❚ YES, OF COURSE SHAPERSOFTHE80s was at the fruit-cakiest party of the summer, and we can offer a selection of pix not widely seen in the tabloids.
➢ The Daily Mirror said it was “camper than Christmas at Louie Spence’s house”
➢ The Sun dubbed it a “bonkers bash” in print and “wacky” online
➢ Holy Moly called it “a terrifyingly horrid looking party”
❚ BRITAIN’S BIGGEST-SELLING PAPER, The Sun, couldn’t have been more shocked by Boy George’s 50th birthday party when 1,500 guests crowded into two of the largest nightclubs — Lightbox and Fire — set in railway arches at the heart of London’s gay village, across the River Thames and upstream. The area became infamous for 200 years as the Vauxhall Gardens, a fabled pleasure-seekers’ amusement park which opened in the 17th century and closed only in the 19th. It was deliberately sited outside London’s city limits and also its by-laws, so that Fielding’s novel Tom Jones immortalised the gardens as a place “where people come to undo others — and others come to be undone”.
This morning’s Sun spluttered: “As well as a host of transvestites, George, sporting a black top hat, was joined by a selection of PVC-clad ghouls and other creepy-looking creatures, some clad in bondage gear. One man even had his head fixed inside a bird cage.” A “source at the party” — with this phrase The Sun was distancing itself from the unimaginable goings-on — reported : “It wasn’t for the faint-hearted. Some of the outfits were a little weird.”
Shapersofthe80s can’t compete with the selection of frenzied ghouls pictured in The Sun and other tabloids, largely because we were idling in the quiet outdoor tents and feeling our age with some of the original Blitz Kids a couple of years older than George, the baby of his clubbing generation. We had a good dinner first and arrived when the weirdness was in full swing, genuinely surprised that, despite the ravages of 30 years, a sizeable contingent of ex-Blitz Kids had turned up out of loyalty to Britain’s chief genderbender. The keener ones showed up on time to get their faces into the early-edition pap pix, though a lot of cool people didn’t. For many, the prospect of a free bar 8–10pm didn’t provide the bait it once would have done.
Relaxing at last into middle age, the very Blitz Kids who perfected the idea of “Your Look” while shaping the Swinging 80s left the showing off to the kids at the party who thrill to dress as an inflatable rubber sex doll, or to attach to their naked vital parts every toy and fruit that drag acts have been dangling before all-male audiences at the nearby Royal Vauxhall Tavern since World War Two.
The notion of originality seems strangely lost on today’s drag queens and seven-foot tall trannies whose platform boots clomp through every poser nightclub in town as they push their way, as if by right, to the front of every bar queue. (And manage not to catch the barman’s eye. How does that work?) Back in the mists of New Romance, in 1979, the oldtimers each established their own Look not only to gain them admission to the Blitz Club but to personify their individual attitude. And after “the party that lasted four years”, dressing up as a nightly competition lost its novelty. By the mid-80s each Blitz Kid had arrived at a visual brand statement that had or would launch their careers and more or less last them for life… a personalised image that declared self-evidently I am a Serious Professional and This Is What I Do: I am Urban Deejay, I am Pop Stylist, I am Comic Relief Wannabe, I am Wideboy Producer, I am Dior’s Next Choice, I am Westwood Trainwreck, Pop Art Object, Rock Idol, Mockney Wag, or Sex on a Stick (for eternity, I hope).
The brightest and the most single-minded Blitz Kids always will embody Essence of Glamour — subtle, immaculate, witty, first. (Just look at the picture of Julia below!) They still populate the two core tribes, the Exquisites or the Peculiars. By their Themness shall they be identified. All respect to Peter York, whose definitive essay on Them appeared in Harpers & Queen as long ago as 1976, and should be required reading for anybody who isn’t, well, Homer Simpson.
The arch-poser Christos Tolera facebooked after George’s party: “Well that was fun… It was like being in the 80s but without the carnage… Never have I seen so many old people looking so good.” And indeed it did seem that even Steve Strange — especially Steve Strange — had applied five times the Essex-Girl minimum of bronzer to create this season’s visage.
What was mildly heart-warming on Tuesday was to realise that who turned up was itself confirmation of the bonds of friendship within the Blitz camp. Yet the apprehension in the air was palpable as pleasantries were shared. One or two did cut the others dead. Over three decades, there have been fallings-in-love and fallings-out… recriminations and insults and envy as people stumbled through life’s great obstacle course… Many have succumbed to temptations that only will-power and time can heal. Some discovered that dreadful experiences can enrich the soul, others that to scratch a lover is to find a foe… Peter Ustinov believed: “Friends are not necessarily the people you like best. They are merely the people who got there first.” We are where we are. Would old romantics really want it any other way?
❏ NAMECHECKS — Amid the trannies at the party (deciphering genders proved quite a challenge at times) were a few genuine female celebs such as designers Pam Hogg, Judith Frankland, Stevie Stewart, singers Beth Ditto, Sonique Clarke, Pepsi & Shirlie, author Sue Tilley, artist Emma Woollard, heiress Daphne Guinness, promoter Rose Turner, deejay Princess Julia and broadcaster Janet Street Porter, whose landmark TV documentary 20th-Century Box put the Blitz Club obsessives on the media map in 1980…
Non-transvestite males included ex-Culture Club members Jon Moss, Mikey Craig, musicians Holly Johnson, Martin Kemp and son Roman, singer Cameron Jones, choreographer Les Child, milliners Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy, stylist Judy Blame, model Luke Worrall, restaurateur Paul Murashe, deejays Fat Tony, Rusty Egan, Jeremy Healy, Jeffrey Hinton, Mark Moore, Brandon Block, designers Rifat Ozbek, David Holah, Stephen Linard, impresario Phil Polecat… Who didn’t we see in the crowd?
➢ Interview: Boy George hits the big Five-0 and says, yes, he has ‘lots of regrets’