I’ll admit, I didn’t recognise Merridy Eastman’s face or name prior to the end of this book where she reveals she got a job on the one TV show mentioned that I actually watched (Always Greener). Her stint on Playschool was before my time, and I’ve never sat through an episode of Blue Heelers or managed to see her in the countless other programs and commercials namedropped in. I wasn’t a fan of hers. What drew me to the memoir was the fact that it was about a brothel. I’ve read another fascinating prostitute memoir called In My Skin by Kate Holden, which I love. Eastman’s memoir doesn’t compare, because she never sells her own body, but it is still an interesting read.
The memoir is told as a collection of linear anecdotes from the day Eastman found out about the receptionist job to the day she quits for her aforementioned acting job. On the cover it claims it’s the story of ‘how my brilliant career went from Playschool to brothel receptionist.’ It’s slightly misleading. Eastman was apparently on Playschool in the Eighties, and the events of this novel happened around the turn of the century. It’s not ‘how my career turned’ but ‘what I did to survive.’ Eastman has an easy way of writing and a fantastic sense of humour. Her prose is friendly and a pleasure to read.
I think the most difficult thing about this book is the fact that Eastman is constantly an outsider to the goings-on of the prostitutes. She’s desperate to be friends with them – for unspecified reasons – and she openly admires them. There’s never any disrespect, even for the nasty ladies. There’s a lot of pity for the ones who can’t find work (translation: men will not choose to pay to have sex with them). There’s a lot of exasperation for the expensive ladies who get a lot of clients but hate the job and won’t quit. There’s a mix of pity and revulsion for the clients desperate enough and brave enough to enter a brothel or ring up an escort line asking for a woman they will pay to have sex with. Even though Eastman comes face to face with lots of clients, the focus is always more on the working girls.
Overall I enjoyed this memoir. It’s not quite what I expected on account of being only about the job, not the journey to the job, and mostly focusing on the women instead of reflecting more on the clients. For that kind of prostitute memoir, I recommend the aforementioned In My Skin by Kate Holden. But since Eastman’s prose was clean and her sense of humour and friendliness evident within these pages, I do want to read her two other memoirs, Ridiculous Expectations: Or How To Find A Prince, and How Now Brown Frau.
My favourite part was where it was revealed that actual prostitutes were hired to play prostitutes in Moulin Rouge!