Secretarial: The pussycat who mewed

The Temp
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The Independent Culture
I'D ALWAYS thought I was a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, the sort who thought people should be allowed to get on with things as long as no one else was forcibly involved. I'd also thought I was unshockable - a one-of-the-lads sort of chick who could go anywhere, talk to anyone.

Working for Oscar Katz has opened my eyes. I thought it was hilarious to begin with, a rough-and-tumble of un-shed adolescence, kitsch decorating taste and clumsy double entendre.

But this is not a Carry On movie in 3-D, it's the real world, and a grim world at that. Sorry, lads, but just because a girl's facial muscles have been frozen in a grin by the liberal application of cocaine doesn't mean she's having fun when you fondle her. And for every "I'm doing this to pay my way through college" there are 10 "my dad used to beat me up and this is all I expect from life" types.

Pussy of the Year was a wild success. The queue outside, a line of assorted car-dealers, bond-traders and Bromley boys, stretched half a block. The turnover of ersatz champagne, at tables full of ogling men with their ties at half-mast, was staggering: 300 bottles in an hour, at pounds 70 a pop- and-shriek.

My job was to meet and greet the soap characters, talk to the DJs and representatives of cable TV as they turned up at the velvet queue-jumping rope, usher them past the velvet VIP rope, settle them in chairs that were easily accessible to the stage and discreetly top up their glasses.

Oscar bounced between tables full of other men who had dyed their faces orange to hide their wrinkles, posing, teeth glittering in the camera flashes, in double handshakes. Backstage, 40 girls - and I mean girls; not one of them was as much as my own age - pancaked their buttocks, blushed their cleavages, popped off to the loo and came back bright-eyed and tossing their lacquered hair repetitively over their shoulders, waiting their turn to go beneath the strobes.

Lovely girls; girls anyone would be proud to be seen with. Girls who didn't have the height to be a model, didn't have the education to be a doctor, hadn't had the parental love to make them think there might be alternatives to this. Two by two, out they popped while 800 eyes bulged, a million veins throbbed, 400 tongues hung down chins. The girls thrust and shimmied and pouted before the audience of microcelebs.

And after two hours, the judges deliberated - boy, could you see them deliberate - and declared Mina, a slender Asian girl with huge eyes and volatile hips, the PussKatz Club's Pussy of the Year. Mina wept a bit, got her bunch of flowers and her tiara, and stripped once more.

And Oscar, fat cigar in hand, beamed with proprietorial pride and nodded while a man whom I vaguely recognised - curly perm, tree-trunk thighs, cold, piggy eyes - as someone who had been a soap star until he was unmasked as a pimp and wife-beater, had a word in his ear.

He beckoned me over. "Go backstage and tell Mina I've got a date for her," he shouted over Kool and the Gang. Obediently, I went through the purple velvet door and tracked down Mina in the bustle of heaving, silken flesh. "Oscar says," I said, "that he's got a date for you. They're out front in the VIP area."

Mina looked miserable. "Can you tell him I'm really very tired?" she said, "It's been a hard night and I really need to go home."

I wove back through the knots of suits, relayed the message. Oscar ground out his cigar and all signs of bonhomie dropped away. Here, suddenly, was the ruthless man who'd slain the competition to own the biggest girlie club in town. "You tell her that if she isn't out here in two minutes she's **** dead."

I returned to the dressing-room and told Mina. She blinked, gulped, shook her head; but then she grabbed her clutch bag and stalked, shoulders bowed, out to her fate. And I went straight home and, first thing in the morning, called the agency.