;I squinted up at the distressed and confused looking faces hovering above me. Blurry vision, muted and ruffled hearing plus a fuzzy brain; this would have been my normal state due to my chronic drinking habits. But I hadn’t touched a drop in a week.
And why was I lying on the cold tiled floor of the Penthouse Massage Parlour? On top of all that I had a searing pain in my back.
What the fuck was going on?
I’d kept a supply of whisky and vodka in my cramped office in Penthouse, but when that ran out, I started knocking back the cheap and foul wine the girls served up to their clients. That was when I realised I knew I was in deep shit and needed to give up booze.
I was way past ‘cutting back’, and that would never have worked for me anyway. I’m an all or nothing man.
I can do this on my own, I thought, I’m going cold turkey !!
Opting for cold turkey after years of alcoholic binging was not one of better plans…as I was soon to discover.
I was on my eighth day of not even sniffing alcohol when I’d suffered a seizure while walking up the stairs in Penthouse. I’d tumbled down the stairs cracking my spine in several places leaving me with a lifetime of pain and eventually having to resort to back surgery.
The 12 Unsuccessful Steps
After the disaster ‘cold turkey’ attempt I embraced the bottle yet again. But I hadn’t given up; next time it would be AA meetings.
I hated these meetings, but I’d resigned to give it my best shot. I bought the book (never read it) and went each week to listen to everyone regaling their sad and sorry alcohol abuse tales.
There was no way I had any intention of talking or sharing my woes with these strangers. I’d sit quietly dreaming longingly about that sexy bottle of whisky that I always kept in the boot of my car.
At one meeting (and my last) the facilitator looked at me saying “Ron you’ve been coming for some time now, wouldn’t you like to share your story?”
“All you do here is talk about alcohol and drinking” I answered, “and all that does is make me want to drink more.”
That was the end of my AA experience. I immediately got up and left the meeting never to return. I know the program and the 12 steps work for many, but I’m afraid it did nothing for me other than increase my desire for a drink.
Meanwhile, my children, Lyn and Roy, had been worrying about me and had been talking privately with my doctor about getting me committed.
Lyn had even cut short her trip to the UK and flew back home to New Zealand. It’s a sad and sore state when your addictions start to affect the lives of your children. Even in my alcoholic fugue, I appreciated all that they did.
However, it never came to that. One morning, on the 3rd January 1980 I woke up from a particularly heavy bout of boozing. My head was throbbing painfully but other than that I felt ok and I was ready for my first drink of the day.
I opened the pantry door to grab the flagon of remaining Vodka, but for some reason, I hesitated to pour it. I just stared at the quarter full bottle and the next thing I’m on the phone booking myself into a private Drug and Addiction Centre in Mount Eden.
My Lovely Relief Nurse
“You won’t last more than 48 hours,” the owner of the private rehab clinic told me – after she’d taken my money! Fuck that’s encouraging I thought !!
She handed me a marble sized pill and a glass of water and told one of the nurses to show me to my room.
The next evening a lovely looking nurse came in to check on me. Her pretty, vibrant face brightened my mood immediately.
“I didn’t see you when I came in yesterday,” I said to her. “No” she answered smiling at me “I’m a relief nurse.” “Oh, I’m in that business,” I told her knowing exactly what she meant.
She looked puzzled at me. “I’m in the relief business also; I run brothels.” I knew I was messing with her, but she looked like she had a good sense of humour, so I felt I was on safe ground. And to prove me right she burst out laughing. We hit it off and continued to chat for a while longer.
She started to leave my room, so I called out to her “where are you going?” She told me she was heading back to her office. “I’ll come and see you,” I said.
When she told me that I couldn’t do that, I smiled at her saying: “I’ll see you soon.”
After a few minutes, I got up and went in search of her office where we sat and chatted for a while. She was an impressive young lady, single with one child. She was working hard at trying to manage motherhood and her career as a nurse.
“I’m going back to my room,” I said after a while. “Would you like to come and see me?” To my delight, she said yes, she would.
Back in my room, we continued to chat, and soon we were kissing and cuddling, and her hand started to slide down my thighs where she embraced her role as a ‘relief’ nurse.
I stayed in the clinic for seven days, and when my lovely ‘relief’ nurse was on duty, she always made time to visit me making my stay at the clinic very memorable and extremely pleasurable.
When I walked out of the clinic, I knew I’d beaten the booze. I was determined never to drink again. Back in control, I was enjoying life once again.
I had a great relationship with both my children and appreciated all the support and love they’d freely offered over the turbulent past few years. Both Penthouse and Flora’s were thriving, and I knew I’d eventually find the perfect location for my next parlour which, I had decided, was to be in Custom Street.
However, I’m a homing pigeon; I’m at my best when I have a stable home life, and I missed my family and the balance it brought into my crazy, unpredictable world.
Beautiful young ladies surrounded me daily in the parlours, but I could never have a relationship with a prostitute, let alone marry one.
Sandra – Wife No. 2
It was March 1980, and It had been three months since my last alcoholic drink. I needed a part-time receptionist for Penthouse so I placed an ad in the newspaper advertising the business as a Health Studio.
I wanted to attract someone straight. I’d never let a prostitute, or even an ex-prostitute, take on a managerial or receptionist role. I realise advertising the business as a Health Studio might sound deceitful, but the businesses were technically only massage parlours.
I’d interviewed several ladies already when Sandra came to see me.
Sandra was 23 years old, English and had only been in Auckland for a couple of weeks. She told me her usual occupation was as a Secretary/PA, but since arriving in Auckland, she’d found it difficult to find work as each time she went for an interview they wanted to see her work visa…which she didn’t have.
The fact that she didn’t have a work permit didn’t worry me, and she seemed confident and was good-looking enough for the job. What did concern me, however, was that I could see she was surprised and shocked as I led her through the parlour showing her the hot tubs. “I expected to see exercise equipment,” she said.
I decided she wouldn’t be able to handle the more hardcore girls…goodbye Sandra.
A few weeks later I’d placed another ad but this time for a full-time manageress. I instantly recognised the strong English accent on the phone “you won’t remember me” she said, “but I‘m the English girl that applied for the part-time job.”
“I do remember you,” I told her. She convinced me that she could handle the job and we arranged for a time another interview.
We had a long chat and I explained exactly what went on in the business; I could see that the ‘goings on’ in Penthouse were entirely out of her norm, but she was happy to give it a go. She told me that Duncan, her boyfriend was going to the US the next day and she’d be seeing him off at the airport but could start the following day.
Sandra was living as a permanent resident in a budget hotel next door to the Intercontinental Hotel which was only about 2 kilometres from Penthouse. She could walk to work, and the job was day shift so suited her perfectly.
After the interview, I offered to drop her back off to her hotel. She didn’t seem impressed with my Rolls which only impressed me further. Sandra told me later that her boyfriend had been looking out of the window on the top floor when he noticed her stepping out of the car.
Hearing that this had caused a problem between them didn’t phase me one bit. I already knew I wanted to get to know Sandra much better, and once the boyfriend was safely out of the country, I planned to commence romancing.
I wouldn’t say that Sandra was one of my most successful manageresses. She wasn’t friendly with the girls, nor particularly friendly or courteous with the customers, but she was efficient and ran the business well during her day shift.
She gave me a hard time when I neglected to pay her for her two days training which had started over Easter. She insisted that I’d never said she wouldn’t get paid for the two days and demanded the money. She was persistent, and I admired this, so I paid her what was due.
I had started taking Sandra out for dinner on a regular basis, but even after a few weeks, I hadn’t so much as held her hand. I had other plans and decided to take it slow and play the gentleman.
I could quite happily sit and watch her drink scotch and dry without craving for even a sip. We had a similar sense of humour, and our conversation was easy so I enjoyed being with this super straight, English girl.
There was, however, still the problem of Duncan; her boyfriend had decided to return to Auckland.
In the parlour, Sandra continued to cause me grief with her unfriendliness to the girls and customers. I decided to move her to Flora’s, which was no longer walking distance for her and was an evening shift.
She was quite happy with this change as long as it came with a pay rise. “I have to take a taxi to and from work now,” she told me “so if I’m to be moved you’ll have to cover my taxi fares also.”
I wasn’t used to this stroppy and demanding attitude from my staff but, once again, relented. I was already falling in love with her!
Sandra proved unpopular with the masseuses at Flora’s also. But this turned out to work in my favour. She was an excellent manageress and would keep the business running until no more customers walked in. The takings increased dramatically.
I’d started to realise that having a friendly manageress wasn’t always in my best interest. Previous, amiable manageresses were quite obviously turning customers away when the girls became too tired.
Whereas my unfriendly, and uncooperative English manageress didn’t care a hoot. So the takings increased, and I started to spend more time in Flora’s helping keep the girls happy and softening Sandra’s cold attitude towards them. It also provided more time for me for romancing.
When Sandra told me Duncan was due back I told her I would fight for her. This worked wonders and by the time he’d returned from the US, Sandra and I were already becoming closer.
On the day Duncan arrived back from the US I’d arranged for two lovebirds housed in an impressive red cage, to be delivered to Sandra; devilishly clever of me I thought !!
I asked Sandra to marry me and on the 30th August 1980, three months after we met and six months since I’d been ‘dry’ we were married.
I felt I’d conquered the alcohol demons and was settling down with my straight, English wife. Now, it was time to focus on my next venture.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog.
Until next time…see ya later mate 😎