Gay Life in the Eighties
The Pink Past. The Eighties
More information wanted
.The City Bar and Bolts  From Karl


I chanced on the Stradivarius website and was glued to some of the reminiscences, particularly the Soho Cinema scene. I worked in the Colt at 6 Berwick Street early 1981 until late 1982. It was a fun time and a very exciting place for a young guy in his mid twenties to find himself. We had a cinema in the basement and I had to change the reels when the old reel had finished, not that anyone was watching the films, the cinema was bursting most nights and among the punters were many good looking guys, occasionally I would get off with one myself , I would even lock the shop up for 10 mins while I went in the toilet behind the counter !

We were regularly raided by the police, on one occasion they turned up and cleared all the punters out and promptly picked up the TV on the counter and threw it on the floor, they would taunt the customers calling them perverts, occasionally I would bump into the same coppers at The Subway while they were raiding the club.

After being raided we would call the boss who would come and restock the shelves. We also used to swap reels with other cinemas.

Working in the Colt was an exciting time, yes it was sleazy with the basement, but it was also a place to meet and chat with friends, most evening there would be a small crowd of guys mostly young customers that I had become acquainted with, we would wait till 10pm and close the shop and then go to one of the many venues that may have been opended that night, Bangs being a favorite.

I also met quite a few youngsters in the shop that went on to have very successful careers in the Media !

Eventually we were informed that we would not be able to stay open unless we had a licence, at that time Dame Porter was head of Westminster Council and she refused us a licence, the shop was closed but reopened temporarily as a venue with dance booths, customers could view naked boys dancing for £5.00...............



Thanks for so many memories, there are a few regular bars that I used  that have not been remembered here. The first being The Ship And Whale  in Gulliver Street in Rotherhithe. It was a traditional pub with a pool  room, disco room and an outside bar and garden. 

At the time, about 1981,  I lived in Kent and when The Ship Inn in Rochester closed on a Friday  evening at 2300 a whole convoy of cars made their way up the A2. The DJ  Lewisham Lil seemed elderly to me at the time but still filled the dance  floor. At 0200hrs when the place closed there was some serious cruising  in the car park next door and an old dis-used warehouse behind the car  park. My first date with my now partner of 26years was at this venue so  it still holds special memories. The building is now a Gastro pub with  the same name and the surrounding area is now all expensive apartments.

 The other venue I used regularly on a Sunday evening was the Bull and Pump in Shoreditch High Street which had the same late licence as  the LA. The pubs in Kent were closed by 2230 but the Bull and Pump known  by most as the Pull and Dump was just getting going with the cabaret for  the evening. I seem to remember that Toni Sinclair was a fairly regular  Sunday night artist. "Traffic" just of York Way in Kings Cross was another great but  fairly short lived basement nightclub that was good for a cruisey  Saturday night it was under some shops if I remember rightly. It must  have been the first club in London to be smoke free, a small outside  courtyard area to the rear was for Smoking. How progressive for those  times, probably 87/88.


The City Bar and Bolts  From Karl

Hi Keith,

 Just wanted to share my memories of a few places that do not seem to have been mentioned.Firstly The City Bar in York Way,Kings Cross.This used to be a great small bar that had a slightly seedy atmosphere.Was always nusy especially on a Saturday night,with the postage stamp sized dancefloor heaving.Have fond memories of witnessing a wet jock and apple bobbing contest in there..So funny.
 Next was the legendary North London club Bolts @ Lazers on Green Lanes near Turnpike Lane. This was the first big gay club I went to and the first time I ever saw Divine live was here.It really was a great place.Cheap drinks,big dancefloor,great crowd fantastic lights and the iconic DJ of the time Norman Scott.I spent countless Friday and Saturday nights here drinking and dancing to Dead Or Alive,Hazell Dean,Miquel Brown,Evelyn Thomas,Sinitta..the list is endless. Hazell Dean was a regular performer(isn't she everywhere) and I can still recall a young George Michael turning up with some "friends" one night..I always knew he was gay from that moment on...What a sorely missed club..So many many happy times here.Does anyone else remember it or was a regular there?

From David
Just looked through your site and very interesting - lots of memories! 
I noticed that there was no mention of ADAMS, the Leicester Square club which had a very upmarket ground floor bar and downstairs restaurant with a great disco. DJ with steve Cutting? 
Sadly, the same premises eventually became the Subway club, but my happiest memories of the late 70s was ADAMS - as well as the occasional trip to Scandals next to the Swiss Centre and SPATS in Oxford Street. I would love to hear any other memories of the club - and especially if anyone has any pics of the venue in its heyday? 
It inspired me to DJ myself, and under the Tricky Dicky empire I worked for them at Spats, Phoenix, Touch (Balham) and was the main DJ at Silks (shepherds Bush). 
David Adams

Reopening as a Gay Bar/Club in Spring 2007 !
I read with interest some of the articles on your website. Thank you. 
What can you tell me about the Copacabana Club which used to operate at 180-182 Earls Court Road? I'm interested in hearing as MUCH history as possible about the Copa because it is going to be re-launched in Spring 2007 as a brand new gay venue "Coco Latté" a sophisticated 500-capacity lounge, bar and nightclub on the site of the old Copacabana Club. The interior is being designed by Nicola Fontanella of Argent Design and the staff uniforms are being designed by Julien Macdonald OBE.

Managing Director, Coco Latté Earls Court Limited 
Email: Nicholas@cocolatte.net 
Post: PO Box 12240, London N7 8ZW, UK 

 By Grahame the Groovy Builder from Wandsworth Common

What a beautifully thought-out site. Many thanks! What nostalgia!

MSC in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. Genuine bikers mixed with hunky men who just liked leathers. Organised the famous Isle of Wight trip.  A complete train was hired and we all tripped down to a waiting steamer which circled the island before depositing us back for the return journey.  The crew didn't know what had hit them, although a few were tempted to join in the revelries.  As we drove slowly slowly through Clapham Junction station around 6.30pm, the look on commuters' faces was priceless as they were confronted with a trainload of leather men shagging in every carriage. 

I think a couple of MSC members were involved with the Eagle bar in Hungerford Lane behind Heaven. The great thing there was that as members we had a key for a door connecting with Heaven;  many's the time we would strutt our stuff on the Heaven dancefloor before dragging some pretty boy back into the Eagle which was basically a shagfest. 

La Popote in Walton Street.  Afternoon tea for ladies from the shires. Sunday lunch was a real institutiuon:no one came for the food, which was just about edible. Once the chef didn't turn up and Chris dug out a tray of ancient cottage pie from the back of the freezer, sent out for some vegetables and served it up as an 'alternative Sunday lunch'. No one batted an eyelid, even though the prices were pretty high. No,what really glued it together was the eclectic mix of people of all types and persuasions. and, of course, Chris Hunter as MC. 

Country Cousins:  Chris Hunter opened it with sausage and mash served on paper plates as there wasn't enough money left for a full-scale bash. The lovely Cherry was on the door. Wonderful Ray Steptoe, an east-end muscle boy and procurer of handsome young men, was in attendance and dropped his trousers to reveal why he was so popular, as was Russian/Italian Auro Varani, Tuti, brother of Dee Dee Wilde (Pan's People) and owner of Kosher Nostra jeans and Max Brightwell. Rodney was Chris's lover for a while which is why it was later renamed 'Rods'. 

Last I heard was Chris Hunter had moved to Brighton to open another restaurant. You're all often in my thoughts! 

(Grahame the Groovy Builder from Wandsworth Common)

From Stephen

Hi my name is Stephen and I stumbled upon your web site by chance having  trying to find some information on Mrs Shufflewick whom I used to see  regularly at the Black Cap and Vauxhall. I was around the gay scene in London in my early twenties and can remember much of it. 

Did you know about the Porchester Hall drag balls, the Giggolo restaurant in  the Kings Road, the Bird Cage club at Chalk Farm tube station The Trade cinema in Berwick street upstairs was a sex shop down stairs they  showed porn films, when the film ended you rang a bell downstairs and an  assistant from upstairs would come down and put a new film on. Did you  mention spartacus sex shop in same street. The Premier Sauna was the only one in town based in Upper St martins Lane  was converted into a hotel

. I remember the Biograph as I used to go on sunday afternoons the gays sat in  the bottom left side ten rows, and troop off to the toilet walking infront  of the screen, which invariably had Rock Hudson and Doris Day films playing. The Biograph was owned for a time by the boxer Henry Cooper. I met my first partner in the Biogrope as it was affectionately called. I remember the film  Steptoe and son being filmed in the Vauxhall Tavern run by Pat and Breda at  the time who went onto take over the Union Tavern pub in Kenninghton Lane it  had a dance floor which was unique at the time. Subway was  a bar in  Leicester square and did you mention the old A and B Club in Covent Garden  .

The scene as moved on now sadly and not for the better drag as become  boring unlike its heyday with the Harlequins, Shufflewick blessher Mark  Fleming who collapsed and died at the Vauxhall Tavern, Hinge and Bracket  started at the Vauxhall as did Lilly Savage,the trolletes amongst many. We  would have fire eating and snake charming acts at the Black Cap. My memories  are endless sadly so many have gone from the London scene at the time yet I  still feel young at 48 I was  in the thick of it in the best gay scene era  ever it can never be recaptured. Anymore info you might need call me Im sure  there is loads ive forgotten for now that will come flooding back if my  memory is jogged. 
Regards Stephen West feel free to use my name for  posterity. xxx

From Bryan

II was overjoyed to read your articles on the gay venues in London during
the 70s and 80s. It was pure nostalgia.

During the latter part of the 70s, and following the Al Pacino movie 
'Cruising', I discovered my interest in leather and contacted London's 
MSC chapter and was invited by their president to attend a meeting at 
their north London pub. During my second visit, I was approached by two 
men who insisted they wanted to bundle me in the back of their van and 
take me to Hampstead Heath. I declined their kind invitation and the 
following week I was kicked out of MSC.

Pouring through the pages of Capital Gay, I stumbled upon Spreadeagle 
Club, which held its meetings at the Princess of Prussia in the East 
End. They were sympathetic to my treatment by MSC and offered me free 
membership. I enjoyed many happy years with this group and was saddened 
when it finally folded up, after moving to various venues and never 
really settling down.

I often visited Vauxhall Tavern and remember when Lee Paris used to do
'her' act actually on the bar, climbing onto a swing, banging her head 
against the ceiling while singing Lollipop, and throwing sweet lollipops 
into the audience. The drag shows were so popular that the two bars were 
knocked into one and a stage was built. Some of the best names appeared 
there. I got to know Lee Paris very well and she would advertise my 
leather body to any one  interested, telling the audience they could 
find me draped over the railings outside after the pub closed! Equally, 
I came to know Bobby Charles, Bunny and Wabbit, Adrella and the 
legendary Lilly Savage. When Mrs Shufflewick collapsed in the street and 
died, Lee Paris presented a special show to commemorate the influence 
Mrs Shufflewick had presented in the drag circuit.

On a Saturday night, after the Vauxhall Tavern closed, with spirits 
high, it was not unusual for the party crowd to cross the street and 
visit the Market Tavern at Nine Elms. There were two bars; the front bar 
included a dance floor and welcomed the dance set, while the back bar 
was more cruisy and heavy with a leather and clone element. The bar was 
usually manned by Michael Edwards, a typical clone image, with muscle 
tee-shirt and leather jeans. It was in the Market Tavern, one Friday 
night, that I had the pleasure of meeting Freddie Mercury, of Queen 
fame, and we had a long chat, much to the dismay of his bouncer boyfriend.
Freddie Mercury was not the only famous person I was acquainted with. 

As a regular of Bromptons in Earls Court, I also got to know Kenny Everett 
very well and was invited every year to his birthday party on Christmas 
Eve. The other reason for visiting Bromptons was to purchase the latest 
Hi-NRG records from the Clone Zone stall set aside from the main bar and 
dance floor. Across the road from Bromptons was the infamous Colherne,
where I can remember one Saturday night, after closing, being chased 
away by police! The Colherne had its own cruising area inside and 
outside the bar and its sleazy ambience made it an ideal place to visit 
before going on to Bromptons or into the West End for Heaven.

If you could not find that elusive Hi-NRG record in Bromtons, then a 
visit to Record Shack, in the heart of Soho, was sure to produce a 
result. Even absently humming a tune, the assistant asked if I was 
looking for Girl Talk's Kiss In The Dark and I was delighted when he 
produced the 12 inch version of the record everyone changed the words 
to: A Piss In The Park! In the city's London Apprentice, both dance 
floors thumped with the sound of Hi-NRG music and the walls were adorned 
with large framed prints of Tom of Finland's drawings. It was a cruisy 
clone image which won the bar its populrity and the bar staff were not 
adverse themselves to glittering up their 'taches and presenting their
very own drag show.

It would be wrong to single out any one venue, but London during the 70s 
and 80s had everything to offer the gay man, whether he was new to the 
scene, or whether he was prepared to move away from the illegal squats 
of Brixton, where gays met for a drink and a smoke, watched over by a 
tough bouncer who questioned everyone who knocked on the door. I moved 
away from London at the end of the 80s, following the Brixton riots and 
an assault by four black men in the street in Croydon, South London, but 
my heart still lives in London and I regularly re-visit my old haunts, 
The Colherne and Bromptons in Earls Court and Backstreet in Mile End.

Please feel free to include this article in your website, it may just 
stir some more memories from those guys who survived the HIV and AIDS 
epidemic, of which I am pleased to count as one!


by Brian


Q International
Q International was a top selling gay magazine readily available in the 
mid-1970s thanks to distribution by David Gold and Sons. Q International 
magazine, published by Q Centaur, Kings Road, London, used photographs 
produced by the cream of American studios and featured numerous articles on 
the theatre, ballet, films and horoscope, and included illustrated fiction 
stories, a Kirk comic strip illustrated by Kit and Q mail order where 
readers could buy magazines, leather toys, films, novels and gay cassette 
stories. There were a few colour photographs and the cover price was £1.00 
in 1976.

Alex McKenna's Zipper
Zipper magazine has gone through quite a few changes during its lengthy 
history but one thing has always remained constant: the magazine is geared 
towards the heavier set of the gay male community. Produced by Zipper 
Magazine, Camden High Street, London, the magazine used the by-line: The 
No.1 Gay Magazine and the 1980 26th issue's contents included leather clad 
men, raunchy drawings, gay contacts, a comic strip by A. Jay and small 
feature from the reknowned leather man of that time, Bryan Derbyshire.

Clone Zone
Clone Zone started out as small stall and side areas in Bromptons, Old 
Brompton Road, Earls Court, The Basement, Bloom Street, Manchester and the 
Flamingo Night Club, Talbot Road, Blackpool. It was the ideal place to pick 
up the elusive Hi-NRG extended mix of Evelyn Thomas' High Energy, Miquel 
Brown's Black Leather, Man 2 Man's Male Stripper and Seventh Avenue's Loves 
Gone Mad, but as the merchandise moved into club wear, sports wear, mesh, 
cire, leather and rubber, and with the variety of merchandise now 
advertised in a triple fold catalogue, the need for larger premises grew. 
The success of Clone Zone lives on today with its head office firmly 
established in Manchester.

King Key Wear
King Key Wear was a small company which predominantly sold lingerie for men 
but its market was expanded when it was taken over by the House of Silver 
Rose International and merchandise was available to view at their showroom 
in Finchley Road, London. Tee shirts and briefs were made in nylon and the 
wet look from Sweden featured prominantly in their catalogue.

The Sentry Box
Although The Sentry Box used photocopied fliers to promote items like 
condoms and tee shirt designs, they also issued a small catalogue inviting 
telephone enquiries. Illustrated with black and white photographs, the 
catalogue boasted rubber, leather and much more.

Heaven was London's leading gay night club and New Year's Eve was the ideal 
time to put on special effects and the promotion of A Space Odyysey was no 
exception. Attached to the side of Heaven, with access between both venues, 
was The Cellar Bar, where leather and rubber clad men cruised and posed in 
wooden huts, the whole ambience dark and moody and in contrast to the heavy 
beat of Hi-NRG music thumping just a few feet away.

The Stud Gay Centre
The Stud Gay Centre was situated in Frith Street, London and in order to 
promote their leather merchandise, they produced the Stud magazine in 1980. 
The magazine included photographs in a leather scene photo gallery, line 
drawings and individual photographs of the merchandise available to 
purchase, a Stud Stars comic strip by Sean and a fiction story.

Him Monthly
Like Zipper magazine. Him magazine went through a number of changes in its 
format. In 1983, Him Monthly incorporated Gay Reporter and at the low price
of 90 pence, the publication was produced on inferior stock paper and filled 
with articles, reviews, a gay scene guide and classified advertisements, 
with just two full page colour photographs and various black and white 
photographs throughout.

Hardcore Leather
With the leather scene well-established by such clubs as MSC and pubs like 
The Colherne, Hardcore Leather, Kings Road, London produced its glossy 
catalogue in 1977. Filled with raunchy models throughout, it also offered a 
mail order service for both leather and wet look merchandise. For those 
looking for a little action in their lives, Hardcore Leather also produced a 
Toys catalgue, which included belts, studded holsters, straps, harnesses, 
cuffs and a variety of more intimate toys

Sam magazine was published by Sam Publications, Fulham Road, London and was geared towards the heavier gay scene, with photos and drawings of leather 
clad men and a mail order service with merchandise including thumbcuffs, 
various restraint manacles and a meat tenderizer pouch with built in cock 
ring! Articles included information on motorcycle clubs like MSC, and a hard 
core personal look at the gay scene, as well as an illustrated fiction story 
and Sam comic strip. The editor was Bryan Derbyshire and issue 3 was 
launched probably early 80s, although there is no copyright date to 
substantiate this.

Zipper Leather
The Zipper Leather catalogue was launched 1986 by Millivres Limited, Camden 
High Street, London and contained five beautifully photographed full page 
photographs and a sixth half page double spread, portraying leather shorts, 
belts, harnesses, chaps, caps and tee shirts. All these items were available 
through mail order or from the Zipper Store in Camden High Street

With London seeing new bars and clubs opening almost every month, the young man proudly out on the gay scene could be forgiven for thinking that this is a constantly expanding world he is living in. Of course it is, but it is a world which also shrinks as places once packed and popular disappear.

London has a Pink past so take a walk around and visit some of the places you may remember but which are too quickly forgotten.

Harpoon Louis, later renamed Harpos and later Banana Max in Earls Court Road was revolutionary when it opened in the eighties. For once someone spent real money on a gay venue and together with a club underneath, Copacabana, later renamed the Copa, it was the place to be. 

The crowd was always young and stylish and the decor was bright and modern. The name change came about after a fire and a total refit. Later after another fire it became Earls but eventually slipped in popularity as competition increased from Soho. 

Eventually the owners gave up on the place, turned it straight and a bit of gay history disappeared.

The Golden Lion in Dean Street is still there but it's notorious past almost forgotten. In the seventies and eighties this was the place to find rent boys. It even suffered a small bomb attack on it's toilets, a small token of homophobia. It also had a good atmosphere despite it's reputation and fitted in well with it's Soho location. Serial Killer Dennis Nielson met some of his victims there.

In the Eighties The Horse and Groom in Groom Mews, Victoria was a once a week gay venue on Sunday lunchtimes. It always attracted a large crowd especially orientals and their admirers and many a pleasant Sunday afternoon liason started in it's bars. Complaints from wealthy neighbours finally closed it down. Homophobia struck again. Close by was the Pig and Whistle.

The Markham Arms in the Kings Road was another eighties once a week gay venue , this time on Saturdays. Packed to bursting point most sessions, it eventually became a building Society.

Also in Chelsea was Country Cousins in Kings Road  run by Brian Derbyshire , which was once Rod's Club. When Brian left, the place turned straight.

The Boltons, in Earls Court was one of the seedier gay venues, with drugs and  prostitutes helping to create a pretty depressing atmosphere. The brewery eventually called time changing it to a Victorian Dining room and later an Irish Theme pub.

The Redcliffe Hotel on the Fulham Road flourished for a time as Manhattens but eventually returned to a straight clientele. Close by the Coleherne  was a small downstairs club the Catacombs, popular as a cruising place late at night.

The Bridge in News Kings Road close to Putney bridge ran for many years with Sunday lunchtimes being very popular. The Duke of Cornwall had a fairly short life in Ledbury Street Notting Hill in the late eighties.

The John Bull was a short lived popular, large gay pub in Chiswick in the mid eighties. Harrassed constantly by the local Police who were determined not to have a gay pub on their doorstep, it eventually went straight. One of the bar staff who stood up to the Police, found a private party he held in his home, raided by the police later, with everyone there arrested, sheets taken off beds to be 'examined' and accusations of under age sex having taken place. Eventually all charges were dropped, but the Police had made their point.

The Royal Oak was an old establised drag pub in Hammersmith which is now a lap dancing club hated by the locals. Over the years it won many awards for pub of the year. Most of the big drag acts of the seventies and eighties such as Mrs Shufflewick, The Harlequeens, Candy Du Barry and The Playgirls, performed here every night and the place was very popular.  Towards the end of it's life it turned into a  club venue rather than a drag pub and it's clientele changed and eventually drifted away.

The London Lesbian and Gay Centre in Crowcross Street was a brave experiment in the eighties in establishing a non commercial gay venue. Unfortuately during it's lfe it was constantly suffering from volunteers ripping it off, political infighting and general mismanagement. It's end came when the GLC was abolished and the building sold.

Napoleons was a smart West end club for members and guests with a reputation for attracting older gay men and their younger friend, often after the Quebec closed for the evening. Never the less it did set a high standard of dress and surroundings unusual for the times. Closed at the end of the eighties.

The White Bear opposite the London Pavilion closed at the end of the seventies.It is remembered for even having it's own entrance from Picadilly tube station. 

The Attic bar at the Peacock in Covent Garden had a spell of popularity as a refuge from the disco music dominating most bars

Stallions was a long running club in Falconbury Court. It resurfaced under several other names in later years. One of our readers has contributed his memories of Stallions (click here to read)

The long running A & B club also disappeared and the notorious Subway in Leicester square. The latter was an early victim of AIDS when one doctor blamed the underground sex club for the rapid spread of the virus. The Embassy eventually lost out to the mega disco of Heaven.

The Euston Tavern was a large pub on the Euston Road and twice a week it was totally gay, with a disco upstairs run by Tricky Dicky and drag down stairs. Very, very popular and a forerunner of the many club nights now held in more glamourous surrounding, it first opened in 1968. Richard Scanes aka Trick Dicky also ran gay discos at The Father Red Cap, the Kings Arms in Bishopgate, Fangs in Paddington and the Green man in Great Portland Street..

Spats in Oxford Street was a small central club with a small dance floor and while not gay every night, was mainly known in the eighties for hosting the Long Yang Club disco. The big club nights had to be those run under the banner of 'Bangs' These were the G-A-Y nights of the era and run by Colin Peters.

Silks was a fairly short lived eighties disco in the unlikely setting of a shopping centre in Shepherds Bush. Inside it was large and quite plush but the streets outside were quite intimidating and eventually it seemed to just fade away.

The Cricketers,  Battersea Park Road was popular for a short time in the eighties , the pub even starting it's own record label with it's first and only release of an LP by the Trollettes.

Sobreros, sometimes known as Yours or Mine, was in Kensington High Street, under Rymans. In the eighties it was a smart venue popular with young entrepreneurs. Despite that it did have good music, a dance floor with lighting underneath, plenty of dark corners and drinks available after normal pub hours. It was also popular with young entrepreneurs from the far east.

The Dog and Fox in Wimbledon is still a pub but it's Saturday gay nights in the 'ballroom' are long gone, a mere echo from the eighties when the old fashioned 'function room' resounded  with the latest disco hits and three or four coloured lights flashing in time to the music created an exciting atmosphere.

The Duke of York  was a small pub in Hammersmith which opened in the eighties with crowds jamming the streets outside but quickly quietened down until it faded away. Gained notoriety after a tabloid newspaper 'exposed' it for selling drugs over the counter. in fact the drugs were poppers. they also sold minature teddy bears with leather jackets and caps but that didn't seem to interest the press.

The Salisbury is still there in St Martin's Lane and was once the premier 'theatrical' pub in the West End until a stroppy landlord in the eighties decided to be nasty to his gay clientele. The Brief Encounter opened up opposite, took away the customers and they never went back.

Crews Bar opened in the centre of London in the late eighties, early nineties and was a success from day one. But within a few years it had gone, a victim to poor management and a feud with 79CXR over that bar's application for a a late licence.

In South London the Union Tavern was a large Edwardian pub with a stage. Just before it closed in the eighties (it became a Irish pub) it produced Cinderella with the Trollettes and The Rocky Horror Show, I think with David Dale. The Market Tavern in Vauxhaul was a very popular venue which flourished into the nineties adapting over the years to a changing clientele. Further south in Brixton, the Prince of Wales was puplular for a short time at first under the management of the late Phil Starr who originally managed the Two Brewers in Clapham

The Carpenters Arms near Marble Arch flourished for a short time in the early nineties but faded away.

The Chepstow in Notting Hill gate was the 'political' pub where the upstairs room was gay and used often for meetings by gay political groups.

The Elephant a Castle was a long running bar in Vauxhaull. The Greyhound out in Colnebrook survived for many years but eventually collapsed, unknown to many soho bunnies.

The White Swan in Notting Hill gate, came and went with hardly anyone noticing.

Richmond has had a changing gay scene with fond memories of 'Cobwebs' and later the Imperial on a prominent corner of the Quadrant. this fell victim to a pizza chain to be replaced by the still popular Richmond Arms.

The East End has many long gone venues, including, the Ship and Whale and Pigeons which pioneered gay disco nights. The Waterman's Arm run by Daniel Farson was noted for it's musical hall drag acts. Some of the artists including Mrs Shufflewick appeared on a Decca L.P. made in the pub.

So many other names also spring to mind Jonathons in Irving Street, The Toucan, a drinking club in Gerrards Street, The Locomotion in Picadilly Circus, The Empire in Holborn, The Nell Gwynn in Kings Road, The British Prince in Bromley, The Bell in Pentonville and Palm Beach, Streatham are just a few. 

Not a pub, but the Biograph Cinema in Victoria is remembered with affection as a meeting place for many years until it was demolished in the eighties just ahead of a preservation order being placed on it. I am told there is a photograph of the Biograph inside the 'modern' pub on the same site called the Willows.

Restaurants seemed to be more popular meeting places than they are today with several openly gay and many gay friendly places.

Buying Poppers was another activity which created some unlikely suppliers. two the writer remembers were at the Putney end of North End Road and a Corner grocery shop in Hammersmith, the owners of which still supply by mail order and even once sold them over the counter of a pub. (See  The Duke of York above)

Gay shops were still in their infancy. One run by Brian Derbyshire had it's home in an old warehouse in the Vale Acton, and Clone Zone started as stalls inside gay pubs. Mail order companies came and went. Pepys Bookshop in Earls Court was a popular bookshop as was The Zipper store which opened in Camden and which developed into magazine publishing and even film distribution..

Videos were mostly traded by individuals making mostly poor VHS copies at home. I remember one visit to a flat in Putney where a supplier had hundreds and made a copy for you to order for about fifteen pounds a time.

Super 8 films also made the rounds, smuggled in from the States for the most part and transferred (badly) to tape using a video camera pointed at the screen.
Being short of money once I made a few copies this way and sold them to a guy in the Midlands who ran a secondhand bookshop. I also used the camera to record myself and my partner enjoying ourselves, a tape I still have and value !

It was during the eighties too that Ken Livingstone shocked the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail by addressing a meeting in Harrow where he stood up for gay  men.  The years which have followed have seen improvements in the treatment of gay men right up to the GLA partnership registration to the current civil partnerships. I was lucky enough to hear Ken speak at that meeting and know how misreported he was in our homophobic London newspaper.

A word from our readers 

Just a couple of quick corrections - Benjys in Mile End Road, mentioned as closed, is still going strong as Benjys 2000 (dating quickly!) on the same site and at the same time - Sunday nights, as it has done since at least 1989. 

And I'm pretty sure Stephs is still open on Dean St - the ex was telling me that he had a really poor meal there about six months ago...

But an interesting read none the less.

All the best,


I think you will find that the "Country Cousins" (which was also a 160 seater cabaret restaurant) was actually owned by Christopher Hunter (who had previously owned, amogst others, a very famous Gay restaurant called La Popote in Walton Street). During Christopher's ownership The CC became an essential meeting place as a late-night gay dinner cabaret venue with such acts as Gotham from New York, and even Lorna Luft, Diana Dors, Hot Gossip, Morgana King and Frankie Howerd.....

Rod's - which was named after an Australian called Rodney Gooch - followed on at the same site as the Country Cousin after the CC closed!



New Cross Road

Frith Street

Old Brompton Road

Kennington Park Road

Craven Street


Green Lane

New Kings Road

Gerrard Street


Woolwich Manor Way

Leystone High Road

Old Bond Street



Smith Streeet Chelsea


Six more added by Andy

Fallen Angel N1,
off City Road

Salmon & Compasses N1, 
Penton Street

Laurel Tree NW1, 
Bayham Street

Bird In Hand N8, 
Park Road (briefly gay)

Castle SE13, 
Lewisham High Street

Clarendon W6, 
Hammersmith Broadway

Any more offers ?


Mile End Road
Gone but still with us as Benjys 2000 !

Bethnal Green



195 CLUB
Blackstock Road N5

Bridges Place

Wardour Street

Dover Street

Greek Street

Wardour Street

Lancaster Gate

Garrard Street

Charing Cross Road

Leicester Square

Irving Street


Falconbury court
(read article)

Old Burlington Street

Manor House

Old Street
(occasionally survives as LA2)

Old Brompton Road
(Survives as Bromptons)



Fulham Road

Rivington Street

Old Brompton Road

Which became...


Fulham Road

Brompton Road

Walton Street

Notting Hill

Dean Street
Still going strong !!! But included out of interest



Lichfield Street

Kings Road

Chiswick High Road

Dean Street

Kings Road

Penbridge Road


Some of the publications here predate the eighties and even the seventies


OUT (1980'S)
Article below written by yours truly





















Stradivarius would be pleased to have your memories of forgotten gay venues, restaurants, or publications especially going further back. Contact us using the E:Mail link below. Photos also welcome. Use JPEG or GIF format. 



GAY NEWS was the most important Gay newspaper in the United Kingdom in the seventies and into the eighties. Since it's demise, no other publication has covered gay issues in such depth. It had news, first class book, film and music reviews, well written articles on all aspects of gay life and pages and pages of information.

On this page we look at one issue to give an impression of what we have lost with the modern gay press.

ISSUE 211 MARCH 18th- APRIL 1st 1981

The cover shows a Nazi being smashed in the face by a 'Freedom Fighter' introducing a two page article on those gay men who resisted the Nazis in Germany. Written by a Canadian Ian Young. Two pages in those days were two pages, closed packed type in tabloid newspaper format. Not jazzed up graphics and fonts covering up a lack of substance so common today. Inside, we had comments on The Archbishop of Canterbury's remarks that gay men were 'Handicapped' and the Chief Countable of Yorkshire defending the right of the state to keep files on all subversives including homosexuals.

The case of a man dragged through the courts for having an 18 years old lover is contrasted with the treatment Prince Charles gets for having a lover of similar age including a wedding paid for by the state. Gemini a gay club in Huddersfield was also in trouble as it's licence was challenged. The Police witness described it as a cess pit to make money out of sexual filth including buggery, masturbation, group sex and oral sex.. And kids today think they invented sex !

The case produced a proposal for the Gay Pride march to be moved to Huddersfield. Now that would upset the Modern London Disco bunnies.

Building Societies were also slated for their treatment of gay couples. Funny enough I got a mortgage with a partner in the same year with no problem.. The Unitarian Church withdrew a leaflet advertising it's willingness to conduct ceremonies for same sex unions. angering one of it's ministers.

Moving to page five and and a murder hunt for the killer of Henry Carr a diplomat and another man Carlos Mary and underneath on a lighter note an advert for a Grand Masked Ball at the Porchester Hall. A Cash crisis at London Friend features overleaf and controversy over replies to agony aunts in Teenage magazines when asked questions about sexuality. Aberdeen switchboard also reported it received 511 calls in it's third year, an increase of 61.

Page 8 is full of ads for gay hotels some of which still survive and news that David Steel backed a new gay help line in his constituency. The newly revived Conservative Party group for Homosexual rights handed out hundreds of leaflets at a Young Conservative conference. We assume nobody read them. Still nice try.  In Nottingham a gay activist fought a cottaging charge and won his case and announced plans to use a defence committee to help fight police harassment of gay men in toilets.

On page 10 it was reported that 600 people turned up in Manchester for a demonstration against repression of Lesbian and Gay people. A news of the World reporter was ejected from a meeting and his film taken from his camera, (loud cheers) and a newly formed Gay Black Group made it's first appearance at the Rally.

Page 12 is full of letters, not about pop stars, or Soap operas but serious letters about serious subjects and on the following page an obituary for the writer Robin Maughn, the take-over of Heaven night club by Richard Branson and a promise to keep it gay, plus a report of a 24 year old dying after inhaling poppers.

Over the page and a stage hypnotist claims Gay people are easier to hypnotize as they are more intelligent than straights. An Officer from the Metropolitan Police in Streatham denied spending too much time arresting gay men. With 3,500 officers short ( No change there then !) he had no time to waste on such matters. The Irish Gay Rights Movement also held a meeting to press for change and a small ad advertised Polaroid cameras to capture those personal moments. Video and Digital cameras have certainly changed things in that area.

The next pages are full of reviews of books, film and music with some more news items a new Mr Gay cover guy competition with a £100 top prize. The Berlin film festival is covered in detail.

Seven more pages list every gay venue, organisation and group in the UK followed by two pages of books available by mail order. There are then three pages of diary events across the UK, even more pages of reviews including classical music ( 'what's that ?' I hear you ask), Jazz (Jazz, in a gay magazine ?) and restaurants. Four pages of ads follow  and these have changed little over the years. Sincere discreet relationships are being sought and the words 21+ appear almost everywhere just in case anyone gets the wrong idea..

A large ad for the Jac pack 'too hot to show' and Jac Cream for those who find baby oil too messy and as it's pure vegetable based probably great if you run out of Trex.. Zipper and Mister Magazines are advertised so not much change there either. The Trollettes are on at the Subway Club, although I never though anyone went there to watch drag. . Page 15 and back to the serious stuff with the article on Nazis and those who resisted them, Two pages about Sex and the Church, Two pages on the Joys of Los Angeles followed by four more pages of book review. Gays in the eighties had a lot of time to read

To finish off a newsletter from New York and on the back page reports of six executions of Gay men in the Middle east and pressure on the BBC to include equal opportunities clauses in it's employment contract.

Half the last page is an ad for holidays in the USA with the slogan 'There has never been a better time to go' With hindsight it should have read never a better time NOT to go but things were looking better as the eighties started and the mood was optimistic for the future despite the first coming of the Mummy from Hell.

Top of Page


More South London Pubs

Maybe they were on the site and I couldn't see them, but how about The Market Tavern (Vauxhall) and Prince of Wales (Brixton). Both were  really good venues playing good music and attracting diverse crowds who  loved to dance to good music.
Thanks I've now included these in the text. I knew both pubs and enjoyed visiting them


In the mid eighties Stalions was a unique venue in London's Gay West End. 

I think that Thursday or Friday was black night. Amazing black guys with rippling muscles ETC. Saturday was just kind of general gay night. Monday was Skin 2 - gay/straight S/M stuff.

But Stallions came alive for us on Sunday evening. Thanks, in no small part, to the amazing Jo Purvis - who I've been trying to get in contact with for the past 2 years (anyone who knows her - a nudge please and send contact details to Stradivarius).

We would arrive at Stallions at 5pm. The bar would be closed because of the licensing laws at that time. We were servred tea and sandwiches unlil 7pm. During this time Jo would play old tea-dance favourites and oddities like Eartha Kitt - Old Fashioned Girl, Time Warp, Sweet Transvestite, Liza - New York, New York, etc. 

At about 8pm another (female) DJ took over and played the chart stuff (Eurythmics - Sisters, Rah Band - Clouds Across The Moon, Sheila E - The Belle Of St Mark).

It was the Eighties in London and we were the cutting edge. Straights would mention Stallions in interviews in The Face etc.

The place looked weird. We had aquariums embedded in tree trunks as pillars.
Nothing has ever come close. Love & Hugs to anyone who was there. xxx 

Top of Page

More Memories
From Tony

Loved this site - well researched - it brought back some great memories. Geoffrey (mentioned in contribution about Stallions by David) I believe had worked in the A&B club for many years and he had the same habit of wearing different funny hats, changing frequently throughout the evening. 

Subway used an emergency light system to warn punters the police were at the door. Also opened at this time was the Edward and the Angel, both in Islington. The former still exists of cause and I think the later does too. Another disco popular in the late 70's was the Rainbow at Manor House, in a large corner pub, built in the 1930's and now seems derelict. 

There are other sights that might be interesting to mention - one being The London Apprentice at Old St where in 1983 the Terrence Higgins Trust held its inaugural meeting. I'm sure you've mentioned them somewhere but thought I'd mention a few again - just in case. I shall enjoy reading the rest of your site - All best wishes - love - Tony. 


Enjoyed the "Lost Scene of 1980s", since this was when I "came out" and first visited such places:

Regarding Lost Venues, those I can think of are:

Fallen Angel N1, off City Road
Salmon & Compasses N1, Penton Street
Laurel Tree NW1, Bayham Street
Bird In Hand N8, Park Road (briefly gay)
Castle SE13, Lewisham High Street
Clarendon W6, Hammersmith Broadway

Also, an upstairs 'club' next to Chalk Farm station that used to open on Sunday afternoons and could bridge the gap between pub opening hours!

How I miss Capital Gay, which had proper news & journalism; unlike today's glossy collections of adverts & "good news" stories, where every venue is fantastic & every gym-fit punter is "gagging for it". I remember Eric Presland's Cruising column, which wasn't afraid to give an honest opinion of a pub or club; and the letters page, where serious debate took place on issues such as gay skinheads - acceptable or not as an image? - or the absence of black gays from the mainstream London scene. Can you imagine such subjects being discussed at length today? Even the Pink Paper has totally sold out & like the rest of the "Pink Press" is full of trivia. If you're not into soaps, boy-bands, celebrities or "shagging" after masses of "recreational" drugs, you can't relate to 90& on the contents!

Well, that's enough moaning, and I'm only 42!!!


Great site. brings back memories of various venues in the early eighties I used to visit..

The Boltons in Earls Court was certainly a place full of youths in search of admirers as was the Appolo Club in Wardour Street. Sombrero's in Kensington was a sugar daddies delight. The Horse and Groom, a Sunday lunchtime venue was good for the occasional squaddie. The Union Tavern in Camberwell New Road put on good shows and had a large stage. Quite a few black guys here as well. 

The notorious Subway club however had to be one of the most remarkable places. Right in the middle of Leicester Square next to the Odeon, it's small entrance hid the hottest place in town years before places such as Fist and the Hoist were ever dreamed of. A construction bar plus two other bars all  with leather denim, construction dress code, strict membership and open until the early hours of the morning it was too good to last. Some say AID's killed it off, one report claimed it was the No.1 place to pick up the strange new infection, others blamed the outrageous behaviour inside the club, bad management, financial problems, who knows.

The crowds drifted off to the London Apprentice in Old Street, The cellar bar at Heaven, The Coleherne, The Princess of Prussia and a few other more discreet places.

A lot of action took place in small cinemas such as the Abcat, Blueboy, Climax, Colt, Trade, Lambda, Playboy, Roxie, Spartacus, Swings, Arames and Charlie Browns, most killed off by the rise of video.

Happy days !
Brian via E:Mail

In 1983 a shortlived magazine called STUD carried a questionaire into the sex life of gay men in the UK.

60% livedwith someone, 40% lived on their own. Of those living with another person, 12% lived with lovers,27% with parents and the rest with friends.

39% had not declared their homosexuality to anyone.

The age of their first gay sexual encounter was 11% under 10, 33% 11-14, 34% 15-18, 9% 19-21 and 4% 22-25

48% experienced their first serious relationship between 15 and 21 and this at a time when gay sex under 21 was illegal ! 87% had experienced sexual intercourse before their 21st birthday. Again making nonsense of age of consent laws.

Most respondents said the size of a partners dick was not important and the age group 21-25 was the ideal age for a partner for 50% although 11% were not concerned about age and thought personality was more important. 

Hope then for us older guys with great personalities.

We welcome your contributions to our history pages. We never use your real name so don't be afraid. History is a fragile thing and especially the history of Gay life in the UK

Top of Page

Our Pink History
A series of articles about our past (Other pages in this section)

The nineteeth century
Section 11 and the aftermath

Pinups from the Past
Pictures we drooled over !

1967 and all that
The law changes but attitudes don't

More from the eighties
The cinemas clubs

Between the wars and after
Now you see it, now you don't.

The Cottages of Merrie England

Hankie Pankie
The coloured hankie craze


Material copyright Stradivarius 2001-2012.