Interview: Tallulah

From the DJ History archives: a snapshot of gay London clubbing from one of its pioneer DJs

When Martin Allum, AKA Tallulah, passed away in March 2008, British LGBTQ culture lost a cult figure: one of its original, pioneering DJs, and a wonderfully flamboyant, clever and forward-thinking individual. Coming of age as a gay man in ’60s London, Tallulah went onto help carve out a space for LGBTQ people in an overwhelmingly straight late-night music scene: bringing gay (some closeted, some out) actors, TV and radio personalities and playwrights of the day together with club promoters, DJs, musicians and performers to build a British musical identity for LGBTQ people – both on and off the dancefloor.

In 2016, as gay clubs and their patrons continue to be threatened, the various, interconnected histories of gay culture, and its decades-long influence on both underground and mainstream culture, continue to demand honest documentation and awareness. In this interview from the DJ History archives – from 2004, only a few years before his passing – Bill Brewster speaks to Tallulah about the music, parties, fashions and relationships that layed vital foundations of a scene that, in the face of complex and consistent attempts at erasure, remains as important and radical as ever.

Tell me where you born.

I was born in Hamburg in 1948. My parents were over in Hamburg with the Reclamation after the war. My father was in the hotel business, helping getting them back on track. I came back to live with my grandmother in Bexley, just outside London, when I was three years old. I was brought up in the Woolwich, Erith and Bexley area until primary school, then my family moved to Maidstone in Kent, which was beautiful. Then I went to catering college in Broadstairs when I was 15 years old for two years. I love Broadstairs – it’s really cute.

When did you go to Broadstairs?

It would be ’66. I was well into music by then. Those towns and London were very mod influenced. You know what it’s like being brought up in the suburbs: for you to make a statement, you put yourself up for criticism in the way you dress, and especially during the ’60s.

Where would you go to buy records?

The first record I ever bought was in Maidstone – there was something about those little booths that you used to go hear records in – and it was the Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me.” Then I started looking around and came up to London [to go record shopping], and the first album I bought was Nina Simone’s I Put a Spell On You.

The Crystals - “And Then He Kissed Me”

Where did you buy it?

In HMV, on Oxford Street. To wear trendy clothes, I used to buy Simplicity patterns and the material down the market, and make the clothes myself – but tighter. I used have silk shirts. I was very effeminate and skinny. Of course, when you’re 16 years old, you start carousing around, and that’s really when my gay bit came out, through the toilets and cinemas. One of the first cinemas [I went to] was called the Biograph, opposite Victoria Station. It used to be gay on one side of the cinema and tramps on the other. They used to play Jason & The Argonauts and Edgar Lustgarten films.

How did you find out about cinemas and the like?

Toilets – cottages, basically.

But how did you find out about toilets?

My parents never told me anything about sex. I tried with a couple of girls, but it never got anywhere near full sex because I just knew it wasn’t right for me. I was very effeminate. I’d always get beaten up – buying blue suede shoes from Ravel and wearing them in Maidstone didn’t help. Every town had that division between mods and rockers and if I was on the mod side, then I was a very camp mod – almost a girly mod.

The first time I met somebody was when my parents sent me to ballroom dancing classes – not the best thing to do with a son who’s slightly fey – at the old Palace in Maidstone. Opposite the Palace was the old coach station, where these toilets were, and I was absolutely mesmerized by them. There was a huge hole in the wall, which basically the size of someone’s head, and people were obviously cruising there. Not that I ever did anything, but that was my learning process. I learnt more about sex from reading toilet walls than anything else.

People talk about paedophiles being there and the like, but I used to go round those toilets at 14 years old, begging to be picked up, and no one ever did! Once I found out about the toilet in Maidstone, I thought, “If there are toilets like this in Maidstone, then the one in Victoria Station must be absolutely amazing” – which it was. It was cavernous, downstairs and with probably 300 urinals. That’s where I heard about the cinemas: “Oh, you should go to the Jacey cinema in Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square.” I was still not sexually active. People passed numbers to me, but – well, it was against the law. Carousing around Soho, you’d fall into the record shops. You’d got your Saturday night shirt from Lord John in Carnaby Street, and then you’d go to get some records.

You went to Broadstairs when you were 15 years old. What were you going to do there?

Catering. That time was the start of the pirate radio stations – Radio City opened up on those old turrets near Whitstable. The first gay pub that I ever went in was The Ship in Chatham. I’d met these two queens in the toilet in Maidstone, and I couldn’t understand a word they were saying because they were talking Polari, but they said, “Oh, we must take you out!” We went to this pub and it was really rough. There were dykes in there who were prostitutes, ships coming in; it was a busy merchant port. But it closed at 10:30PM and you’d have to get there for 7PM, so you can imagine walking through Chatham in blue satin flares, yellow and blue shoes and blue eye shadow [at that time].

Later, I was in this gay pub called the Queen’s Head in Canterbury. I’d just got a fur coat, which I’d cut the bottom of off and placed at the top like a massive, high collar. I thought I looked the bee’s knees. I walked into this pub and nobody took a blind bit of notice of me, because they were all surrounding this one guy at the end of the bar. I kept saying, “Who is that guy?” It was Tom Edwards. He lived in Whitstable and used to DJ two weeks on and two weeks off [at Radio City, a key pirate radio station]. He kept sending drinks to me at the bar and I’d ignore them and send them back, but within about three weeks I buckled and became friends with him. Needless to say, we hit it off immediately. One Sunday, in a pub in Herne Bay, he called me Tallulah.

My college life went a bit down the pan after that, because I got interested in socialising. Broadstairs had lots of retired actors and I used to get passed around (not sexually) as a 16-year-old queen. There was [female impersonator] Ted Gatty, the guy who named Danny LaRue [British singer and cross-dressing performer] “LaRue,” which was the name of a club. He was 60 years old and used to put on these shows at this house: Castle House, Serene Place, Broadstairs High Street. I thought that address was so chic. It was a smuggler’s cottage and very [English playwright and author] Joe Orton – very queeny and theatrical.

I used to ask the old queens what it was like during the war: “Was it horrible?” “No dear,” they’d say, “during the blackouts you could wear as much makeup as you liked and you didn’t know who you were having!”

Was there a gay pub then?

No. We used to go in the Tartare Frigate, though, where [former British Prime Minister and Conservative Party Leader] Ted Heath used to drink. I used to love it there in the winter, They’ve got a pic of Ted Heath on the walls but I bet they haven’t got one of Ted Gatty.

I always assumed that he was gay.

We all used to say that, but I think he was just asexual. Also, all along that coast, was Birchington, Margate, Herne Bay, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Deal, Dover. Any queens living there were immediately invited to Ted Gatty’s – like Basil Spence, who was the camp one in the Carry On films.

Charles Hawtrey?

That’s it! He used to go to Deal, because the marines were there and they had a marine band, and would walk along the seafront in red leather. He was really outrageous - he’d go for marines and they’d go for him. Ted used to have gay séances in his house.

What radio DJs did you listen to then?

Jimmy Savile, Keith Fordyce, Pete Murray. The only programme that I understood was Round the Horne. I remember being really embarrassed in front of my mum when Round the Horne was on. I knew what they were talking about when they’d said, “Nishta lallies and vada the carts on the bona omi,” but my parents had no idea. When I was at the hotel I got friendly with Hugh Paddick [Round the Horne presenter] and through him I met Kenneth Williams [English comedy actor, of the Carry On film series]. We went for dinner, and were sitting in his little kitchen in Belsize Park, all sitting around this really little glum table eating spaghetti hoops on toast. It was very strange.

When he found out that I lived opposite in the hotel I said, “You must come to dinner,” and he was an absolute nightmare. He went up to my room and just as a record was finishing, I said, “What kind of music do you like?” He said, “HATE MUSIC. If we’re going to talk, we’ll talk.” I took him downstairs to the restaurant. He wanted to be on show all the time, so his voice was loud. There were 126 people in the restaurant and you could hear him above all of them.

When he finished the meal I said that we’d have coffee upstairs, just to get him out of the restaurant. “No, let’s go in the lounge and have coffee. Oh, and I have had you checked out, you know.” He’d asked Hugh about me. When I used to go and visit him, he used to leave the door ajar. You’d go into the flats, it was a bit like a Peabody building, really dark, and I’d knock and there’d be no answer with the door half open. You’d do that for ages until he’d finally shout “COME IN!”, and then he’d make me tea and let me read his scripts.

What was he like? His diaries are very depressing. A lot of it seems to be bound up in him being gay and being tortured by it, which is why I think he envied Joe Orton so much.

I knew Joe as well.


Yeah. He was alright - absolutely fine, and really ahead of his time, actually. He was very upfront about his homosexuality and loved cruising. You’d sit with him and he’d talk about it all the time: dirty, dirty, dirty. I met him through his boyfriend.

What was he like? I have Alfred Molina [British actor] indelibly marked in my mind for him.

He was really good, actually. That portrayal was quite wrong, I think. I can honestly say that, with Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Joe Orton and [Welsh comedy actor and author] Victor Spinetti, when I used to knock round with all of them, that there was no glamour involved in it at all. You’d just sit around the kitchen table.

Tell me about the cinema in Victoria.

The Biograph was opposite Victoria Station and there was this old girl who sat in the kiosk who looked like Marie Antoinette – very well dressed and full of make-up. She looked like Lily Savage, but was a woman called Jane. People used to take her orchids in glass boxes and chocolates – quite glamorous really. Once you paid to go in you could stay there all day.

The seats up the left had side were gay, and the right hand side was for the tramps drinking cider. There used to be a little fat queen called Myrtle, with a dirty old Lyons Maid white coat and a tray full of ices. He used to walk up and down the aisle and literally put a torch on people wanking each other off, trying to throw people out, but it never worked. The manager there was [English heavyweight boxer] Henry Cooper’s twin brother. It was a freak show.

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - “The Tracks of My Tears”

The other main cinema that I found out about through the Biograph was a cartoon cinema in Piccadilly Circus, where Ratner’s the Jewellers is now. You’d go in the boiler room and everyone would be having it off, while the tourists were busy watching Donald Duck and Roadrunner. It was also there that I found out about the clubs, like Le Deuce.

What would have been the current gay pubs then?

The Coleherne and the Boltons, directly opposite the Coleherne. That was it.

Did you go to the Sombrero?

That was much later. The clubs that were going in ’67 and ’68 were the Spartan, which was the place Kenneth Williams went to in Victoria, and the Kabal.

Was there dancing?

No, there was no dancing in any of these clubs. There wasn’t even music. (There were pubs that had some dancing, though, like a pub in Bermondsey that Larry Grayson [English comedian and TV presenter] was the compère at for years.) If we did a pub crawl from Kent, you would go from The Ship in Chatham to the Old Kent and then another in Woolwich, but they weren’t really gay: they just had sailors and drag queens, and were accepted. Then you’d work your way up to Coleherne, and then you’d head for Chelsea.

There were two clubs there, the Hustler and the Gigolo, which were members’ clubs that were basically coffee bars with grope holes and no jukebox. Club-wise, the main one was Le Deuce, which was on D’Arblay St and in the building next to the alleyway near Black Market. The lesbian club opposite was better, though: a coffee shop upstairs, but had a jukebox in the basement.

What music would be played there?

It was mainly soul and Tamla Motown: the Miracles, the Marvelettes, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Mary Wells. You’d get people like Roger Daltrey there, in their satins, kaftans and chiffon scarves. It was mixed so you could get away with it, and you could buy black bombers [a combination of Amphetamine and Dextroamphetamine, the active salt in Adderall]. Le Deuce had a coffee shop upstairs, too. (Also, at that time, there was a club called the Stud in Poland Street, which later became Louise’s).

I found all of these places through a Greek boy I’d met in a cartoon cinema. It was always word of mouth – God forbid you should get a flyer! London was dark. Nothing had been cleaned. You could smoke on the tubes [subway system], and the wood panelling in the carriages was yellow with smoke. I used to ask the old queens what it was like during the war: “Was it horrible?” “No dear,” they’d say, “during the blackouts you could wear as much make up as you liked and you didn’t know who you were having!”

Tell me about the club Tiles.

There was a pub I used to go to in Woolwich, which was run by this queen called Selena The Horse who owned the house next door. The house had a kitchen and a front room, and you’d pay 1s 6d to go in after the pub had closed. She’d pull an ironing board down in front of the kitchen entrance [to hide us]. In the lounge there’d be nothing other than a red light and a jukebox, and you’d buy the drink from her, from behind the ironing board.

It was outrageous: mixed up with sailors, lesbians, drag queens; really rough. That was in ’66. Tiles, however, at least looked like a club. If Tiles was still there today, it probably wouldn’t have been any different to what Sub-Station in Dean Street was like: metallic and dark, but it did have lights. No other club had proper lights then. I don’t know who owned it, but they decided to put some money into it.

It was the Marshall brothers, who owned the PA company.

Ah! That’s interesting, because that sound system was the first time I actually heard something that was different from a jukebox – and they had a DJ. There were loads of other bars around – A&Bs, Jeremy’s, Toucan, all these little rent boy bars in Soho – which had a record player that the barman would use to just put Shirley Bassey albums on.

[Sombrero] had these waiters who were all vile, midget, Spanish queens. If you upset them you couldn’t get a drink. I always think there has to be someone in clubs who can say “No.”

Let’s move on to the ’70s...

I used to go this club called the Escort Club in Pimlico that did drag cabaret, but before the cabaret they’d play music. It was there that the owner asked me if I wanted to play music. There was a guy who already played there – very young, cute and bi-sexual, I think – called Jimmy Flipside. He was called Flipside because he used to flip the records over. I didn’t need to do it – I was managing a hotel then – but I asked them what they wanted me to do and they said, “Can you do the toilets? And be on the coats?” People would walk in and paid you, then you’d put the coats behind you and then right there were the decks! That’s why they used to play albums, because you were busy doing coats.

The first proper place I got to play at was Shane’s, which was behind John Barnes in Finchley Road. There used to be a straight club called Le Cage D’Or which had a room with a separate staircase, and this guy decided to take it over and make it into a little gay club, for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. It was unusual because there weren’t dance clubs for gay people then. There might have been areas where you could dance in pubs and the like, but there were no dance licenses. Even in the well-respected clubs, like the lesbian one in Chelsea that’s featured in The Killing of Sister George, there wasn’t really dancing. It was all about socialising.

When Shane did this club it was supposed to be a social club, but it just so happened that there was a DJ unit, space for about 30 to 40 dancers, and a bar at each end. That was when I started to really buy records. I had two decks but to this day I can’t work out how I used to cue the records up, because I didn’t have headphones. I used to mix visually: by looking at the needle waver as the stylus picked up the sound, denoting that the record had started.

How long did you play at the club for?

I started in around ’72. Things had started to get better then – the Catacombs was open, too.

The Catacombs in Wolverhampton?

No, the Catacombs in Earl’s Court, London. That actually had a very good dancefloor. The guy who DJed there was calle Gordon Fruin, but he went by the name of Pamela Motown because he was the A&R guy for Tamla in the UK. Again, though, there were no drinks – it was coffee and orange juice.

Describe it to me.

It was opposite the hospital on Brompton Road, at the Earl’s Court end, and underneath a faux Tudor cottage front on the ground floor. You go down the stairs to pay the entrance money. The reason it was called the Catacombs was because it actually was catacombs. The bar was on one side, then a resemblance of a dancefloor at the front of the bar. As the dancefloor circled round the back, there was a wall, and behind that wall was another wall with the little caves set in, about four of them, and a passageway around the caves. That’s where all the sex used to go on.

But they also played really good music, and there was dancing – it held about 150 people. By this time, I knew people in the music business. Through Tom and the pirate radio thing, I knew Richard Swainson from RCA and Dave Most. I used to hang out with his wife. There were other clubs going on around that time, too: Chaguarama’s, which was before the Roxy [on Neal St], and Sombrero.

What was Chaguarama’s like?

It was fantastic. It was trendy, if you could possibly have had “trendy” then. This would’ve been in ’74. It was the first gay club that Neil Tennant went to. As much as the environs of punk were bubbling it was still very glam, with lots of girls – and the girls’ toilets was where you picked up pills. It had two levels: a restaurant and bar level, then you went downstairs; quite large, with a dancefloor.

Do you know who DJed there?

No, I don’t I’m afraid. It’s an alcoholic haze. Chaguarama’s was popular, but the main one to go to was the Sombrero on Kensington High Street, on a Sunday night. (I should say that the club itself was actually called Yours And Mine, but because it had a big sombrero outside for the restaurant upstairs, it got called the Sombrero.)The girl I used to knock around with, Barbara, who went out with Dave Most, would book a booth, because there were three booths that surrounded the lit-up dancefloor.

Timmy Thomas - “Why Can't We Live Together”

It had everything you needed in a club, but it wasn’t big. The DJ unit was flat against the wall, and raised. The dancefloor was small, and there was a bar that went round it, to marble steps down to the banquettes and seats. You were supposed to eat there, too. It was very trendy and you often couldn’t get in. The door picker was a called Amadeo, who was a good-looking, tanned, blond Swiss man. I used to think he was very exotic.

There were two things about this place: you couldn’t order a drink, and you had to eat. They didn’t want to give you food, but it was a licensing thing, so to get around it they used to give you a ticket for a salad, and a plate, serviette and fork. You got one slice of Spam – and I mean one slice of Spam – a lettuce leaf and half a tomato. They had these waiters who were all vile, midget, Spanish queens. If you upset them you couldn’t get a drink. I always think there has to be someone in clubs who can say “No.”

The way of getting into the Sombrero was down a staircase. The club was in the basement and the queens used to use the huge staircase to make an entrance – and have their coats taken off them as they were standing at the bottom! The music was really good, too. “Why Can’t We Live Together” was a sort of anthem there, and they’d often play this one particular Ginger Baker drum solo, which I’ve never found and still don’t know what it is. The DJ was Latin. It was great. The sad note at the end of it, though, was Amadeo. I think dealt cocaine, and someone killed him by pouring petrol over him and setting him on fire.

How long were you at Shane’s?

I’d say from ’72 to ’74, because that’s when the club Bang opened. Shane’s was started by this guy from the Marquee – I can’t remember how I met him – called Gerry Collins, who worked with a guy called Jack, who I think was the accountant at the Marquee. Gerry also DJed at places like Lacey Lady and Goldmine, because there were no gay dance clubs. Norman Scott was playing at Global Village at the black night, on Fridays. Gerry went to Los Angeles for a holiday and went to the gay club Studio 21 there, and came back absolutely fired up.

The minute that Shane’s came on the scene, it was a huge success. The queues went right round past the 100 Club. There were 1,500 people there on the first night. He couldn’t have picked a better venue to bring that sort of thing to Britain, and mainly because of the way the club was designed.

Silk Stockings dance routine

It was in the old Astoria Ballroom, so he’d got a huge stage and at the back a cinema screen, the whole length of the club. There were bars on each end, it had a hamburger joint, and you could look down onto the dancefloor. He used to bring the cinema screen down and play the whole tap routine from Silk Stockings. There’s one Fred Astaire one where they’re all wearing top hat and tails, and come up out of the floor, and the crowd used to go absolutely berserk watching this. They’d never seen stuff like this before in a club. They’d never had production.

He also had three DJs, lighting effects, fog machines, balloon drops – the works. The DJ was central in the room, up in front of the crowd. It was mixed, although you’d use the microphone for announcements or birthdays, stuff like that. There was a light switch in the booth that you could hit, which in turn would flash a light on the phone in the lighting engineers booth, so that you could talk directly to and arrange the lights with him on the fly. It was brilliant.

And the sound system… well, you couldn’t say that “it was better than such and such” because there was nothing to compare it to. You used to get people coming early and standing in the middle of the dancefloor just to hear the bass and the stereo, because they’d never heard anything like it before.

Bang did everything in the four years that it was open (I think from ’74, but I could be wrong, maybe it was ’75). Then it became a trendy nightspot. Even though it was openly gay, it didn’t stop people in the closet or cool straight people coming, like [Russian ballet dancer] Rudolf Nureyev. The production there was often themed. At Christmas, he would make it snow inside the club for the whole four hours.

The DJs were Gerry, Norman Scott and myself. Gerry always did the warm up. He’d learnt to mix, but would also do reel-to-reel stuff live. (The other thing we had was theme tunes. Mine was the overture from Gypsy!) Music-wise, it was all about the imported records. Even though you couldn’t realistically go to America, you’d know what was going on there through the music. The trendy and in-demand gays in Bang were the air stewards, because they’d be travelling all over the world. They’d have four- or five-day stop-overs in New York and Los Angeles, so they’d be going to the clubs, find out what the hits records were, and bring them back to London.

Were they getting pissed or doing drugs?

If they were doing drugs, it wasn’t noticed by anyone. No one was doing cocaine – there were no queues to the toilets. It was mostly alcohol, because there were deals on the beer prices. Once we got established and made a name for ourselves among the record companies, and we started hosting Pas with artists like Grace Jones. She whipped me once, actually. I did an interview with her and every time I asked a question, she just went, “YEEEEEEAH!” She was off her face, obviously. I thought she was a monster – which she is, of course.

Gypsy - “Overture (Original Broadway Cast)”

It was very good of Gerry to take me on as a DJ. I think the only reasons that he did was that I was so interested in music and dressing up. I always used to wear sequinned tops. I think that helped. I don’t really remember playing 7-inch records there, so maybe it was 12-inches by then. On Thursday nights, I would play half of the night and Gerry would play the other half. By this time, there were other gay clubs. There was Adam’s in Leicester Square, a mix of restaurant and a club that was quite trendy and posh, located where the Comedy Store used to be.

Catacombs was still going and the Copacabana had just opened in Earls Court, which had a really good DJ called Chris Lucas. He was really good mates with Ian Levine, around the time that Levine had finished with Northern Soul and had started to move more into disco. Maunkberry’s had opened on Jermyn Street, too, which was full of pop stars like Freddie Mercury and played very black music, like funk and soul.

What about the Embassy?

That was much later. I left Bang in ’78. I had problems with the flat I moved into in Marble Arch and basically ended up having nowhere to live, so I decided to go to New York. It was completely the place to be from about ’74. In Britain, we had three-day weeks, electric cuts and strikes. All of the professional people I knew – market researchers, doctors, dentists – moved to New York within a year.

I lived in New York for about 18 months and got a job at Studio 54. I don’t even know what I did there – I certainly wasn’t pretty enough to be a busboy. I was really, really pissed one night going in, and probably on something else as well, so when I got to the guide rope and thought that they were beckoning me forward (they weren’t), I tripped over the rope and fell over flat on my face. The bouncers picked me up and took me inside the door.

This guy asked me if I was alright and, when I looked up, I realized that he was [Studio 54 co-owner] Steve Rubell. He said, “I’ve seen many ways of trying to get into a club, but this beats them all. Did you do it on purpose?” “No.” He said, “Where do you come from?” “London,” I said. “You haven’t got any jobs going?” I spent most of my time in the lighting rig. It was fantastic. The atmosphere was unbelievable. I always liked it on the midweek nights the best – there were less people, but they danced more.

What made you come back to the UK?

I lived in Washington Square and was doing so many drugs. One night, I ended up in [gay club] the Anvil. I wore this all-in-one ladies black swimsuit, which I’d covered in diamante, and worn with fishnets, stilettos and a pillbox hat. One of the rooms in the Anvil was a big sex room, which had a bath with piss in it. It was horrible. I thought, “Oh, I’ll go in the back room.” Then, “Oh, this is brilliant, I can actually take all my clothes off and go in there naked.”

I rolled the swimsuit and fishnets down, and wrapped them around the stilettos. I must have been in there for 20 minutes and everyone was steering clear of me like death. As I came out, I caught a reflection of myself in the window and I still had the pillbox hat, earrings and necklace on. That was kind of it for me. When I got back, the Embassy had opened.

What did the Embassy look like?

It was London’s answer to Studio 54. [Fashion and gossip publication] Ritz Magazine was big at the time, and they needed some to get the Hooray Henry’s with money in the door [to be written about in Ritz]. They got Lady Edith Foxwell, who would have been 55 years old then: a very thin, birdy, elegant woman with scraped back hair. She was also broke, which is why she took the job.

The gay night was the Sunday night, and it was the nearest to a chic club that London ever got. There were lots of big stars in all of the rooms off to the side (everyone knew that the boiler room was the cocaine room). Lemmy from Motörhead would be continually, permanently, on the one arm bandits [slot machines]. I used to go down there in my mother’s cocktail dresses and big boots on. I used to stand next to Lemmy and he’d say, “I hope you’re not taking hard drugs.” “No, I’m just drinking vodka.” “Steer clear of the hard stuff!”

Tell me about Taboo.

I never DJed there. Boy George always quotes Taboo – he made a musical about it, in fact – but we always thought he only ever went on the opening night. He always makes out that he was there every night, but he wasn’t. It was very drug-fuelled. I was with [British filmmaker] John Maybury and [British music video and film director] Baillie Walsh, and there was [Turkish fashino designer] Rifat Ozbek, [British fashion designer] Anthony Price and Bryan Ferry. Mark was on the door with the mirror and the slogan above it: “Would you let you in?” That’s where that phrases comes from. It was basically [British performance artist and club promoter] Leigh Bowery doing his thing and those club kids were just Leigh Bowery copyists.

I don’t even know how long Taboo lasted. All I can remember is that Jeffrey played everything he could get his hands on, including the slipmat, and rolled around the floor while people poured beer poured over him. Nicola Bowery used to bore us shitless, too, trying to read poetry and trying to get enough to get home. To tell the truth, I don’t think it was that fantastic. There were really much better things going on.

What do you think were the best gay clubs in the ’80s?

At the beginning of the ’80s it has to be Heaven, because of what it encapsulated. While it never got to the beauty of The Saint, I’m sure that it reached the degradation. There were still back rooms there. When I talk to the old clones, they tell me about the leather area in the Soundshaft, which they’d give you gold keys for at one stage. I can picture it now: old clones standing on a wall, looking like a load of walruses, with their gold keys.

This interview was conducted in July 2004. ©

By Bill Brewster on June 22, 2016

On a different note