The Pink Past.
More About the Eighties
MANDYS, SPARKS AND OTHER MEMORIES
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.
CASTLE IN DEPTFORD
I was one of the many DJs working in
Pubs & Clubs in London back in the early to mid 1980’s, and I loved
every minute of it. There were so many places to discover back then, each
with it’s 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 didn’t, 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 I’d 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 I’ve found aren’t the best
quality, as they’ve 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. I’d love to know what happened to those guys.
Dover 1 – General view of the stage
and DJ box.
Dover 2 – Jason & Terry behind
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
Dover 7 – Owen & Jason behind the
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
A few venues not mentioned, or at least, I didn’t see mentioned
The Market Tavern Vauxhall
Touch nightclub in Balham …. People used to walk down from The 2
Brewers, above shops ( Maybe Bejam’s ? )
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 !
WE DID FOR MONEY !!!
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
BLACK CAP AND MORE
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
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.
CINEMA CLUBS OF SOHO
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.
AHEAD OF IT'S TIME
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.
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series of articles about our past (Other pages in this section)