It's just like the office, except for the bare breasts

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The Independent Online
THE NIGHTCLUB owner Peter Stringfellow is about to import from America something that he intends to make a vital element of British business culture. So exciting is it that Mr Stringfellow likens himself to the man who brought the first potato; but, unlike the potato, Mr Stringfellow's thing is staggeringly beautiful, but must not on any account be tasted, or similar. His thing is girls, performing in dance clubs. ('Dance clubs' being a euphemism for places where women take their clothes off for a fiver and dance on shiny black tables.)

You may think that this doesn't sound so new. But you would be wrong: punters in these clubs Do Not Touch. They get thrown out if they so much as try. This imaginative departure has turned the clubs into a billion dollar business, according to a Channel 4 film to be shown about them tomorrow night. As one client says: 'It's a nice, jolly atmosphere. It's not like sex, where you go behind a door.' No indeed, it's like the office. The men explain earnestly that they go there to network, to conclude deals and to ease those executive stresses. One club even thoughtfully provides a boardroom. Just like life in accountancy, except that some woman keeps waving her breasts in your face.

I am not, in theory, against women with good muscle tone and implants dancing on tables. But this film made me squirm with discomfort, and I don't think it was just the astonishingly high number of women without their tops on, or the refusal of the film-maker, Reggie Nadelson, to be even slightly judgemental. I think it was that the men simply couldn't see the difference between this and the rest of their executive activities. They talked about how friendly it was, and how the girls were ladies and made them feel like gents. They weren't honest saddies, skulking in doorways in raincoats; they were deluded saddies who thought this was what it meant to be confident and successful. Whereas the truth is altogether more painful. As Peter Stringfellow promises of his Shaftesbury Avenue venture: 'In this club, there will be no rejection.' If these sorry creatures are the future of the business world, no wonder all those Planet Earthers are taking to living in trees.

THE WEIRD world of Peter Lilley has long fascinated me. Peter Lilley is one of those Tory ministers who last year led the attack on single mothers, implying that they alone were responsible for the national debt, strikes, and probably, the failure of England to reach the World Cup. But then last week, he mysteriously dropped his fat-cat, Bruce Wayne disguise and revealed himself as Batman, hurtling to the rescue of single mothers, by pointing out that not everything is their fault, after all; there are simply no men for a lot of them to marry because the men are all such yobs. Then he admitted that the pay for unskilled jobs had fallen so low that even if the yobs could get one, it would hardly be worth their while taking it.

I intend to watch Peter Lilley closely from now on because I think there's every chance that the next time he speaks, it will be to announce he's joining the Labour Party. His transformation is all the more interesting because his opponents have recently conceded quite a lot of ground to him and his friends - accepting, for example, that people on benefits can't just slob around, but have responsibilities. (What these are is never entirely clear.) So I am waiting excitedly to see whether Peter Lilley will pursue his recent epiphany to its logical conclusion: that unemployment, and men who are useless around wives and babies, aren't the fault of anyone we can punish. I think we could yet hear Peter Lilley talking about emotional literacy for men, and ways to full employment. He could yet run the National Council For One-Parent Families.

IF YOU have been worried that men might start copying Andre Agassi's designer leg-stubble, you have had every reason. Inquiries this week have revealed that large numbers of men are already waxing, shaving and tweezing their body hair - not, of course, merely in the name of beauty, which would be altogether too trivial, but to prevent water from getting trapped in their hairs (this is a serious problem), and to reduce the 'drag factor'.

The vogue started with triathletes, who for some reason like to go cycling, swimming and running without stopping in between. They do not like to be dragged, or soggy, while doing it. John Taylor, who is 22 and one of them, waxes the top of his legs, his underarms and his chest, and shaves his calves. He says it makes him feel more streamlined. I think he gives the game away by adding that he doesn't know if it improves his performance, but it makes him feel more streamlined. I think it's a bit of a fad, verging on vanity. Taylor certainly seems anxious to rationalise it: he says he gets better massages without hair and, er, his scratches heal sooner. Spokesmen for the Espree Club and Broadgate Health Club in the City warn that this is no minority pursuit. More and more men are getting their chests and backs waxed, purely for reasons of vanity. It's a natural development, they explain, from using moisturisers, having facials and getting your nails done regularly.

AFTER Death Cigarettes, which promise they'll kill you, Golden Virginia appears to be marketing itself as the tobacco that sends you to prison. The latest GV poster features a cuddly looking convict, and the words: 'Shirt from HM Clothing Co. Trousers from HM Clothing Co. Baccy from Golden Virginia.' The idea, the advertising agency's account director explained, is to 'represent more closely a set of values that hand- rollers can relate to'. I'm not sure, myself, that I'd want to be associated with a product that implied I was a criminal, but maybe I'm stuffy. This week's prize for aversion advertising goes to the Touchpaper agency for its campaign to improve the image of Gloucester, following the Cromwell Street murders. It came up with the slogan: 'Gloucester - easy to get to, hard to leave.'