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Colin (with Celia Haddon?)


   What A Shower!

Well, it wasn't really an argument... Our 'book keeper' was arriving at eleven, the dreaded 'tax man' at twelve and I wanted to spend a moment with her before he did. There was Colin, ready to leave for an appointment with Shirley Bassey to measure up for a final fitting for a 'tux' that would make him too late to measure the girls from the T.V. Minstrel Show. Would I go? Stage clothing, by its very nature, is always left until the last minute. I do believe directors have such a worry over the financing of a show that they leave the costumes to the very last and then, when their way is clear, it's all go in a huge rush! So, not very long after saw me seeking a black cab. It was only when I was reading the bit of paper that Colin had slipped into my top pocket that I noticed my destination! You really wouldn't believe some of the shabby rehearsal rooms they use - grubby church halls, rooms over pubs - but this one beat all; it was the Y.W.C.A. hall! "Are men even allowed in?" I asked myself. Now, this could be embarrassing as I had absolutely no idea!

When I arrived I showed my credentials to a prim, unsmiling lady - no wonder she had such a job for there was no doubt at all in my mind that she wasn't keen on men or, at least, not me! "I'll phone through to the hall and try to get someone to sign you in" she sais, adding "This is most unusual....". A little later, a friendly face appeared - the costume designer Belinda. I was duly signed in and followed Belinda to the sports hall.
Every girl and group of girls that we passed gave me strange looks, and this is when I first started to feel just a little uncomfortable. There were twelve girls to be measured and it takes up to ten minutes each to get a full set of measurements. I was prepared, for I had worked out already who was supposed to be wearing what and had names at the top of each page. Three girls broke away from the rehearsal and were measured. I waited..... and then waited some more..... but no more girls arrived.

I looked around and eventually found Belinda who, in turn, rushed off to find the 'missing' dancers. It seems that the choreographer hadn't noticed me arriving and had sent the girls off for a shower! After some five minutes Belinda returned and said "I'm sorry Dan but you'll have to measure the girls in the shower room!"
I didn't think too much of it , I was just doing a job. I put my paperwork back in my case and followed. I usually found it best to try and appear as if 'this kind of thing' happened to me all the time, but nothing in my entire life had prepared me for this.....

Most of the girls thought it hugely amusing to have a man in their shower room, but a few objected most strongly and showed their distaste by striking poses that would have shocked any 'top shelf' magazine reader! Some of the banter coming from the girls was absolutely 'blue' - things I still can't believe - they gave me Hell! I wasn't that worldly-wise, tried to smile, even to answer some of their enquiries and suggestions, but with a dozen of them to deal with? You must be joking! To me, it seemed like thirty or more of the prettiest girls in town, blatant in their nudity and all with one thing in common....... their height ranged from 5' 8" to 5' 10", with me a mere 5' 7"!

To make proper outfits you need really 'personal' measurements - top shoulder to nipple, continue to under bust, under bust measurement, waist, hips, top leg, inside leg, every one of which was a possible cause for embarrassment in the wrong context. Normally, these measurements would be taken over tights, body stockings or a bra, but with some of the girls making 'obscene' movements, trying to take these measurements over damp soft flesh put the work in an extremely different light! Belinda was getting very cross with the girls and was furiously shouting at them to behave themselves, even resorting to actually slapping two of them! Was I enjoying myself? No way! It was really very embarrassing, and the harder I tried to ignore it and get on with the job, the more outrageous their behaviour became.....

I battled through and, eventually, it all quietened down. At last I completed the task and retreated, feeling completely drained. When I finally left the Y.W.C.A. hall I didn't bother with a cab, I just walked very briskly back to the shop, trying to clear my head of the ghastly experience. Thinking back on it, I should have refused to enter the shower room - I had made a prime mistake. Many times I've been horrified to note the arrogant manner with which casting directors treat the girls - like so many cattle. The poor girls just took all the male chauvinism and insults in their stride and continued smiling - they needed to work! But, for a man to actually enter their shower room must have been the final straw... their final bastion breached... and for that alone I guess I deserved the treatment meted out to me.

Shortly after this experience I created a new company to deal solely with 'stage wear' with Colin as its managing director. I personally changed course into pure manufacturing. So finally, I realise why this particular story was so hard to write - the event had a profound effect on me - much more than I ever cared to realise at the time!


Danny Benjamin 2007