Hugh Wade (1908-1949) was one of the two guests at Elvira’s to attend court as a witness (Arthur Jeffress was the other).  His answers in court are so brief and add nothing to the case (for prosecution or defence) that it is unclear why his presence was deemed necessary.

His police statement is much fuller and is considerably more informative. It is protective of Elvira and markedly evasive about the later party at Arthur Jeffress’ home.

Described by the police as a composer, Wade stated that he was “a professional pianist at present employed at the Blue Angel night club” (no mention of the Blue Lantern). He had been a paying guest at 64a King’s Road (Leonie Fester’s home) but was now living at 9 Rupert Street.

He had first met Elvira at a party at her parents’ house in 1927 and had known Michael Scott Stephen since 1928. He remembers first seeing them together in October 1931 and from then fairly regularly at first nights,plays and at both the Blue Lantern and Blue Angel. He insists that they were always friendly and affectionate to each other. He cites Terence Skeffington Smyth and Leonie Fester as Elvira’s “special friends”.

Hugh Wade with Elizabeth Ponsonby

 

He had first visited 21 William Mews about six weeks earlier, having been invited by Elvira, at The Blue Angel, to come back for a late night drink. Michael Scott Stephen was not there but about eight of Elvira’s friends (included Leonie Fester and her daughter) drank whisky and played the gramophone. Wade says, “It was a very quiet party” – a view not shared by other residents of the Mews.

He then gives the fullest guest list that we have of the Monday  30th cocktail party. He adds a detail or two not mentioned elsewhere, including caviare sandwiches and the presence of a “servant”, and seems undecided as to whether Eddie Gathorne Hardy was actually in attendance.  On leaving the party he went to the Command Performance at the Palladium but failed to get in and so visited the Pavilion before his Blue Angel gig, which started at 10.45.

Pavilion Theatre on the right

He uses the terms “normal and composed”  to describe Elvira at the Blue Angel adding, “She was quite sober”. The former description may have been true, the latter was definitely a lie. His first statement omits any mention of going on to Arthur Jeffress’ residence but Wade was called back to correct this “memory slip”.  This reluctance to mention Jeffress’ gathering and the police’s great interest in who was there (given that neither Elvira or Michael were present) gives, to say the least, some grounds for speculation. He ended the night, very late, at Lyons Corner House  in Coventry Street – then and for many years later – open 24 hours a day and with unofficial sections reserved for prostitutes and the denizens of Soho’s gay community.

Hugh Wade gets fairly short shrift in Taylor’s “Bright Young People“, which is, I feel, a little unfair. His only role is as the marker of Elizabeth Ponsonby’s fall from, if not grace, the higher echelons of the Bright Young coterie. Undoubtedly, Elizabeth’s mother disapproved and her eager reporting of John Strachey’s description of a party held by the then newly-wed Pelly’s has Hugh firmly placed at the debauched centre.

“He had never seen so much drink consumed in his life. Every woman was painted and most of the men – especially a young boy Hugh Wade (I have heard of him from Elizabeth) who had a painted, luscious mouth. He never saw such a “naughty boy”  or so many “naughty boys” or so many people drunk. They carried on till 4am.”

“Naughty Boy” though he was, he did keep faith with Elizabeth, long after others had abandoned her. When she died (of drink) in 1940, one of her few un-hocked  possessions was a piano, which she left to Hugh. Hugh had only eight years left of his life to enjoy it – another of many early deaths in this circle.

His musical career was, in fact, a little more substantial than “night club pianist” might suggest. Aged 19, he had burst on to the late twenties’ equivalent of the “pop scene” with a string of reasonably popular hits. “Like A Virginia Creeper (I’ll come Creeping Back to You)” and “When the Love Bird Leaves its Nest”  (Does it Fly to the East or West?)” may not exactly resonate today but they sold well as sheet music and were much recorded. (see https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/hugh-wades-early-career/ )

Rosalie - Old sheet Music by FeldmanWade, Hugh. When the love-bird leaves the nest [music] : does she fly to the east or the west? - Front Cover

He never repeated this success, athough he did write music  for films in the 1930s (“The Tenth Man” 1936). Occasional songs still popped up and his final effort was a musical show intended as a comeback vehicle for Jessie Matthews, “Maid to Measure” (1947). It was not a hit and his music,a little dated even by 1930, has now disappeared off the cultural map completely. If he is known at all today it is as the “epicene” ,”naughty boy” who played Body and Soul on the organ at Arthur Jeffress’ Red And White Party. (see https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/the-red-and-white-party/ )

9 Rupert Street was until very recently home to the exclusive members club, Rex – whose decor had a, very appropriate, 1930s theme.

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