Episode 1 of 2
Barbara Windsor takes us on a tour of the famous (and infamous) London nightclubs of yesterday.
After the First World War was over, the 20th century needed more fun and in London you could get it, but only during business hours. The problem was the licensing laws. Even the most riotous evening would come to a sudden end when the pubs and bars closed. That's when nightclubs opened their doors offering food, drink and entertainment into the early hours. But even then they often fell foul of the law for trying to satisfy their rich, insatiable customers and selling alcohol after hours.
Premises were regularly raided and club owners often found themselves in court with fines to pay and some even went to prison for flouting the law. Often they were forced to close down entirely and open up elsewhere. It was a glamorous world where trouble was never far away, everyone dressed up for the evening, and where ladies had to be accompanied by a man and were forbidden to wear trousers!
Famous night spots in Mayfair and Soho from the 20s to the 60s included The 43 Club, The Nut House, The Stork, The Pigalle, The Astor, Churchill's, Winstons, The Edmundo Ros Club, Danny La Rue's, The Colony, The Talk Of The Town, The Gargoyle, The Establishment...and those are just some of the more famous venues!
In this two-part series, we'll meet some of the most colourful nightclub operators and personalities from almost a century of nightlife, including Ma Meyrick, Al Burnett, Bertie Green, Harry Meadows, Bruce Brace, Edmundo Ros and Peter Stringfellow. We'll also hear from many famous artistes and musicians who began their illustrious careers in nightclubs over the years including Victor Spinetti, Amanda Barrie, Sandra Caron, Lionel Blair, Una Stubbs, Fenella Fielding, Ruth Allen, Laurie Holloway, Brian Dee, Kenny Clayton and Danny La Rue (later a club owner himself).
Look out for the rather large dancing Swedish gentleman in long earrings, the Dwarf with the gun, and the stripper who couldn't get out of her costume. All larger-than-nightlife is here!