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Mattress Actress

When I started out selling sex in Queensland at the tender age of fifteen, I wanted to be an actress. I’d done a twelve-month acting course and belonged to a talent agency but I had no idea what a mattress actress was or how to be one. I was talented at being young, blonde and attractive, plus I had big boobs. I didn’t know you had to work for your money. I didn’t know about tricks or anything about the business of acting to please men in bed.

But I was a fast learner and pretty soon knew everything needed to make every client happy.

I eventually became more than a prostitute; I became a professional sex worker. I moved to the high-end parlours and agencies; I ran my own business and travelled the world selling my craft to politicians, businessmen, rock stars, professional sportsmen and rulers of small countries.

What does selling sex mean? In reality, a sex worker is someone who doesn’t just sell sex, it’s someone who sells fantasy. My job was to work out what this client was doing in my house and on my bed. Only about forty per cent of the men I saw were just there for the sex. The other sixty per cent needed ego stroking—they needed a compliment, affection and someone to talk to. My job was to figure out what it was they were craving so they’d return every other week with another wad of cash.

I constantly had to keep my wits about me to protect myself. You want them to fall in love with the fantasy but not in love with you. That can be dangerous. When I was young, I used to think how great it was that these men were in love with me. With the wisdom that comes with experience, I realised they were in love with the fantasy.

One heart-breaking incident taught me a lot. I fell madly in love with a guy who was smitten with me; he took me out to dinner and away on holidays. Later I found out he knew nothing about the real me, nor was he interested in my dreams and aspirations. He was in love with the nympho who gave him sex on demand; who always pandered to his ego with compliments; who always gave him what he wanted; who was always clean and healthy. The real me with a runny nose or a period—no, no, no—he wasn’t interested in that.

I learnt the lesson that clients are never going to be in love with the real you; it’s the Madonna–Whore complex: every guy wants to marry a saint but they want to fuck a nympho. They will never take you seriously because you sell sex. They love the idea of being with you, but to get to know you—forget it.

A woman who sells sex must understand that even though a client may think he’s in love, she knows it’s his fantasy; that way she never has to give away her real self because he won’t take it seriously and he is never going to remember whatever she tells him about herself out of the context of her work. He doesn’t want to know that—all he wants to know is that she’s available on Tuesday at two o’clock.

A professional knows that the best business is repeat business. And the best way to get that business is to know what to say and what not to say—even if it kills you! If he tells me he’s an engineer, I tell him that’s really fascinating and ask him to tell me all about it. Maybe he’s looking for a bit of a laugh. If they’re fat you tell them they’ve got lovely eyes. If they go to the trouble of waxing their chest, you compliment them on their great physique. You never tell a man he has bad breath or ask him to use a deodorant even though every fibre of your being is suffering under his armpit. A girlfriend or wife might tell them they stink or are crap lovers but a professional is not paid to be honest. That’s why clients come back.

Put a condom on a man with quite a large dick and after three minutes he says he can’t feel a thing and you’re not making him come. The usual response when you tell him that the condom is too tight will be that you’re just blowing smoke up his arse because he’s got a big dick. You say, ‘Mate, I’ve already got your money, I don’t need to lie to you; the condom is acting like a tourniquet. So let’s just do it between the boobs with no condom.’

Someone less professional—a hooker, as I’d call them—would tell him if he can’t come, that’s his problem: ‘Time’s up, now fuck off.’

You’re a mattress actress. You never say what you think, you say what they want to hear. You give Oscar-winning performances. If a guy said you looked like you were enjoying yourself, you’d say, ‘Yes!’ What else could you say?

Clients came in all shapes and sizes, but mostly they are married men. Being single is certainly no barrier to pursuing the company of sex workers. They are the single clients who choose to be single; often they may be bitter and burned or simply in a career that is not conducive to a healthy relationship. Finally there is the small percentage of clients who could never get a free shag—the guys with disabilities or social anxieties. Everybody deserves a stroke on the back and a bit of a cuddle, which was what most of my clients were chasing anyway.

There were the girls who worked to feed a drug habit but a professional worker had an accountant; give him a freebie once a year and he’d sort your tax out. Often you work on a barter system so you never had to pay for anything; you had a client who sold cars, a client who was a chemist, a client who was a butcher, a computer technician, lawyer, furniture manufacturer, restaurateurs, sometimes even artists.

It sounds like a cliché, but the pandering to men’s whims and the mindset of obeying a man’s command needed to be a sex worker often comes about from years of pre-adolescent training. I was five foot six with double-D boobs on a size six figure by the age of ten. I looked like a grown woman. I had a knack of arousing males of all ages. It had been also drummed into me at home that my future was to be a good wife and look after my husband. My science teacher echoed my parents’ beliefs by telling me ‘with your looks and figure you will never need to work a day in your life outside the bedroom’.

After enduring two violent sexual attacks before I was twelve, I realised if a guy wanted to have sex with you, it was easier to just give it to him; if you didn’t, he’d take it anyway and hurt you. This experience reinforced my parents’ training to do as I was told. I was afraid of men. All the men I knew hurt me or let me down in some way. Even those meant to protect me—police and school teachers—failed to do so. So I learnt that all men were potential predators to be feared and revered.

Social grooming was an essential part of growing up in my family; etiquette, posture and conversation skills were more important than good grades. At fifteen I didn’t know my own value, all I knew was that I was fuckable. I knew I was good at pleasing men, and in my brain, this was the summation of my self-worth. It seemed to be the one commodity everybody wanted from me and the one thing I excelled at.

It wasn’t until I started working in top-end places when I was about seventeen and met girls who were a few years older that I learnt I had the power to say no to men. I could even have an opinion. Previously I’d thought my job was to be a starfish: lie there and take it. I didn’t know I could have a spine until I began to grow one.

Then, when I was working in a well-known brothel in Sydney, I realised the real power and value I had. I was the girl every guy wanted. I had massive boobs; I was tiny, blonde and looked very young, barely legal. From that moment I started to question my worthlessness. I was not worthless, I was highly sought after and had massive earning capacity. I began to empower myself—even though my power was based around my sexuality. But my value wasn’t just about the sex, it was about my appearance; it was the kindness with which I treated my clients, which made them come back for more. I used to think that these men were supporting me and then I realised that I was really supporting myself. I didn’t deserve to be treated like shit. I could say no; I could draw a line. I had something of value that people wanted. It was a big moment in time for me.

Chapter 7


After working in the restaurant one afternoon, I went to an interview at Felicity’s, which was the top brothel in Australia at the time. I was so nervous, worrying whether I’d meet their standards. Would I be too short? Too stocky? But more importantly too young?

I was seventeen, so I thought I was pretty safe on that note.

From the outside the building was so normal; you could imagine Mr and Mrs Solicitor living there with their three-year-old son. But from the moment the door opened you knew you had the right house. A woman in her mid-thirties greeted me, introducing herself as Louise. She looked like a supermodel. She was tall and impeccably made-up, and wore a suit that would look quite at home at the stock exchange, but she somehow made it look seductive.

It truly felt like a job interview. The questions were flying thick and fast and I got the impression that I was not doing well. She came across like a real hard arse. After about half an hour she left the room. Five minutes later a very slight, swarthy man came in. His name he said was Gino. He was softly spoken and easy to communicate with. He informed me that if I wanted the job it was mine and as soon as I had a medical certificate I could start. He briefly went over the rules, then with all sincerity said if I ever needed to talk to anybody to call him, and handed me a card. I was surprised to read ‘Building Contractor’ on it.

Louise gave me instructions on how to get my medical certificate. She also gave me my roster and asked me what name I wanted to use. She pulled out a book of baby names.

‘Now, we ask that you select a name that begins with the same letter as your first name so that if you ever slip up it can quickly be corrected.’

I opened the book and turned to the As. I asked her if I could be Amy.

‘No we just had an Amy leave and I don’t want clients confusing her with you.’

Apparently they had about thirty girls working there and you weren’t allowed to duplicate their working names or their real names in case loved ones called – it didn’t always work that way but at least the thought was there.

Gino said, ‘She looks like a Kate to me!’

I was not asked what I thought; Louise just commenced writing in Kate to the roster. So Kate I was. Louise was a stickler for rules, and this broke one of the big rules as far as she was concerned, but Gino’s word was not to be challenged. You could almost see the clench marks on her lip from her containing her instincts to argue the point, but she remained schtum.

I went to the STD clinic at a hospital in Randwick for my medical certificate. The clinic was clearly marked so even I couldn’t miss it. As I turned the corner following the red arrows, I found a long row of chairs and a book with a pen tied to it. I stood there for the longest time not sure what to do. A plump and very motherly nurse finally appeared.

‘Just pop your name in the book, sweetie, and the doctor will see you soon.’

Which name? I wrote ‘Kate’ and took a seat beside two ladies having a conversation about their children. I waited for a break in their conversation then politely asked how long had they been waiting.

‘Today’s fairly busy so it should only take twenty minutes,’ said a statuesque brunette.

I was a little taken aback by her response; she made this place sound like a laundromat that she used weekly.

‘I’m Amber and this is Chantelle, with a “C”. What’s your name?’

I sort of figured that Amber and Chantelle weren’t their real names, so I responded with Kate.

‘Is that your real name?’ asked Amber. Before I could answer, she said, ‘Because you know you don’t have to give them your real name don’t you?’

How did she know I was a working girl? Was it that transparent?

‘No, I gave them my working name,’ I said.

The clinic was government funded and the only people who frequented it were people in the sex industry. The classy agencies made it a mandatory condition of work. Places in the Cross didn’t care if you had diseases.

My name was called twenty minutes later and reluctantly I entered the room. Inside I found a middle-aged doctor and the same lovely nurse still wearing a welcoming smile. I felt dirty and cheap being there and I assumed they were judging me harshly for my choice of careers.

‘So what are we calling ourselves? Ah, here we are, Kate, that’s a sweet name for a sweet girl.’

How could he be so jovial, locked in this little room looking at pros’ vaginas all day? He did an internal and took a heap of swabs, he explained they had to test for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, hepatitis A, B and C, and syphilis. In addition to all of that he would have to take some blood for an AIDS test. The seriousness of the hazards of my occupation was starting to dawn on me. The doctor must have seen the look in my eye because he came and put his hand on my arm to reassure me it was all routine.

He explained that as long as I was careful, it was unlikely that I would contract anything. Most positive results arise from girls being too trusting of casual sex and their partners. He said that I should be proud of myself for being so cautious, and that most of the working girls he knew were more hygienic than your average woman. I’m sure he was just bolstering my ego, but it did make me feel better. I went and took my place back in the bleak hallway; ten minutes later the nurse came out, handed me a slip of paper and instructions for my next visit. I glanced at it and left, only to return thirty seconds later.

‘Is this date right, am I supposed to return every two weeks and go through this disgusting, intrusive procedure every time?’

‘Yes, honey, it goes with the territory.’

Deflated, I left.

That evening I fronted up to work ten minutes early and Louise greeted me. She took me into what’s called the ladies’ lounge. That’s where the girls put their feet up, watched TV, eat, smoked or just gossiped. Adjoining the lounge was the dressing room. I noticed there was no curtain or door between the two rooms. I later found out it was so that the management could scrutinise the girls while they were dressing. They were always waging war against drugs. Mind you, this day I did resemble a pincushion, thanks to the Randwick clinic, as we called it.

Louise told me to put my bag in the locker in the ladies’ lounge and get dressed. While I did that, she sat and explained the rules to me.

‘Don’t talk to the other girls. Don’t wear black. You must buy a new dress every fortnight, and bring it in for inspection before wearing it. Don’t socialise with the other girls outside of work. Hand in all tips. Do not exchange personal details with clients, this includes accepting business cards. No drinking unless your client is partaking. No personal calls in or out during working hours. No leaving in the middle of a shift, for any reason. Refusal of a client must be based on medical reasons, for example he has warts or VD. The only other reason you can refuse a client is if you know him, like he’s your brother or so forth.’

I thought if I just watched TV and fucked I should stay out of trouble.

We went on a tour of the place. It covered at least four other three-storey terraces. There was a bar room that adjoined the office and a formal lounge that extended the length of two terraces but had concertina screens separating the rooms if need be. Also on ground level were four small TV rooms that played hardcore videos all day. Louise explained that one of the receptionists always answered the door and brought the client into room one, if that was busy he would go to room two and so on. If all four rooms were taken he would be escorted to the main lounge. If we were still filling up, the screen would be pulled across and the second lounge could be used. If everything was full, gentlemen could sit in the bar and be offered a drink. Louise didn’t like the place getting this busy but it often did. Some evenings you could find ten to twelve men sitting in the bar.

There were also three spa rooms. Each had a bar, a shower, a large spa, and a plastic-covered double bed that would have looked more at home on a boat. Each room was decorated a different colour, so they were distinguished as the blue room, the pink room or the peach room.

The office was also on the ground floor, right beside the front entrance. It was a small room but very detailed. There were twenty buzzers on the wall, all linked to one of the fifteen rooms upstairs or the spa rooms or the ladies’ lounge, the laundry or the dressing room. There was a specific knock to gain entrance to the office. The desk inside took up most of the room. Behind the desk was a lady who would have been about fifty. She never said a word but had a brain on her like a computer. She was in charge of buzzing the girls ten minutes before their appointment was up to remind them to wind it down, then again at the correct time. I tested her so many times; she was always right on time. Another lady collected the money and did up the pay at the end of each shift. As there were always two shifts a day, there were two managers, two pay ladies and two ladies in charge of the buzzers on any given week. Then there were always two gofers who made drinks, tidied, or stood in the ladies’ lounge inspecting, handbags, make-up and hair. It was also the gofer’s job to inform us of who the client had chosen.

Louise explained the drill to me and I knew that if a girl deviated from Louise’s rules it would be instant grounds for dismissal. I listened intently, all the while wondering if this ice-queen routine was a put on in order to gain our respect and obedience or if in fact she really was like this, even in the quiet of her own home. I also considered that maybe once she got to know me she might chill a bit, realise that I was honest, hard working and not drug dependent at all.

Louise told me I should arrive promptly for every shift, get dressed and wait in the ladies’ lounge for inspection and announcements. The girls all walked together to meet the first client of the evening. We’d stand in a semicircle and introduce ourselves: ‘Hello, my name is Kate.’ When everyone had clearly said her name, we’d leave and go back to the ladies’ lounge. The receptionist would then call on the girl the client requested.

‘Some clients will make their decision directly, if that’s the case take a seat beside him, but don’t speak to him until the last girl has left the room. Ask him whether he cares for a spa—this of course will cost him extra—according to his decision take him to the appropriate room. There, ask him how long he would like to stay, take the money from him, and ask if he wouldn’t mind being inspected first. If you find anything out of the ordinary, come downstairs and we’ll have one of the available girls give a second opinion. If everything is in order bring the money downstairs, and tell us your name, your room number and how much.

‘At your first buzz, say nothing but OK, any other response will lead us to believe you are in trouble. At the end of every job shower, touch up your make-up and show your client out. Let us know you are in the lounge and wait for further directions.

‘At the end of the night you will be called in to the office to receive your pay. You are given fifty per cent of everything you earn and tips are all yours, but don’t let us catch you with money in your condom purse. If you own your own car you can leave on your own, if not, a taxi will be called in your work name. When that arrives you may leave.’

I wanted to pinch myself – surely I had fallen asleep and woken up in an episode of Mission: Impossible.

‘Are we clear on everything?’ Louise asked. ‘Good, then let’s get to work.’ She ushered me into the ladies’ lounge, where about fifteen of the most beautiful women I had ever seen were sitting. ‘Ladies, this is Kate, you all look lovely, have a good night, now, go to rooms one and two. Sue, your regular is in the bar.’ And with that, Louise left. Talk about being thrown in head first!

Like cows going for a milking we made our way downstairs. I tried to remember the names, but there were too many. The funny thing is the names were the same, it was just the faces that varied. In every brothel you go to there will always be a Tiffany, Amber, Storm, Cindy and Bridget.

Thankfully I wasn’t chosen by either of the first clients. That privilege went to Grace, a tall girl who was about nineteen, was almost too thin, and had waist-length fair hair. The gentleman in room two chose Anne. Anne was eighteen, short and stocky but extremely well-endowed.

This gave me time to acquaint myself with the other ladies even though I was under strict instructions not to speak to them.

Finally one girl piped up and said, ‘Welcome.’ Her name was Toni; I later learnt that she used to be named Anthony. But she was stunning and always friendly. ‘Darling, don’t listen to Louise, she’s a ball-busting lesbian who couldn’t cut it as a model because she wouldn’t fuck her way to the top. She’s never actually worked in the sex industry, but by the way she goes on you’d think she invented it.

‘Now, let me tell you the real rules: if you don’t want to fuck someone, just tell management he’s got warts. There’s not a girl here that won’t back you up, and we expect the same of you. You want to take a man’s business card, take it, then put it down your panties or hide it in a tampon box. Even management won’t look there. After work a lot of us get together at Bert’s Bar in Darlinghurst, sometimes it’s just to swap taxis to save on fare. We stick together here, you know what I’m talking about?’

A wave of relief came over me, I was glad to realise it wasn’t going to be like working in San Quentin.

Roberta the receptionist came in. ‘Paige, Ebony, Kate, Crystal, Jennifer and Sophia go to room one please.’

I didn’t think it was any coincidence that we were all blonde; I knew we were about to confront a wall of tourists. I was right. There were four men waiting, smoking and speaking Japanese. For some reason Asian tourists always went to brothels in packs. I knew I’d get picked; I was the youngest, I had the largest breasts and big green eyes—I was definitely gone, it was just a matter of to whom.

Our bread and butter were clients on holiday from Asia—and they particularly liked me, seeing as I was blonde and busty. You had to be particularly wary of these well-to-do high society men, as they had an aversion to condoms and a tendency to rip them off when a girl wasn’t looking.

Japanese custom dictated that the most senior man got his pick first, then down the pecking order you went. The discussion went on while we just stood there politely smiling. Then in perfect English, they asked something totally inappropriate like, ‘Are they your real breasts?’ Or ‘can you turn around please,’ or ‘Do you shave your twat?’

* * *

On average I took home about $700 a night, so within three weeks I’d earned enough to get a copy of a birth certificate, a Medicare card, and a hot tip about a guy who rented apartments without a lease, just cash in hand. Armed with documentation proving I was indeed who I said I was I went to secure my own abode.

To my great disappointment, he didn’t ask for any identification, just showed me the apartment. I said yes, handed him $480 bond and $240 rent for two weeks. With my cash burning a hole in his pocket, he handed me a key, then turned on his heel and left. I bought a house full of furniture in one day and had it delivered the next. My apartment was located in the swanky suburb of Neutral Bay. All the women working with me advised that I should have chosen an apartment in Bondi, ‘after all that’s where all the respectable pros live, sweetie’.

Unlike most of my fellow employees, I’d decided to go cheap. My apartment was a one-bedroom renovator’s dream. Before I moved in I had to paint every wall to cover all the stains. It consisted of a kitchen roughly the size of a shoe box, a large lounge room and a bedroom with an ensuite. Even though it was humble it was home to me and I loved every inch of it.

I only did four shifts a week because I was still dancing and choreographing, but that was plenty. I resigned from the bar-n-grill, but stayed on good terms with the management. They even got my dancers in on various occasions. Most of my money was being wasted, but at the time I thought they were all necessary expenses. After all, I was seventeen and earning over $2500 per week. Groceries, taxis, rent and utilities came to no more than $300 per week, so what was I doing with the rest?

Shopping became a daily event; I would go to the mall with the previous night’s wages and come home with loose change. There always seemed to be something else I needed: cutlery, linen, kitchen appliances, a TV, a video recorder; the list was never ending.

Friends were trying to encourage me to save, but I was almost possessed by a need for things. I felt that I would only have to purchase these belongings once. I wanted a comfortable home that was filled with my own things, and no one could ever take them away from me. I simply wanted to know I had something to come home to.

After every spending spree, I’d say, ‘Well now, I think that should do for a while.’ But the next day I found myself back at the mall. I’ve heard psychologists say that deep down working girls hate their job, and therefore want to rid themselves of the profits. Personally I think that’s a crock of shit, I think most of us have been used and abused, ripped off, and have been financially limited for so long, that when we get a few dollars in our hot little hands, we want to treat ourselves to a few of life’s luxuries.

The dark cloud had definitely lifted and I felt safe, secure, healthy and independent. So I decided it was time to welcome my brothers and father to my home and give Mum my number and address. It turned out Dad was very forgiving, he embraced me, complimented me on my home, called me beautiful but refused to talk about the past, in particular, acknowledge any wrongdoing. Dad never asked questions about my occupation, but I’m pretty sure he knew what I was up to. I just couldn’t bring myself to admit it.