THE BLOG

The Tale of a Soho Strip Club Caller

10/10/2014 17:12 BST | Updated 10/12/2014 10:59 GMT

It was Beatrix Potter that finally sent Brian over the edge. Well, off his stool, anyway.

Invoking the spirit of fellow scouser Yosser Hughes, Brian's reaction to the news that I was working on the film Miss Potter consisted of a shout of "Gis a job, I can do that" accompanied by him bouncing up and down in the alleyway outside my front door, attempting to convey to me a convincing impression of a very large, and very pissed, Peter Rabbit.

I don't think the very pissed bit was intentional, but he was, as usual. A regular caller/frontman for the strip club that used to be opposite my flat, Brian could be guaranteed to be absolutely slaughtered from the time he clocked on to the time he clocked off.

Dressed every day in a blazer and slacks, always wearing a tie, Brian managed to convey the impression, at least, that he was "on it" in terms of his job, like a low-level manager of a small family business.

But closer inspection of his rather tatty clothes, as well as his mid-70s bouffant hairdo and moustache, both suspiciously very black for a man of his age, would give anyone doubts about our Brian. Any closer, and they'd pass out from the smell of booze on his breath, if not the Grecian 2000 on his hair.

He was, however, a very funny man. Quite how he ended up working for a strip club in London when he quite clearly had a family still in Liverpool was never adequately explained - or rather, the explanations were bewilderingly different every time, all delivered with the driest of scouse wit.

But one constant with him was his love of movies, and desire to be involved in them.

Many was the day when I would pass Brian on his stool outside the club entrance, only to see him launch immediately into his "visual interpretation" of the galley scene from Ben-Hur. Rocking back and forth on his stool, feigning distress, he'd look at me pleadingly and wonderfully misquote Charlton Heston - "Why won't you unchain me!" he'd yell after me, rattling his imaginary bonds, as I found myself walking quite a bit faster than usual in the opposite direction.

Brian, you see, was a film buff (and a classicist, to boot - always Ray Milland and Burt Lancaster among his references, never anyone as vulgar as George Clooney or Bruce Willis.) His dream was to be a film extra. And so I was assailed every day with brief visual snapshots of his potential range.

Man In Background of Saloon Bar? A nonchalant slouch on his stool to convey that he had one arm on the bar, the other hand occupied by an invisible pint and his ever present ciggie. Startled Onlooker At A Violent Crime? One hand to his mouth, eyes popping out of his head, hand pointing at some imaginary outrage. Man In Background Of A Nightclub? That one looked suspiciously like the first example I listed, though Brian would swear he had an invisible cocktail in his hand, not a pint of beer.

But Brian's apogee was his Peter Rabbit. If the bouncing up and down the alleyway wasn't disturbing enough, the twitching nose and upper lip pulled back to reveal his teeth was the absolute stuff of nightmares; way more Donnie Darko than Beatrix Potter.

The Maltese Porno Boy who runs the strip club two doors down always treated Brian warily. MPB's default setting is an extremely sunny disposition. Even when complaining about diminishing business and his council rates, MPB does so with a huge smile. But the site of Brian on his stool would make that smile recede, if not vanish entirely, and there was always a look of concern in his eyes about what our Local Scouser might do at any time.

As his Peter Rabbit display proved, "unpredictable" was a word inexorably associated with Brian. But "relentless" would also apply. Things had almost reached the point where I was going to get him onto one of my sets for the day, just to keep him quiet for a bit, when he simply - vanished.

His appearance had been just as mysterious. Up to that point, only female callers had been outside this club. Then one day, there was Brian. True, it was around the time that a girl outside a hostess bar on nearby Archer Street had been tragically stabbed to death by an angry punter, who'd returned with a knife after being ripped off for hundreds of pounds in hostess fees and dealcoholised booze.

So, presumably for security reasons, a drunk male scouser seemed a safer bet to a neighbouring club.

But when I asked why he'd gone, I was met with a lot of evasive answers. It seems likely that his prodigious daily intake of whisky had much to do with it, but there were also mutterings of an assault on either a punter or one of the girls in the club.

Shortly after that, the entire place shut down. It was briefly revived with a glossier exterior, and the two male Polish bouncers built from shit-brickhouse plans who I wrote about in an earlier blog. But without Brian, it was never quite the same anyway.

Now we await the day it will be turned into yet another Thai massage parlour, the only business model that seems able to skirt around Westminster's ban on new licenses for premises where sexually-orientated activity might take place (not that anyone, of course, would accuse Soho Thai massage joints of offering Happy Endings to their overwhelmingly male clientele.)

I still feel bad I didn't get Brian into something like CORIOLANUS as a minor Tribune. Paying for his accommodation and flight to Serbia would at least have given me the pleasure of seeing him, not so much lurking, as passionately over-acting in the background of any scene he might have been in. My dodgy little alleyway is a poorer place for his absence - at least on a thespian level.