Andrea reveals the secrets of lap dancing

She does lots of stag nights, but never the night before nuptials; that's much too risky
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AH, SO that's why it's called lap dancing. I've often wondered, being a stickler for detail. The girls dance and the blokes look on with their hands in their laps. It certainly makes more sense than the image I'd always harboured, of a well-stacked blonde in stilettos gyrating precariously on someone's knee.

"Mind you, that's only my opinion, of course," said Andrea, who's been dancing at a club called Private Eye, in Aberdeen, for the last two years and knows the score. She knew, for instance, that it was unwise for Mark Bosnich, the new Manchester United goalie, to have his stag party at a lap-dancing club the night before his wedding. Andrea does lots of stag nights but never the night before the nuptials. That's much too risky. The groom could be put on a slow train to John o'Groats in a drunken stupor and go missing for a week.

Here's another thing. If you're muttering irritably that an article about lap dancing without a picture of a lap dancer makes as much sense as a ploughman's lunch without a pickled onion, hear this. You don't have to look stunning to be a lap dancer - stunning in the conventional sense, that is.

One of the girls Andrea dances with is a size 16, but the boys love her. It's her attitude; she's fun. That's what counts, says Andrea, who's 19 and intermittently blonde, and wants to go back to college when she's made enough money and seen the world. Neither should take long. She can earn up to pounds 500 on a good night, which is the same as the girls earn at Stringfellows in London. No wonder they can't get the staff any more at John Lewis, as a harassed assistant in haberdashery told me when I was looking for shoe polish. They're all auditioning to be lap dancers.

Incidentally, they don't call them lap dancers at Stringfellows. They call them table-side dancers, and "they're very, very tasteful", said Roger, Stringfellows' operations director. "It's not like America where the girls really do get into extraordinary contortions in their customers' laps and are happy to accept tips in unusual places. We take great care to observe all the proprieties," said Roger piously, sounding more like a churchwarden than a man who auditions up to 20 girls a night wearing only a pair of high heels, a G-string and an easily removable frock. The girls, I mean, not Roger.

London apparently has funny laws about dancing girls. In the West End they're not allowed to strip off completely, and they have to wear G-strings and literally keep their customers at arm's length; whereas in the City, a mile away, they can take the lot off.

"All our girls wear garters above the knee for customers to tuck their tips into neatly," said Roger, who clearly runs a tight ship. He was signally unimpressed, by the way, with my description of Andrea's size 16 colleague who had the boys begging for more. "Aberdeen is full of big, tough oil men who probably go in for big women. Of course, I can't impose my personal preferences on the girls I employ. I have to account for all tastes - small Asian, big Swedish, redheads, brunettes and some very slender girls, too. It's the Kate Moss look."

As for being able to dance, that's almost irrelevant. Anyone can dance to a record of three minutes, said Andrea dismissively. What is difficult is pole dancing.

Pole dancing? Visions of morris men with bells and maypoles passed before my eyes before Andrea dispelled them with a description of the real McCoy. At Private Eye, there are two round tables seating 15 gents, with a centre pole around which the dancers variously twine, writhe and wriggle to everyone's satisfaction. You have to be a bit of a contortionist to do this. One of the girls does a handstand to get up on to the table, which always goes down well.

Then there's podium dancing at raves, which my daughter's best friend Tania did while they were both studying A-levels at a convent. Tania got pounds 80 to dance for 10 hours - two 15-minute sets per hour - in a disused airport in Kent, in front of 2,000 raving teenagers. It's about the same as junior doctors get, in comparable conditions.

Not to be outdone in the terpsichorean arts, my daughter, aged 16, answered an ad for dance extras in that now-defunct TV pop show The Word.

"What a rip-off, Mum," she said, returning looking exhausted. "We had to wear fluffy white bikinis and fluffy white rabbits' ears. We danced for six hours and all we got was a plate of sandwiches and 20 quid." Training for Giselle sounds an awful lot easier.