It’s last Friday, and I am commencing my typical night out in Soho. That evening I found myself at some pedestrian charity private view, cadging free drinks (for a change). Sadly the only totty there (of any note) was clinging to some hawk-eyed knuckle of pork in a kilt. A cheeky spot of frottage with this belle looked impossible. Worse still, her opening gambit to my (forced) introduction was, “You’re terribly camp – are you gay?” Eureka! I simply played the poof card. Believing me to be a homosexualist, her suitor was duly dispatched to procure snowball cocktails. “Well!” she exclaimed, “you’re hardly going to try it on with me, are you?” In earnest I agreed and began mocking shaving ads, sock suspenders, Jeremy Clarkson and men as a whole. We got along like sisters and laughed away as I gaily aped the male machismo. Oh, how we roared at the irony as (nonplussed), she let me cup her bosom. How we both howled as I merrily continued to cup (and wobble) her bosom. Then (in an almost oppugnant tone) she mumbled, “You’re not gay, are you?” Well, damn it all, it was a charity event! The security that evening was splendid. As if countering a presidential assassination, they deflected a pouncing sporran and a flying tray of eggnog, then expertly bundled me out through the kitchen. A little affronted, I made a B-line for the French House on Dean Street, a Soho hostelry frequented by ageing artisans, alcoholics and theatrical self-abusers. Most patrons of “The French” are either barred from or too penniless to drink with their clones at “Groucho’s” up the road. On arrival I informed the staff I was en route to something far better. Another private view? No… a working dinner with my agent… no – ah! A contract signing with my publisher. (That always sounds good).
Once ensconced at the bar I nod to my “friends”, all of whom skilfully fail to notice (except the ubiquitous “poet” sneering in a corner). “Ah, Hillary darling! A box of your finest matches!” (Such requests can save face and wallet for up to 10 painfully silent seconds). Before long I was chatting to acquaintances and ritually reintroducing myself. These old soaks can’t remember the last three minutes, let alone my witty performance last Friday.
Mr. Ha, ha, ha was on typical form (his conversational abilities being only a “Ha, ha, ha!”) Now five malts in, he’s the living embodiment of Mr. Magoo, steering a steam engine. Once that delirious hand starts whirling, it’s wine-glass carnage. Having reintroduced myself (again), I asked what he did in general.
“I’m a Ha, ha, ha …. underwater Ha, ha, ha … carpenter. Ha, ha, ha …” Thirty years I’ve been drinking with this lot. Not once has it offered up any totty (let alone sense). The way things were going, I’d have preferred a night in with two warm water-filled balloons plopped inside a brassiere (that’s if I’d been blessed with such creativity.) Hungry and irritated, I headed for Bar Bruno, (Wardour Street’s last veteran café) to line my stomach’s shreds. For years one of Soho’s original milk bars, the New Piccadilly Restaurant (now defunct) was Atters HQ. However I always found owner Lorenzo’s inebriated garbage indigestible (so I’d just stop listening to him and order some food.) Bar Bruno proved an amicable replacement. At mid-ejaculation of bap-yolk I spotted fashion guru Amechi wearing two “neo” burlesque bigwigs, one on each cuff. Touchingly he flounced up bearing gifts of flattery. “Darling! Darling! My most favourite human in all the world…”. Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! “What-ho Amechi! Any fun ahoy?” “No… But there’s always Gerry’s.” Yes, there’s ALWAYS Gerry’s, so we all strutted back to Dean Street. Hooting, I headed for Gerry’s. Whispering, they headed for Blacks. Little has changed at Gerry’s “den of Equity” since 1955, including the bores that frequent it. During some banter with Joan Le Mesurier (widow of John and Tony Hancock’s last lover), she recently recounted how a pipe-puffing chap approached her husband there years ago. John said, “Joan, this man bores for England”, then addressed the fellow with “I believe you’ve taken boredom to the Antipodes this season”. Mesmerised by John’s velveteen delivery, the man failed to note he’d been insulted. By my arrival, it was midnight, and the French had only just swept its slurry down Gerry’s ill-lit steps. When I arrived, a shapeless babbling puddle was flamboyantly reintroducing itself inside.
Nodding inanely I swaggered to the bar and sat with my etheric chums: Frances Bacon, Lucian Freud, Daniel Farson, Jeffrey Bernard, Charles Manson and of course that sneering bloody poet (alas, that part of my vision was real.) In a becaped swirl, Amechi bounds in and heads towards my pleading puppy eyes, sails past and ingratiates with some withered old crone “Darling! Darling! My most favourite human in all the world…”. Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! I riposte with my usual “Barman! A box of your finest matches!” To the club’s unanimous joy (and mine), a clocked-off train of strippers arrive and clumsily chuff their way down stairs, noses freshly “powdered”, knees pole-bruised and all up for a night on the razzle. Rule number one: when in a room of strippers, always sit near a tipper (a technique I mastered at the Sunset Strip up the road). I plonked myself next to a desperate ghoul whose features resembled a municipal urinal, and waited with glee as he bought them all a drink. “Allow me to help you distribute,” I oozed (necking down a few on the way). Naturally the dollies thought I’d procured the round.
Bingo! Free frottage and kisses ‘til dawn. How they saucily writhed and groped at my wallet. How I saucily writhed and groped at their thongs (one felt curiously corpulent) and fun was had by all. Well, just me actually. Everyone else had their wallets stolen. By now the hapless cocks had doodle-dooed, heralding dawn. Suitably ashamed (i.e. not in the slightest) I left triumphant with my wallet “intactus” and made my way to Victoria for the 4 a.m. to Brighton. In true Mr. Benn tradition, when I awoke I thought the whole night had been but a dream. I was about to return my (heavily) soiled S/M costume, when something clammy fell from its pocket. Why? A twee memento from that magic faraway land… A fob watch chain fashioned from a G-string.
Ha, ha, haaaaaa.
Michael Attree is editor at large of The Chap magazine
Michael “Atters” Attree’s trips up to London have become notorious for their shenanigans. Join him on a tour of Soho’s top private members’ clubs