The Sanctum Hotel, located just off Carnaby Street played host to Celine’s Literary Salon, a night of eclectic and eccentric performances. The venue was stunning; dark plum, luxurious and velvety which seems at odds with their rock ’n’ roll history and famous musical clientele.
The crowd gathered tonight are a mismatched hodgepodge of artists, musicians, media types and recognisable soho characters, but as people get themselves settled, it is clear no-one knows what to expect from the night’s performers.
The theme of tonight’s Salon is Nightclubbing – encompassing the history and culture of London’s various scenes throughout the decades.
Celine, dressed in a deco style black sequinned two-piece sashays onto the stage to open the show and gives a brief history of her own nightclubbing experiences, which she recalls began underage one night at a Brixton boozer, and continued thanks to a punk upbringing with some pretty wild parties in the years to follow. She kicks off the night’s performances with a fitting tribute given the location, to Teresa Cornelys – an operatic soprano, racy Soho socialite, entertainer and host of many fashionable gatherings at Carlisle House in Soho Square.
Celine then opens the floor to Robin Munro Runciman, who, dressed in a cowboy hat, long straggly hair, necklaces and brightly patterned shirt, gives an air of psychedelic farmer. He opens with a poem, reeled off in quick-fire John Cooper-Clark style, naming the rise and fall of notorious King’s Road hotspots “Whatever happened to Cafe Picasso?…the Chelsea Drug Store?…Gandalf’s Garden?” giving some clue as to the types of establishments he frequented. Then, leaving his clubbing past behind, he introduces his next off-topic piece named Everybody must get fined, “how times have changed” he jokes as he explores the way in which we are now regularly fined for the most ludicrously minor offences.
Robin, is then joined on stage by Kula Shaker guitarist Don Pecca. With his long white ponytail escaping from the bottom of his black beret and a tambourine looped around his foot, he introduces Bungle, a multicoloured stuffed parrot sitting astride the nearby mic stand. Aesthetically, they are a kooky-looking duo, plus Don’s constantly perplexed expression and the fact they are obviously such close friends make them quite the loveable pair. Don prepares the audience: “I hope no-one takes offence because my songs are very offensive” but his sunny melodies on Have a Nice Day and his chirpy tone makes this a complete impossibility.
Next up: Carl Blarx a young rapper hops onstage with no ego, just genuine charisma and honest unpreparedness which wins everyone over; he admits that he is not a club-goer and as a result his addition to the night’s theme is tenuous. Set to chilled beats and jazz guitar accompaniment, his first song is a true account the confusion caused by the mixed messages of a love interest over several drunken nights. His next song, Be Nice he wrote because “there’s so many people being shit”, and now a common thread between the performances – being kind to your fellow human, seems to have emerged.
Celine’s lyrical interludes link the segments, her verses evoking images of idealised old-time party exploits and characters of a bygone era adds vintage glamour to the night’s theme.
Lucy Lyrical with her magenta hair and oversized flower delights the audience with two short numbers on her ukulele, the first revealing the inside knowledge of a club coat-check girl (to the tune of “Uptown Girl”) and her second tune recounts all of the things we all know not to do when on a night out – like attempting to convince a bouncer that you really are completely sober – but insist on doing anyway.
Douglas Graham Wilson’s poems are quick witted, acerbic stories from the dance floor – tales of bitterness, bitchiness and seduction “entrances are your thing, and exits…and how you exit”. The glint in his eye, the way his tongue licks his teeth as he wraps himself around these words, and the pleasure he takes in disposing of his sheets of poetry over his shoulder with extreme sass paints a picture of the late night drama that encapsulates his clubbing experiences.
The artist Andrew Brown is welcomed onstage as a “naughty rogue” and the “visual part” of Celine’s Salon. His nightclubbing experience, he shares, originated at village record hops in corrugated iron halls in distant hebredian islands where he grew up. Moving to London must have been quite the eye opener for this country boy as he found himself being befriended by Steve Strange at the New Romantic epicentre, The Blitz club, on the basis that he was mistaken for George Best.
He confesses that while he lived and worked in New York, mixing with the likes of Andy Warhol and other Factory connections, he largely missed the emergence of the NY club scene and the studio 54 era. Nevertheless, his stories have the audience wrapt, telling of his experiences painting seven-foot transvestites in clubs in Limehouse in the ’80’s and the hilarious encounters he had with middle-aged truckers who enjoyed dabbling in a little cross-dressing on weekends.
Celine introduces us to another notable character around town, performing a sung poem about Lord Butterfly in his seal top hat and cane, rounding off a thoroughly eclectic view of nightclubbing through the years.
Next, she welcomes to the stage Shredder OTV – suddenly an energetic group of probable art students appear out of nowhere and have surrounded the stage. They are buzzing at the sight of seeing one of their friends, braided and dressed in a bubblegum pink hoodie, take centre stage. His voice is reminiscent of early Blood Orange and the way in which he slides to the side and spins with his fists tucked in by his ribs bears a striking resemblance. Another member of the group joins him on stage and brings a relaxed classic 90s Souls of Mischief style. Not long after, Trevor Clever in his long leather coat and wild punk stare joins them and everyone is up and dancing; friends, strangers and newly made acquaintances all joining in this happy vibe.
Celine’s theme of nightclubbing through the ages was pushed to its limits by the variety, different forms of art and styles of performance, however what seemed to be overwhelming was the way in which kindness and friendship in this modern age was at the forefront of most if not all of the performances in one way or another.
Words Charlotte Evans
Photo’s Jeff Moh