1980 ➤ Strange days, strange nights, strange people

It is January 1980 – out of the blue comes a call to join the late-night party that would run for years. It turned into the Swinging Eighties

Blitz,  Christine Binnie, Jennifer, Iain R Webb, Julia Fodor

High art at the Blitz, Easter 1980: Julia leads Jennifer Binnie and sister Christine (“Miss Binnie” the artist), both clad in sackcloth, in their first performance piece at the club. The girls sing Death Where is Thy Sting? and are passing out creme eggs to communicants. (The sack dress had earlier won some competition to predict what people would be wearing in the 80s, long before the notorious Binnie neo-naturists threw away their clothes.) The allusion to crucifixion, left, speaks for itself though it does not explain how the victim, fashionista Iain R Webb, would eventually secure the fashion editorship of The Times some years after this tableau was created. Blond-quiffed, white-faced Stephen Linard (extreme right, rear) is evidently pushing the Regency fop look that season. Photograph courtesy of http://www.homersykes.com

First published in the Evening Standard, Jan 24, 1980:

❚ OF ALL THE BRIGHT YOUNG TIDDLERS in one small, though turbulent London pool, Steve Strange is the Big Fish. His is the pool the new Tatler magazine calls the 80s Set whose exploits it reports after its pages on solid old pedigree Society, under the section headed The Other Society. Only under-21s qualify for the 80s Set and by day you can be anything (broker’s runner, Tesco till-girl) but by night you must put on your Look.

King of the posers: London club host Steve Strange in Willy Brown workwear with Vivienne Lynn. Photograph by © Derek Ridgers

Steve was born with his (at 20, he resembles Marc Bolan’s baby brother), so he emerged as a natural arbiter of who has the Look and who hasn’t. And for a couple of years he has been positioned on the doors of the Right Places vetting entrants and ensuring exclusivity for the 80s Set.

At Billy’s in Dean Street he fronted a David Bowie lookalike night. Then the Blitz wine bar in Covent Garden gave him Tuesdays, which he still calls an Electro-Diskow where everyone has to dress to high-tech standards and create new dances to electronic music.

Witchity in Kensington kept imploring him to stage a party a month for them but that place, he says, “looked like a coal-cellar”, so he demanded, as Big Fish should, that they smarten up and improve their sound system. Triumphantly, next Thursday, Steve hosts an 80s prize ball there (admission £2, plus your Look).

Tonight, however, he begins a wild new night at the Blitz. Thursdays from now on will be cabaret night on a strictly Liza Minnelli level (a Bowles Club, perhaps?). Everyone must dress in Berlin/Pigalle/Vegas style and the band, Spandau Ballet, will attempt to combine vocals akin to Sinatra with “dance music for the future”. Believe it or not, Frank Sinatra and Shirley Bassey, says Steve, are very big with under-21s.

“We’ve already booked a fire-eater and what I want are more acts like strippers and jugglers,” he says, urging aspiring acts to contact him at the Blitz.

Understandably, our Big Fish’s ambition has really been fired and in his next breath he’s saying: “Two nights a week at the Blitz aren’t enough. London is just waiting for a good Saturday place – I mean, where do kids spend their Saturday nights? The Scala Cinema. I’m ready to start somewhere like New York’s Mudd Club. I’m only looking for the right backer…”

Second date at the Blitz: Spandau Ballet pictured on Jan 24, 1980 © by Derek Ridgers

Steve Strange, On The Line, Evening Standard

First published in the Evening Standard, Jan 24, 1980

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One response to “1980 ➤ Strange days, strange nights, strange people

  1. Remember these days well.The 80s was probably the last time there was any originallaty well 80 to 84 any way.The music the Look the FEEL ,everything.Birmingham had the Rum Runner home to Duran Duran and For the goths there was Zig Zags home of Gene Loves Jezebel. Great days ,miss them loads, feel sorry for the kids of today,if it,s not on a screen then they don,t want to know, no hope for them.

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