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While no part of town is immune, some neighborhoods are hit particularly hard by prostitution and the other problems that follow, including drugsrobbery and violence.
Beautiful figures Malcolm Day and Bree Maddox have each made millions from businesses ranging from phone sex to online erotica. Two for the money Malcolm Day wishes people would stop calling him a porn king. Yes, he is a mass-marketer of inflatable dolls, fake-fur handcuffs and glow-in-the-dark personal lubricant.
But "porn king"? What kind of job description is that? At 46, Day is a fit, sharply dressed man with centre-parted dark hair swept back from his face.
In photographs, he can look slick and devil-may-care - like a porn king, in fact - but when I meet him, he has the conscientious air of a hard-working businessman. Day is the founder of Adultshop. That's all we ever hear from our customers. West Australians admire entrepreneurs, whether they are in mining or erotica, and no one gets more invitations to red-carpet social events than Day and Maddox. They're just very cool people. Recently, Day has been in the news in the eastern states, too. His company Delecta Ltd, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, planned to build the country's biggest brothel - a suite extravaganza, with multilevel underground parking, in the inner-Sydney suburb of Camperdown.
Late last month, the development application was rejected on the ground that the proposed establishment was too large "the Westfield of brothels", a City of Sydney councillor called it and would create unwanted congestion in an already busy area. Day is philosophical about the knockback, although he suspects a golden opportunity was missed. Stiletto, the existing bordello on the site, has 19 rooms, he says, "and on Friday and Saturday nights, they sometimes turn away clients". The girls get 50 per cent. And if you double it to 40 rooms— He would have had no ethical dilemma about growing rich, or at least richer, on the proceeds of prostitution.
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His partner is similarly matter-of-fact. In any case, the couple have plenty of other irons in the fire. Besides the online retail enterprise, they have a chain of 15 sex stores - 14 of them in Western Australia and one in Tasmania. Day is also managing director and part-owner of Calvista, the nation's largest wholesaler of sex toys and X-rated DVDs. While he runs the porn kingdom, Maddox presides over The Court, a gay and lesbian pub she and Day bought six years ago.
Perth's lord mayor salutes their energy and ambition. And lovely.
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As is Mal. They are absolutely genuine, kind-hearted, normal people. Day, for one, has plenty of other things on his mind. Still, this is the only office I have visited that has bondage-and-discipline scenes on the walls. Nowhere else have I seen a dildo lying amid papers and coffee cups while staff tap industriously at computer keyboards. Here, and in his shops, Day employs 70 people, most of them women.
He says he used to tell job candidates, "—'Look, on Fridays, we have a nude half-day. In his own office, he has eschewed the usual framed snapshots of loved ones in favour of an enormous picture of Maddox posing naked with another former Penthouse Pet. On his desk is a sleek black case containing one of his most popular products, a silver-and-red silicone vibrator from the Swedish-deed Lelo range. Traditionally, men have been the big spenders, but the female segment of the market is where the growth is. Day claims that, these days, half of Adultshop's revenue comes from vibrator sales.
Maddox, affectionately described by her husband as "chief product tester", believes the increase in demand is due partly to improvements in the devices, which not only work better but look more appealing: neater and prettier, with elegant packaging. They've become "things that you're happy to have in your bedroom drawer", she says. Adult stores have changed in appearance, too. They are lighter and brighter than they used to be. To Maddox, this is more than just a marketing strategy.
Your sexuality isn't something you're meant to hide in a dark, dingy corner. Your sexuality is something that should be explored and celebrated. It is actually fun. And it's healthy.
Loitering in an Adultshop store one afternoon, I watch a conservatively dressed, ish woman browsing through the racks of lingerie and costumes. I wonder what is going through her mind: "Mmm But each to their own. In the interests of research, I spend a lot of time on the Adultshop website, much of it trawling the wild outer reaches of the catalogue. I read about the Fetish Fantasy Sex Swing "Difficult sex positions are no longer exclusive to the athletic and sexually gifted— Prevent those embarrassing sex- related shower accidents".
Day didn't plan to become a porn king - he began his career as a surveyor. Serendipity, he calls it.
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Sometimes there's just luck. I mean, Bree and I do have a few brains. But we've also been very lucky, being in the right place at the right time.
After university, Day spent three years surveying ro and mines in remote regions of Western Australia. Back in the city, he switched to high-rise construction sites, eventually becoming a civil engineer with a big enough income to buy a share in an introduction agency. Before he knew it, he had divided a Perth office into 40 small rooms, each with a couch and coffee table, and started a phone-sex business. He says the part-time workers on his books ranged from "big, fat housewives, which is what everyone expects" to uni students with scant sexual experience but a gift for talking dirty: "The girls put their feet up and they had on little headphones so they could just sit there and chat.
What's more, he made a lot of money.
Fromcallers to sex lines were legally required to register for personal identification s. Having already invested in a chain of sex shops, he started Adultshop. Maddox, who has been listening, glances around their penthouse. The apartment occupies the top two levels of a residential block built by Day, whose sidelines include property development.
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It has sweeping views across Kings Park to the city and looks exactly the way penthouses do in movies - lots of mood lighting, low leather couches and a circular bar. If James Bond walked in and mixed himself a martini, you wouldn't be surprised. Although he'd risk a nip on the heels from Elmo and Cookie Monster, the couple's excitable poodles.
Perhaps the most pampered pooches in Perth, they have their own bedroom with a balcony facing the park. Day and Maddox love this address. We didn't have any money.
Mal came from state housing. My mum was on the bones of her arse.
The couple met through work. I was on his coffee mug, I was all over the office, I was travelling with them and doing ings for them and all that sort of stuff. Despite their mutual attraction, it was two years before she started dating the boss. Honestly, it was amazing.
It was sparks between us from day one. Shyness has never been a problem for Maddox. At 18, she got a job in a strip t with the aim of earning enough to move out of home and pay her way through university "As much as I love my mum, living with her when I was a teenager was difficult". At first she worked there as a lingerie-clad barmaid but the conversation with the customers left a lot to be desired.
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And they didn't have to talk to anyone. Before long, she sashayed into the spotlight herself. In fact, Maddox took her stripping career quite seriously, if we are to go by an interview published in Penthouse when she was named the magazine's Pet of the Year at the age of Presenting six shows a night could be tough, she said. Talking to me, she says she regrets nothing. Not the strip shows, not her one adult film, Secret Paris, and certainly not posing for Penthouse.
Her first shoot for the magazine, in the Pinnacles desert in WA, was "a real transition for me, from teenager to adulthood. It was a defining moment of my life. I actually just felt beautiful. I felt like a woman. When the visitors made credit-card payments to watch pornographic video clips, she got a cut.