Tag Archives: Soho

2020 ➤ Gaz still rockin’ those blues a lifetime later

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Gaz himself as his Thursday Rockin’ Blues rocketed to success in the 80s – today his is the longest running one-nighter in London. (Photo: Sheila Rock)

40
YEARS
ON

❚ TODAY IS THE DAY Gaz Mayall launched Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues in 1980 at the legendary Billy’s nightspot in Soho. Astonishingly, this remains London clubland’s longest running one-nighter.

Tonight Gaz celebrates 40 years with a live stream party from a secret location, from 8pm-midnight Friday 3 July. With deejays Gaz Mayall & The Cumbia Kid plus Rockabilly crew Red Hot Riot!

➢ Click here for Gaz’s party as a live stream till late

Gaz Mayall, Rockin' Blues, anniversary, party, live stream

Tonight’s live stream as at 9:30pm: Gaz Mayall’s 40th anniversary musical party in the back garden, with one of his acts unnamed at right. Sound a bit shonky, vision slightly cranky

Gaz's Rockin' Blues, Gaz Mayall, Soho, nightclubbing, Swinging 80s

Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues, 40 years later – Celebrating with a live stream party tonight

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, Private worlds of the new young – Gaz’s first appearance in the Evening Standard

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
69 Dean Street and the making of UK club culture

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Gaz Mayall then and again: As Gaz Vincent in 1980 snapped by Shapersofthe80s for the Evening Standard, and painted by the British realist Lucian Freud in 1997

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➤ Sullivan & Elms relive their clubland double act

Chris Sullivan, Robert Elms, talk, Standard Hotel, London, history, nightlife, memories

Ribald and passionate: Sullivan and Elms capping each other’s stories with gusto

CATCH UP ON TWO CLUBLAND WAGS Chris Sullivan and Robert Elms, who sat on a pair of wonky stools in public last summer and entertained an invited crowd as each capped the other’s stories. Both are renowned for having shaped the style revolution of the Swinging Eighties and their subject was the ever-changing face of London.

Writer/artist Chris Sullivan is nominally a Welshman who revealed roots that led to a grandfather who’d been a bouncer at the capital’s Windmill Theatre, while BBC London broadcaster Robert Elms is a paid-up Cockney in all but the Bow Bells bit, with a mum who was a clippie on the buses at age 15.

➢ Tune into Portobello Radio for Sullivan & Elms
at 11am on Sunday 31 May, and again for a repeat
on Wednesday and Friday 3+5 June at 7pm

2019 ➤ The Boulevard rises from the ashes of the Raymond Revuebar

Architecture, theatre, cabaret, live music, comedy, Boulevard Theatre, Soho, Fawn James, Raymond Revuebar,

Contemporary new Boulevard Theatre and function space, photographed by Jack Hobhouse

comedy, Boulevard Theatre, Soho, Fawn James, Raymond Revuebar, Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Rhys James,

Friday’s Late Night Scene: Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Rhys James

◼ AN INTIMATE NEW 170-SEAT THEATRE and function space has opened in Soho on the site of Paul Raymond’s original striptease Revuebar from 1958 to 2004. It is named after the Boulevard Theatre which reinvented itself there in 1980 from its racy predecessor by showcasing The Comic Strip team who went on to rewrite the rules of British comedy. The stage proved the springboard to success for Alexei Sayle, Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson and Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

After a £40m redevelopment of the site in Walker’s Court under the shrewd business eye of Raymond’s grand-daughter Fawn James, there’s now an active programme of theatre and weekly late events for live music, cabaret and comedy. This weekend’s unruly Friday comedy set from 10.30pm was fronted by the wry Kiri Pritchard-McLean. Stand-ups included Olga Koch, whose name struck a risqué note from the start, plus an Edinburgh Award winner who sadly didn’t quite click. However, topping the bill at machine-gun speed was TV face Rhys James and he alone was worth the £15 ticket price.

The in-house theatre production playing daily is Ghost Quartet, the 2014 “song cycle about love, death and whiskey” by American Dave Malloy, directed by Bill Buckhurst. In January comes The Sunset Limited, from the American novelist Cormac McCarthy, his 2006 exploration of free will dubbed “a novel in dramatic form” and directed by Terry Johnson, the multi-award-winning British dramatist.

The Boulevard’s rebirth is down to Fawn James as a director of Soho Estates, who says she intends to honour her grandfather’s legacy as an impresario and property investor by helping to promote Soho as an arts and entertainment district. The Boulevard’s artistic director is Rachel Edwards who founded the award-winning Tooting Arts Club.

The glorious Revuebar neon sign from Raymond’s era has been faithfully reconstructed to shine out as a Brewer Street landmark though, true to neon tradition, several letters have already blacked out! The four-storey building houses an adaptable, state-of-the-art auditorium, restaurant, bar, lounge and rehearsal room. Versatility is at the core of the venue, with every space fully customisable for a range of functions embracing weddings and conferences. The Boulevard has been actively recruiting to fill a variety of jobs.

Click any pic below to enlarge

Architecture, theatre, cabaret, live music, comedy, Boulevard Theatre, Soho, Fawn James, Raymond Revuebar,

Boulevard Theatre’s new facade and bridge by Soda Studio

➢ Revolving auditorium is showpiece of Boulevard Theatre by Soda – Amy Frearson reporting at Dezeen magazine, 28 October 2019:

The Boulevard Theatre features stalls and a balcony that both revolve independently, along with a stage that moves up and down, making a wide variety of different configurations possible. The entire project is designed by Soda, a London-based studio that works across architecture, interiors and graphic design. It forms part of a new development in the heart of Soho.

The bar and restaurant is an art-deco-inspired space featuring pink panelled walls, marble surfaces, brass lighting, and leather and velvet upholstery. There are also subtle references here to the Boulevard logo, while the glass bridge features an inlay of lace, in reference to a brothel previously located on this street.

Soda worked with theatre specialist Charcoalblue to make the auditorium as functional as possible. The transformations all take less than 10 minutes, so the space can easily host three or four different types of performance in one day.

Developer Fawn James said: “One of the things that I really wanted was that element of surprise, because when you’re in Soho you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting. Sometimes you could come to a show in the round, go downstairs, grab a bite to eat, then come back up for the next show and feel like you’re in a completely different room… / Continued at Dezeen online

Photography is by Jack Hobhouse unless otherwise stated

Comic Strip, 1980, Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Alexei Sayle, alternative cabaret, cuttings, David Johnson, Over21 magazine

First published in Over21, January 1981

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1981, At The Comic Strip, ‘alternative cabaret’ throws up the next generation of household names

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➤ A double act is born – Sulls & Elms, take a bow!

Chris Sullivan, Robert Elms, talk, Standard Hotel, London, history, nightlife, memories

Ribald and passionate: Sullivan and Elms capping each other’s stories with gusto

TWO LIFE-LONG PALS, both born raconteurs and clubland wags, sat on a pair of wonky stools this week in public and for an hour had an invited crowd roaring as helplessly as themselves as each capped the other’s stories. The subject was the ever-changing face of London and their faces were those of writer/artist Chris Sullivan (nominally a Welshman who revealed roots that led to a grandfather who’d been a bouncer at the capital’s Windmill Theatre), and BBC London broadcaster Robert Elms (a paid-up Cockney in all but the Bow Bells bit, whose mum was a clippie on the buses at age 15). Both are renowned for having shaped the style revolution of the Swinging Eighties. Now they had taken over a snug corner of the library lounge at the Standard Hotel in King’s Cross, a venue which prompted some ribald tales of their mis-spent teens.

Topics ranged from the East End to West End. There was much mention of food from the era before London became cuisine capital of the world: Elms remembered the early pizza parlours that served your American Hot with a whole baked potato and coleslaw all on one plate. “Which Italian ever had that?” he howled. From the audience, David Rosen recalled Blooms in Whitechapel as an essential kosher eaterie when its walls were blessed with photography by Bauhaus star Moholy-Nagy.

Chris Sullivan, Robert Elms, talk, Standard Hotel, London, history, nightlife, memories

A wrapt audience for Sullivan and Elms: familiar faces from their colourful circle of London friends

For half a century Soho had been the red-light district and as a result, Elms said, by the mid-70s civilised people had given up on the centre of town. Only a public outcry in 1973 protected the 19th-century neo-classical buildings of Covent Garden as the market prepared to relocate to Nine Elms. He added: “London was going to be knocked down after the market moved out and this generation of Londoners [the audience] saved it by our creativity.” It was for instance the place where the seminal New Romantics Blitz club-night opened in 1979, a year before the desolate central market reopened as a shopping centre.

The lack of affordable nightclubs for teenagers in 1979 also drove Bob and Chris to initiate their own pioneering ad hoc parties at the Mayhem print warehouse featuring snake-charmers and blue movies projected onto the ceiling as their “crash course for ravers”. These parties were free, Bob confessed, because they never dreamed they could charge people admission. Chris became so animated at this point he was falling off his stool with laughter.

Of Soho’s Wag club, the pivotal black music nightspot he ran for almost two decades, Sullivan reminded us: “London was a dodgy place. Coming into Soho was taking your life in your hands. The only reason we were able to take over the Wag was because it was a no-go area. About three months after it started, a prostitute got her throat cut outside the Pizza Express by her pimp. People forget it was dangerous. Back then you could be attacked in Soho for wearing the wrong clothes.” Consequently, Elms added: “That Blitz/Wag generation were pretty tough.”

Today the sentimental pair remain firm fans of “the greatest city on earth” but then, they both revel in making things happen wherever they go.

London, history, Durex, shop, Wardour Street,

Condoms by the gross: legendary Soho shop-front

❏ Throwaway revelation: The landmark 18-foot wide DUREX sign that graced a Wardour Street shopfront almost opposite the Wag, and had serviced the needs of timid schoolboys for generations, today belongs to Valentine Morby!

Chris Sullivan, Robert Elms, talk, Standard Hotel, London, history, nightlife, memories, books, publishing, rebels, Canongate, Unbound,

Their latest books 2019: Sullivan’s from Unbound, Elms’s from Canongate

➢ Chris Sullivan hopes this jaw-jaw event will continue with other old friends occupying the guest stool. Keep an eye on his social media

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Robert Elms the storyteller on why some stories are “too good to check”

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➤ Sullivan’s manifesto for the Rebel Rebel life

Club-host and artist Chris Sullivan: as he renders himself sporting Dennis-the-Menace T-shirt in NYC 1981 and as he is today in Portobello Road

NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW that Chris Sullivan – mischievous Welsh frontman of Soho’s Wag Club which he founded in 1982 – switched from the fashion course at St Martin’s to pursue painting instead. Despite his instinctive sense of style, he says today: “I was great at the design and fashion drawings, but not very good at actually making things, stuff like sewing and pattern cutting. So I moved over to fine art. At the time I kept on being in the newspapers, and the college didn’t care what I did, just happy another St Martin’s student was getting press. It was good for their PR.”

It also positioned him as a pivotal influence on the whole British youthquake that transformed London nightlife, music and fashion in the Eighties, while his own mantra of “One look lasts a day” has propelled him through such guises as flaneur, deejay, journalist, nightclub host, pop star, northern soul dancer, style commentator, entrepreneur and fashion designer. A terrific route-map to the Sullivan cosmos occupies 12 pages of the April issue of GQ magazine, blessed with a photo-portrait by David Bailey.

Click any pic below to enlarge all in a slideshow

This month Sullivan publishes his third book, an anthology of “people and things that broke the mould” titled Rebel Rebel: How Mavericks Made the Modern World. What he dubs a “paperback manifesto” is an excuse to celebrate his own outsider approach to life: never having a proper job and always staying one step ahead of the pack. The book was launched in 2015 as a crowd-funded project through Unbound Books and for reasons unknown it seemed to take four years either to raise the cash or finish the writing, at which point Sullivan says there was still no money set aside for photographs of the 34 subjects he was profiling (some new essays, some vintage). “So I said I’ll paint or draw them, all these people like Rod Steiger, Fela Kuti, Louise Brooks, Orson Welles, Anita Pallenberg, David Bowie. . .”

In the mix are criminals (Brilliant Chang), musicians (Lemmy), actors (Robert Mitchum), artists (Egon Schiele, Jackson Pollock), directors (Martin Scorsese), photographers (Robert Capa), as well as iconic topics such as film noir, Berlin in the Twenties, Levis, the pork pie hat, the Zoot Suit and the white T-Shirt.

“Because I was so worried as the deadline loomed,” Sullivan says, “I did 35 illustrations for the book, really quickly b-b-boom! Then a friend Barnsley saw one of a zoot suit I wasn’t using for a chapter on outsider clothing, and he snapped it up. Before I knew it someone else was asking could they have one, then I did another one as a commission and stuck that up online and since then I’ve had more than 10 commissions to do these paintings.” Some of the results are here for all to see, inspired by time spent in New York back in the day.

As for the book’s other 400-odd pages, they read like Sullivan in his element. Vigorous prose and serious research substantiate his invitation to “an exceptional party” of cultural giants. Take Capa for instance, who “captured a world and it was Capa’s world”, according to John Steinbeck. Sullivan empathises: “He seems like a chap with whom you’d want to hang out, chew that fat and then go on a humongous bender – a man who was charismatic, brave, egalitarian and funny.” It’s intense stuff that exonerates malcontents and free-thinkers. Ultimately, wag as a tag is not the last word.

David Bowie, books, Unbound, Chris Sullivan, illustration

David Bowie: Sullivan’s illustration of the Thin White Duke for his Rebel book

➢ Read the odd taster from Sullivan’s book Rebel Rebel at Unbound

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