Monthly Archives: September 2022

Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 35

Tracey sat back and looked at her presentation. It was good. A lot of work, but she was really pleased with the results. Even Kate had noticed how industrious she had been, or at least quiet and staring into her laptop in a manner previously reserved for the Selfridges sale. Fortunately, the boss hadn’t seen some of the photos that appeared on the screen. Although they were genuinely work-related, muscly men wearing more baby oil than clothing weren’t the normal sort of images found in the office. Kelvin, normally happy to help her out with IT matters, hadn’t hung around when he saw exactly what she was trying to lay out on the screen.

Closing the computer, Tracey thought about the meeting later that evening. She was going into battle, or at least to present a plan to win the battle of Leighton Oxley’s theatre. For a moment she understood what went through Kate’s mind when she pitched for work. Mind you, she wasn’t usually selling this sort of product.


Finishing with a flourish, Tracey turned to the room and waited for her applause. Looking back at her were Freddie, Gareth and Doris. They were silent. For a few seconds, she wondered why Freddie looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights. He stared at the screen with his mouth slightly open.

This wasn’t the reaction she had expected. All the daydreams had ended with warm congratulations, heart handshakes and possibly even a hug. Turning back to the projected image on the wall, even Mr November seemed to be smirking, although that might have been the missing chunk of wallpaper.

Freddie gathered himself. “No. I mean, no. I mean, we can’t do this sort of thing. Not in Leighton Oxley.” He stuttered, almost lost for words.

Gareth chimed in, “I wonder if this is quite the right thing Tracey. I can see you’ve put a lot of work into this idea and I’m sure that, ahem, male strippers might seem like a good idea, but I’m not sure about the council…”

“Yes, the council. The bloody council”, Freddie interrupted, “They would go absolutely bloody nuts. You know how some of these posh old dears are like. We struggle to get some of the panto jokes past them.”

“But”, spluttered Tracey, “This sort of thing is all the rage.”

“Rage? I’ll give you rage” cried Freddie, “Councillor Osbourne. He’s about as with it as, well, Queen bloody Victoria. Tell him that we’re going to put oily blokes in tiny pants on stage and it would kill him. Right after he brought down the fire, brimstone on us. There’s no question of it. Gareth, what were you thinking?

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 34

What you are looking for is someone with a large cock and shares in baby oil!”

I’ll drink to that.”

Tracey downed her mojito and looked at her companion. ‘Your turn Silvo, same again please.”

Sitting in the bar at Soho House Tracey felt much more at home than she did in Solihull. London was definitely more up her street, the shopping was better and they understood her rather extravagant dress sense better than those in Touchwood shopping centre. When she said I want more pink they ran to help, not for cover.

Silvo returned from the bar with another two large measures. ‘Cheers, my lovely. Where have you been hiding all this time?”

He was an old friend and she loved catching up with him. They’d met at university and bonded over a shared love of pink, feathers and great shoes. Silvo was more of a fashion diva than she was. He’d landed a job at the British Fashion Council and she’d got stuck in some backwater trying to get to grips with a woman whose PMT seemed to last for the whole month, banished there by her father after an unfortunate incident at her first job. He’d managed to wangle her a week hostessing at Ascot, said it would be good for her to mingle with the masses and do some good hard graft. What he hadn’t realized was that hostessing was actually one step up from being an escort and the girls had to deal with being felt, leered and generally taken for prostitutes to get their tips. Tracey gave as good as she got but one City boy took it too far when he cornered her in the ladies. A rather nasty stiletto in the leg and her waitressing days were over. Daddy had been worried about how it would reflect on the family as the man in question was vaguely related to them so she’d been stuck on a train to the Midlands, and found a role in Daddy’s friend Gareth’s company. Two years down the line she thought she would have escaped by now but stepping into second place was something she was actually enjoying.

Tracey Dunn-Jones had spent most of her adult career (and a lot of her teenage years) riding on the back of anyone who would help her. She’d scraped through exams and then made it to university by the skin of her teeth, and the family inheritance. Dropping a couple of K here and there definitely helped to oil the wheels. She’d found her feet while studying Business Studies at “London poly turned uni” but was still trying to turn that knowledge into something she could use at KOD. Working for Kate didn’t help, she was a total control freak and couldn’t see past Tracey’s impressive cleavage. In fact, many people couldn’t do that, something she was realizing might be a hindrance rather than a help in life.

The theatre job had really whet her appetite. She’d had a brush with fame and realized it wasn’t all swanning around looking fabulous, and now she had this great idea to get some money in the coffers.

So, you got to be the star of the show then? How come you gave it up after one performance?”

I realized you were more of a drama queen than me!” Tracey laughed at her friend.

But I thought you were all – “I want to be on Big Brother, I want to be famous, Darlings”

I did, but actually those guys work really hard, and talking to Sparks he’s been plugging at it for years and still only breaks even. That wouldn’t fund my shoe and handbag habit.” Tracey waved her most recent purchase under his nose.

So, does this mean you actually want to do some work? What happened to that party girl I knew and loved?” Silvo pretended to look down in the mouth

Oh, she’s still there. I’m expecting you to show me the sights tonight, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a decent night out. But I’ve actually found something I am interested in. I care about this theatre.” Tracey paused, as this was the first time she’d actually put into words how she felt. She did care about the old dump, all ideas of stylish apartments carved from historic buildings had gone.

So I’ve told them we need sex to sell more tickets. I’m not talking Full Monty age performers, I want the real deal.”

And they are up for it?” Silvo looked concerned. Tracey had told him about the average age of the current audience, and he was worried about deaths during the performance.

Well, not exactly, but if I can prove that my idea will sell tickets, then it’s a done deal. I just need to whip up a buying frenzy.”

Well, I know some dancers who are in-between jobs who’d be up for it. I’m sure we could come up with a few ideas and some routines.”

Ok, well you tell them to start polishing their posing pouches and I’ll go and do the hard work. Once I know what I’m up against I’ll let you know if I need a bit more support.”

Darling, there are a few things you have been up against over the years and the only support you have needed is their hand on your….”

Silvo!” Tracey shrieked.

Tracey had been bouncing around an idea in her head since she’d been brought into the theatre discussions. She’d seen the shows and the audience but thought that everyone was thinking too one-dimensionally. Yes it was a local theatre, and yes people came to see something entertaining or something for their kids but there was a whole audience they were missing. What about bored women? There were a lot in the suburbs of Leighton Oxley she was sure, for whom a night in the one or two decent pubs, a trip to the local cinema or pub quiz, wouldn’t satisfy their needs. And she was talking about women of all ages, there must be girls from 18 to 40 in the town? She’d taken a wander round one afternoon between meetings and see yummy mummies and ladies who lunch, plus student types. She knew there was a college nearby. Surely this was a group that needed something the theatre could offer?

Being a little more widely travelled than perhaps those in Leighton she’d seen a few good shows in her time in the West End, and she knew that something with sexy men would go down a storm. She’d even heard about a film coming out about strippers, but the ones with six packs, not unemployed steelworkers. That would get people thinking about the whole idea.

She thought she could pull together a ‘Ladies Night’ which would fill the venue, riding on the back of the wave of the film, but knowing they couldn’t afford a proper stripping troupe had rolled Silvo in. He had a great network of performing types, and if she waved a few hundred quid at some of his ‘resting’ friends they’d been up for pulling something together. Tracey knew a lot of them loved a chance to show off their abs.

She could picture it, low lighting, a smoke machine, six drop-dead gorgeous men stepping out on stage dressed as policemen. The music starts pumping, their groins start pumping and in a flash, the clothes are off, the baby oil on and the screams from the crowd deafening.

Perhaps she’d get pulled up on stage for a one-to-one dance, where a nice dark-haired boy with a great torso would writhe all over her while she imagined something more.

Tracey, oh Tracey, come back. You’ve gone all flush love.” Silvo was peering over at her.

Sorry, I’d gone into a trance daydreaming about the show.” Tracey rolled her eyes and tried to hold on to the image of the impressive bod.

Oh, get over yourself. Remember most of my friends are gay so even if you get close, you aren’t their type. However, they do know how to shake their thang.” Silvo mimed wiggling his bum.

But it will be perfect. All those suburbanite ladies will love it! I can see the money rolling in now.”

The only thing Tracey had to do was convince Freddie and the local Council that a strip show was the right way to go. And she had an idea how she could do it at the next council meeting. All she needed to do was keep Kate out of the picture.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 33

Ash continued, “Look. You want to save the theatre and so do I. Not just because I love a live show, but because they do a lot of good work with the community. My mother-in-law will kill me if some of her social groups have to find a new home because the place has closed down.”

Switching on the projector, Tracey’s spreadsheet lit up the wall. “That’s going to be easier said than done. As you say, we are up errr, a creek.”

Ash looked at the numbers for a moment. “Hmmm. The problem isn’t perhaps as bad as you think. Quite a lot of the Councillors don’t want to rock the boat. At the moment, the place is losing enough money that closing it looks like an easy option. You’ve managed to make things a bit better, but we’re not quite there.”

What do you mean?”

Look, we have the oversight committee meeting in a month. Most of those there will be happy to sit on their hands if we can persuade them that things are going in the right direction. Remember, these people don’t like making decisions. We just need to persuade them to leave things alone and let everyone get on with their jobs.”

Gareth spluttered, “You mean bamboozle them?”

Ash smiled again. “A bit. What we need is a few successes and then they can wave next year’s budget through and go home to their families after a few drinks in the bar, safe in the knowledge that they are looking after the best interests of their constituents.”

But what about Councillor Osbourne?” asked Tracey

Geoff is trying to make himself a bit of a name. He fancies being Council leader next year. I think his wife has told him it’s time for some ambition. He sees this as an easy way to show his credentials as a great leader. Be a bit Thatcher if you see what I mean.”

So this is all about him getting a better job?”

Sort of. I think it’s actually about him getting a better seat at the golf club annual dinner, but yes, he doesn’t like the theatre much, so he can’t see why the town needs one.”

Tracey looked at the screen. Was all this really a waste of time? “We just need to persuade one man?”

Possibly. I don’t think you will though. He’s got a bit fixated on this but he can’t do anything on his own. There needs to be a majority on the committee and as I say, most of them are only going along with this to keep him happy. If a few decided to change their minds, or at least develop some ideas of their own, we’d be home and dry.”

Right”, she tried to sound confident but wasn’t really sure what was going on, “So how do we do that?”

Ash turned to face her. “Well, the problem is that Freddie has been relying on the panto each year to save him. The rest of the time, the numbers look poor. It’s time to inject a bit of showbiz razzmatazz into the place. We need to get some bums on seats with something different. I’m sure the figures can be massaged a little and if we can bring out just one big gun, then the committee can get off early that night.”

So we just need one sure-fire hit. Where do we find one of those from?”

Ash laughed. “Ah well. That’s your problem. I’m just an accountant.”

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 32

Sat on the reception sofa, Tracey’s visitor could have been any successful businessman looking for KOD’s help. She decided that he certainly didn’t look anything like a Councillor. For a start, his suit was sharp and looked like a Michael Kors number. Slim fit too, and none of the buttons straining.

Holding out a hand, she greeted him and noticed that when he stood up, the jacket was instinctively buttoned up, further emphasising his lack of beer belly. The action also caused his wedding ring to flash in the sunlight, which she realised disappointed her a little.

Leading the Councillor to the meeting room, Tracey could see people in the office looking up to see who she was with and then quickly trying to pretend they weren’t. A slightly circuitous route avoided passing Kate’s door, although she seemed glued to her screen.

With the door safely closed, she carried out the introductions. “Councillor Dhaliwal, this is Gareth Fothrington-Thomas, our senior partner. He and I are working on the theatre project together.

Call me Ash”, beamed the councillor, “I don’t think we need to stand on ceremony.”

Pleased to meet you Councill… I mean Ash” replied Gareth, shaking his hand a little too enthusiastically. “I hope Tracey has looked after you. Erm, can we offer you a drink?”

Water will be fine. You have a very nice office here. The view is excellent.” Ash walked to the window.

Tracey handed him a cup from the water machine. “Yes it’s lovely. You can see Rackhams and House of Fraiser”.

Ash laughed. “I was thinking a little beyond the shopping centre roof. Those hills are where I love to go for a run, although it’s been a little while”. He patted a non-existent belly.

Tracey blushed. She noticed the ring again.

Sit down Ash”, Gareth said. “It’s good of you to take the time to join us. Let young Tracey fill you in on where we are with the project.”

Ash sat down. “To be honest, Tracey gave me a few details in her e-mail and I’ve been doing a bit of checking up myself.” He winked at Tracey, “Doris is very helpful.”

Ah. So you understand the position” Gareth added.

Tracey opened up her laptop. “Perhaps if I give you all the figures.”

As I say, I have been doing a little digging, and to be blunt, you are up shit creek. The question is, do you have a paddle?”

Tracey’s face fell. She looked at Gareth who seemed at a loss for anything to say. “I’m not quite sure. I mean, it’s not looking good. The panto has brought in some money, but we are still not where we need to be.”

Ash smiled. “Don’t worry. I’m on your side. You’ve been doing some good work. Saving the day by getting on stage for the panto was amazing for a start, although maybe next year you’ll see if you can find me a part. I know how much publicity has been generated too.”

You saw me on stage?”

Of course. Councillors are privileged, free tickets to the show. My wife and kids loved it.”

Her face flushed again. “Thanks. I’m glad that Julie came back though. Not sure I’m cut out for a life on the stage.”

Never say never. I’ve done a little acting myself you know.”

Oh, I know, I looked you up.”

Ask grinned. “You have been doing your research, have you? Should I give up a career in accountancy for the film world?”

Maybe. I’d not seen a Bollywood film before, but it was pretty good. I couldn’t understand what was being said but the dancing and costumes were amazing.”

Don’t worry. The plots aren’t usually that complex. It’s all about the spectacle most of the time. That and churning them out as fast as possible.”

Gareth looked confused. “You are an actor?”

Not really. I managed to wangle myself a little role in a film when I was visiting family in India a few years ago. My uncle knows the director, and someone had gone off sick.” He turned to Tracey, “You see, we’ve both filled in in showbiz.”

At least you didn’t end up in a jar full of gunge.” Everyone laughed.

That’s true. You didn’t look too impressed. Mind you, neither did the Mayor when the stuff splattered her.”

She was really upset about that. I think I ruined her clothes.”

Oh, the suit will have gone on expenses. It was more the indignity. Some of my colleagues don’t understand that pantomime can involve a bit of audience participation shall we say? They like to be seen, but don’t want to take part in the fun.”

Tracey looked shocked. “You mean…”

Some of them can be, how shall we say, old-fashioned. I shouldn’t say this, but they have been doing these jobs for years and like things done a certain way. Being respected by the right sort of people in the town matters more to some of them than actually doing the job they are elected to do.”

Tracey and Gareth looked at each other.

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