More about the Eighties
The Pink Past. 
More About the Eighties


The Stradivarius Site is brilliant! Thank you for the thought as it's history of our Gay progress that really needs to be kept for posterity.  I was talking with a 17year old friend in Japan yesterday who has just 'come-out' and wants to come to the UK principally to "feel free" as he puts it.  Despite its' recent history in improving things in the life of Gay people there, Japan still has a long way to go culturally and politically and is no more at the kind of point now than we werein the late 1970's and early '80's.  We have come a long way in 40odd years, thankfully. Stradivarius is very important as it serves to remind us of that even though we still have many improvements to make even now. However, it's nice to know a 17year-old in Japan appeciates our history!
However, the other point of this gobble-de-gook is to, hopefully, fill another gap. (At the outset - if you wish to precis this into an article on the Gay Venues section and wish to use my actual name, please do.In fact, I'd prefer it.)  Forgive me if I've missed anything that is already included, but at the risk of repeating yourself (!!) here we go:-
The mention of Adams Club/Disco in Leicester Square reminded me that the two guys who took it over did, in fact, run a Gay Private Members Club/Disco prior to that called MANDY's. Situated in Henrietta Street in Covent Garden it was one of the very few 100% Gay venues that was open until 2a.m. (3a.m. on Saturday nights.), apart from the Regency Bar (a.k.a 'Last Chance Corral') !!  Folk may remember Mandy's as quite a plush upstairs bar with couches and comfortable chairs and red/gold 'flock' wallpaper and sconced-type brass wall-lights. Downstairs was a disco and small bar and stage. The back wall of the stage was covered in a large mirror.  For the life of me I can't recall the names of the two lads who had it and, subsequently, Adams.   Upon their departure to run Adams they still retained the lease of Mandy's and let it to (if my memory serves me correctly) one, Mr.P.Stringfellow who had jumped on the Punk bandwagon, stripped the premises of its' rather plush decor, painted the whole thing black and re-named it Hell Club!
It lived up to its name!  It didn't really 'take-off' as the (then) Punk Scene was mainly centered on the Kings Road in Chelsea and also the Marquee Club which, in those days, was in Wardour Street. I think it lasted not much more than a year and the two Adams guys approached my business partner, John Osborne, with a view to taking it on and returning it to its Gay roots.  When John and I looked it over, it was almost derelict inside.  We decided to restore what we could of the Mandy's ambience and re-opened it as SPARKS CLUB in the autumn of 1984.  John had his own little electrical shop in Dawes Road in Fulham called 'John Sparks Electrical Ltd.' Hence the name of the Club to keep it in the family, so to speak!  I was working full time in Ticket Agencies and Theatre Box Offices in the West End.  The former gave us the  'wherewithal' to finance the restoring and re-opening, and to save on staff salary initially, we covered the bar ourselves with the help of 1 bar-boy, Kevin Roberts. My friends and colleagues in the Theatre world supported us, as did staff and members of both the A&B and the (original) Apollo Club both of which I had worked in part-time previously.
Our opening of Sparks coincided with the appointment of a new officer in charge of the West End's police 'Club Squad' as it became known and Gay venues were subject to more than their fair share of mini-bus loads of officers suddenly barging in on proceedings.  Membership rules for late-night Members Clubs were particularl;y strict at the time - particularly on the serving of a 'meal' if members wished to purchase drinks after midnight!  (The obligitory slice of Spam and a lettuce-leaf!).  What neither John nor I realised at the time was that the new 'i/c ClubSquad' not only had homophobic views but also rejoiced under the name of 'Sparks'!  We wondered why he and his cohorts seemed to target us more regularly than most.  It transpired that he concluded we had named the Club primarily to extract the urine out of him we subsequently learned!
After 15months the two Adams lads wanted to sell the lease of the Club and started discussions with John.  Although well-supported and holding our heads above water from day-one the price they were asking for the remaining very short time consisted principally of zeros and, regrettably, we decided it made no economic sense for us and sadly shut-up-shop.
John went on to expand the small 'Sparks' shops firstly into a grocery store in Callington, Cornwall, then into another electrical cum hardware shop in Wandsworth Bridge Road back in Fulham.  Sadly, my dear mate succumbed to the awful 'big A' that hit us as a community through the mid-1980's.   I continued in Box Offices until it became necessary to care for my disabled Mum and had to return to Bath.  In all, 22 years was eventually spent there finding a career with the Railways and, having retired last year, have now settled happily in Brighton - still, I'm glad to say, friends with a selection of the dedicated 'Sparks Club' members!
Finally - I may not have seen from my trawl through Stradivarius, so forgive me if you have them already there - but there was a quite long-running Private Members Club at the top of (I think) Frith Street called Oscars.  It was of the A&B variety, but not so well known.  Also, in the lower end of Wardour Street was the LeFoyer Club. Again a small Private Members establishment which became the New Apollo Club when the original moved a few doors down the road from next door to the A&B. (How many guys recall the A&B and Apollo were actually connected through the Ancient Lights of Rupert Court, I wonder?!).  Both the Apollo(s) and the Escort Club in Pimlico were owned by a lovely Scotsman called Archie Dunlop.  The two clubs provided him with a pleasant life-style that kept him mostly in his pied-a-terre in the Canary Isles along with a selection of -how shall we say it?! - 'favoured' younger visitors to both establishments!!
If anything else comes to mind - or you have any questions - please feel free... Again - thank you for the brilliant site.
Warwick Bishop. 


I was one of the many DJs working in Pubs & Clubs in London back in the early to mid 1980s, and I loved every minute of it. There were so many places to discover back then, each with its own charm and appeal. The Elephant & Castle, Union Tavern, Two Brewers, The Cricketers... and so the list goes on.

I worked in many of the Pubs, and looking back, my only regret is not taking photos, you just didnt, which is a shame, as so few seem to exist today to remind ourselves of those great days. I recently came across some photos of The Dover Castle however, which was in Deptford. I was the weekend DJ there for about a year back in 1985, and it was one of the best places to work. The staff were so friendly, and the crowd really knew how to party we had some amazing nights dancing and watching the Drag act on the stage (sound familiar?). The DJ box was right next to the stage, and more often than not Id be called upon to help Carla or Ceri Dupree with a stuck zip between acts, all the time hoping the backing track, which was usually on a worn out cassette, kept going!

The photos Ive found arent the best quality, as theyve been tucked away in a drawer for the past 25 years, but they should bring back memories to anyone who used to frequent the place back then. 

Several of the staff can be seen, including Terry, Owen & Jason, who worked behind the bar, and were lovely. Sadly, the manager of the pub back then, Malcolm, was keeping well away from the camera. Malcolm always came across as being awkward, but was in fact an old softy. Id love to know what happened to those guys.

Happy memories.

Paul x 


Dover 1 General view of the stage and DJ box.
Dover 2 Jason & Terry behind the bar.
Dover 3 Jason, Owen, ?????? & Terry behind the bar at a Caribbean night 3rd August 1985.
Dover 4 View from the stage.
Dover 5 View from the DJ box.
Dover 6 Terry sweeping up after the Caribbean night!
Dover 7 Owen & Jason behind the bar.

Click on images to see full size.

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this and would love to see it flourish it would be nice of people could email in any memorable nights of a non sexual nature ..
Would even be great to get in touch with some characters of the past !
A few venues not mentioned, or at least, I didnt see mentioned :
The Market Tavern Vauxhall
Touch nightclub in Balham . People used to walk down from The 2 Brewers, above shops ( Maybe Bejams ? )
Sunday nighters at the Kensington Roof Gardens
The Reflex in Putney ( Now in Kingston . I believe )
Bangs of Streatham
Good work lads !
Damn!   Almost forgot The Bell in Islington !

In the early Thatcher years of the eighties, both myself and my partner were unemployed as were half the population and hard up. Our one enjoyment was watching the few gay movies we had on our National VHS video which we had on rental.
These were poor quality copies of copies of copies and mostly super 8 movies copied onto video. We were told of a small back street shop in Coventry which sold and bought gay films under the counter so we hired another VHS machine and ran of a few more copies of our precious tapes. Blank tapes cost about £8 each at the time and the shop paid us £20 a copy. Taking off the petrol and the hire of another machine we made enough to buy food.
the owner of the shop had a ready market for the films on the north sea oil rigs it seemed.
We also hired one night a video camera, quite a novelty at that time, and filmed ourselves in various situations in our bedroom. This tape, although better quality than the super 8 copies, we duplicated and offered to the shop. He checked it and was delighted with it so our images ended up as wank material for frustrated oil workers out in the north sea.
I still have a copy of the tape and sometimes play it to bring back memories. Strangely I find it more of a turnon than the pin sharp glossy DVD's of East European guys looking bored stiff as they pleasure each other !



Hi ya , just rediscovered the site after an absence ! It makes me nostalgic for a past that I didn't experience and remember with some affection one that I did.

I'm 45 this year and started going to the Black Cap at 17 ( where I was mistaken for a dyke ! ) absolutely terrified to go in. Three years later still wouldn't walk in alone.

Fond memories of  Marc Fleming, Mrs Shufflewick, the Dissapointer Sisters, the Harliqueens  Barry Scott  . I have some pics of  the Dissapointers mark 2 ,without Roy Powell .  I can send them on if you like. The strange thing is, if felt daring at the time taking pictures in a gay pub. I feel that it was frowned upon a bit and  no one wanted to be identified

I particularly remember being trapped in there at times because there were skinheads outside ,apparently. We were also moved away  regularly by the police from the pavement at the end of the night because we were 'blocking the pavement' ..... Yeah, right... and occasionally the police would come in to the pub and just look around. Can't imagine why.
There were also coach parties of tourists that would arrive, order dozens of 'barley wine' , trek out the back for a quick look at the drag and the poofs and then all pile out onto the coach again. Very odd. I suppose the landlady had some sort of deal, but it did feel like being in a zoo sometimes.

My first gay club was The Royal Oak [ is that right ?] at Manor House , one of Tricky Dicky's nights and then Bangs which I used to do regularly . I feel lucky to have survived that period, a lot of people I knew from that time didn't. Anyway back to looking thru the site now!



One evening in the early eighties, I met in the Champion, a young guy, probably no more than eighteen. When the pub closed as they did then at around half past ten, I asked him to come to Sombrero with me. Sombrero was a small club in Kensington High Street. There was a small door alongside Rymans and a narrow staircase leading to the club which was in the basement.

Sombrero had a reputation, which it probably deserved, as a pick up place for young men especially orientals. We had a great couple of hours with lots of hands under the table, kissing and the sexual tension built. We danced on the glass illuminated dance floor which was straight out of the film 'Grease'and had a great time. I really wanted to take this guy home and spend the whole night enjoying his body

However, the young man had to work the following day and lived out in Essex. His last train from Liverpool Street station left just before 1.0am. I ran him to the station, parked the car and took him to the ticket barrier. At the barrier and in front of the black ticket collector, he threw his arms round me and gave me a beautiful kiss.

I watched him run for his train and as he climbed into the carriage, he turned and waved and blew another kiss. 

I waited till the train pulled out and as I started to leave, the black ticket collector called me. I thought he was going to complain about kissing another guy in public. Instead he just said to me 'Won't I do ?'

I looked at him and he smiled. 'I finish my duty in ten minutes. I'm not eighteen but I'm a lot of fun' I was taken back but he was good looking, around 25 and had a lovely smile I couldn't resist. I had so much sexual tension  inside me, his approach was like a gift from heaven. And yes he was a lot of fun.

I didn't see the young man again although I thought about him a lot and he is still on my fantasy play list nearly twenty years later when I'm alone in my bed.



For some time in the eighties I worked and lived in Portsmouth. The gay scene which everyone told me had been great in the thirties was not too exciting. Young sailor lads supplementing their wages by consorting with older gentlemen still went on as it had for centuries however. 

Some of the sailors however, were genuinely gay and a trawl arund some of the pubs in the docks area especially the City Arms could usually turn up a companion if not for the night at least for an hour or two.
A couple of clubs had gay nights including one called Grannys and another in Norfolk House.

Away from the docks were a few gay or gayish pubs, the Wiltshire Lamb and the Captains Table in Southsea spring to mind. The Palmeston was OK but was raided rather a lot by the police looking for drugs.

There was some serious cottaging in Southsea and the sand dunes at Hayling island were always worth a visit.

In the early eighties, video recorders were only just making an impact on the British public. They were expensive and so were the tapes and while poor copies of american gay porno movies were just starting to circulate, for most people if they wanted a moving image it was either an 8mm home movie or a visit to a porno cinema.

London at that time had plenty to choose from. Mostly pretty seedy, using either dodgy film projection or sometimes ever poorer video images images, the cinemas operated as clubs staying just inside the law (probably !) During the performance there was lots of seat swapping  and many cinemas didn't even bother with a sound track, the audience provided it's own moans and groans.

Names come floating back, The Blue Boy,Colt, Charley Browns, Abcat, Climax, Erames, Lamda,Trade, Office, Playboys, Spartacus and so on
On this page we have captured some images of these pleasure palaces.  They don't look very impressive but they were all we had. Now DVD captures every minute detail of the action in your own home. Somehow, I found the blurred, scratchy images of the past strangely more erotic. perhaps it was the company we watched them in.









I remember Subway very well. It opened if I remember right over the Christmas period in 1981. It used basement premises which had formerly been Adams in Leicester Square. A notice on the door before entering read 'We are the first American style Club. Use your imagination'
The club catered very much for the leather/coboy/denim market with a fairly strict dress code which was spelled out on a notice at the top of the stairs which led to the basement.
The club itself had wall paintings similar to those of Tom of Finland with lots of bulging crutches, chains and mean looking faces. Beer was about 70p a pint and there were two bars, a dance floor and video games.
It was simply too way ahead of it's time and a bit in your face for such a central location, still I had lots of fun there and so did evryone else for a short time at least. The Ku bars and Rupert streets of today seem a bit tame by comparison.

Can you add material to these pages ? We are always happy to include your memories of the eighties, or even the seventies and sixties ! We don't use your name.
Our history pages have been  the most popular pages on the site. Help us make them even more interesting. 

Our Pink History
A series of articles about our past (Other pages in this section)
The nineteeth century
Section 11 and the aftermath

London in the eighties
A trip around some long gone venues

Pin Ups
The pictures we lusted over

Drag Queens

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

The Seventies
Three years on and things start to move

Hankie Pankie
The coloured hankie craze

The cottages of Merrie Emgland
New page being developed. Your help welcome


Material copyright Stradivarius 2006.