IT’S amazing the brightening effect a good looking, bare chested man can have on an office. Believe me, I know.
Staring at my emails a few weeks back, I was sifting through the hundreds of emails which arrive in any reporter’s inbox.
Charity events, press releases about new innovative products, invitations for tea with the Mayor — they were all there, but one email in particular caught my eye.
‘Something cheeky to brighten your day’ promised the subject line.
It was from a company called Butlers in the Buff who were saying they were in dire need of buff men to fulfil the desires of hundreds of Hampshire women.
Having never experienced a Butler in the Buff first hand, I did the only ethical thing a journalist could do and immediately booked one. I needed to test this out first hand.
A few days later, I met Simon Blann, a butler of three years, in the reception of our new office.
Arriving 15 minutes ahead of schedule, Simon was cool, calm and confident.
As we walked towards the lifts, 31-year old Simon told me that he had originally trained in insulation fitting, before working in Ibiza. When he returned from Ibiza, tanned and buff but also broke, he needed a job. That’s where Butlers in the Buff came in.
Simon, from Milton, says, ‘I was in between jobs. I was looking for a new career and I had just finished doing a body building competition when I saw the advert. That was September 2010. I got a full time job shortly afterwards but kept on butlering around it. I never stopped and I’m about to do my 100th job this weekend.’
Simon is one of around 300 semi-nude butlers across the UK. Most supplement normal day jobs or university life with a few hours butlering in the evening. For Simon, his day job is as a field sales rep for a sign graphics company which is a job where he also has to be super confident to close the deal and hit targets.
To walk through our office, with it’s huge open plan set up and vast expanse of glass windows, he will need to have some confidence.
Simons says, ‘The first few times you do it can be very nerve wracking, you are trying not to shake when you are pouring the champagne.
‘Sometimes when I am driving to a job, that’s my point when I still get a little bit nervous. You can be at a guest house in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal, knocking on the door. But when you see a friendly face, you know it’s going to be OK.’
I ask him if he’s even ‘done’ an office before, to which he says no and a slightly nervous look flashes across his green eyes. I quickly change the subject and ask him about his average job.
‘On an average job, I turn up about 15 minutes before I’m due to start. Normally it’s a secret, 95 per cent of the jobs are hen dos and they have been planning it for months.
‘It’s a covert operation to get in to the venue. I’m normally snuck in through the back door and then into the bathroom, where I get changed and await further instructions.
‘Most of the time I’m given a bottle of champagne and then I make my big entrance into the room.’
Today, Simon will be making his big entrance with a tray of teas for the reporters. I smuggle him in to the toilets and wait outside, almost more anxiously than him. Five minutes later and he’s ready, his perfectly toned body looking fine.
Is this the strangest job he’s ever done?
He laughs, ‘You do get the odd ones, where you have to do funny photos in the house, sitting in their husband’s chair holding the remote control or washing the car, but it’s 100 per cent fun.
‘I once had to do a murder mystery weekend where everybody was dressed up as Absolutely Fabulous characters, we had to go on a treasure hunt and they got me dressed me up like David Hasslehoff, that was bizarre.’
As we walk down the long corridor towards the newsroom, I take his bag with his clothes in and ask what his girlfriend thinks of his butlering.
‘My girlfriend absolutely loves it, she tells all her friends about it. She loved it from the start, she knew what I did before, so it didn’t matter. She’s never had any problem with it, she almost boasts about it,’ he says.
And, no, she was not one of his hens. According to Simon, that’s a big no in the world of butlering — mixing work with pleasure. The company has a strict three strikes and you’re out policy.
And what does his mum think about his part-time job?
‘My mum thinks it’s really funny. In the early stages, I went to a hen party and in amongst the hens was my mum’s PA. My mum already knew, but she took a picture of me on her phone and sent it to my mum. She replied “enjoy him”, that’s how I knew it was OK by her.’
What about his dad?
‘It’s just one of those things that he lets me get on and do, I don’t think he has an opinion on it, it’s a classic mum-dad split.’
As we enter the newsroom, it only takes a few seconds before an excited whisper goes round the office.
City reporter Miles O’Leary looks up from his telephone call and nearly falls off his chair.
Editor Mark Waldron looks out from his office and shakes his head.
Suddenly, women from the events and advertising departments have important business in the newsroom.
Simons laughs it off, smiles a huge perfect grin, and takes our tea order.
Camera phones come out and there’s a frisson of excitement in the air.
Does he ever get fed up and think about throwing in the apron?
‘There’s no reason why I would stop it, my girlfriend is cool with it, so is my mum and my work. The only reason would be if I were to have kids. It’s only a couple of hours, so it has virtually no effect on my social life. It’s money for socialising. I would like to earn £25 every hour, if I did, I’d be laughing.’
After serving our teas on a silver platter, he cracks on with the washing up.
Over a sinkful of suds, I ask him how he deals with unwanted attention.
‘The majority of the time I’m dealing with people who have had a drink and everybody knows that people’s mindset changes once they have had a drink or two. I just try to remain calm, professional and remove myself from the situation. I’ll spend time with the group, rather than focusing on one individual.’
And what about the bum pinching? Does he mind?
‘At the end of the day, there are parts of the job you have got to expect. I’m wearing a pinny with my bum on display, it must be tempting.’
‘The mothers of the bride tend to be the most cheeky, the older the group the more you have to look out.’
Simon has done all sorts of jobs, from a chartered boat on the Solent, to a 70th birthday, but now he can add The News’ reporters to his list of strangest jobs.
As Simon leaves to get dressed, I muse over his description of it being a good middle ground between having a butler and a stripper, simply good clean fun.
And I think that every office could benefit from its own butler in the buff.
BECOME A BUTLER IN THE BUFF
IF YOU have a great personality, winning smiling and a fit body, then you too could become a Butler in the Buff.
The company is on the search for the most confident, good looking, charming males aged 21 to 35 years of age to earn £25 per hour.
Simply go to the Butlers in the Buff website and fill out the application form, attaching a couple of photos.
Joe Clarke has been a butler for two and half years.
He said: ‘It’s the perfect second job, you get paid to chat and look good, it boosts your confidence getting attention from the ladies and it’s a great side earner.
‘Totally beats your average Saturday night working in a bar or labouring.’
Hopefuls must complete an application form online and will be invited for a Skype interview.
Go to butlersinthebuff.co.uk/becomeabutler.
But be warned, the audition process can be nerve wracking, however, it’s nowhere near as scary as your first job.
Butler Simon Blann said: ‘You get your kit off, and then you are interviewed on camera.
‘You have to think on your feet, they put you through your paces and test you to see if you can hold yourself.
‘Although standing in a room being interviewed in front of a camera nowhere near prepares you for the first time you open that door and see 30 screaming hens.’
HIRE A BUTLER IN THE BUFF
ARE you hosting a special event that could do with a bit of spicing up?
Hen parties are the obvious choice, but the versatile butlers can adapt to any situation.
They have three levels of cheekiness, ranging from trousered bottoms to black boxer shorts to the full bare bum.
From a small civilised dinner party, to a 90th birthday party, to a polo match or even just a naughty little office surprise, the butlers not only pour the drinks and help with the washing up, they look good and help break the ice.
The Butlers in the Buff website is packed with testimonials.
Anna Edwards said: ‘The butlers arrived early, looked fantastic, were both very nice guys and extremely helpful and professional. They served champagne, chatted to the guests and served canapes and food. They added just the fun twist we hoped for at our hen party.’
Laura Wakley said: ‘They were both such good sports despite being surrounded by cackling women. They were attentive, funny and wonderfully entertaining.’
Jess Sadler said: ‘Our butler was absolutely fantastic and we couldn’t have asked for anything more. He was charming, attentive, up for a laugh and even learnt some burlesque dancing with the rest of the group. He really made our day.’