By Gary Wrednal.
Right now, I’m preparing to go on stage. I’m putting on the costume I started out wearing. The dressing room at this venue is basically the cleaners’ cupboard, and the three of us are squashed in here – Des, Roger, and me – all trying to get ready. I’m having to drape my street clothes over jerry cans of pink disinfectant, while inches from me, in only his briefs, Roger is attempting press-ups on the concrete floor. In about half an hour’s time, I’ll be out there, in front of the crowd, exposing myself.
We’re a cabaret act, a hypnotist’s show. We mostly play nightclubs – pubs sometimes. Des is the hypnotist – or pretends to be. He looks at the part with his cloak and the badger streak of white through his thick black hair and the scary way he can make his eyes stare wide forever without blinking. He’s alone on stage at the start. First, he warms up the crowd and then asks for volunteers to fall under his spell. That’s when Roger and I choose our moment separately to step forward from the floor before Des gets landed with a genuine punter. I think most of the audience guesses from the beginning that we’re stooges or ‘plants’ – not least because we’re often twice their age – but they’re frequently too drunk to care, and pretty soon they realise they’re going to watch two grown men do really stupid stuff on stage, so they’re happy to go along with it.
Des puts the voodoo spell on Roger, and once Roger is acting like he’s in a trance, Des does the same to me. The gag is that Des can then make us both do anything he wants.
Des and Roger formed the act. They’d been doing it for several years as a duo before I joined – touring around the country, mostly playing to nightclubs, giving boozed-up night-outers a laugh, letting them have an ‘Oh-my-God!-Did-you-see-what-that-guy-just-did?!’ moment. There’s no point glossing over it, and their act was always pretty crude. Des would make Roger do ridiculous things, like dressing up in a tutu, or putting on women’s underwear, or making him dance a Scottish reel in only a mini-kilt so that he flashed his bits every time he jumped or twirled. The factor in common was that Des would always get Roger to take his clothes off, and the thing about Roger is that he just loves being naked in public.
The man is a true exhibitionist. He’s prepared to do almost anything in front of an audience – as long as he gets attention. For instance, the usual act has him crawling on all fours in only a baby’s nappy or star-jumping in a long blonde wig and a schoolgirl’s gymslip with nothing on underneath.
We tailor the act depending on how wild, drunk, sleazy, or up-for-it the crowd are or what the manager of the venue will allow. There’s a mild version, an adults-only version, and a triple-X-rated version. In the triple X-er, Roger is completely naked for most of the time, apart from his M&S grey socks plus a bra that Des has made him put on, and he does stunts like distending his foreskin till he can pull it right over a tangerine (‘You’ve got to smuggle this through Customs,’ Des commands, ‘Hide it anywhere you can’). At the end of the show, he’s often got his bum in the air having objects inserted up his anus. I mean, for real. Des pushes in a tampon, which always gets a scream from the women in the crowd, then a large courgette, followed by a small-scale model of a London bus. He claims the last one doesn’t hurt, but I reckon he’s on an adrenaline rush because of the pop it gets from the crowd.
No surprises, Roger used to be a male stripper. He’s shown me scrapbooks of photos of his act. The hairstyles change over the years, but Des is always up on some makeshift stage or other, thrusting his crotch towards hordes of whooping women. The Flamingo Club, Kiss’n’Tell, New Year’s Eve at Julie’s Cocktail Lounge – there he is in a leopard-skin G-string; there he is in a magenta thong, there he is again ten years later in a camouflage-pattern jockstrap. He played a lot of gay pubs, too. But once he hit his forties, the days of six or seven gigs a week were over. The trouble was that though the work dried up, Roger’s urge to get his kit off in public never waned. So that’s when he formed the fake-hypnotist act with Des. To be fair, I should say that Roger is still in fairly decent shape. He’s a bit heavy around the arse, though since he’s tall, and because he’s got wide shoulders and a deep chest, you don’t notice there’s quite a gut on him too.
Now that you know he used to be a male stripper, the other thing that’s not going to surprise you is the size of his schlong. It’s a monster. Honestly, if it were any longer, he could tie a knot in it. It’s big enough, in fact, to make the blokes in the audience go a bit quiet when it’s first revealed, which is why it’s necessary to turn it into a harmless gag straight away and have Des make him write along with it in lipstick, or make him hide it between his legs.
Somewhere along the line, one of the pair thought it would be a good idea to have another stooge so as to make the call for volunteers look more plausible and pad out the act a bit. And Roger apparently thought it would be great if this other chap were a complete contrast to him – in other words, small and skinny, and, yes, to go all out for laughs, that he should have a tiny, tiny dick.
Now if you think about it, that’s not an easy part to cast. I mean, in the first place how do you go about finding someone with a small willy, let alone someone who’s prepared to parade it in public? You can hardly put an ad in The Stage that says ‘Dead-pan straight man needed for comic speciality act. Must be under 5’6” and possess minuscule penis,’ – although they told me they seriously considered doing that.
So how come I got involved? Well, Des and Roger knew a chap called Mikey, and Mikey remembered me from the time I’d been a performer once before, a lifetime ago, when I was much, much younger.
I’ve done all kinds of things, but for a while, when I was a lad, I just sort of fell into what you might call showbiz. I’d been a champion gymnast, and through that, I was invited to join a troupe of comedy acrobats who did a high-energy tumbling act with a mini-trampoline and a vaulting horse. It was great. I was with them for a couple of years, and it led me to be offered a job one winter as a clown in an ice show. Now that was a whole different number. There were four of us, and one of them was Mikey. Basically, we got our laughs by throwing buckets of water over each other. I ended up being dunked in a bath of the stuff. It was the toughest three months of my life. The water we used couldn’t be heated, or it would have melted the ice, and the temperature in the auditorium was always chilly. So yes, we froze.
All Mikey and I wore was clingy Edwardian bathing-gear – you know, stripy all-in-ones that came down to the knees. Mikey looked okay in his, but on me – well, after being drenched in freezing water, whatever I’d got down there in the dick department had shrivelled away to nothing. It was as if I didn’t have a packet at all. I used to make a joke of it in the dressing room – ‘Look, my nuts have vanished!’ – but it was what you’d call a pre-emptive strike, having a laugh at my own expense before anybody else had a go. In truth, I was sensitive about the way my crotch looked and hated having to appear in public in a tight, wet costume. Anyhow, I imagine it was remarks like that which Mikey had remembered from all of twenty-six years previously and why he thought I wouldn’t mind being put forward for Des and Roger’s little cabaret. He managed to track me down and got Des to phone me.
I met Des and Roger for the first time in a room they’d booked above a pub. Almost the first thing Roger asked was, ‘Have you got a small one?’
I asked him why he needed to know. Of course, I should have said ‘not interested’ as soon as he went on to describe what they’d planned. God knows why I didn’t walk out of there on the spot.
‘Are you up for it?’ Roger asked.
And I’d said ‘Yes,’ even though I knew I should be saying ‘No’.
‘Sorry, Phil,’ Des said to me, ‘- But we need to ask, um …. ‘
‘Strip off for us, will you?’ Roger intervened, shameless as always. ‘We’ll have to take a look.’
Can I describe what it felt like taking off my clothes in front of them in that dingy, empty room, as they sat there fully dressed, arms-folded, watching in a go-on-show-us-then kind of way? Actually, I’ve nothing too much to be ashamed of with my body as a whole – although I’m short and am never going to be Mr. Universe (in fact, I can’t put on any muscle at all), for a man of my age I’m in decent enough nick. I swim, and I run, so there’s no pot belly. It’s just the size of my cock that worries me. It’s way smaller than most men’s. Flaccid, it extends no more than half an inch from my abdomen: erect, it’s less than three. Until that moment, I’d never, as an adult, deliberately displayed it to anyone. So imagine my feelings as I hooked my fingers into the waistband of the baggy boxers I was wearing, ready to pull them down and expose myself.
I yanked down my shorts and kicked them away.
The pair of them stared. Des dropped his jaw to one side, stroked his chin before covering his mouth with his hand. Roger had his lips clamped shut and appeared to be breathing hard, and then he had to wipe a tear away from his eye. I realised that they were both struggling not to cackle with laughter.
‘Oh, mate,’ Roger squeaked. His shoulders were jogging up and down. They continued corpsing, igniting one another’s spluttering each time the other had seemed to gain control while I stood in front of them, naked, allowing them to stare at me for as long as they wanted.
‘Oh, mate,’ Roger wheezed again. ‘That really is small.’
They were still laughing when Des said, ‘Do you want the job?’
So what made me accept? Did I somehow think that by putting myself in the worst imaginable position – by standing naked on stage in front of hundreds of fully-clothed strangers – I’d somehow exorcise my fears and insecurities, that I’d be able to blow away the anxiety that had prevented me from ever having a satisfactory intimate relationship, that I’d confront my worst demons? I don’t know. But for some insane reason I agreed.
And that’s why I’m out here now on the floor of a nightclub in a town two hundred miles from home at nearly one in the morning, surrounded by mostly drunk young people who’re shouting to be heard above the pulverising music, while I wait as inconspicuously as I can for the start of Des’ act, and for my cue.
Des gets his introduction over the P A system. He sweeps onto the stage in a cloud of dry ice and does his spiel. Before he asks for volunteers to be hypnotised, I edge my way to the steps that lead up from the dance floor.
‘I need a willing victim,’ Des booms.
Over on the right, Roger times it nicely to get ahead of a young man who’s being pushed forward by his mates.
‘Any more?’ Des inquires. ‘Come on, don’t be shy.’
I sense a movement from a lad in the group beside me and just manage to shoulder my way in front of him and hop up the steps. It’s Des, Roger and me now. The act’s properly started.
‘And what’s your name?’ Des asks me.
‘Frank,’ I say.
‘And where are you from, Frank?’
I mumble the name of another town nearby into Des’ microphone.
Des ‘hypnotises’ us – Roger first. After my turn, Des sits me on a chair to one side while he makes Roger do the usual humiliating things. I sit there motionless, blinking as little as I can, pretending I’m in a trance, but of course, I can see the audience’s reaction. I’ve maybe ten or twelve minutes like this before Des turns his attention back to me. By then, Roger is naked (apart from the grey socks, a polka-dot bra, and a Miss Piggy blonde wig) after having put on a sumo wrestler’s loincloth and then been made to wear a little girl’s party dress and sing a Lady Gaga song in falsetto. The audience is whooping and shouting out stuff.
Des comes over to me. ‘Frank,’ he says, ‘- you are in the studio of the most famous artist in the world. Do you understand?’
‘You are there because you have the strongest, finest body of any man alive, and this artist wants to paint you. Will you let him?’
‘Mmm,’ I say.
‘It’s a proud moment for you, isn’t it, Frank?’ I nod again. ‘Well then, Frank, take your clothes off, and let this artist see what a magnificent body you have.’
I move robotically, but I’m careful not to be too slow removing my shoes, socks, and shirt, or the audience would get bored. My narrow chest gets a titter from some of them. I take off my trousers. Underneath, I’m wearing a pair of old-fashioned maroon, and grey patterned Y-Fronts. They come up higher than my belly button. When I turn back around, I sense the crowd has clocked that I haven’t got much of a packet.
‘Now look, Frank,’ Des says,’- The artist wants to paint you completely naked. You must take your underpants off.’
If I milk the moment slightly, it’s only because I’m genuinely bracing myself for the reaction I know is going to follow. I pull the Y-Fronts slowly down my legs, step out of them, and stand square on to the audience, wearing nothing, letting them all see me. Quite often, there’s a gasp – a communal ‘Ogh!’ There is tonight. Then the laughter starts. I act as if I’m oblivious to it as all the while the noise builds, along with the whistles and cat-calls. From the corner of my eye, I’m aware of Des performing a double-take.
‘Well,’ he says to the audience, ‘I hope you’ve got good eyesight at the back! For those of you who are straining to see anything, let me explain that down there there’s something that’s a bit like a penis, only maybe a hundred times smaller.’
The audience loves this.
‘Seriously,’ he says, ‘- I expect you’ve all seen wider paper clips. And bigger light switches. No, you shouldn’t laugh – it’s cruel. I mean, just think of the three words this poor man usually hears whenever he’s doing it with someone –they’re not “I love you,” but “is it in?” That must hurt, mustn’t it? Well, not if you’re the one on the receiving end, obviously – it couldn’t possibly feel any worse than sitting on a peanut.’
The crowd laughs, and of course, all the time I pretend I can’t hear – I maintain an impassive face. I don’t react when Des tells Roger to search for something small and precious, and Roger holds the magnifying glass that Des has given him right up against my genitals. I don’t react when idiots in the audience shout stuff like – ‘my eight-year-old brother’s got a bigger one,’ or – ‘is that a penis or a pimple?’
I just do the rest of the act. Usually, Des sets up a situation in which Roger is told he’s the most beautiful woman ever to have existed and that I’m the world’s strongest man. In the adults-only version, I have to act like I’m fucking him while Roger mimics a wild female orgasm. He’s on his back with his legs in the air, and I’m on all fours on top. I realise I’m often exposing my arsehole to the audience at that point, but frankly, by then, I don’t care – I’ve no dignity left.
Scooping up my clothes once the act is over and having to exit still naked feels like a truly exposing moment. Roger – who has had things done to him that most people would find totally demeaning – usually comes off stage in a state of elation, yet I get back to whatever passes for our dressing room feeling genuinely degraded. Sometimes it feels like I’ve seen and heard the very worst of people. I’m the butt of everyone’s cruelty. It can get to you.
So why don’t I pack it in? The thing is that since I joined, the act has become a big success. We’re getting enough bookings nowadays that we could each give up our day jobs. Des and Roger are desperate for this, so I’d be letting them down.
Plus, it’s like I’ve burned my bridges. This is what I’m known for. How many photos are there of me naked on the internet? As many times as some dweeb in the audience snaps me on his mobile and uploads the image, so probably hundreds. Type ‘small penis’ into Google, and chances are you’ll come across a picture of me, fully identifiable, with the tiny bobble of flesh that is my cock as the focus. I’m the freak in a freak-show, though nowadays it’s a freak-show on a global scale.
Yes, this explains why tomorrow night I’ll be on the road again with Des and Roger, changing in the staff toilets of a small-town club into those ugly Y-Fronts, knowing that when I take them off, my crotch will be the focus of maybe five hundred fully-dressed people, all of whom think they’ve been given license to point, snigger, and guffaw at the size of my dick. It’s my job now. It’s what I do. So go on – stare for as long as you need to, and laugh if you want.