2018, More unseen Blitz pix offered for sale

➤ When Blitz Kids lit up the night in 1980,
the world’s media took note

Posted on 10 June 2018

BlitzClub1980, Blitz Kids, New Romantics, London, elektro-diskow, fashion, history, nightlife, photography, exhibition, Swinging 80s, youth culture, Terry Smith, Lucy Bell Fine Art, St Leonards Sussex,

Former Blitz Kids: designer Fiona Dealey, entertainer Eve Ferret and artist’s model Sue Tilley. On the wall Fiona wears an ermine collar in 1980, pictured with Stephen Jones

◼ “YOUR LOOK ISN’T EXTREME ENOUGH, you’re not coming in!” Steve Strange might not have used these exact words on the door of the Blitz in 1980, but this unwritten rule did keep his Tuesday club-night for under-21 posers fairly elite and what we’d call today gender-fluid.

What I discovered nearly 40 years later was that Steve wasn’t alone: in the shadows nearby sat Janet Lyon, a regular waitress at the Blitz who kept an eye on Steve Strange while he vetted the door and they’d bang knees to signal approval or otherwise about the next person queuing. You can just about see her knees in one of the superb photos by ex-Time magazine lensman Terry Smith whose black-and-white prints are on show and for sale until 21 July at the Lucy Bell gallery in Sussex. By visiting the Blitz in April 1980, he had lucked into probably the club’s busiest month of the year, when the mainstream media suddenly realised a whole fresh fashion-and-music movement was making waves in London.

➢ Blitz and Pieces runs until 21 July,
Tues–Sat 11am-4pm –
click for full details at the Lucy Bell
gallery in St Leonards TN38 0EJ

It seemed appropriate to take a snap of Janet on the door at Lucy’s for this week’s Private View just to ensure that the boho guests came up to par. No worries on that score. As the evening unfolded, a stylewise crowd arrived to mingle with the vintage Blitz Kids who were gathering to view themselves as they were in their prime. Bored by the nihilism of punk with its message of “No future”, their generation of school-leavers were determined to dress up and shape a future for themselves.

“The Blitz ruled people’s lives. Exactly that,” says Stephen Jones, then newly graduated from St Martin’s School of Art and making hats in a studio at the trendy PX shop, later setting up his own business which attracted Princess Diana’s custom, and much later being celebrated in 2009 with a retrospective at the V&A museum. “A nightclub inspired absolute devotion of the kind previously reserved for a pop idol. I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real.”

Click any pic below to enlarge all in a slideshow at full-screen

While Stephen couldn’t make it to the Sussex preview, his great friend from St Martin’s who is today a leading costume designer, Fiona Dealey, was enthusiastically circulating the party. In one particularly elegant photo of them both in the exhibition she revealed that her stylish fur collar was genuine ermine – that’s how committed and alpha-plus the real Blitz Kids were. After the 1980 pioneers had inspired dozens of copycat “New Romantic” clubs, the follow-on generation of posers at Studio 21 or the Batcave often scored only a beta-minus for style. A couple of years later Fiona said: “You look at these little Bat people with make-up dribbling down their necks and you feel like saying, ‘Sorry darling, not enough loose powder’. The difference was that our make-up was stage slap: Leichner not Factor. The clothes came from a costumier: Charles Fox not Flip. Dressing for the Blitz was real theatre. It wasn’t just another uniform. You felt glamorous.”

At Lucy’s we were now joined by two clubland dowagers, Eve Ferret, back then one half of the resident cabaret duo, Biddie and Eve, who had helped put the Blitz on the map since the late 70s, today thriving as solo performers; and Sue Tilley who made her name cashiering at the Taboo club from 1985, and most famously posing for Lucian Freud’s paintings that now hang in major collections.

Do please let us know if you can identify
clubbers so far unnamed in Terry’s pictures
– via contact [at] shapersofthe80s.com

Cutting a striking figure was Helen Robinson who deserves total credit for her response to the zeitgeist by giving shape to a New Romantic identity – a constantly evolving range of playful retro styles. Having previously sold punkish clothes through Acme Attractions and Boy, Helen joined Steph Raynor to open PX in James Street, Covent Garden, in September 1978. The name, she said, derived from the Post Exchanges on US air bases, hence the initial military “toy soldier” Thunderbirds outfits with associated PX garrison caps. When PX moved to Endell Street in February 1980 Helen injected colour into cool fashion: this was where Steve Strange bought his green Robin Hood jacket and frilly Fauntleroy shirts.

Click any pic below to enlarge all in a slideshow at full-screen

A former barman at the Blitz, Ian Meek, doubled as a drag cabaret act under the name Yvette throughout the week. He had entered into the spirit of this evening by acquiring two large scarlet lip-prints on his cheek. One Blitz Kid called Hattie Pearson insisted he never wore drag back in the day though “probably looked like a docker in slap”. He was able to spot a friend Vanessa in a large crowd scene photograph – as a self-taught designer, she had made him a dog-tooth check zoot suit for the “Friday-night Beat Route” club-night that opened in November 1980, and was immortalised in the Spandau Ballet lyric. Also representing the original Blitz were Paul Freyler, its restaurant manager, with Debbie Ripley, then a waitress, also taking a fashion course at St Martin’s.

Stylishly poised in red and black was Kirsten Reynolds, a multi-disciplined sculptor/drummer whose myriad careers are evoked by phrases such as scrap-metal orchestra or Power Plant events. She’s from Oop North so kicked off her nightclubbing as a Monday goth in the Ritz Manchester and, from that humble start, last spring enjoyed her own show of hypnotic photographic light drawings in Lucy’s gallery.

Final word from Terry Smith himself, prompted when I dropped to one knee to frame him up against his portraits of Annie Lennox: “Aha! The Terry Spencer trick. He was a fighter pilot and celebrated photo-journalist. He said push the film to 1600 ISO to make it grainy, and shoot on a slant. That’ll get you into Paris Match.” Bingo.

➢ Exclusively at Shapers of the 80s:
20 of Terry Smith’s unseen Blitz Club pix – in colour

➢ Exclusively at Shapers of the 80s:
A further 20 of Terry Smith’s unseen Blitz Club pix . . . plus the resulting Time magazine feature from September 1980

Annie Lennox, London, elektro-diskow, fashion, history, nightlife, photography, exhibition, Swinging 80s, youth culture, Terry Smith, Lucy Bell Fine Art, St Leonards Sussex,

In the rear gallery Terry talks about his pictures of Annie Lennox and other rock icons

➢ Read the story of Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics at The Observer, by Yours Truly

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TAGS – BlitzClub1980, Blitz Kids, New Romantics, London, elektro-diskow, exhibition, fashion, history, nightlife, photography, Swinging 80s, youth culture, St Leonards Sussex, Terry Smith, Lucy Bell Fine Art, Andy Bulled, Tommy Crowley, Fiona Dealey, Eve Ferret, Paul Freyler, Stephen Jones, Jon Lockwood, Janet Lyon, Ian Meek, George O’Dowd, Hattie Pearson, Kirsten Reynolds, Debbie Ripley, Helen Robinson, Steve Strange, Clare Thom, Francesca von Thyssen, Sue Tilley

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