Capital Gains: The new Nellie the Elephant

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Indy Lifestyle Online
David Taylor kneads the foot-long proboscis of a blue and white elephant mask between clenched hands. 'It takes a bit of time before I get it into the shape that I want,' he mumbles, his face tight in concentration.

Spread neatly over his bed in his Bermondsey flat are the components of a costume that will transform the 25-year-old into Curious Plaything, club hostess and familiar sight at London nightclubs Billion Dollar Babes, Heaven, and the now defunct Playroom. Taylor is a professional clubber. He can earn around pounds 50 for a couple of hours clutching a guest list and 'being nice to people'.

David stores his costumes and odd ends of material in brown paper bags on top of a wardrobe. He lifts the elephant costume from an Ikea bag nestling beside bags from Agnes B and Muji.

The trunk just right, he slides on the mask and places a plastic tiara, bought from a joke shop off Tottenham Court Road, regally on his head. Leaning on a door for support, he slips into four-inch white platform shoes, purchased six years ago in Liverpool.

Now standing just over 6ft, David Taylor is no longer a nobody. He is Bra Bra the Elephant, club kid, friend of the famous, one of the many offspring of the genus Miss Curious Plaything. 'But you can call me Curious,' he drawls. Quite.

The nocturnal Bra Bra puts on a good show for mid-morning. Not 10 mintues ago Taylor was chatting about his mum and dad, his sister in Australia and sitting semi-lotus on a brown sofa in a pair of blue track pants, supplying endless cups of instant coffee. Now Bra Bra is insisting her greatest fear is mice, and labelling Nellie the Elephant a shameless golddigger.

The gestures are more exaggerated. The conversation more glib. The instant coffee drunk through a straw that pokes through a hole just under Bra Bra's trunk. But with an audience of only one, it is an effort to stay in character - even for a self-confessed obsessive exhibitionsist.

Outside, in front of a photographer, Bra Bra finds her mettle. She struts and turns. A quarter twist of the shoulders. Then the head swings round, trunk swathing through the air. Chin high, her shoulders twist once more to face dead ahead. Pose stuck, she pauses. Then she is off, platforms clicking against the tarmac. Mince. Mince. Mince.

David is not a transvestite, although all of his characters have involved an element of cross-dressing, from the 18-hour girdle worn by Bra Bra to a tri-mastoid Venusian princess. 'Unlike transvestism, there is nothing sexual about what I do. It's not like I'm trying to emulate a woman. It's just a role which is sometimes feminine, sometimes masculine.' Nor is David a drag queen. 'This is more creative. I'm inventing a whole new being. If anything I'm a transbeastite.' David considers the resemblance to children's toys much more relevant. 'I become something asexual,' he insists.

'But there was one bouncer at a club I was hosting who obviously got quite turned on. He kept grabbing my crotch. It was quite disturbing.'

The usual reaction is simply horror. 'You can tell who is on drugs in a club because they usually run a mile. But it is a great release. I can be as camp as I like, as rude as I like. I can go up to anybody I like. I just head for the nearest star. People welcome me with open arms. It's a bit of a conversation point.' What do you talk about after that? 'Well, it is often the only conversation point.'

David started dressing up when he was a 'goth' at school. His parents, a dentist and a nurse who still live in his home-town of Wirral, initially reacted with shock. 'But now they just let me get on with it. They don't really understand and they don't really care.' His two older sisters tend not to ask.

Curious Plaything earns money as a go-go dancer in various guises on podiums and stages all over London. He once tottered from his four-inch platforms at the West End nightclub Heaven and Naomi Campbell-ed into the crowd. He was admitted to casualty with a swollen ankle. 'Out of costume. They took one look at my DMs and skinhead, and didn't ask how I did it. Just as well, really.'

David is single and tends to hold back on his sartorial sojourns with new romances. 'It's not very macho is it? Anyway, I try to convince them it's therapy. Fashion therapy.'

Where next for Miss Curious Plaything? 'Tescos. I want to go supermarket shopping as Bra Bra the Elephant. Be afraid. Be very afraid.'

(Photograph omitted)

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