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“Under the Covers”

“Under the Covers”

The Weekend West – December 8, 2012

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Helen Crompton meets a Perth woman who used to be a prostitute and finds a compelling new book that could become a film.

She has gone by various names: Summer, Kate, Cleo and Eve. While her latest name is also not her real name, Annika happens to be a reallife
millionaire with prestigious properties in Perth who holds a master’s degree in science and a law degree. Today she’s a happily married mum and author of her first book, Mattress Actress, about her 18 years as a sex worker.

It wasn’t easy getting into print: a local publisher turned down Annika’s true-life story with the words: “I’m sorry, no one is interested in reading about the life of a harlot.”

“I hadn’t heard that word for 20 years,” Annika said. “It was so dismissive, but more to the point, it was so wrong.”

Undeterred, the proud single mother of a daughter who she put through one of Perth’s top schools, self-published the book. She has just been informed Mattress Actress has been granted a 2000 first print run while gaining the thumbs up for distribution by Dennis Jones & Associates in mainstream bookstores as well as the Target chain.

There’s yet more. Annika is negotiating film rights to her life story via the Harry M. Miller Group, which expanded into film and TV projects three years ago. She says that more than one A-list actress has shown interest in playing the part of Eve, aka Cleo, aka Kate. She fancies being played by Melissa George, the WA-grown actress who has received awards and critical claim in Hollywood for television roles in In Treatment and Hunted, and in Australia for ABC TV’s The Slap.

“Melissa George would be perfect as me — just the right mix of sex and innocence. I am so bloody excited. I’m celebrating with champagne,” a triumphant Annika said. Ex-harlot, perhaps. But this is a woman with smarts way above street level.

Mattress Actress is currently a candid e-book of 55 chapters relating the author’s childhood when her family travelled the globe and the children (Annika plus three brothers) enjoyed the type of privilege that came with nannies attached. It was, she says in the first chapter titled How To Make A Prostitute, a Norman Rockwell painting until the family returned to Australia. She was seven.

Though from a wealthy background, when her father settled them in Queensland, money became tight. It was the late 1970s and times still dictated you keep up appearances, and social pressure plus parental dysfunction saw alarming cracks appear in the family facade. Soon her mother was ignoring her husband’s constant infidelities and violence, placing her faith instead in new ageism a la Shirley MacLaine.

“She gave all her money away to Jesus and waited for the mother ship to land to take her to the next world,” says Annika, explaining how a first-generation Australian, the daughter of a Danish heiress, went from riches to poverty-stricken delusion.

Groomed from a tender age to be a martini-bearing, spouse-pleasing Stepford wife, Annika suffered two life-altering attacks, the first aged 11. Incredibly her parents blamed Annika (as did two male policemen who interviewed her), citing she used the fact she had developed early into a woman’s body to seduce men.

Later, when she stepped in to defend her mother in a beating administered by her father, he jumped on her chest and throttled her. Regaining consciousness in hospital no one raised questions about how she came by her serious injuries.

Thrown out of home on a number of occasions, she left home permanently aged 14. She had nothing but her youth and beauty — and her brains. As she
turned 15 she responded to a personal advertisement in the local paper in Maroochydore, a busy hub on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

“At 15 I didn’t know my own value,” she said. “All I knew was that I pleased men and was wanted by them and in my brain this was the summation of my self-worth.”

Annika began her sex work in a low-rent brothel. She discovered she wasn’t the youngest worker selling her body for money but she did learn quickly that to make a decent living she had to move higher up the sex industry’s ladder.

Two years later she was plying her trade at Tiffany’s, an upmarket Sydney brothel where she tripled her earnings.

“Tiffany’s had an entirely different clientele to what I was used to,” she writes. “Generally they were wealthy men, bankers, doctors, lawyers, engineers or investors. But the average guy still made up 30 per cent of the patrons. Most of the clients were happy to have French sex, massage and a brief whinge about their wife or job.”

Years later she commanded $3000 a day in Singapore as a top-class escort for world leaders, businessmen and rock stars. She wasn’t starstruck. Previously she had “escourted” an Australian Federal Opposition leader.

“But my value wasn’t just about sex, it was about my appearance — it was about the kindness with which I treated my clients which made them come back for more,” she says. Annika’s best working years were in Perth. Moving to WA in the early 1990s to escape her family, she knew Perth was enjoying wealth from the resources industry.

“Miners are renowned for having a high income equalled only by their sex drive. I also learnt that Perth had much cheaper housing than the Gold Coast. I had a client phone half a dozen personal ads from The West Australian he’d stolen from the Qantas Club lounge to find out the going rate in Perth
for a sex worker. I had arranged to have an ad appear in The West Australian . . . and from the moment I got off the plane my phone started ringing.”

Mattress Actress is compelling reading. While it is peppered with “he was a true gentleman” and “we got down to business”, the real-life revelations of prostitutes, addicts and the impact of the two-year Fitzgerald inquiry into police corruption which began in 1987, with Annika’s flatmate as a
key witness, are laid bare.

“Many of the girls I knew were getting out of Queensland altogether (in the 1980s) for places with more liberal laws. It was a prostitute exodus,” she says.

She describes the sleaze of King’s Cross, two murders that happened there and the characters of the Porsche-driving kingpins who ran sex empires and who employed her to organise women and pay off police.

“The police were especially helpful if there was going to be a bust of any sort,” she writes. “We always got a phone call half an hour beforehand to give us plenty of time to get the underage workers out of there as well as the alcohol, bongs, pipes and ledgers.”

Mattress Actress gives a glimpse into white slave trafficking, the girls who fell into the sex industry at horrifically young ages, the suicide of her first love. It’s compulsive reading. Annika’s story is one of survival. It’s a story of an abandoned girl who made something from nothing. It’s a tale of a mother who willingly sacrificed herself to give her daughter making as much money as possible and never being dependent — on anyone. When she turned 25 she owned five houses. Her key to success was never succumbing to alcohol or drugs and always being in control. “If you feed a habit and have no money to show for your hard work, you’re not doing it right,” she says.

But getting out of the sex industry is a little like getting off heroin, Annika adds. The dollars were addictive and were needed to support a lifestyle to which she had become accustomed. When Annika met a man (a non-client) interested in forming a relationship with her, she saw her
future staring back — and it was without direction. “I gave myself five years to cover money I needed but realised I didn’t have a plan,” she says.

“I threw a dart at occupations and saw that if I wanted to equal my income in the years to come I had to be a doctor, a lawyer or a stockbroker. “That’s how I chose what to study. I fitted all my university study into two days so I worked for three days a week until I qualified.”

Annika does not want to reveal her exact occupation, guarding her privacy and that of her daughter and husband of 10 years.

“I married for love,” she says. “I didn’t want to be a hooker all my life. I met him eight months after I had left the sex industry. I am very happy. I love my husband.” She’s glad she hung up her garter years ago. “But if I could swap it all for a normal life would I? Absolutely. In a heartbeat,” she says. “I’d live in a caravan if I could have had a normal loving family and have that for my daughter.”

Mattress Actress will be available in bookstores and Target from January 1, priced $29.99.

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