John, George, Pete Best, Paul, and Stu Sutcliffe in 1960
As we all know, there is a time in every performer's career where they are "complete unknowns." Yes, there was a time, really not so long ago, when no one knew or had ever even heard of Frank Sinatra or Woody Allen or Meryl Streep. And so it was with the greatest, most famous, most deified show biz act of the 20th century: The Beatles.
In the summer of 1960, none of the usually-employed Beatles even had a day job. And like us all, the boys wanted to make some money. The then-foursome consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Stuart Sutcliffe played the oddest gig in the Beatles' long and storied history.
In those days, the Beatles were such a small-time act, they didn't even have a drummer: Tommy Moore left the group in May after a traffic accident, and Pete Best joined in August. John, Paul, and George would play guitar and Stu Sutcliffe was the band's pretty mediocre bass player.
The Beatles, in those days, had a semi-manager named Allan Williams. Williams was one of those "on the fringe" show business figures we're all so familiar with- the guy who was always trying to hustle up a "deal," the guy with the "big dreams," the poor chap who never really got a break.
Anyway, in that summer (July is usually considered the exact time) of 1960, Williams had just opened up a new club called "The New Cabaret Artistes Club." This was what we now refer to as "a gentleman's club," i.e. a high class strip joint. Williams had hired an entertainer for the man, a stripper, to perform that July week. Her name was Janice. She was a stripper from Manchester (in some accounts, her name is given as Shirley).
Allan Williams approached the four "layabouts" and asked if they'd play backing music all week for Janice the stripper. After some initial resistance, the four Beatles had haggled out an equitable financial deal. Supposedly, Sutcliffe was the tough negotiator and got them a fairly decent fee. "Why so much?" Williams had asked them during the negotiations.
Paul had replied, "For the indignity. The bloody indignity of it all!"
A fee of 50p (about two dollars) per night was agreed upon for each musician. That came to 250p for the week per man, i.e. around ten dollars.
Janice the stripper wanted the Beatles to play her usual selected repertoire and handed them the sheet music. That was pointless, as none of the Beatles could read music. It was reputed that during the engagement they played such songs as "Moonglow" and "The Harry Lime Theme" from the movie The Third Man.
Janice was a bit of a tease (being a stripper, of course). After each number, she would bow to the crowd, then she would turn around and bow facing the four teenage boys -stark naked. According to Paul: "She would turn around -completely starkers. We were just lads. We didn't know where to put ourselves."
Not that I know anything about strip clubs (ahem!) but it must have been an incredibly surreal sight in that incredibly surreal week, seeing a smoke-filled club filled with lonely, sex-starved men, in front to them on stage a sexy stripper and standing a few feet behind her, four teenagers who were, in a few short years, to become the most famous and influential human beings on the planet.
The week's series of gigs backing Janice went on without a hitch, and the Beatles wrapped up what was -undoubtedly- the strangest gig of their career. The very unusual week was hardly ever mentioned in the countless later interviews given by John, Paul, or George. (As a sad sidebar, Stu Sutcliffe died tragically young in 1962, at the age of 21.)
One wonders whatever became of Janice (or possibly Shirley). Maybe she is still alive. But we can safely assume one thing: Wherever she went, wherever she performed, as long as she lived and breathed, every friend, relative, and acquaintance of Janice heard her stories regaling and boasting about the week she was backed up as a stripper by The Beatles.
Stu, John, Paul, guest drummer Johnny Hutchinson, and George in May 1960