An evening with The Coin-Operated Girl

Eeeeeep! Christ, that was crazy! Did I really just do that? It feels slightly odd that I did, but now I have a hangover and a car full of props so something must have happened..

It’s a little strange to think I actually managed to pull off a show. But I did. And here’s the story of how.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away..

Or ‘Liverpool’ as it was known, I was on tour and having the usual wine & whine with the lovely Ruby. It was quiet, we’d just had our umpteenth timewaster, and had spent the day squashing jelly, trifles, and chocolate bunnies under our feet for some ‘kinky’ videos. ‘My god, if people knew what an escort’s life was really like…’ There it was, the phrase we say again and again. Cos it’s true! It’s not what’s often portrayed, it can be many things, but when you’re wiping chocolate off your toes, it’s certainly not the glamourus life it seems.

In my own life, I’d just finished a comedy course. I’d always wanted to do something with what I’d learnt throughout escorting, and had half a mind to do some writing rather than actually performing myself. But the course was an eye-opener! It made me get back on stage, and realise it was a lot easier than I imagined. I was performing again, and it felt great – even though it was 5 minute spots here and there, it was still a way to build my confidence and meet more people in comedy and theatrical circles.

I also learnt that I wasn’t totally shit. I was making people laugh, and getting good reviews and feedback. I joined a group of comedians, and we became The Humour League, and put on sell out shows. For a new group, on a new night, that was unheard of. Practically impossible. And soon, we decided to head to Edinburgh.

But as we were registering for the fringe, I noticed Camden was having it’s own fringe festival. My mind started to tick. What if I did a show, a vague look into escorting. Maybe it could be sketches, a bit of stand-up, something just acting out what was in my head..I know, I’ll put in a couple of applications. One for the group, and one for me, and leave it in the hands of fate.

And it got accepted.

I wasn’t expecting that…

Balls. Now I have to actually do something about it.

No worries, thought I. I’ve got 2 months to go! It’s only an hour, how hard can it be? I’ll get some comedians to be in some sketches, some stand-up, some somminksomminkblahblahblah…ooh! Shiny things!

Yes, I’m easily distracted. Especially when it comes to actually sitting down and doing some work. Not only that, but I’d have to come out to these people. New friends who knew I worked with escorts in a vague capacity, but didn’t know quite how. So that was a conversation I wasn’t looking forward to, and really made me put the whole thing on hiatus until I could grow some balls.

‘Hey guys! How you doing? I’m a prostitute, and here’s a script for some sketches I want you to be in. Byeeeee!’

They’re great people, but it wasn’t something I felt too comfortable doing. Not just yet.

And besides, shit was happening! I’d become the victim of theft (which is fully explained in my stand-up, with help from a ukulele, so I shan’t go into it here. Needless to say it, and the routine I created around it, was taking up a lot of time) Edinburgh became a much bigger project than we thought it would be. Trying to get 12 comedians in one place was like herding kittens. I had a birthday to organise, and a party. Oh, and then I had to fly halfway across the world to L.A, of course.

No worries, thought I, I’ve got 6 weeks to go! I’ll take time out to write whilst I’m on holiday. Sit in a coffee shop with my laptop, and do it like the local writers. But, well, I was in L.A! I was driving the Pacific Coast Highway! There was Venice Beach! Hollywood Boulevard! Malibu! Sea lions! Elephant seals! Cocktails! There was no time for laptops and coffee shops.

No worries, thought I. I’ve still got 4 weeks to go!

I really had just been putting it off. I’d wake up in a cold sweat and start to panic about having nothing more than a few notes scribbled down on the back of napkins and fag packets.  I had to start asking if people would at least be in it, and have ‘The Conversation’. But wait, where did my balls go? I thought they were here a minute ago. Nope, still can’t do it.

And what about advertising? I’d paid the theatre, I needed to sell some tickets or I’ll just end up in debtt, and looking like a dick as I sit in an empty theatre, drinking tequila. By myself.

So I started with that. Writing the show itself could wait. After all, I still had 3 weeks to go!

And I remembered that someone from a girly brain-rot magazine had called me a few months ago, asking for an interview about being a BBW escort. Hmm… let’s see what they think of this little number. So I emailed them, and explained I was an escort who was going into comedy. I made up a few things about the totally non-existent show, and sent it off. Hey presto! It bit. They emailed promptly back, and said they could get it in the issue that was coming out a week before the show. Great! No worries, I’m down with that. Nothing like national coverage to save me from having to flyer outside the theatre for 2 weeks.

But when they called asking for pictures, alarm bells went. ‘Soooo, we’d like pictures of you when you were a kid and then ones of you a bit more glammed up. Oh, and one of you and any boyfriends you might have had’

Now I don’t know about you, but there was no way I was having any childhood pictures associated with a story about escorting. And most definitely no reference, or pictures, of anyone I might have been seeing. Knowing how hammy these magazines can get, I decided that their angle was going to be something I wasn’t going to be happy about. Not at all. But whilst I was on the phone, I noticed I was getting the same questions I would usually get.

The same questions everyone asked me. The things everyone was curious about. And literally, as I was on the phone, I knew what I was going to do! Booom! I even did the uber cheesey ‘Oh, I can’t answer that! You’ll have to see the show to find out.’ with a verbal wink at the end! Oh yes, here it was…hello inspiration.

But what about getting other people on board? I’d done the classic fringe ‘proposal’. i.e  describing my show (in the vaguest terms possible) knowing most of it ‘was going to be written on the train down’*. But I’d promised sketches, and a ‘theatrical comedy’. That meant having to write something. And I tried, I really did. But every time I did a stand-up gig, my biggest feedback would be ‘You’re funny when you’re just being yourself!’. I’d tried characters, and scripts, but I’d get such a bigger reaction from the audience when I was just improvising and mucking about.

So…what about that? What about just doing what everyone wants to hear, as myself? Ok, so it means really exposing myself, but my friends and family are all in the loop, my more newer friends will, well, just have to deal. At the end of the day, I knew they’d be supportive and like everyone else – just curious rather than disgusted. And – quite frankly – it was something that needed to be done. I needed to own this if I wanted to do stand-up more. Fuck, I needed to own it anyway.

Ok, this is fine. I can do this. After all, I still have a week (four days of which I’ll be in Edinburgh, performing a completely different show) to go!

So I gathered my notes, and called Karina.

Now, let me explain about Karina. Karina is a fellow humour leaguer, and also the girl to go to when it comes to sex. She once broke her arm trying to pull a boy. She understands the lengths girls can go to when it comes to sex. She is right on my level. And she’s great at getting stuff to make sense.

When we work on sketches or routines, we workshop them in front of the group. It’s a great way to get more ideas and see where the funny lies. I had become reliant on this method, and whilst we were workshopping stuff for Edinburgh, I still didn’t have the guts to ask them to help me workshop my stuff for Camden. But I had to do it with someone, and Karina was my gal.
So I drove to her house, with my napkins and fag packets, and she was kind enough to let me in and make me a fizzy water in her new sodastream.

‘What happened to your leg?’ (One leg seemed to have eaten her other one)

‘Oh, I think I pulled a tendon when I had a cramp in the night. I might need to go to hospital later. But show me what you’ve got!’

And I did. It was a vague collection of questions and answers. I had 20 minutes and no idea where to go with the rest. We looked at what the sections were, and what could follow each one. She helped me order my thoughts, experiences, and general blabber into a coherent order. I was saved! Oh my god, this could be an actual show! Which is great, considering I still had 6 days to go. We discussed putting sketches in, I called a couple of people, and this was the overall response…

‘I’m in Edinburgh.’

‘I’m in Edinburgh’

‘I’m in Edinburgh’

‘I thought you were in Edinburgh?!’

Yes, my lapse in judgement had cost me. I had forgotten all about the other fringe going on longer than just our short run up there. Fair enough.

But strip it down! Keep it simple, isn’t that what everyone says anyway? More people would mean more explanations. Something I just didn’t have time for. So it became a one-woman show.

Now I knew the direction, I spent the afternoon wildly sending out press releases. I didn’t have any kind of pictures that related to me and the show other than my escorting ones. But, well, fuck it. The shows about that, so why change the pictures? So I sent those out with what was hopefully a catchy story. And it was! Boom, there was a newspaper interviewing me, and their story was a lot nicer than what I imagined lady-brain-rot mags would have been.

Then there was a meet-up night for all the acts involved in the camden fringe, and I went. More out of desperation to see if I was the only one writing it on the train, so to speak. Turns out I was in awesome company. The people were great, and the one-man shows seemed to be very much in my position, but still organised enough to have flyers and posters. The group performers were in the midst of rehearsals and publicity drives! Crikey…rehearsals eh? Yes, I suppose I should do some of that.

So I came home, frantically called my photographer friend and forced him to take my picture there and then. This picture, in fact.

I continued pinning him down until he photoshopped it a bit more after my very explicit description of ‘Errr…can you make it more carnivally? Like, old and stuff. Y’know? Kind of oldey worldey vintage kind of thing?’

I emailed it with a similar description to my friend Rob, who is a copywriter and star trek fan. And therefore awesome. And suddenly, I had a flyer! OMG, it was in writing and everything. I sent it to the printers, express delivery, and got them the day before I had to leave for edinburgh. No time to flyer, but I sent a load to all of the theatres taking part in the fringe, and hoped they would be kind enough to put some in their lobby. I trawled around Camden, and left them in pubs, coffee shops, and unsuspecting nail parlours. I pounded the streets for hours, just grateful I had something solid to show the world that this was going to happen.

I came home knowing what the theme was, the general look and what I wanted to do. The actual words could come later. I spent that evening designing the placards and sending them to printers, ordering foam board and looking for set. I’m not very imaginative, but I’d seen the theatre when I went to drop leaflets off and knew that black box of a stage was going to be too big for just me. It had always needed something, and I wanted that classic boudoir feel.

So I googled like a mad thing. I couldn’t find anything for sale under £200. I only needed a couple of things! So I looked at other avenues for getting furniture – theatrical hire companies! And that’s when I found it…a props store!

Wow, if you’ve never been to a props hire store, I suggest you go and spend a good afternoon in one. As I passed my third elephant head and turned right at the stuffed bear on the shoe shine stall, I knew I had found my spiritual home. Whole rooms dedicated to clocks, or vases, or bad taxidermy. It was – as the youth of today say – banging.

I promptly booked the perfect easel, a solid hat stand, and the cheapest dressing screen. But the date of collection had to be whilst I was in Edinburgh! Argh!! Que begging, pleading phone call to a long suffering friend who kindly agreed to go and pick them up whilst I was away. And take delivery of all the posters, boards, placards, costume bits (that I never ended up using. I’ve learnt I can’t talk and get changed at the same time) and feed my cat whilst I was away. Ya’ll owe him a drink!

And I was off! Listings had been placed in as many places as I could find. Flyers delivered. What looked like a script was being written. So a bit of a bugger that, with 4 days to go, I had to be in Edinburgh.

Now, the Edinburgh fringe is an experience in itself! I was booked for a few others shows and spots other as well as the one we took up their ourselves. Not only that, but everywhere stays open till 5am. And, if you’re having a great run like we were, you want to celebrate.

Karina and I were staying in a youth hostel with the rest of our gang, which meant we could – in theory – just rehearse whenever. In theory.

What it quickly turned into was me running away from everyone and hiding in the kitchen to talk to myself for a couple of hours, before poking my head out and asking Karina if something was funny whilst we both nursed ourselves with coffee and Alcaseltzer.

I think it was.

And then Monday arrived. Monday. Oh, Monday. 13 hours to go.

2am – finish gig, go to bed.

5am – Get woken up by loud Scottish people outside of hostel, wondering where they can go next. Cos 5am just isn’t late enough.

7am – wake up, pack.

8.30am – Catch train to London.

9am – Have first whole run through. In my mind. Man opposite me wonders why I’m staring blankly out the window with my lips moving.

12pm – Our ‘Get-in’ starts (That’s where we bring in our set/costumes/sort out lights etc)
. But no one can get there till..

1pm – Finally arrive at the theatre. Use the lights the other performers are using, but add some red gels in for extra sluttishness. Props arrive, along with a selection of things from my wardrobe and kink cabinet. It looks surprisingly awesome, and 2 weeks of me worrying about how big and blank the stage is are blown out of my mind. Have first full run through.

3pm – kicked out of theatre so other performers can sort their stuff out. Spirit of the Fringe!

3.30pm – begin making placards, including the terribly technical top ten list.Realise I have nothing I need and have to raid Staples for velcro, marker pens, glue and craft knives

7pm – Dinner, bath, make up.

8pm – Meet Karina in theatre. She gives me hugs. All is well for 5 seconds.

8.13pm – I ask Front of House if they know how many tickets have been sold for that night. I’m expecting 6 or 7. 10 would be great! After all, it’s Fringe, not West End. The Olympics are on. Edinburgh Fringe is happening. It’s late on a Monday night.

I have no marketing experience and have been relying mostly on Twitter.

It worked.

We’re 3 seats from a full house!

Panic promptly returns.

8.45pm – The Balcony show finishes, we can get in and start setting up. We have 15 minutes to get set up, dress it, sort out sound, lights, and get changed.

9.05pm – Showtime.

And…. it was brilliant! I don’t mean I was brilliant. I mean the audience were! They were totally with me, laughing, joining in, asking questions, being superb and letting me have great fun with them. All the shows were. We were crammed every night. I was amazed! I thought I’d get 30 people in total. We were getting over that every night.

Nothing went horrendous. The only thing that could have possibly been improved could have been the lack of ‘Tracy’ on the second night -a drunk woman who seemed to think it was interactive and she could have the show for her birthday. I tried to kick her out. The front of house staff tried to kick her out. The audience tried to kick her out! I’m not sure what made her go eventually, it must have been her friends finally seeing sense and stopping the poor cow from embarrassing herself further. When I get the video, I’ll post it. And you’ll see the whole new level of heckling she went to. And that’s why I have ‘Enviable ad lib skills’

Oh yes, I have reviews! All of which I totally agree with when it comes to the confusing format. It was never going to be a ‘theatrical comedy’, I’m afraid. I’m a terrible actress, I’m glad I didn’t try. As would you be if you ever saw it! I’m happier just being myself, having a chat, getting nice and close to you.

After all, I was a damn good escort.

Fringe Review – ‘Kane is at once arresting and engaging, spirited and razor-sharp.’

One stop arts  –  ‘What she is maybe unaware of is just how charming and likeable she is naturally. She doesn’t need to layer her own personality, nor genuinely intriguing stories, with a ‘performance’…..when she relaxes, she becomes a rather beguiling host.’

Camden New Journal – Candid & charmingly told tale of life as an escort. Not perfectly formed but great fun. Stay for the Q&A!

So there it is. From now on, who knows? But it was amazing to meet other WGs and Im so sorry I couldn’t just spend hours talking and chatting to you all! But I’d like to thank everyone so much for coming, and your support. Every RT helped, every blog shout out counted, and every one who came was fantastic!

I’m hoping to sort out taking it to Edinburgh, especially as it’s already causing a bit of a stir up there already!

Yep, still got it 😉

*Before I’d submitted my proposal, I went to the Brighton fringe festival where a comedian started his show by saying ‘Hey! Thanks for coming. So, I wrote this hour show during the 90 minute train down from London yesterday.’ Whether it was true or not, it showed. Anyway, I have now kidnapped that phrase, and will forever associate it with shit shows of a one-person nature.

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One Response to “An evening with The Coin-Operated Girl”

  1. Keith Says:

    Just a ‘congratulations’ on pulling it off, I’d have come myself, but personal circumstances make going out difficult, and well, I’ll skip that bit, but well done, going out to a roomful of people all thinking ‘go on then, entertain us!’ has to be pretty damn tough, and yet, it’d be a worse world if people didn’t try!

    On top of that, I won’t use the cliche that we need more female comedians, but I DO think we need more comedians, especially ones with different viewpoints and backgrounds and, especially with some stories to tell. I wish you the best of luck, and hey, you might even change a few minds out there, about escorts and the job.

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