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
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.
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…”