A few days of social media bullying has achieved what 20 years of death threats, feuds and gossip failed to do – reduce Maxine Fensom to a blubbering wreck.
Ms Fensom, owner of Maxine's Gentlemen's Club and one of the toughest cookies in the sex industry, was horrified on Monday to find a Facebook poison page that featured a doctored photo of herself sporting a penis where her nose is meant to be. It had been online since Friday the week before.
The name of the page was just as unflattering: "Lock filthy Maxine Up For Being A Dirty Hooker."
"It's left me really depressed and paralysed... I'm having trouble running my business, it's that disturbing," she said.
She said Facebook initially resisted taking the page down, but eventually relented.
The worst part was that so many of the people whom Ms Fensom called friends, or at least trusted aquaintances, had logged on and clicked "Like" – literally giving the thumbs-up to what is a nasty lie and slur.
"I've referred the matter to the police in Brunswick," she said.
For the record, over the years Maxine may have deployed plenty of hookers at her bucks' parties, but she herself has never dropped her drawers for cash – apart from a tasteful Playboy spread a very long time ago. She's a management girl.
"I will sue the arse off whoever is responsible," she said.
The problem is, over the years Maxine has crossed swords with most of her competition – and has an unhealthy list of disgruntled former employees. Still, she had a few ideas and started naming names to Fairfax Media. Over a couple of days, the list grew with possibilities – until she was certain that a stripping agency boss was to blame.
"Yeah I seen it," the man said in a phone call, and then he laughed. "But it wasn't me. If I was going to have a go on Facebook, I'd come up with something better than that. I don't know anything about it."
Fiona Patten of the Eros Association was briefly under suspicion, but now in the clear. She runs the Shine Awards in competition with Ms Fensom's Adult Industry Awards – rival trophy nights for honouring Australia's top strippers.
It's left me really depressed and paralysed... I'm having trouble running my business, it's that disturbing.
Ms Patten admits she and Ms Fensom "had a falling out, ages ago" – but upon seeing the loathsome Facebook page, contacted a mutual friend and asked her to alert Maxine.
"It's horrible and incredibly hurtful. It's something we're all going to have to deal with," said Ms Patten, alluding to the tough competition and bitchy nature of the industry. "But how does one proceed in the circumstances?"
Ms Fensom isn't sure what's she's going to do next. "I'm overdue for a holiday," she said.