Looking in the mirror and feeling a tad pale, pasty…
The theme of ‘Openings’ fuelled the launch of Exhibitionists- the art and party revolution created by Denise The Lady. In honour of the occasion, it was time to reflect on the opening that changed everything…
‘They’d go to the opening of an envelope,’ is usually an observation made by someone casting a judgement on another. The sniffy assessment seeks to imply the observer is discerning in their acceptance of invitations, while the other is desperate, cheap and lacking in prudence.
Well, fuck ‘em. Nobody ever got to their deathbed and said, ‘Thank god I excelled in my judiciousness when it came to party invites’.
My first ‘opening’ of significance was the launch of Cinderella Rockerfellas nightclub in Kingston-Upon-Thames. It was 1985 and the arrival of this modern disco was an event of untold magnitude, much heralded by the Surrey Comet, our local newspaper.
It was discussed on street corners, in Bentall’s department store, on the buses and in every playground in the Royal Borough. It felt, to the fizzing cells in my teenage body, that Kingston was about to be blessed with a magical wand of glamour, decadence and escape. Yours truly was not going to miss out on that dubious miracle.
The night that it opened, accompanied by girlfriends sporting blue mascara and No. 7 cerise lipstick, we squealed into town on the 65 bus. Sadly, after much excited queueing at this riverside disco, my hugely expensive and highly fashionable Ellesse trainers prompted instant rejection by the door security.
Blinking back tears, I turned on my rubbery heel, jumped back on the 65 bus, flew home to with rising hysteria and slipped on some ‘smart shoes’.
Unfortunately, while the shoes were deemed acceptable, the fact that my shirt was lacking a collar proved yet another bar to my entry. Once again, I hopped aboard the 65 bus and hurtled home for yet another urgent fashion adjustment.
My father, not given to sartorial concerns, enquired why I was, ‘in and out of the house like a fucking fiddler’s elbow’.
As a former nightclub doorman, perhaps he felt a professional pique at their rejection of his progeny. Maybe he could sense that my soul would rot, wither and die without entry to Cinderella Rockerfellas that evening.
Regardless of his motivation, he offered to drive me into Kingston, sparing me yet another ride on the cursed 65 bus. This was a historic event. We were expected to use public transport at all times and never request a lift, ‘You got yourself there, you get yourself back,’ was his enduring philosophy.
On this seminal occasion, my father even walked me to the door of the club, perhaps delivering some coded, macho nod to the door staff that ensured a smooth and unquestioned entry.
As a champion body builder, notorious ex-bouncer and local legend, it’s very possible that the mere sight of him was enough to sweep me into that disco with efficiency.
Neon and chrome
How was it, once inside? LIKE A FUCKING DREAM. The incremental rising volume of the bassline as one ascended the stairs was like an aperitif of excitement, before emerging into the explosive main meal of neon, mirror balls, chrome and geometrically pattered carpets.
A spell was cast that night which has proved alarmingly enduring. As I swept across the Saturday Night Fever-esque dancefloor, spiritually escaping the existential pain of being a teen queer in dreary suburbia, I decided that my future would be discos, parties and yes, openings.
Within a year of that fateful night, I’d made tentative steps towards becoming a DJ and thirty years later, I’ve DJd everywhere from Ibiza to Elephant & Castle. I‘ve also worked as a podium dancer, club photographer, nightclub reviewer, door-whore and club promoter.
I’ve now spent most of my life in discos of one shape or another. Perhaps those careers would have happened anyway, but I can’t help but blame the intoxicating mix of anticipation, terror and joy which overwhelmed me on that opening night of Cinderella Rockerfellas. So, you’ll never hear me dismiss the possibilities and allure of a party invitation, because I know, from bitter and glittering experience, that an opening can be life changing. So, go forth and disco.
First published in the Exhibitionists fanzine April 2015