The temp: My new life with the gnome of PussyKatz

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The Independent Culture
FORTUNATELY I'VE been able to give up the chat line, as the Christmas period had proved, while lucrative, to be depressing. It's not hard keeping callers on the line for hours at a time at this time of year, as drunk and lonely tends to equal logorrhoea, but you don't half feel guilty. So when Tracie rings and says she has a special job, and will pay me time- and-a-half for doing it, I say yes almost without thinking. I can't do this two-shift life any longer; if the bags under my eyes get any larger I'll be able to send myself off freight for a couple of weeks in the Caribbean.

"Sure," I say. "what's the job?"

Which is how I come to find myself at 2pm the next day, ringing the doorbell of the flat above the PussyKatz club. I am to spend the next few weeks as personal assistant to Oscar Katz. You wouldn't tell it, but I'm knock- kneed with fear. For Oscar Katz's reputation as a sleaze is outstripped only by his notoriety for providing entertainment for even bigger sleazes.

The doorbell plays "Hey, Big Spender", and a couple of men walking past raise their eyebrows at me. I put on my most respectable face and stare them out. There's a "clunk" on the intercom. "Allo?" says a voice matured in the mud of the Thames estuary.

"Hello, Mr Katz?" "Yer."

"I'm your new PA."

"Oh, right," He bellows. "Push the door. Top floor. Penthouse. Har har. I'll just get myself decent."

The lock clicks back, and I enter a corridor vaguely reminiscent of a school stairwell, lined with that granite-filled concrete designed not to feel the knocks of passing trolleys. The Katz penthouse, it seems, is accessed via the service lift. When I get out at the top, I find a corridor that has been miraculously transformed into a whore's boudoir. Walls and ceiling are lined with a felty purple velvet and the floor with a carpet of singular horridness: purple again, with a thin white check and polka dots at the intersections. I stare, gape-mouthed, until a voice behind me says: "It was left over when we did the club out. Nice, innit?"

I turn around. Leaning in the doorway is a wizened gnome with a footballer's haircut and straw highlights. He is wearing - I gulp - black satin pyjamas and a black satin wrap.

"Oscar Katz, darlin'," he says.

"Hi, Mr Katz."

"Call me Oscar."

We shake hands, and he stares deep, deep into my eyes. Which must be quite hard work, as he doesn't come above my chin. "Come in," he says, and I step into the spider's parlour. Mirrors everywhere. White leather settee, fake-fur polar-bear rug, black-and-chrome bar, complete with stools, dividing the room in half.

Oscar waves a hand over his domain. "Welcome," he says, "to my humble abode. Take a pew. Want a coffee? I haven't had no breakfast yet meself. Up 'til five I was."

Where the fireplace should be, there's a marble surround, and over it, a huge oil painting, crudely executed, of two women with white beehive wigs, naked but for gloves and stockings, heads thrown back in gestures of ecstasy. "My first and second wives," says Oscar. "They'd kill me if they knew I'd got them doing that together." He plumps down in a white leather armchair, jiggles a foot.

"Now," he says, "I hope you've got stamina, girl."

"Reasonable, I think."

"Good." He gets out a six-inch ivory cigarette holder and a gold-plated lighter in the shape of a naked female torso, which he caresses with a thumb. "My last assistant couldn't take the pace. Shagged out, she was." He collapses in a heap of hilarity at his double entendre. "'Scuse my French." I laugh politely back.

The phone rings. You can tell it's ringing because not only does it trill, it lights up, neon pink and blue, on the glass coffee table in front of him. He stops, picks it up, goes "Allo, darlin'. No, I can't talk now. No, course I want to see yer, I'm just busy is all. Naar, look, Dolores, if you're going to be like that, we'd better call it a day. I told yer I can't bear to be tied down." Then he hangs up. Rolls his eyes. "Women," he says, "Can't live wiv 'em, can't pay 'em off.

"So tell me." He leans forward, flashes a set of perfectly capped teeth in my direction, "Ave yer ever been in one of my clubs?"

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