It was the late 80’s and we had been touring Australia. Yes, the Sydney Opera House is impressive enough, and the sunshine can definitely be relied upon. It’s true the people are direct here and personable too, but this place they call ‘down under’ has never really appealed to me. There were some lowlights though. During a meal just in front of this fine Opera House, I spotted the ex-pat boxer Joe Bugner, also eating (what looked like his own body weight in steak) and at the same time signing autographs for adoring ‘forty something’ women. After unsuccessful consecutive fights with Ali and Frasier he had become something of a minor celebrity and had settled down in Sydney. Talking of steak, I can remember accompanying our Sax player to another Sydney meal out. We had seen a pub that, on certain weekdays, boasted a ‘Naughty Lunch’. The only responsible thing to do was to investigate further. Strangely the only option on the menu was steak and chips but in lieu of this and by means of some compensation, all the waitresses were topless. At first this seemed like a novel idea, although when our ‘naughty’ waitress came to our table to order, keeping eye contact, and a straight face was a near impossibility. Looking round the room we seemed thoroughly out of place in our T-shirts and jeans, shoulder to shoulder with suited businessmen grimly pawing the underdressed staff. The food was good enough, but this unlikely combination of pornographic cuisine somehow accelerated our mastication and in a cloud of embarrassment and shame we were soon gone. This ‘poor mans’ America though, would offer us some compensation, as it was customary to continue down to New Zealand after our ‘Ozzie’ schlep.
At the airport the mood would lift, when our tour manager revealed she had managed to get two upgrades to first class. It was a given our singer would take one of them, with the rest of us taking it in turns to feel the benefit. On this particular flight it was my turn to swank it up in first. There was nothing much exceptional about an Air Qantas flight. A four to five hour journey and predictably, steak was on the menu again, (served this time by fully clothed ladies) but in the seat opposite me, spread out like a recumbent gazelle, was none other than John Cleese. Disappointingly though, he slept for most of the journey (I’m not sure what I would have expected him to do if he’d been awake) but I can remember, as the air stewards carried out the safety demonstrations before take off, he burst into uncontrollable laughter when the words “and here is a whistle for attracting attention” were read out. No doubt he might have enjoyed running up and down the plane as Basil Fawlty, whistle in mouth, doing just that.
Safely over the Tasman Sea, we descended smoothly into Kiwi civilization. We had been here before, performing in Auckland and Wellington but this time we would be travelling down to the ‘gateway’ of the South Island to sample the very beautiful Christchurch. Named in honour of ‘Christ Church’ Oxford, and with a river ‘Avon’ running through it, this place had a stately feel, a sense of history with an air of importance. The architecture was grand here and felt more like an Oxbridge College than a city somewhere on the other side of the world.
Not wanting to blow any whistles or attract any undue attention, it has to be said, that from time to time, in, shall we say, more cosmopolitan cities, the services of ‘working’ girls were relied upon by certain entourage members, to provide relief from the stresses and strain of touring life (you understand)
In Christchurch though, this was never going to happen, the gig was only small and after which, a small party was planned in a nearby pub. We would attend out of politeness and then it would be soon to bed, and away nice and early the next morning.
The day we arrived though was our day off, and a couple of the previously mentioned entourage decided to check if this sleepy city might indeed, just be able to provide some ‘love for sale’. As it turned out, we were in the midst of a thriving community of antipodean ‘hookers’, all keen to sample something fresh from the ‘on tour’ larder. Phone calls were made and the hotel was soon awash with the sound of girls ‘working’. We were all surprised that such a prim and proper place should have such a subversive underbelly, but eventually the hotel quietened down and when tomorrow came we would prepare for our first Christchurch gig.
In such far off places it was rare to have a lengthy guest list, indeed nobody in the band or crew had anyone to put on the list that evening, except for me that is. (or so I thought)
I had never met my guests before; they were relatives of my brother in law, five in all, an elderly couple with daughter and husband who, for good measure, had brought along their young teenage daughter. Three generations of respectability, who I would need to meet and greet after the show, in a presumably desolate green room. Not so desolate as it turned out. During some miss spent youth a day earlier, each participating member of the entourage had given their ‘lady of the night’ several back stage passes. (these hookers, it turned out, restricted their friendship group to only people of a similar employ) And so, it dawned on me, as our set drew to a close, that along with one very respectable Christchurch family our green room could now be awash with a multitude of whores. And it was.
As the Grandma remarked that, she’d ‘never seen so many young ladies in one room before, and did I know any of them?’ I prayed to God that nobody would let slip about the after show party.
Once there, I got talking to one of the bar staff, who seemed to know every female in the room. He explained to me that, whilst for most of their week, sex was exchanged for money; the chance to get laid like a normal person, with no money changing hands, presented a huge turn on. Which I suppose would explain the ‘I Claudius’ like orgy that ensued.
The back stage pass has a lot to answer for.
Our sound engineer went on to work extensively with AC/DC and told me that crew members were routinely issued with back stage passes, to give out to pretty girls. This is of course is standard, but some girls were, allegedly, ushered in early and encouraged to have sex during the gig with (specially chosen) crewmembers, under the see-through Perspex catwalk that made part of the staging. The band would be fully entertained whilst churning out songs they could sing in there sleep. This was all in the name of keeping things fresh, as an average AC/DC tour could last up to 2 years and the boys would need some inspiration to see them through. Savvy members of the crew would utilize the high currency of the pass in imaginative ways. Before administering it, they would ask the willing fan to earn it, by administering something else first. Pretty girls, invariably have standards though, and would turn down this ‘tit for tat’ arrangement, thus forcing the crewmember to enlist a groupie of a lower aesthetic quality. (An unwashed rigger, three months into a tour and living on a bus would, to be fair, present a challenge to even the most rugged of groupies) When the band noticed however, that the eye candy had taken a turn for the worse, they changed the system slightly and each pass would have the crewmembers name written on it in indelible ink. A days ‘per diems’ were withheld for any sub standard ‘tottie’ found back stage, and soon the band were back in business.