Despite the lure of Florida, and the rise of intrepid travellers, Majorca is still the number one destination for British holiday makers. Magalluf is the island's largest resort, and this is its busiest stretch, with a bar or club every second doorway. By 11.30pm, the street is alive with a Mardi Gras-type throng. Girls clunking along in high heels, rubber hot pants and bra tops; soberly dressed Danish girls, silk cravated Italians; lads in football shirts, designer clubwear, togas or just shorts; drunken Swedes in plastic Viking helmets and T-shirts from the 'Gladi wiking bar'.
All we had to do as bar touts - or PRs (for 'public relations') as we preferred to be called - was delve into the herd and steer some into the bar. The basic opening pitch was 'Two for the price of one', but with every bar on the street offering the two drinks at the same price, 300 pesetas ( pounds 1.50), you had to add a twist to tailor it to the individual.
'Two for the price of one - and a bit of Metallica, lads?' was enough to stop a couple of bikers stomping past. 'Hey Svenska, gratis wodka' had the Swedes in the plastic Viking helmets slapping me on the back and taking me into the bar.
Magalluf is not a sophisticated place. There are just bars, clubs, fast-food outlets and gaudy souvenir shops. People don't come here to sample the local cuisine or sit around in pavement cafes discussing Polish animation films. They come for sun, cheap drinks, and sex. Clubs run Miss Wet T-shirt and Mr Muscle competitions. Porno cartoons are shown on TVs in bars. And out on the street the female PRs targetted the lads, and we went for the girls.
The trick was to get them to stop. And the easiest way to do that was to put your arms round them. Four girls approaching would call for a typical double PR manoeuvre. You'd see it up and down the street, the two lads walking forwards, arms outstretched: 'All right girls, where you off to?' Not very far, because after blocking their path, the lads would get their arms round the waists of a girl either side, and they'd be trapped.
Once you had a captive audience you could suss out who the decision maker was and pitch to her, because wherever she went, the others would follow. (For some reason she usually turned out to be the fattest of the group.)
Normally the girls wouldn't mind, they'd put their arms around you and go into the bar. Occasionally you'd get token resistance and end up carrying them in. Or there were some girls who'd adamantly refuse and turn it into a challenge to see if you could get them into the bar before their two-week holiday was up.
Sometimes the girls did the pitching, like the thirtysomething Essex girl who'd been overdoing the Jackie Collins books as well as the sangria: 'Come here young man,' she'd purred, beckoning me with a finger, before I was smothered with a messy kiss. 'Now, are you going to take me into your little bar?'
Others were a bit more imaginative: 'Coming in tonight, girls?'
'Maybe later.' The stock response.
'Oh yeah, what you going to do if we don't, spank us? You got whips and chains behind the bar, eh? You'll need them when we come back.' They'd return later to lead me by the hand into my own bar and demand a spanking.
Some were just PR groupies, who liked to walk into the clubs without queueing or paying, get free drinks, and feel different to the other tourists because they were dating a worker. And weren't fussy which one. 'Are you going to take me home tonight?' one of them asked me. 'No, I can't - but he will,' I replied, and swiftly passed her on to another PR.
Standing around for six hours every night, people came to regard you as their man on the street. You'd get to know the regular customers, and even if you weren't taking them into the bar, they would wait until you could stop for a chat and on the last night they would come and take photos of you.
And, since you'd taken them into the bar, you sometimes had to get them out of trouble. This happened with two lads in a piano bar innocently having a drunken singalong to a Tom Jones record. Unfortunately it coincided with the final whistle of an England game, and the Guardia Civil were eagerly arresting any potential hooligans. The howled chorus of 'My, my, my, De-li-lah,' went down as a rallying cry for hoolies.
It was strange how people reacted to being 'PR-ed'. When I started I thought I was going to get lots of abuse, and the occasional punch. But it didn't work out like that. People came to see bar touts as part of the package.
The best was the girl who stalked down the street as though she was some kind of starlet. She dismissed one of the Irish PRs with an 'I'm-too-cool-for-that-
little-game-thank-you-very-much' wave of the hand as he approached. The guy was apoplectic, but the barrage of abuse he shouted after Little Miss Hollywood didn't get to her at all. So the next time she walked past he made sure no one pitched to her. Which is what she'd wanted. But after a couple of nights you could see the lack of attention was getting to her. The arrogance was gone from her stride, and she seemed relieved when a new worker finally stopped her.
Some people actually enjoyed it. I had to go and pick up some ice from a shop at the end of the street, and walked down with a couple of girls. None of the other workers would pitch to a fellow PR when you went past. And as the girls were with me, no one approached them. Instead of being pounced on every five yards, they got to the end of the street in two minutes rather than 20. They said they preferred it the other way.
Six hours could be a long haul if you were annoying people, but most of the time you're just fooling around, and people take it in the spirit intended. Although you had to be careful with your elders. As a rule, old people (that is, anyone over 35) and families were ignored. I learnt that on the first night, stopping a couple of young girls: 'Coming in tonight, ladies?'
'Oi] What's your game, sonny?' Oh dear. An irate and burly father had just pushed his way up behind them.
'Trying to drag 15-year-old girls into a seedy bar, eh?' Wagging sausage-fat fingers in my face. It was difficult to gauge their age. They'd done a pretty good job of looking older and pretending they weren't with the family.
Surprisingly, that was the closest I got to a fight, and it was easily remedied. Just let the families and old heads shuffle on past and back to their hotel's East European entertainers.
With the number of PRs on the street, and the fact that we all knew each other, people were very wary about provoking trouble. Even so, some pushed their luck.
'She's not bloody coming in your bar. She's with us - so get out our way.' The bloke had a ruddy face and was cutting through the crowd outside the bar in a fairly determined manner, with a girl on his arm.
'All right ginger, take it easy. The Tango convention isn't on the beach.' Oops. Not the shrewdest move, John. The guy had doubled back and was now standing in front of him.
'You want to watch it man. There's 12 of us, and we know where you work.' John was now surrounded by a football team, literally. They all had England tops on, with their names and numbers on the back, 1 to 12. But then the bloke paused, looked at the amount of PRs about, thought better of it, and let the girl tug him away.
In the holiday atmosphere I think most people saw us as a bit of entertainment outside the bar. We were like everyone else, out there for a good time. The difference was, we got free drinks, and could mispronounce a bit of Henry Miller or the Marquis de Sade in Swedish. And we had to do it every night, on an allocated patch of pavement marked out by bollards and lamp posts - a fact that prompted a cheeky reverse pitch from a troop of shaven-headed Glaswegians. They stood, nodding manically, dressed from head to toe in the complete Rangers kit, silently waiting for me to finish. Then they launched into their own pitch to tempt me to 'Come away round to our place: we'll give you free beer, great tunes, drugs and digestive biscuits.'
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