5 JANUARY 1974, Page 10

Prostitution in London (1)

A girl on the game

lain Scarlet

kin Scarlet, the writer and broadcaster specialising in crime, delinquency and penal matters, is the author of 'The Professionals: Prostitutes and their Clients' (Sidgwick and Jackson, £2.50). This article is the first of three he has written for The Spectator on prostitution in London.

Number Sixteen, like several of its near neighbours, is deserted now. The windows have that grimy, unkempt look; and the front door that used to be so invitingly open between noon and midnight is rudely padlocked against all corners, both potential punters and ponces. Every appearance suggests that where parliamentary legislation surely failed, scandal has succeeded.

For just about eighteen months Joyce had two rooms, k & b, on the first floor of No. 16, directly above the lock-up garage. Dark and long-haired, dark-eyed, fullmouthed, attractively buxom, with good rather than pretty Italian ate features and fleshy cheeks, she was just twenty-three years old when she moved in Like her friend Gina safely installed round the corner by Curzon Street, and Anne a few doors away, she had• been tempted into taking one of the eleven purpose-converted flats then available by the understanding and easy-going attitude of the landlord's agent, by its convenient proximity to Shepherd Market, by the promised provision of a maid, and by the splendid prospect of rich pickings. Even the rent — fifty pounds a week, plus a percentage cash kick-back, plus the occasional favour implied and understood by an inviting wink and an accepting nod — had seemed both realistic and reasonable. Of course, she'd have to pay the maid as well . . . But it was the agent himself who'd finally decided her. When Joyce had had to admit to not having enough cash immediately available, he'd dipped into his own pocket and loaned her a couple of ponies for the first week's rentin-advance. And she had been duly grateful.

With the rent book in her handbag then, and the keys in her pocket, Joyce had set up in business determined to make a bomb. Which, on paper at least, is exactly what she did. Now Joyce was no virginal little innocent lured and wickedly procured into a life of what her priest would have regarded as mortal sin. Like Anne and Gina, she had served her apprenticeship on the night-club circuit, with all that that entailed.

Unlike Anne and Gina, however, she hadn't been all that successful in the clubs. She'd found it dif ficult to sustain the cheerful chat and accommodating hostess image for hours on end while some chance punter with more money than sense — not to mention a wife in the provinces — got • steadily and more lasciviously drunk; while his more-Often-than not pudgy fingers erratically pawed and groped, and his foulbreathed mouthings became ever more loudly and impatiently suggestive. And while she, with her stoutly fixed and hopefully provocative smile splitting her face till it ached, took what evading action she could under the rules, and wondered what the inevitable later-on would entail, how much he'd give her, and what time she'd be able to slip away from whichever bed he took her to and return to the roof beneath which her two-year-old daughter lay sleeping.

No, the clubs hadn't been much good for her. She'd managed to knock up the usual twenty-five or thirty quid a night most nights, of course, but the expenses had been steep. She'd had to dress decently, for a start; then there were the early-morning taxis to Camberwell to fork out for; and despite the management's do-as-you-like-in your-own-time-luv philosophy, they still expected a rake-off.

So frankly, she'd been hard put to it most weeks to make ends meet. But now all that was going to change. Her own future and her daughter's were assured . . .

Like her two friends, Joyce charged a basic five-pounds-fifty — 'plus something for the maid' — for a short time. Unlike Anne, who willingly catered for a wide variety of punters' peccadillos, Joyce regarded herself as strictly a 'straight' girl. But despite these self-imposed limits — of which her newly appointed maid strongly disapproved — business was brisk right from the start of that first November Friday.

The maid vetted all callers at the flat door and told them the price. Those that passed muster were shown into a dimly red-lit bedroom where, after a brief wait, Joyce joined them. Standing barefoot by the candlewickcovered bed, wearing lit,tle makeup and a simple, shiny black mini-dress which offered an adequate eyeful of her fleshy thighs and displayed the promise of full, ripe, blue-veined breasts, Joyce delivered her spiel.

She looked like a sulky, sensual peasant girl but she drove a hard bargain. Her manner was utterly impersonal. She would permit straightforward missionary-style intercourse provided a contraceptive was used. Mouth-to-mouth kissing was out. Her breasts were available for mauling but not for biting. Any 'reasonable' pre-coital loveplay was the punter's business, but he mustn't expect her to get enthusiastic and, anyway, he'd have to pay a minimum extra fiver for it, regardless. And she'd have the money first, please.

Perhaps surprisingly, in view of her stipulations and the unsmiling way in which they were detailed, Joyce got a reasonable proportion of acceptances. Not as high as the harder-faced but more accommodating Anne, of course; nor anything like the proportion the gorgeous green-eyed Gina got — but a good few just the same.

In her first full week of trading — according to the tally kept by her maid — 176 potential punters were tempted upstairs by the handwritten Joyce, first floor notice just inside the front door. Of those, sixteen were sent packing by the maid for lack of funds, thirty-two didn't like the look of Joyce and left immediately, forty wanted a non-permissable extra, fifteen wanted a permissable extra but were not prepared to pay for it, and a further eleven were despatched for the colour of their skin.

Joyce took on sixty-two and grossed £380.

Rent, repayment of loan and percentage kick-back took care of £176, a further £46 was due to the maid and £56 went on expenses like food, drink, taxis and sundries from the chemist.

Joyce netted £102.

Out of this she had to pay all her Camberwell expenses — rent, babysitters, heat, light, etc, but she was still left with more than fifty pounds.

Joyce banked it.

The following week Joyce netted £135, of which seventy-plus was available for banking. She bought a fur coat to see herself through the winter. In her third week she had to take three days off and withdraw funds from the post office. In the fourth she had sixty pounds earmarked for the bank but bought a small white poodle instead . . .

Each Friday Joyce had to pay the rent via her maid. Each Monday afternoon she received a visit from an olive-skinned man who came apparently as a punter but in reality to collect the cash kick back. This sum seemed to increase week by week, regardless of her earnings but while she was still able to provide for her daughter she didn't argue. Nor did she voice any objections when he started to send other men for favours to be granted gratis. He implied that they were policemen who needed to be kept quiet. Comparing notes with Anne and Gina, she found that they, too, were having to cope with similar exploitation. After three months Gina upped and left and went back to the clubs, telling Joyce that she was a fool not to do the same. But Joyce was still managing to make ends meet and, more often than not, having a reasonable surplus. Gina's departure did spark some instinct in her, however, and she started to save every penny she could. After a year's trading she had more than a thousand pounds in the bank, three months later she'd made it up to £1,500. She was determined to add another thousand to that, then quit.

In March this year rumours, began circulating on the maids grapevine. In April she received several visits from journalists offering money in exchange for information. Most of them seemed to know more than she did herself so she was of little use to them — except in her professional capacity, she says, for few of them actually made excuses and left.

At the beginning of May rumour was rife. More journalists visited her, some for the second and third time, but to no informative avail. She honestly didn't knoli! anything, wouldn't have talked if she had, looked upon them only as good for her bank balance.

When the olive-skinned man came on Mondays to collect his kick-back — by this time running at £150 a week — he repeatedlY warned her against 'talking t° strangers' and left her in little doubt as to what would happen if she did.

She hated the man and at the same time feared him. Anne had answered him back on one occasion and taken a beating as a result. Joyce desperately wanted to get out but that £2,500 target was tantalisingly close so she stayed on. And sweated . . . By now every edition of everY newspaper made compulsive reading. Business increased dailY — but every punter seemed t° want to know what she thought about it all. Did she have any VIPs on her visiting list? Was it true what they were saying about old So-and-So? Did she have much trouble with the police? Who was, this woman supposed to be behino it all?

In the third week the break came. Lords Lambton and Jellicoe resigned. Opposition MPs were talking about 'alarming specula' bon' being rife in Whitehall. The evening papers carried banner headlines with each edition . • . Joyce carried on as usual O'n thed unusually busy Monday Tuesday. On the Wednesday traae slackened. On the Thursday she only saw two punters, on the Friday — normally her busiest daY

— only three. Then at 8.30, just as she was sitting down to a meal, the phone call came through. "I was given an hour to get out," she says. "And by that time I was so scared I was packed and away in ten minutes."

"Anne got the same call, so did Maria and Patricia and a dozen or so other girls in the immediate vicinity. By ten o'clock the houses belonging to her landlord could easily be identified simply because they were all dark and deserted, even their illuminated door-bells out of action. The following morning clasps and padlocks were fitted to every outside door . . .Anne went back to the club circuit, as did several of the Others.

Joyce lay low for a fortnight, then bought herself a motor car and rented a basement flat in South Kensington. Now she kerbcrawls the Mayfair streets after dark. The risks are considerable and she finds fewer clients. But her charges have increased and her expenses are fewer.

"I'm working for myself now," she says. And frankly admits to being grateful for the Lambton/Levy scandal. "It put one lot of Ponces out of business," she explains. "But I doubt they'll ever get them into the dock . . ."