The Pink Past.
What a wonderful website to find, it has brought
back so many memories and reminded me of some of the places I had forgotten.
Having said that after scrolling through the lists of venues there are
a few I remember that don't seem to be there; La Douce, D'arblay St, The
New Ambassador, Orange Street, Haymarket and The Rockingham, Archer Street,
all from the '70's or maybe I missed seeing them. Have a ticket for Daisy
Chain from 1990 and two programes from 1976, La Grande Eugene, a French
drag/caberet act that was on at Roundhouse and Cycle Sluts from the States
that was on in north London, can send pics of these if interested.
LOST GAY SCENE
OF THE SEVENTIES
The seventies was the first decade to start
taking advantage of the change in the law regarding homosexuality. Three
years after the relaxation of the law, London started to see pubs and clubs
which had always been there hidden away, start to be more open, advertising
in magazines and losing some of the fear of being raided. Gay shops sprang
up and gay travel companies alongside the bars, clubs and restaurants.
Saunas for the most part were hidden away
and still subject to police raids and cottages continued to provide the
police with a way of harassing gay men but in the clubs and pubs gay men
began to feel safer and more confident.
There were still the odd raid and it was
obvious that the anti gay attitude of the police and judiciary was still
unchanged despite the changes in the law. In fact it probably took another
twenty years for the Police attitude to start to change and then only after
pressure from politicians and campaigning organization such as Stonewall.
Licensing laws were still a problem with
pubs closing at three in the afternoon and only opening for about four
or five hours in the evening usually closing at 10.30. These restrictive
measures produced alternatives as do all bad laws and central London was
home to many drinking 'clubs', smallish venues to which one had to be a
member, often up narrow winding staircases and existing purely to serve
drinks 'out of hours'
As licensing laws were relaxed in the late
eighties and nineties, the reason for their existence disappeared and few
remain. They had also served as private meeting places for gay men, especially
those still in the closet. Again more open attitudes as they developed,
removed the need for such secrecy and one by one they closed.
Many were also run by eccentric characters
and eventually as they died or ill health took it's hold the clubs went
Saunas were also found operating in a similar
manner, unadvertised except by word of mouth, often tiny and sometimes
pretty shabby, they operated in contact fear of being raided. Small wonder
gays flocked to Europe especially Amsterdam where such saunas operated
much more openly and with less hypocrisy.
Restaurants were very popular with many
having predominately gay clientele without actually being a gay restaurant.
The camp atmosphere probably gave the game away but that too actually attracted
many straight people.
One nighter discos such as those run by
Trick Dicky, started a trend which still exists today with clubs such as
G-A-Y, Trade etc. One nighters may have had primitive lighting, under powered
sound systems and be held in pretty down market promises but they were
popular, packed and cruisy.
Towards the end of the seventies, things
were opening up a little and by the start of the eighties, gay life especially
in London seemed set to thrive. The Village People presented an obvious
gay 'image'. A distinct 'gay' disco sound had started to emerge which still
lives on today despite the arrival of the boring, mechanical rhythms too
often blasted out today
Films were prepared to have gay characters,
even television had ventured out with a series on Gay Life. Personally
I was still hidden away in a village in the Chilterns and tried desperately
to pick up the London ITV station to watch such programmes. I could buy
Gay news in John Menzies newsagents and my job travelling around south
of England gave me a chance to explore the scene listed in Gay news.
Cottages were still big business with a
large percentage of gay pick ups taking place there rather than in bars.
A large percentage of guys were married men who were either gay or maybe
bi. Newspaper very often carries stories of suicides by married men arrested
in cottages and due to be brought before a court and their whole life exposed.
I remember one of a man living in Slough
who threw himself in front of a train after being arrested in a cottage.
He was married, had three children, a good job and just could not face
One of my friends propositioned a Policeman
who was in a cottage exposing himself and his aroused equipment. It cost
him £100 fine, his name in the local paper and a split with his family
which took years to heal. The Policeman must have been proud of himself.
Despite all this however, the seventies
paved the way for today's pretty open gay scene in the UK. Campaigning
by the CHE helped move the law slowly in a more liberal direction ( we
haven't quite got there yet however with clause 28 still around and the
lack of equality before the law on many matters), commercial companies
saw money to be made by catering for gay men, individuals stuck their heads
over the parapet and didn't get them shot off.
Shame that only recently there was a letter
in Boyz magazine by a young queen deploring the presence on the gay scene
of 'old fossils' and 'sad old gits'. Those sad old gits made the
gay scene possible for idiots like him and unfortunately shows that homophobia
still exists even within the gay world. The young ( and not so young guys)
who took advantage of the law changes and created a new gay scene were
pioneers. Now in their mid fifties or beyond, being referred to as 'old
fossils' and 'sad old gits' is insulting. One reason why Stradivarius exists
BLESS THE COLEHERENE
By Robin Gaddeau
This article appeared in Quorum magazine
of 1972.If the writer is still around we hope he will not object to our
God bless the Coleherne ! Well 'E would
'ave done, wouldn't 'E if 'E ever had the chance to go there. For in this
age of anxiety, this parlous time, this plastic era when everything is
changing and impermanent as Poland, the Coleherne yet abides.
Every six months or so I put my boots on,
take the tube to E.C., walk the half mile and pop in. I never fail to be
edified. It's not just those super blow up photographs on the walls of
a London we all never knew but love anyway, or that striped greet awning
with the spear poles over the hooch. Or even those fab ewers hanging since
time immemorial from the stark black rafters at the rear.
Gee I guess man it must be the people,
I mean it's a genuine clientele with an ethos of it's own. Inevitably exactly
two of them, perhaps one or both of whom I haven't seen in years, speak
to me during my sojourn. For the rest I stand and drink lager and gaze
with warm esteem at the Eternal Value as it chats, sips, ogles desperately.
And after my third pint all is love and peace and the muliticoloured lantern
under the arch really is magic.
I suppose I like the back room best. Maybe
because it is less impacted and then too I can stand in the curve of the
piano. But that is not to say that I don't do the gauntlet once or twice
in the evening especially after ten at the weekend, but I do have to confess
that I do shy away from that part which is known as leather lane, I suppose
because deep down it frightens me.
Of course the pundits preach that nothing
is for ever. They shut the outside cottage a year or so ago and it's sad
to say that Olive the excellent pianist seems not to be making her music
on Fridays and Saturdays. And now the pigs-detestable word-do turn up like
bad pennies every night at eleven to pester the public on the pavement
and far worse to cause a confusion of uniforms. But can they every crush
the nut, get at the kernel of the Spunk and Spirit of the Coleherne.
Well they can try, but frankly I doubt
very much that they will succeed.
Any comments about 'Olive' or the goings on in the outside cottage
? Mail us !!!
Once a real dive, the
Regency got it's act together in 1975 with the atmosphere of a country
pub and attractive customers. Membership for life was £1 and admission
25p or 50p. Drinks were 40p for beer and 25 p for coke. It opened at 10pm
until very late. It featured cabaret from artistes such as Lee Sutton,Sandy
Graham and Tommy Osborne and it was 100% gay
Many of these
venues continued into the eighties and even the nineties. Some of the venues
popular in the seventies and in some cases even earlier, are still with
us such as the Coleherne, the Vauxhall Tavern
William 1V, Champion,
Quebec and The Black Cap
CAMBRIDGE ROAD E2
COLUMBIA ROAD E.2
DOG AND TRUMPET
GREAT MALBOROUGH STREET
DUKE OF FIFE
KATHERINE ROAD E7
HORNSEY WOOD TAVERN
SEVEN SISTERS ROAD
HORSE AND GROOM
GROOM PLACE SW1
PIG AND WHISTLE
LITTLE CHESTER STREET SW1
KINGS ROAD CHELSEA
KENTISH TOWN ROAD
ST MARTINS LANE
SHIP AND WHALE
CAMBERWELL NEW ROAD
ISLE OF DOGS
AND LATE NIGHT
OLD BROMPTOM ROAD
BUNJIES COFFEE HOUSE
CHAGUARAMAS COFFEE HOUSE
BURLINGTON HEALTH CLUB
OLD BOND STREET
OLD BROMPTON ROAD
ELIZABETH ST SW1
LA GIGOLO COFFEE BAR
LE MATELOT RSTAURANT
ELIZABETH STREET SW1
I came across your site when trying to find out about Le Matelot restaurant
in Pimlico. We have some of their original plates with the great trio of
sailors on them.This is the only photo I have. I believe it's the proprietor
standing outside with the bottle. I was given this by a lady who used to
go there and was a friend of the owners
HOLLYWOOD ROAD SW10
NELL GWYNNES KITCHEN
OLD BROMPTON ROAD
NEW KINGS ROAD
OLD BROMPTON ROAD
SAN TROPEZ COFFEE BAR
GAY LATE EVENINBG
(Still in business but although
many gay customers still
not strictly a gay venue)
LA POULE AU POT
LOS CHICOS COFFEE CLUB
OLD BROMPTON ROAD
Magazines from the seventies
and earlier also overlap with the eighties and titles listed here may be
duplicated on the eighties page.
HEALTH AND STRENGTH
Later moved to Holland and
publisher of Spartacus Guide which survives.
This changed to Him International,
Him and was eventually swalled
up by Zipper
Just been reading
stuff on your website. Brought back lots of memories of the Pigeons, Euston
Tavern, Two Brewers ... couldn't remember the name of the place just off
oxford street with the aquariums then stumbled across it, Stallions. Used
to have sunday afternoon tea dances. Reminds me of something very interesting....
would say about 31-32 years ago but may be a little wrong. Used to go to
a disco called Scandals cannot remember the name of the street but at the
side of the swiss centre. They have little books of matches with the name
scandals on. One of the hosts was Geoffrey an ageing queen but a very nice
night I spent at scandals was followed by activities in regents park (in
the early hours) with a guy named matthew, from richmond. I went home (to
grays in essex) and the following morning work to challenges from my mother
about the large mark on my neck and the matches "SCANDALS" She seemed to
relate the name SCANDALS to something gay. Oh well. Anyway, all my secrets
were suddenly no more. But this guy Geoffrey seemed to appear at Stallions.
Perhaps it was run by the same people. Dont know.
find reference to scandals on your website or maybe ive missed it. if not
perhaps you'd like to include it. cheers
OF DRAG QUEENS IN THE SEVENTIES
The seventies saw
a boom in drag queens perhaps triggered by the popularity of Danny La Rue.
I remember a drag
show in the West End called Birds of feather at the Royalty Theatre
which featured Barry Scott whose brother became half of Hinge and Bracket.
Barry performed in Germany a lot but could sometimes be seen at the
Black Cap. he spent a fortune on his costumes unlike many of todays performers.
Terri Dennis was
another favorite who did comedy as well as singing and changed his costume
up to eight or nine times in a show.. Throwing on a frock and miming to
Shirley Bassey wasn't in his vocabulary.
A third act I remember
was Alvis and O'Neil who eventually split up. Many of the acts would not
play gay venues and pubs where drag acts performed on a regular basis often
had a large percentage of straight customers. Also most of the top acts
disppeared into pantomime in the winter playing Dame just as some still
George Logan and
Perri St. Clair were also starting out with their original act Hinge and
Bracket an act which surved for over 25 years.
SEX GUIDE TO SOME POPULAR GAY
This article is based on information in Q
International Vol2 No1 1977
In 1977 the magazine Q International published
a guide to some gay night-spots in London. It gave price of a pint of lager
and a glass of coke, the atmosphere, the staff, cruising potential, ventilation
and a summary.
For the most part the lager cost from 38
p to 50p a pint compared with £2.40 to over £3 today. Coke
cost 20p almost everywhere compared with £1.20 and upwards today.
Ventilation was almost universally poor
or awful thanks to the widespread habit of smoking with no air conditioning
or extractor fans. Staff were mostly friendly but in some such as the Black
Cap in Camden and the Champion in Notting Hill they were rated intolerable
or mediocre and rude.
The Black Cap was also considered to have
a camp and cliquish atmosphere, and a dead end place and old fashioned..
Cruising was hard work.
The Champion rated a friendly atmosphere
but some of the customers very stand-offish and cruising not very good
but could be worse. It was rated dull and dingy.
The Union Tavern in Camberwell was gregarious
but working class and a bit 1950's and only good for cruising skin heads.
Boring and boozy. Sounds OK to me.
The Salisbury which featured in the film
'Victim' was rated Piss elegant, dated, bright and very ungay. Although
the staff were friendly it is poorly arranged for cruising and there are
some rent boys. Overall uninspiring unless you like wall mirrors and full
of uptight people. The writer obviously didn't visit the toilets.
The Catacombs in Earls Court came off rather
well with sexy all gay staff, excellent cruising (by English Standards
whatever that means) and a youngish crowd. The review ended 'we hope it
will survive'. It didn't !
The Coleherne is listed as grotty and seedy
and goes downhill fast when the police arrive. The staff were very rude
and loved to scream but cruising was excellent. Frequented by foreigners
and a leather crowd and can be great fun, or a drag ( depending on whether
the writer scored or not I presume). Personally one of the current problems
with the Coleherne in 2003 is it has lost that seediness which made it
The William 1V in Hampstead was relaxed
and chatty with some rude staff and some friendly, poor but not impossible
cruising and a place just to meet friends or indulge in ' light' cruising
whatever that is.
Bangs Disco was considered Loose, wild
and fun but no good for cruising. Glades disco was better for cruising
with customers removing their shirts !
The Gigolo Disco in the Kings Road was
tense and sexually charged and excellent for one night stand cruising.
One place where Englishmen were very direct about what they wanted..
The MSC leather club was rated poor for
cruising as was the Markham Arms in Chelsea.
So there you have it a snapshot of 1977
Gay London as seen by a writer at the time. Will someone in 2033 look back
to 2003 and what we have with envy or pity. Who knows.
saw the opening of the Odyssey night spot at Strutton Street, St. James.
Formerly known as the Westmister Ballroom it was called the most ambitious
gay venue London has ever seen in a magazine of the time.
8pm to 2am and with a £1 admission it featured cabaret, a dance floor
and dining. Decor was luxurious with plush curtains everywhere.
Does anyone have
more memories of this venue which seems to have been ahead of it's time
Earls Court had
several Guest houses catering for gay customers in the mid seventies. There
was Redfield Hotel in Cromwell Road and the Airton in Philbeach Gardens.
The first was popular with airline crew and run by an American Paul Perry.
The Airton was run by John Eastwood and Paul Harding who were very knowledgeable
about the gay scene especially for those new to town.
Both places had
a relaxed attitude and many a single visitor ended up as a double.
Rods Club in
the Kings Road promoted by Christopher Hunter and run by Rod Gooch was
a former warehouse which gave it a feeling a spaciousness. The club offered
a three course meal for £2.25 and was open from 8pm to 1.0am seven
nights a week with cabaret on six of the nights. Membership was £1.50
printers were raided by the Police on August 19th 1975 and 16,500 copies
of of the magazine were taken away. After a 2 day court case a middle
aged elderly magistrate ordered all the magazines to be burned as obscene.
had been raided before but never charged with any offense.
revolved around features in the magazine Police considered obscene
including all the contact ads..
Council for civil liberties took up the case but it cost the magazine well
over £20,000 to fight.
The action took
place under a Labour Attorney General, Sam Silkin.
GAY SAUNAS AND BATHS
Bath houses have
always been popular especially with bi sexual men and straight guys who
like to play around.
London in the
seventies had quite a few !
KING SAUNA CLUB
KING SAUNA CLUB
Upper St Martins
East India Dock
Visitors to London
had a good selection of gay friendly hotels where two men staying in a
room together would not raise eyebrows.
Above Sauna !
HANSEL AND GRETEL
The most famous of
all was the Biograph in Wilton Road Victoria.Action was in the toilets
and in the seats and few bothered with what was on the screen
The Cartoon Cinemas
at Victoria Station and Picadilly Circus were also very popluar
The back rows of
all cinemas were popular with straights and gays !
spots have hardly changed since the seventies and were probably popular
for many years before.
Tooting Bec Common
Holland Park Walk
Welsh Harp Reservoir
TO PICK UP A GUARDSMAN
Men in uniform have always
had a special attraction for gay men of all ages.In the seventies there
was a scandal involving the Guards in an organised rent boy racket. There
was nothing new in this, it was a military tradition which goes back longer
than anyone can remember.
Basically low pay drove
guardsmen to discover the game known as punting or tyking. Not all of course
but in one estimate about 20% were considered to be available. Most of
the regulars were over 20 and the going rate was around £20 plus
although some could be had for a fiver or an expensive present.
Some punters aimed at
the new recruits, those under 19 who hadn't realised their real value and
some who hadn't realised that they even possesed a valuable asset, their
The most popular pubs
to pick up a guardsman were the Ship in Windsor, The Golden Lion in central
London and the Paxtons Head in Knightsbridge. If a guardsman was in one
of these pubs he was available and eye contact, the offer of a drink and
agreement on the price was an understood routine.
Other pubs such as three
in Windsor, The Round Towers, The Knights Tavern and the Wellington were
packed with guardsmen every night but picking out the 20% who might be
interested in earning a few pounds was a matter of patience. casual conversation,
the offer of a meal somewhere else and finally an invitation home for a
drink were stages on the road to satisfaction.
Today of course magazines
full of photographs of 'escorts' abound, the internet offers every pleasure
anyone could want at a price. Many however remember their guardsmen with
affection and perhaps even an erection.
OTHER GUARDSMAN PUBS
GRENADIER, WILTON ROAD
HORSE AND GROOM BELGRAVIA
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.
CONTACT US BEFORE SENDING IMAGES OR ANY ATTACHMENTS AS OUR SERVER WILL
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