Tag Archive: Brenda Dean Paul


Brenda Dean Paul

This is a guest post from Chris Hallam. Chris is working on a major project, examining British drug sub-cultures and the authorities’ responses to them from the 1920s to the 1950s. This work will shed light on a hitherto neglected history, taking us from the era covered by Marek Kohn in “Dope Girls” up to the much more extensively documented Sixties’ drug “explosion”. I am very grateful to him for taking the time to contribute this piece about the iconic Miss Dean Paul, whose exploits have hovered around the edges of this Blog since day one.

Tony de Gandarillas,“Napper” Dean Paul, Marjorie Firminger, Brenda Dean Paul and Jane Carlys – Chelsea 1929

 

“Saint Brenda


On Brenda Dean Paul- for ‘Cocktails with Elvira’


Brenda Dean Paul, baronet’s daughter and Bright Young Person, was born in Kensington, West London in 1907, three years after her brother Napier (‘Napper’ Dean Paul). She would become (in)famous as the ‘society drug addict’ whose court cases blazed a trail of aristocratic decadence across the 1930s, 40s and 50s, dying in 1959 from- improbably enough- natural causes. Her drug using career, which was followed with avid interest by the national press, linked the aristocratic Bohemias of the 1930s- the sort of ‘set’ explored throughout these pages- to the jazz scene and beat subcultures of the 50s, when post-war affluence brought forth a flourish of new youth cultures.


Brenda’s drug use probably began with the regular use of alcohol and those ‘pick-me-ups’ available over the counter at pharmacies; she first used heroin in Paris in the late 1920s at a party held at an artist’s studio. This artist may or may not have been Jean Cocteau, enfant terrible of French culture, who came to be regarded as second only to Thomas de Quincey as drugs-corrupter-in-chief of gilded English youth. In her autobiography, Brenda tells us that a round of dissipation in the night clubs of Paris led to a collapse in her health, and that she acquired her celebrated habit while undergoing treatment with morphine in a Parisian clinic. Either way, whether by medicine or pleasure, Brenda appears to have been one of those individuals for whom opiate drugs represent a vocation, a kind of calling. Once called, Brenda never looked back. In the early years, there were many attempts at cures, it is true; countless times she would suffer the agonies of withdrawal in a string of nursing homes across London and the shires. But the cures did not take, and she always returned to her syringe and her drugs.

Brenda and Napper


It’s important to understand that the use of hypodermic morphine was prevalent in parts of the elite classes of England in the early twentieth century. Historian Virginia Berridge reminds us of the case of Lady Diana Cooper who, together with Katharine Asquith (the prime minister’s daughter-in-law), lay ‘in ecstatic stillness through too short a night, drugged in very deed by my hand with morphia’. Although the police cracked down on the street trade in cocaine in the capital during the Great War and the 1920s, they left the aristocracy alone. If the upper classes got into trouble with their drug use, they attended one of a number of private nursing homes that would treat their withdrawal symptoms with gentle reduction cures, bed rest and champagne. Lady Diana, though, was an occasional user. ‘I hope she won’t become a morphineuse’, wrote her husband Duff Cooper, soon to be Britain’s ambassador to Paris: ‘It would spoil her looks.’

Brenda in the 1950s

It did not spoil Brenda’s looks, though- she remained in possession of a singular beauty throughout her life; but her existence was to become difficult as the British state, which had hurriedly criminalised drug use under the ubiquitous Defence of the Realm Acts (and formalised this status in the 1920 Dangerous Drugs Act), began a remorseless pursuit of Brenda Dean Paul and her small circle of associates. This pursuit did not really begin until the early 1930s, when that circle included her brother Napier, her close friend and lover Anthea Carew, and various other members of a network which came and went, while Brenda sailed on, steadfast in her narcotic orbit.
As early as 1931 the Metropolitan police had her under almost continual surveillance. Brenda’s first drug prosecution occurred in late 1931, after her father had visited Scotland Yard to beg the police to stop his daughter obtaining drugs. By this time, a warrant had already been issued for her arrest on seven counts of receiving dual supplies of morphine (addicts could be supplied with heroin, cocaine or morphine by their doctors, but Brenda had gone to several doctors at once, which was frowned upon).

Detective Sergeant Griffey of Scotland Yard was tasked with arresting Brenda, but discovered that she had vanished from London. Enquiries traced her to Devon, where she had spent her childhood. On a cold November night, as Brenda waited in her motor car outside the local doctor’s surgery while her maid collected her morphine script (that’s how it was done in those days), a torch flashed in Brenda’s face. ‘Are you Miss Brenda Dean Paul?’ asked a harsh voice. ‘I am an Inspector Sergeant from Scotland Yard and I would like to speak to you…’ The detective issued her with seven summons to appear at Marlborough Street Police Court (as magistrates’ courts were then known) under the Dangerous Drugs Act. Later that night, Anthea Carew drove her back to Chelsea through the pouring rain as they frantically tried to prepare for the case, which might easily result in a prison sentence.

Brenda outside court 1933


In the event, she was bound over by the magistrate and ordered to stay at a London nursing home, and later at the home of her doctor, Dr Fleming, the latest in a long list of medical men (the term was current) to oversee her treatment. While she was unhappily incarcerated at Fleming’s Regents Park house, she was visited by Anthea Carew and other drug using friends. It was Fleming who informed the Home Office that he believed Anthea was smuggling drugs and syringes in for Brenda, and a warrant was in turn issued for her arrest. She left immediately for Devon; like Brenda, she had grown up there, her father being the Dean of Exeter cathedral. She sped off in a hired Daimler, for which the cheque later bounced. These women liked to travel in style.
The two had stayed together in the Park Lane Hotel, but the hotel management did not take kindly to hedonistic goings on within its hallowed interiors. The night porter was called to Anthea’s room and found the pair in a state of advanced intoxication, one in bed, the other sitting on the bed ‘in an almost nude condition’. The women were told that they were ‘not regarded as suitable guests and were informed that…their room was required’. They promptly shifted their base of operations to the Dorchester. While the years between the wars saw a growing acceptance of contraception and of the value of sex within marriage, marginal forms of sexuality remained tightly policed.


It is notable that authorities such as hotel managers and pharmacists were keen to collaborate with the Met in their surveillance of Brenda’s network; their drug taking and erotic practices transgressed cultural norms and created an ongoing scandal in interwar Britain. A series of inter-related court cases in the summer of 1932 saw both feature heavily in national and even international newspapers; in the US, Brenda was viewed as an example of the ‘Decaying Aristocracy’, those blue-bloods who ‘had drunk too deeply of life’s pleasures’ and now cut pathetic figures.

Brenda and Anthea Carew leaving court


Both Brenda and Anthea Carew served sentences in Holloway prison. For a tiny band of cultural subversives, they drew an amazing amount of attention from Britain’s authorities- from the Home Office, the police and courts, and the newspapers, largely because, as Marek Kohn has pointed out, drugs came to stand as a symbol for those aspects of social change which the conservative order found threatening and alarming.”

Anger within the “Establishment” was also growing. It was an open secret that everyone in court (including the Defence) had expected at least a manslaughter verdict. The fact that Elvira walked away scot-free was, for many, intolerable.
A question was asked in Parliament. In itself it seems innocuous enough, but given that the jury’s verdict could not be publicly denounced, it was the nearest one could get to an official statement of disapproval.
It was not a debate, as some accounts claim,

FIREARMS (MRS. BARNEY)

House of Commons  Wed 13 July 1932
Lord H. CECIL asked the Home Secretary whether it is intended to prosecute Elvira Barney for the illegal possession of a firearm; and whether instructions will be given to the police to enforce with the utmost strictness the law relating to firearms?
Sir H. SAMUEL I am informed by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis that, at the instance of the Attorney-General, he is instituting proceedings in this matter. I have no reason to doubt that chief officers of police are fully alive to the importance of securing compliance with the requirements of the Firearms Act, 1920, and I see no occasion for the issue of any fresh circular in the matter.”

(taken from Hansard)

Elvira was duly charged, and fined £50, the following week. It was a symbolic act but served to bring down the curtain on the authorities’ interest in Elvira. Had she not been involved in the car-crash in the South of France, the general public, which had already turned its back on her, would also have moved more quickly on to other scandals. Eventually, it was Brenda Dean Paul, part of Elvira’s circle, who would come to stand for all that was wrong with rich young women and the “fast” set and hers is the name we still remember.

Brenda Dean Paul leaving court after trial for possession of drugs 1932.

Lord Cecil, who raised the Barney affair in parliament, was Conservative MP for Oxford University  from 1910 to 1937, when he became Provost of Eton. Oxford University returned two Members (always Conservative) and was not a physical location. Its constituency consisted of Oxford graduates. Remarkably, it was not dissolved as a seat until 1950.

Hugh Richard Heathcote Gascoyne-Cecil, 1st Baron Quickswood

Sir Herbert Samuel, the Home Secretary, was a Liberal MP  and an important figure in early twentieth century politics.  Most famously, he was the first High Commissioner of the Palestinian Mandate, a controversial appointment that was the subject of much debate, then and, to some extent, now. (see Wiki Herbert Samuel )

In 1951 he became the first British politician to give a Party Political Broadcast on television.

Sir Herbert Samuel

Voices

In the 1969 Sunday Times colour supplement article on the murder of Lord Erroll in Kenya, which would eventually beget the book and film “White Mischief”, Cyril Connolly began his contribution thus,

“One morning, in the last summer of peace, I was lying in the sun at Eden Roc. I used to swim out to the rocks of the Villa Eilen, across the water and then recuperate on my mattress, hired for the season with its coffin sized slab of limestone. Round the corner, invisible, were other slabs and mattresses, each with their locataire, regulars from the villas or the Cap D’Antibes or the hotel.

A woman’s voice floated over the escarpment, one of those never to be forgotten voices, husky, yet metallic, almost strident, a voice of the period, a touch of Tallulah,or, if anyone remembers her,Brenda Dean Paul.”My God, I hate men,” she was saying, “I’d trust my dog more than any man. I’d tell my dog things I’d never tell a man.”

The voice was that of June Carberry, hard-drinking member of the “Happy Valley” set and one of the central characters in the celebrated murder case.

Connolly’s evocative and perfectly fashioned paragraphs have got me thinking about a number of things – among them, the similarities between the “Happy Valley” crowd and Elvira’s world, the importance of the South of France to the mythology of the period and the observational acuity of the rather sidelined author himself. More on all these matters shortly, but for now let’s concentrate on the voices.

Accents, linguistic codes, neologisms and tone of voice were all used by the Bright Young People to distinguish themselves from the “mainstream”. This is a feature of all sub-cultures, high and low. In the BYP’s case these mannerisms became prime markers, more important in some ways than actual behaviour.They are familiar to us today primarily through the early novels of Evelyn Waugh, the writings of Nancy Mitford and the plays (and persona) of Noel Coward.

The high-pitched loudness of the men, the camp theatricality, the baby-talk, the italicised stress on certain words, the fondness for invention and over-emphasis can be found in every representation of the group, from serious novels to the captions below Punch cartoons.Even Cecil Beaton, hardly possessed of the most understated of tones, complained about the exaggerated squeals and shrieks of the men and women who arrived at his home one afternoon – at their centre was, inevitably, Brian Howard.

According to Viva King, Elvira (“Always in Love, My Dear!”) favoured a variant which included a slight faux-Cockney intonation. This, though surely as execrable as it suggests, was not uncommon and was to proliferate in the 1950s among the group of public school miscreants known as the “Chelsea Scallywags”. Derek Raymond’s first novel “The Crust On Its Uppers“(1960)  is written entirely in an unlikely mixture of Etonian argot and Cockney rhyming slang that takes the trend to its limit.

The “husky” affectation is one of the more memorable and long-lasting manifestations. Fenella Fielding carved a whole career in the 1950s and 1960s out of it, enlivening innumerable British comedy films with her innuendo-laden pastiche.Sophistication and sexiness were the aspects that Fielding emphasised, a direct legacy from Tallulah and her epigones.

The metallic harshness has other origins.Upper class authority plays a part, think barking at native servants or the hapless policemen abused by Elvira and others.Mostly, it, and the throatiness, were products of endless cigarettes, gallons of gin and, in some cases, drug use (hence Brenda Dean Paul).

Brenda Dean Paul 1950s

One example that seems to me to capture both the linguistic mannerisms and the requisite vocal timbre appears in Jocelyn Brooke’s Private View. The setting is The Blue Lantern in the early thirties and the character speaking (to the male narrator) is Veriny Chrichton-Jones, a composite of many women inhabiting what Brooke calls “pseudo-smart Bohemia”, including,possibly,Elvira. -

“My Dear,” she exclaimed, in her fashionably husky voice, “it’s utter heaven to see you. That monster Bertie Westmacott was meeting me, and I’ve been waiting here at least a thousand years, and I’m madly depressed. Do buy me a drink – here’s some money,I know you’re broke – and please introduce me to your boy-friend at once. I think he’s a perfect lamb, and I’d like to eat him, do you think he’d mind?” -

Brief as it is, this strikes me as just about as perfect a summation of character through dialogue as you could wish for. The insertion of “fashionably husky voice” seals the deal.

Jocelyn Brooke

I have mentioned Brooke before and will do so again as his absence from the canon of BYP chroniclers puzzles me. I think a post on Eden Roc is also in order.

Doctors and Patients (1)

The were many perils in pursuing a wild and unconventional lifestyle.Some of these were legal, some medical and some a mixture of both. In all of these matters, sympathetic and/or amenable members of the medical profession were invaluable, if not always reliable, allies.

For those addicted to opiates, a compliant doctor was essential.Several such would be even better. Brenda Dean Paul’s downward spiral can be read off from her many prescriptions – and her misuse and modifying of them. But a co-operative medico could also appear in court for you – arguing for a “rest cure” rather than a custodial sentence (as with Brenda and Elvira’s close friend Leonie Fester). At Alma Rattenbury’s trial in 1935 her doctor managed to dismiss any hint that Alma drank excessively or used drugs, despite what, today, seems very clear evidence to the contrary. Similarly, the police at Elvira’s trial felt that Dr. Durrant was very much acting as a Defence witness and some suspected him of co-creating Elvira’s account of the “accidental” shooting (see http://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/detective-inspector-winter-is-unhappy/ ).Doctors to the well-to-do were, if not quite family friends, then confidants and occasional dinner guests (in Alma and O’Donnell’s case – weekly). This, combined with the rules of patient confidentiality, not to mention financial dependency, ensured that many secrets remained safe.

Many of those secrets were sexual in nature.Questions about contraception or the treatment of venereal disease – both totally taboo as topics for public discussion –  could be raised in the privacy of the consulting room. The private doctor may have disapproved but would usually at least offer advice. Many doctors heard evidence of physical abuse or confessions of infidelity that were otherwise kept hidden.

One thing tested the limits of this relative openness – requests for the termination of an unwanted pregnancy.There were some doctors who were approachable- variously motivated by political views, friendship or just plain greed – but on the whole a rather different system came into play.

Abortion is still a highly controversial issue and the history is too wide in scope for this blog to explore with any adequacy.However, while recognising that this is a subject which affected every tier of society, I feel it deserves a mention in this narrow context for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is as much part of the story of Bright Young culture as drug-use or after-hours clubs. Secondly, it was a dilemma that many (most?) young women who lived the “fast life” had to face at some point. Thirdly, it has, with some notable exceptions, been rather marginalised in histories of the scene (it does not quite fit the care-free, glamorous image). Finally, I think the phenomenon of the “Harley Street Abortionist”, a phrase which occurs repeatedly in the debate running up to the 67 Act, is closely related to the moral and social upheavals of the inter-War years and remains only partially understood.

At one point in Michael Arlen’s Green Hat (1924), the heroine, the iconic Iris Storm, is recuperating in Paris from “septic poising”.The more clued-up female readers would have taken this to refer to the after-effects of an abortion. A year or so later, in the real world, Yvonne Kapp, a twenties regular at the Cave of Harmony, The Blue Lantern and other clubs contracted septicemia after just such an operation.This was no “back-street” affair; it had been carried out by a doctor from within her circle of friends. Kapp was married with one child already and did not want to undergo the procedure but was told by her artist husband that they could not afford a second child. Kapp’s world at the time was one of Chelsea Bohemia and Radical Politics so the episode is a telling mixture of modern mores coupled with old-fashioned male authority.

A more typical incident, one which would have been familiar to quite a few women of Elvira’s acquaintance, concerned Rosamond Lehmann. Again she was pressured by her husband, who comes across not so much as patriarchal but simply barking mad ( he was prepared to let her have the baby as long as she said it was someone else’s). Unlike Kapp she did not know what to do. So she asked her cousin Nina, “a known socialite”, who gave her the name of a Mr.Osborne, a “physiotherapist” with a practice in the West End who sorted the matter (as he had earlier done for the unmarried Nina) for the considerable amount of £100.

Rosamond Lehmann

“Mr.Osborne” was one of what was to become a distinct species – the “Harley Street Abortionist”. Not every one of them worked in that street but all had practices in fashionable areas Their clients were actresses, dancers, night-club hostesses and “fashionable ladies”. They often referred to themselves as “osteopaths”, “physiotherapists” and the fee was generally between £50 and £100. Some wrote a statement confirming that a pregnancy would cause severe psychiatric damage to the patient and got a second doctor to do the same and then a third party would carry out the termination. This conferred a dubious legality on the proceedings. Others simply performed the operation with no questions asked.

It was a lucrative business.  In the early thirties, club hostess Norah Turner (later Lady Docker) got pregnant by her wealthy boyfriend and soon to be firat husband Clement Callingham. A friend at the Cafe De Paris gave her a Harley Street address.She was referred to a dingy surgery in Tooting. In the waiting room she was surprised to recognise all the other women there – either as fellow nightclub dancers and hostesses or regular visitors to the Cafe De Paris.

Lady Docker 1950s

The doctors not only made a lot of money, they wielded considerable power and it is incorrect to think of them as lurking in the shadows, shunned socially. An odd example of this can be found in the unsolved Brighton Trunk Murders of 1934. A prime suspect in the first, still unsolved, murder was Edward Massiah, an abortionist with practices in Brighton and London. When confronted by the police he calmly took a piece of paper and wrote a list of names on it, suggesting that these people would not approve of any further enquiries in his direction.  Such was the prestige and influence of the names on the list that Massiah was not questioned further. At about the same time, in an entirely different context, the irrepressible Nerina Shute became engaged to the distinctly raffish “Charles” even with the knowledge that he had been struck off the medical register for performing an abortion. “Charles” was no stranger to the Bohemian life and took Nerina to a “Chelsea orgy” to demonstrate what her “free love” ideals entailed in practice. (see http://suegeorgewrites.blogspot.com/ )

Nerina Shute and “Charles”

The best known and most intriguing “Harley Street Abortionist” was Edward Charles Sugden.He was usually referred to as “Teddy” and his surgery was in Half Moon Street. His fame/infamy is mostly due to his close involvement with the Profumo/Keeler scandal but he was born in 1902 and was certainly active from the mid-1930s if not before. Depending on which source you go to, he was either a creepy and perverted villain or a progressively minded man with ideas ahead of their time regarding female sexual emancipation. This latter view is a bit hard to take when you discover that his main source of income, apart from actresses and society women, came from the Messina Brothers. The Messinas were the dominant force behind prostitution in London from the late thirties to the mid fifties and Sugden spoke up for them (and the women) in a number of court hearings.

None of this stopped him being a familiar face on the London nightclub scene.The set that included Sugden, Stephen Ward (b 1910) and Hod Dibben (b 1904) were in many ways a continuation of the louche culture of pre-War years but without the arty and Bohemian trappings. Sugden had a weekend party house at Bray, where naturism and orgies were the order of the day – many of the female guests were Sugden’s clients. Viva King states that Elvira had something similar at Henley (or more likely,Taplow )- the “Thameside Riviera” had a wild reputation from the early 20s to the early 60s before the Profumo scandal shifted the landscape. It was Sugden who provided Ward with the Nembutal that he committed suicide with – perhaps in response to the knowledge that if the police didn’t win on the immoral earnings charge they were going to pursue one for procuring abortions which would have caused Sugden no little amount of trouble.

Ward and friends at Cliveden

If this is all starting to sound somewhat flippant, be assured that I am not trying to downplay the heartache and trauma involved in the whole business. Some women lost their lives and others had theirs ruined (it is possible that Brenda Dean Paul’s addiction was triggered by a botched abortion). What I want to state is that abortion was an ever present feature of the world of clubs, theatre and “fast” society (and, lest we forget, of “respectable” society too).The possession of a name of someone who could “help out” was an integral part of surviving in a world before the Pill – and in many instances, long after that.

I will pursue this further with a post on Ethel Mannin and the world around Miles and Joan Malleson – for whom the issue was much more one of sexual politics. For Elvira’s circle it was more the case of a “necessary evil”. Debates over the morality of the whole process are not my concern, but I think the addition of another element of illegality – along with drug use, homosexuality etc. – adds to our awareness of the dislocation between themselves and conventional society that the people into whose lives I am intruding felt.

Update on The Red and White Party

I posted something on Arthur Jeffress’  Red and White Party a while back ( see http://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/the-red-and-white-party/ ) ,

In John Montgomery’s “The Twenties” (1957)  there is a slightly more detailed account of the revelries than that found in D. J. Taylor or Alec Waugh’s account of the night. It does not provide names (Brenda Dean Paul, Arthur Jeffress and Sunday Wilshin were all still alive when the book appeared) but it does give a good sense of the extravagance and excess of the occasion.

Arthur Jeffress and Pals

“The last hectic party of the twenties, the party to end all parties,  surpassing even the Wild West party and the Court party, the final fling of the “Bright Young Things”, started at eleven o’clock on the evening of November 21, in the house of the dancer. Maud Allan, although it was not her party.

The invitation cards had been sent out a foretnight earlier, and were much in demand. Many were stolen from chimney pieces and were later presented  by uninvited, unwanted guests. The wording on each card, engraved in white on a brilliant scarlet background, requested guests to confine their costumes and clothes to the colours red and white. It was to be a red and white party, a “monster ball”, as the young men of the West End called it.

Some 250 cards were sent out, but nearly 400 guests arrived. Their host greeted them in the hall, wearing a modified sailor suit of white angel-skin with red trimmings, elbow length white kid gloves loaded with diamonds and rubies, two diamond clips and a spray of white star orchids costing about£2 a bloom. He posed for photographs holding a muff made of white narcissi, which  newspapers reported had been flown from North Africa, but which had been bought that afternoon in Chelsea. A pair of red leather shoes completed the ensemble.”

White and Pink Star Orchid

“The food at the party was entirely red and white – red caviare, lobsters, salmon, ham, apples (but no pears), tomatoes (but no lettuce), pink and red blancmanges, trifles and jellies. Everything was of the best, and cigarettes were contained in red and white boxes.

The upstairs rooms of the house were empty, and a rope across the stairs indicated that guests were not expected to leave the ground floor. However this did not prevent many people from disappearing upstairs, to descend, later, covered in dust.

Guests arriving at the house found the entrance guarded by Metropolitan policemen, who solemnly examined all invitation cards but let anyone in whether they had cards or not. In those days off duty policemen could be hired for private parties. inside, after being greeted by their host, guests walked over a long red carpet through a vast hall towards three large rooms, en suite, with big double-doors leading from one to the other.The centre and largest room was hung with broad strips of scarlet and white bunting.Banquettes were covered with red velvet. Dancing took place here to a negro orchestra – a sine qua non in those days – each musician wearing white tails with scarlet fittings. The two slightly smaller rooms were hung respectively with white and red bunting, the white room being a vast bar. The red room, furnished with red-covered mattresses, was for sitting-out.”

Red Caviare

” What began as a reasonably formal, although distinctly eccentric, gathering soon developed into a noisy and hilarious free-for-all. Hired servants, dressed in scarlet double-breasted coats with large white buttons, struggled among the seething, jostling, swaying, shrieking mass of dancers and drinkers. The orchestra, overwhelmed by the noise, played louder and louder; the rooms became thick with smoke and the smell of scent.

No whisky was available, only champagne, white or red win, or gin. There were plenty of bottles for everyone. The kitchen was stacked high with crates of liquor and boxes of hired glasses. Some guests mixed the drinks and gulped them down; then mixed their dancing partners. The huge room became a medley of red and white sailor suits, white dresses and sashes, red wigs, long  white kid gloves, pink hats, and even false red noses. Red and white “nuns” danced with men dressed as exotic birds with elaborate feather head-dresses, men danced stripped to the waist, wearing red sailors’ bell-bottom  trousers; a man dressed as Queen Elizabeth, wearing a red wig, sat in the hall solemnly playing Abide With Me on the organ.”

” At about half past one a girl had to be prevented from pulling the hair of another woman who was attempting to get herself a drink. Half-full glasses and bottles stood all around, under chairs, behind curtains, under tables. The girl was wearing only a choker of pearls ansd a large red and white spotted handkerchief  fixed around her middle by a thin white belt. People wearing more clothes found it  almost unbearably hot.

Hair Puller  - Brenda Dean Paul

Hair Pullee – Sunday Wilshin

The party finished with the dawn, long after the last policeman had finished guarding the doors and had gone home. It was afterwards estimated that the evening had cost about £500.”

Though it takes a suitably moralistic tone and reads like something cobbled together from a mixture of newspaper reports and  imaginative licence, there is a hint of insider knowledge here. I don’t know much about John Montgomery apart from the fact that he wrote a lot of books. This one is dedicated to Hugh Wade’s sometime musical collaborator, Collie Knox (see http://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/hugh-wade-the-savoy-orpheans-and-collie-knox/ ) and there was an old chap who was supportive of the Gay Liberation Movement in Brighton in the 1970s of that name.  I think he might have been an attendee.

The £500 (£25,000 today) is, if anything,  an under-estimate. The most prominent “Negro” orchestra in London at the time was Noble Sissle’s outfit, resident at Ciro’s, and they alone would have cost a few bob. I presume Queen Elizabeth was Hugh Wade but hope not – Abide With Me is rather naff in comparison to Body and Soul, a rendition of which Wade is supposed to have performed on said organ.

If nothing else, I like this piece because the room for “sitting-out” is the earliest example I know of a “Chill Out Space”, the presence of which has greatly enhanced the club scene since the 1980s. As for the political and moral implications of this event, I will leave that for future discussion.

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