Monday, August 25, 2008
Memoirs of a Failed Geisha
The Smartini Girls (www.smartinibar.blogspot.com) are currently offering brief, truthful book reviews for your pleasure. Which is my segway into today's post-Memoirs of a Geisha being a Book Club standard and all.
I didn't just read that book...I lived it.
In 1985 I worked at a desk job that paid $225 a week. My portion of the rent of the one bedroom apartment I shared with three other people (one of whom slept in the closet) was only $200.00 a month. Back then I basically lived on packs of Marlboro Lights and Diet Coke, so this should have worked out for me financially. But I had EXTRAVAGANT HABITS. I craved spandex jeans with zippers at the ankles... I had to have the blue Tina Turner wig that Cher made us all believe we could wear in public. I drank White Russians & Long Island Ice Teas at clubs like The Pyramid and Tunnel and danced to Roxy Music. I spent a lot of my time going to the bathroom in pairs. In short: my glamorous lifestyle needed some funding--so I began to search for my own version of Money For Nothing.
I found an ad in The Village Voice that sought "Hostesses" from 9-1 am, and paid $80.00 a night. And I thought "WOW-that must be some successful restaurant to pay that kind of buckage to escort a few people to their table!" I called the number listed, and a woman with a thick Japanese accent told me to come by that same night--her only formal instructions being to "dwess pwetty."
And I had JUST THE OUTFIT. I had been dying to wear the neon green strapless dress with the ruffled skirt and chunky beads. Especially because it came with a matching scrunchie!! I hairsprayed my bangs til they sang hallelujah to the ceiling. I put on some makeup and was out the door.
I thought it odd at first that the address was four stories up in a building in midtown, but as I entered through a blue velvet curtain and my eyes adjusted to the lighting created by the spinning silver ball, it appeared to be a nice nightclub. The first thing that struck me as odd, however,--is that it was filled with men. I mean, IT WAS RAINING MEN. Small, thin, Japanese men in shiny grey and blue suits, smoking cigarettes and sipping amber colored liquids. Music could be heard in the background: Marcone played the Mambo.
The female owner of the club met me at the door and looked me up and down. She nodded approvingly at my dress and asked me to "turn around." Now back then, I had a fabulous ass. Had I known what would happen to it later, I would have taken that thing out more. Back then, it was a reasonable size and much like an apple on steroids, and apparently it landed me the job, because after telling me to smile more, the lady owner led me to a group of couches and told me "You Stawt Now. You Be Nice. You Get Paid."
I sat on the couches with about ten other young girls of various sizes and shapes and shades of blonde. The majority of them looked like backup singers on Madonna's Lucky Star video...all black lace and pleather. None of them made eye contact with me. I tried not to stare at the girl directly across from me, who had a Smurf tattoo on her wrist and kept compulsively reapplying a rootbeer flavored Bonniebell lipgloss.
I sat quietly for about forty five minutes. In that time, no one spoke, but occasionally a Japanese man would come up to the group and beckon to one of the ladies. The girl would smile, and leave to follow him. Sometimes two girls would leave the couch area together. My view of what happened next was obscured by the blue velvet curtains that ringed the club, and I began to have an odd nervous feeling in my stomach. I longed for the comfort of my own home, where my pink Carebear was waiting up for me.
Finally I turned to the girl beside me who wore fingerless lace gloves and a studded dog collar around her neck. "What exactly is it we are expected to do here?" I asked. "I mean.. are we waiting for training on serving cocktails, or what?"
She threw her head back and laughed, exposing the wad of gum at the back of her mouth. The nervous feeling grew. Just then, a small, round Japanese man appeared beside the couches. He inclined his head towards her and then included me in the gesture. The girl beside me took my elbow and we followed the man to a curtained area.
"Just do whatever he wants" She hissed in my ear as we sat down at a low table with four other men talking in excited tones to each other. She reached for the silver lighter in the middle of the table and lit the little man's cigarette. She indicated I should pour drinks for the table from the crystal decanter within arms reach. The Japanese man beside me turned to me and said something softly into me ear.
"What?"" I said, nervously adjusting my scrunchie bow.
He leaned close to me and repeated himself. It sounded like he was saying Love Bawoom.
"What?" I asked again, starting to slowly stand up. He grabbed me by my wrist and began to repeat himself more admantly:
"Love Bawoon! Love Bawoon! You Do Love Bawoon For Me Now!"
I tried to slip past him but he stood to meet me. His arms encircled my waist and he pulled me from behind the table, pratically growling now.. "Love Bawoon, Love Bawoon, You Do Love Bawoon."
He led me then, to a spotlight and microphone in the middle of the club. He went quickly through some papers and thrust something at me. Gingerly I took the white sheet of paper, and realized it was the words to "99 Luftballoons." Turning to my right, I realized he had fired up the karaoke machine and all eyes were on me.
Which is the point I walked out. Because really...I will do a lot of things for money, but sing in public is not one of them.