
“So what part of Germany are you from?” he continued.
“I’m not, I’m from Stockport.”
“Stockport? Where’s that?”
“You know, Stockport, second largest brick built structure in Europe. Fred Perry was born there. The guy who plays Frasier Crane’s dad in the sitcom “Frasier” owns a house there.”
“No sorry, I’ve never heard of it.”
(Sighing)”It’s near Manchester.”
“Oh Manchester, yes, Bobby Charlton, George Best, David Beckham!”
“That’s the one.”
Just then a door opened somewhere near the western saloon style piano and a short raven-haired woman stepped through.
“Good afternoon everyone, my name is Rita and I’ll be your guide. If you’d like to give me your names.”
“Hiya, I’m Jim,” I replied.
“And I’m Trevor. “
Only after he’d stepped into the light did I notice Trevor’s uncanny resemblance to a mid-1980’s Ian Botham.
“If you could all make sure you’re wearing your id badges, “ continued Rita, “then we’ll begin.”
I peeled the back off the sticker and stuck it to my chest. It had a caricature of a busty madam on it holding a dildo up to her mouth like a microphone. Besides this it said,
“Langtrees 181- I’ve been, I’ve seen the knockers.”
Rita’s talk on the history of prostitution in Kalgoorlie was fascinating. It was a tragic story of entertainers tricked over from France, Japanese Geishas run out of town during the Second World War and Australian widows forced into brothels after losing their husbands down the mines. Apparently it was the English prostitutes who gave the profession a bad reputation. With tales of their excessive drinking and drug taking, Rita painted a terrible picture, much like an episode of “Ibizan Club Reps Uncovered” or the like.
Rita’s constant reminder of man’s inhumanity to woman seemed a curious strategy for selling the services of a brothel. With me and Beth, Rita concentrated on promoting the couple’s rooms. One of them boasted a real convertible white Cadillac with a bed inside it. The car “responded” when a couple reached their crescendo. To prove this feature worked, Rita asked me to emulate climax. My reluctant groan could have been the final muffled gasp of a dieing man’s last breath.
“You can do better than that,” Rita encouraged. “Put some feeling into it.”
My second attempt was more like an embarrassed ghost out on his first haunting.
“Come on Jim!“ burst Trevor with sudden animation. “Think of the best fuck of your life!”
“Now then Trevor!” chastened Rita quickly.” We don’t use the ‘f’ word in here.”
Trevor stepped back into the corner and stared down at his feet looking suitably ashamed of himself.
“Why don’t you try barking like a dog,” Rita continued. “That ought to do it.”
I looked at Beth desperately for some support but she just smiled back sweetly at me, clearly enjoying every second of my discomfort.
“Yeah, go on big boy,” she suggested, ”growl. You like doing that don’t you?”
I gave her a look that I hoped would strike fear into her heart, but she just started giggling. Trevor looked up again and began winking at me excitedly. Sitting in a Cadillac inside a brothel barking in simulated sexual ecstasy as my girlfriend and a miniature Ian Botham look on is a scene that has haunted my dreams for some time since.
“woof,” I started, painfully self-consciously, “woof, woof! WOOF! WOOF!”
And with that the car suddenly burst into life. The horn sounded loudly to the same tune as Bo and Luke Duke’s General Lee, the wipers squeaked shrilly across one of O’Brien’s windscreens and all the lights began to flash simultaneously.
“Hurray!” everyone cheered, including myself.
The second couple’s room was the “Afghan Room”, a dedication to the Afghan men and women who had helped bring the materials needed to build Kalgoorlie on camels across the merciless outback. The walls were decorated with desert motifs, but, and I think this was said without irony, they were thinking of painting a “Where’s Wally?” style scene in there. Nobody laughed when I suggested they might instead paint a “Where’s Bin Laden?” style scene in there complete with mountains, cave systems and decimated villages. The Afghan Room was full of state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, not to track down the errant son of a Saudi builder, but to allow adventurous couples to make and star in their own erotic movies.
There were at least five other themed rooms at Langtrees including a French Room, a Japanese Room, a Roman Orgy Room (because Australian miners apparently like having sex in front of their mates), a Sports Room (complete with boxing ring, punch bag, basketball hoop and Desmond Lilley’s signed gag about “length”) and the most popular room of all, the Mining Room. This room was dark and dingy, lit only by flickering oil-burning lanterns. The trembling dusty shadows were filled with shovels, wheelbarrows and piles of coal. Two enormous mirrors had been placed facing each other on opposite walls. The top and sides of each mirror were framed with thick, uneven wooden beams. The infinity effect created the illusion of looking along a mineshaft, complete with wooden pit props.
No expense had been spared on the rooms. Any one of them would have been a particularly pleasurable place to enjoy sexual intercourse. Rita’s commentary was consistently interesting and entertaining, even when her apparent obsession with the mechanics of the massage showers began to sideline her somewhat. If you ever visit Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, a trip to Langtrees in any capacity is a must.
The tour ended after Rita played us a CD by two Australian comediennes about how the dusty miners of Kalgoorlie come to Langtrees to empty their heavy sacks. After showing us around the brothel and describing in graphic detail the most perverted and depraved requests of various anonymous clients, I thought it was a nice touch when Rita warned us that the humour was “a little bit blue” and hoped we wouldn’t be offended. Like a dentist during an x-ray, Rita left the room whilst the CD played in case repeated exposure to these small doses of audio immorality eventually took their toll. Trevor thought it was hilarious and laughed with almost violent enthusiasm throughout. He later bought two copies from the gift shop after the tour had finished. The shop also sold dildos, fetish shoes, chocolate nobs etc. My favourite items were the signed postcards of some of Langtrees most popular girls, including the impossibly large-chested “Kerosene Kate”. ($420 for two hours if you’re interested.)
“Can you tell me where the adult baby costumes are please?” asked an elderly gentleman who appeared suddenly from behind a display of portable synthetic vaginas.
“I’m sorry I don’t work here, “ I replied, walking quickly away.
After whispering something to Rita, Trevor tried to surreptitiously sneak back through the door beside the old piano. Unfortunately he stumbled over a shadow, colliding with one of the enormous cheese plants and sending it crashing to the floor. His half-hearted attempts to scrape some of the soil back into the bowl saw Rita’s impatience got the better of her.
“Just wait over there, I’ll see to that, “ she snapped.
With his head bowed in crimson shame, Trevor shuffled over to the seat behind the snooker table, sat down and promptly disappeared from view.
After collecting Beth’s things we made our way back to the front door, where we discovered to our dismay that it was pouring with rain.
“Have you got nowhere to go?” asked Rita from behind us.
“No,” replied Beth,” we’ve checked out of our hostel and our train doesn’t leave until tonight.”
“Well why don’t you wait here and watch a video until the rain stops? You can help yourself to as much tea and biscuits as you want.”
And so it was that I found myself sat there in the luxurious lounge of a Kalgoorlie brothel having tea and biscuits and watching Bob the Builder videos on a sixty-inch screen with my girlfriend and a midget Ian Botham look-alike waiting to get laid.