Monday, 12 October 2015

Caesar the Crowd Pleaser, Soldier of Love



  Backstage in a hangar in Camp Bastion a Saracen draped in camouflage netting meant that there wasn't enough room for me to warm up my legs and feet. 
  'Sorry, Reg,' I said.  'I know you kindly put it there for decoration.'  Garrison Sergeant Major 'Reg' Varnay was our host for the Combined Services Entertainment shows in Bastion.  He was also Central Casting for the Victorian Circus Strongman. Bald, freckled and sand-blown, his moustache immaculate.    'I can do most of my warm up on the spot, Reg, but not rond de jambe en l'air, bunny hops or Swan Queen panicking to get the heart rate up.'
 'We'll put you in 9th Squadron's hangar next door but one to get ready,' Reg said airily, as though he were always being asked to solve the issue of a drag ballerina having insufficient room to manoeuvre in hangars in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.  'Oh, not wanting to prejudge, or anything, but I think you're going to like Caesar, one of the 9th boys.'
  Caesar rippled and bulged from the neck of his brown uniform t-shirt to the tiny waistband of his camouflage trousers.  He had eyes like varnished conkers, Miss Pears skin and lips that fell midway between permanent pout and collagen enhanced.  We bonded after he was scathing about my sewing.  
  I was sitting at a workbench darning my ballet shoes amid gauges minus their glass covers, precision tools and tubs of screws. After at least fifteen minutes and umpteen choruses of Stitch, stitch, stitch in poverty hunger and dirt I still hadn't actually threaded the needle. 
  ‘You’re making a total mess of that, mate.’
  I looked up. Caesar was walking towards me from the 9th's den, on the other side of a fridge.  The 9th boys had included me in the tea run, put up a curtain for me to change behind and moved the anaconda-like heating pipe so that its outlet was right where I would be 'Bare-bum and everything putting your frilly gear on, lad.'  Now they were in the den watching football.  With the exception of Caesar, who had come out into the main body of the hangar.  
  ‘Making a mess of my singing?’ I asked.  'We stitch, stitch, stitch...'
  ‘Making a mess of your threading.' 
  He crossed to the workbench.  ‘Give it here.'  Peering at my many previous darns he said, 'Neatness isn’t your thing, is it?  And what the fuck...?’   
  He pulled a pot of eye-shadow out of my ballet shoe and plonked it in my hand.  'What's that when it's at home?'
  ‘That,’ I answered, ‘is my Ivory in the Clouds Dream Mousse.  It's in there to give me what the 'How to Darn' webpage describes as: the hard curve to facilitate parallel running stitch.'
 ‘Forget all that, you’re in a war zone now, mate.’  
  He threaded the needle with the nift of a Whitechapel tailor and started sewing.
  ‘Woah,’ I said.  ‘Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, or what?’  
  No Marks came out of the den, looked over at us, and said, ‘Aw, how sweet is that?'
  ‘What’s up?’ Nutter called from inside.
  ‘They’re having a bonding moment out here.  Leave you two lovebirds to it, Caesar.’
   I asked, 'Why are you called Caesar?  is it after the Roman emperor?'
  'It's my stage name.  I've paid off nine thousand quids' worth of debt working as a male stripper.  Caesar the Lady Pleaser.' 

  He looked at me, then quickly back down at his sewing.  'That's not all,' he said, quietly.
  He had also had a sideline career as a porn actor.
  'Guy called Bernard gave me his card.  Made doubly sure that there really was an advert for the company he said he worked for on the back of the Sunday Sport - first, cos you would anyway, but second because he was a bit of a nob. For my "Soldier of Love" routine, obviously I would wear my real uniform, right? Bernard said, high and mighty, that if I was going to do a squaddie routine then I needed to get myself a costume that looked a lot more the real thing than that. So, anyway, cut a long story short, I gave porn a try. Could do it. Made forty six films in six months.'
  Before suffering from what he called 'porn out'  The good thing taken to excess syndrome.  He got so far into porn he fell out the other side into a kind of skewed celibacy. Eventually, he said, only the most random and innocent things would turn him on.  'Like, once, someone lifting their arm and a curve showing through the jacket.' 
  Poor Caesar, imagine being only hot to frot with Michael Fish showing a bit of wool-clad bicep pointing out dodgy fronts over Norfolk.
  The girls in porn had also been a problem.  'They rule the industry.  Get what they want, work with who they want, call all the shots.  Well, that is, they do when they turn up for a shoot.’  
 He told me about a girl who had once missed a day's filming in Clapham.‘Because she tried to make her way there from Slough going via Bristol, Northampton and Ashford.'  
  ‘Like nineteenth century prima donna Ilma di Murska,’ I commented.  ‘She once took what she called a 'short cut' to London to sing at Covent Garden, going from Vienna via St Petersburg and Hull.  Difference with your girl being, bizarrely, that she walked through the Covent Garden stage door at the half hour call, told the understudy -  all ready to go on - to hand over that costume, bitch, then went out and sang the performance.' 
 Caesar was nodding, pushing out his bottom lip. ‘Fair enough,' he said, 'but did they have to keep reminding her to keep her hair out of the way of the shot when she was giving a blowjob?'
  I said I suspected not.  

  When Reg came to get me for the show he said, 'Nice to see you and Caesar having a bit of a chin-wag.  He's one of the meanest but softest out here.  He's an orphan; brought up in care. Gets really stressed and down out here at times. And just now he's suffering from insomnia.  Blames the wild dogs yapping just beyond the wire.  He can sleep through the helos always in and out, the tanks shambling by and the shelling but not these dogs yapping.  He started sending up warning shots to try and frighten them off.  Couldn't understand, either, why they weren't differentiating the reports from his specific rifle from all the hullabaloo and were staying quite happily put.  Got trigger happy with the warning shots and was marked down for wasting ammo. Good that's he had mumsy you to unload some woe to.'
  Guiltily needing to change the subject, I asked how long Reg had served in the Marines. 
  ‘Twenty two years come April.’
  ‘Seen lots of change?’
  'Not so much.  There's certain things that have lasted pretty much intact in popularity since the eighties.  Weaponry, techniques of warfare and Abba.'

  Caesar was in a bit of trouble again later that week.  
  He received a letter from a woman called Eileen.  'It's through one of these set ups whereby if you haven't got family, or whatever, these do-gooder people will write to you,' he explained to me.  
  Eileen had written:  
  Dear Serving Serviceman,
  I do hope you are staying out of the range of the monstrous anger of the guns, to quote Wilfred Owen.  Because if you were to lose your life, let's think of it in terms of a candle being snuffed out.  It wouldn't be just a case of that one candle being snuffed out, but the potential for that candle to light another candle and another candle, and so on, till round the ether was a complete circle of lighted candles.

  Caesar had replied:  
  Cheers, Eileen, that was morale-boosting.  Next time a letter about you touching yourself so i can have a wank.

  And got marked down this time for ingratitude.  

#9thsquadron #malestripper #campbastion #CSE #madamegalina 



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