Greek-born, Melbourne-based stripper, Pistol Pete, won't accept a booking after 11pm on a Saturday night. An Orthodox Christian, he gets up at 8am every Sunday to go to church.
"The feeling I get when I go is amazing, it's priceless," he says.
Stripping for the first time, he experienced a similar feeling of elation.
"To hear the roar of the crowd, I just went blank, you feel like you're not really there. I was like, 'Is this really happening? I'm a stripper now.'"
That was nearly three years ago. Pete says he has made considerable progress in the industry in a short space of time.
"I am the first Australian to make it overseas as an international stripper in under one year of stripping. I set a new benchmark."
Before he was a stripper, Pete was an accountant in Melbourne, but lost his job in 2008, during the global financial crisis. Shortly prior, his relationship with his fiancee ended and he moved from the couple's home to a house in the south-eastern suburbs, where he now lives with his brother. Their parents live around the corner.
In 2007, Pete developed diabetes insipidus, characterised by extreme thirst and frequent, excessive urination. Due to a combination of medication and binge eating he was also severely obese, with 42 per cent body fat. As an accountant, Pete had purchased a BMW Z4, a motorbike and a jet ski that he was struggling to pay off without a job. The debt collectors came knocking and the toys were repossessed.
Pete took what was left of his savings and headed to Thailand for six months of exercise and reflection. He trained in Muay Thai martial arts every day and lost 40 kilograms.
Back in Melbourne, some friends at the gym suggested he try topless waiting, Pete says that seeing some female guests get ignored by the strippers that worked at the same events bothered him. "I felt sorry for the less advantaged girls - not based on their appearance, but less advantaged in that the other strippers weren't giving them attention."
"The only reason I wanted to get into stripping was because I wanted to treat those girls right, the girls that were less advantaged," he says. "We're all equal in God's eyes."
He contacted Pantha, multiple Mr Nude Australia, to ask for advice. Pantha took him under his wing and helped him choreograph a routine as a policeman called Pistol Pete.
At one point in Pete's routine, he skids across the ground wearing knee pads, a rose in his mouth, to the tune of Hold Me Now by ex-Eurovision star Johnny Logan. The last song in the routine, at which point Pete drops his boxers behind a towel, is 50 Cent's Candy Shop.
"I didn't just want to get out there and wiggle my dirty bits around within two minutes, because I don't see that as being art, it's not entertainment. I've got more respect for myself," he says.
"There are girls at the show that have got boyfriends or husbands, and they might get offended, so I'm not going to do that. I guess there are two or three who are always going to get excited. But I need to cater for everyone."
When Pete drops his towel, it's for the hen or birthday girl's eyes only, and Pete says it's so dark in there, she can't really see anything anyway.
Nine months into his stripping career, Pete won a competition with an LA-based agency who sent him to strip in Las Vegas. He has since stripped in Hawaii, in Cancun twice, for college girls during spring break, and met a nightclub owner who invited him to perform at her venue in Sweden.
He's been invited back to Vegas twice since his first visit, but says his obligation to his 4-year-old goddaughter prevents him spending too much time overseas.
"They've got no support network, no family, no nothing, so I want to do the right thing."
Pete doesn't drink, take drugs, or go out clubbing, but occasionally, he'll hook up with a single lady that he meets on a booking. Forming relationships is harder. "No one wants to date a stripper," he says.
For Pete, the stripping is a social activity. But he's increasingly aware of the contradiction between his work and his religion, and for this reason, it's not something he wants to do forever.
"The biggest sin I'm committing is creating lustful eyes," he says, referring to the desire he might incite, particularly in married women.
His parents are supportive. When learning his choreography, he told his Mum he needed to practise in front of women, so she rounded up her friends and they assembled in the lounge room to watch his routine.
Pete elicited whoops and cheers from the senior citizens. "Zat's my son, zat's my son!" sang out his proud Mum, whose English is limited.
On one particularly busy day, when Pete had 14 bookings, his father drove him from job to job.
"My dad is like, 'Son, you're not murdering anyone, you're not screwing anyone's wife, you're not prostituting yourself, you're maintaining your morals in the industry. So go out there, and be the best at what you do and have fun."
- FFX Aus
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