A former firefighter who ended up homeless abroad after being attacked by thugs says his life was saved after becoming a stripper.
Danny Clifford, now 39, was named one of "Britain's best bodybuilders" before he was forced to flee the country from a violent gang.
He was enjoying a night out with his colleagues from the Greater Manchester Fire service, when he realised one of his friends was being beaten up on the dancefloor.
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In a quick decision, Danny decided to jump in and rescue his friend who went unconscious on the dancefloor, not realising that he had infuriated a notorious gang member.
"None of the staff wasn't doing anything so I jumped in the middle and basically said hit me instead, so I was worse for wear," he said, as he recalled the attack to the Daily Star.
"The next morning I got a call from a friend of mine who seemed a bit worried. He said the guy I got in trouble with was a big-time gangster.
"I didn't really pay much attention and then the next day he was seen in the area looking for me, he knew where I lived and knew where I worked."
Danny, who was in his early twenties at the time, said he was urged by locals to get out of town after receiving death threats in 2003.
"I went to Ireland and stayed there for around 8 months with my friends and was basically undercover," he explained.
"It didn't really work out there. I was young, everything was just too much, having your whole life taken away from you just for doing the right thing.
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"There weren't really any opportunities in Ireland, except working on a farm, which I enjoyed but it wasn't any kind of a future.
"It was difficult to come to terms with so I decided I needed a fresh start so headed to Australia on a work visa.
"I wasn't really thinking clearly, but I just knew I couldn't go back home."
Things then went from bad to worse as shortly after his arrival in Perth, he was robbed and lost all of his belongings including his passport and money.
Danny ended up on the streets, where he had to beg for cash while being laughed at by strangers who ignored him.
"I used to sleep on the beach because they had cooking facilities – whatever food I could get I use to cook it on there," said Danny.
"Most of it was just going through bins, I used to shower in the free showers which were open 24/7 for the surfers and that was my life."
He added: "It was definitely a shock to the system. I had my place, I had my car, a motorcycle, I was working at the fire service.
"I was a competitive bodybuilder at the time as well, I won Junior Mr West Midlands in 2003 and I was named runner up in Junior Mr Britain.
"It was almost like I was at this high and then it all got taken away."
After being homeless for around a month, Danny's luck started to change after he pleaded with a gym to use their toilet and was handed a free guest pass.
Danny got stuck in straight away and used the facility to work out, which is when he was approached by someone who worked for a strip club.
He continued: "I started using the gym and this guy approached me, I thought he was coming onto me at first.
"And then he said, 'you're looking good, what are you doing this weekend? Do you fancy working as a stripper?'"
Danny was reluctant at first, but understood that with no bank account, there wasn't many places that would happily offer him a job.
“The guy said I could earn 300 Australian Dollars a night plus tips and I was sleeping on a beach with no money, no food and no job…in the end, I cracked and said yes."
Three days later, Danny was put on stage, like a deer in headlights, but that didn't stop him from earning an additional $180 in tips.
"I so nervous. I was terrible, absolutely terrible. I don't know why people gave me tips," he joked.
"And after that, they start training and teaching you, it gave me confidence again."
The former firefighter worked at the club for around six months, which allowed him to get back onto his feet and eventually go freelance at people's houses.
"You might turn up as a police officer and arrest them and do a routine," he explained.
"There was a lot more money involved. The profit was in your pocket."
Despite initially refusing to take his clothes off for money, Danny said in a "weird type of way" stripping was what he needed.
He added: "You've been through all this trauma and you become a shadow on the street whom nobody pays attention to.
"And then suddenly you're in the limelight and all of the bright lights are there and everybody's screaming for you.
"You go from nothing to being something and it sounds ridiculous to some people because there is a stigma around strippers. But I met the most amazing people in that club with different circumstances."
What was meant to be temporary, became his new lifestyle for three years until his visa expired and it was safe to go back to the UK.
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Danny said he kept his head down on his return and soon realised that he wanted to pursue acting, just like his father, the Last of The Summer Wine actor Keith Clifford.
"And after doing all of this entertainment, I liked being on stage – it was like a mini-drama school in Australia – so I decided to pursue acting," he added.
The ex-bodybuilder went on to train at several drama schools and then continued his studies at the Royal academy of Dramatic Art ( RADA ).
Since then he has made appearances in BBC comedy ‘The Other One’, ITV's 'Cold Feet,' ' Coronation Street ' and ' Emmerdale.'
On reflection, he said: "People ask 'why didn't you call home?' But I basically just left.
"I don't regret it because they ( the gang ) were literally kicking my friend in the head, he could have died."
He added: "I've come full circle, I couldn't be happier really. My dad is especially over the moon that I've pursued acting.
"I look at life now and think everything happens for a reason; the fire service turned me into a man and going through all of that gave me independence, self-reliance and survival.
"Now when the smallest problem arises I think nah it's ok. Because I had someone who wanted to kill me so everything after that is quite trivial."
Danny has since written and starred in a play about his experience called Roll the Dice, which was nominated for the best comedy play at the Manchester theatre awards.
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