Peter Stringfellow, the son of a Sheffield steelworker, has supposedly had hundreds of girlfriends - if not thousands. He's known for having a few pounds in the bank too... We ask him about his life.
Peter Stringfellow, the ladies man and strip club pioneer, has come a long way since his modest upbringing in the steel city of Sheffield. He came into BBC Radio Sheffield in 2008 to speak to Gareth Evans about his life and the famous Mojo Club on Pittsmoor Road in 1960s Sheffield.
Peter and his dog Fune McCool
Peter was born in 1940: “I left school when I was 15 years old as it was a waste of time for me. My mum and dad recognised that I was a different kind of guy,” says Peter.
"My dad was a quiet man, born in Sheffield in 1919. I used to ask him why he went straight back to the steelworks after being through Austria, Germany, Italy, Scotland in World War 2, then back to Sheffield and his old job. He said, 'That's what we did, son'."
When he left school, Peter worked as a projectionist at the old Wicker Cinema and then The Regal. Peter recalls his father's views on his career:
Kath, Peter and Jill groove on stage at Mojo, 1965
"He did call me once when I was about 17 and said, 'Son, it's about time you got a proper job'. So I went into English Steelworks down Attercliffe way. I went there for my dad and put my notice in after two weeks. I was there for six weeks. It was a great influence: never go back again!"
Stringfellow speaks to Gareth Evans (Nov 2008)
Peter Stringfellow and his fiancee Bella came to Sheffield in autumn 2008 for the launch of a new book about the art of the King Mojo Club 'and Beyond...'
It was published to raise money for the Sheffield Children's Hospice. Peter came in to BBC Radio Sheffield to speak to Gareth Evans about the book and the success of the Mojo. You can hear the interview by clicking on the link below.
Art on the Mojo nightclub stage
Although Peter and his brothers Paul and Geoffrey moved down to London to find their fortune in the 1980s, many of Peter Stringfellow's family still live in Sheffield:
"My brother Terry stayed up here. We've been to visit Aunty Dorothy and Uncle Patrick, we're going to see Aunt Sybil, Aunt Jean, Uncle Jack... it's nice to know the older family are still around."
The young Peter Stringfellow broke away from his roots, chasing money and girls. He ended up in the British Merchant Navy and was travelling the world at 17.
Membership cards from Stringfellow's various clubs
“I went ashore in New York with $10 dollars in my pocket and was amazed. It was like something out of a superman comic. When I came back to Sheffield I still had New York in my head and I had something that no-one else I knew had – worldly experience and the desire to have money, and lots of it.”
The Black Cat Club
Soon Peter opened his first club in Sheffield, the Black Cat Club.
King Mojo Club on Pittsmoor Road, Sheffield
“I had the Beatles at the Black Cat and then wanted more of what they were having. So I opened up more clubs, most notably Mojo which became one of my most successful clubs. I have no doubt in my mind that the Arctic Monkeys' [also Sheffield based] parents went to that club.”
King Mojo on Pittsmoor Road
The Mojo Club was open for three years until 1966, in an old Victorian house on Pittsmoor Road.
John Hall and Tina Turner at the King Mojo Club
Some of the biggest names played there - Jimi Hendrix, Ike and Tina Turner, The Small Faces... but it wasn't the easiest club to get to:
"It was one bus into town, from town to the Wicker, another bus up Pittsmoor Road, maybe even another bus! You had to really want to go to the Mojo Club!
"Bus after bus used to empty the crowd. In three years, English pop exploded - The Small Faces, The Who, The Spencer Davies Group...
"We discovered soul music coming in from America. Wilson Pickett, Alvin Cash and the Crawlers came all the way to Sheffield from Philadelphia. There were Ike and Tina."
Some of the big names at the Mojo
Peter Stringfellow recognises that his special skill was to mix all sorts of music under one roof, and this led to the popularity of the club.
"I mixed them all up - I liked everybody's music, not just one sort... I'd put Herman's Hermits into a blues show - you cannot really do that!
"But I think, if music's good, I like it - the genre doesn't matter."
Jimi Hendrix at Mojo
Stringfellow recollects a visit from an American legend who at the time was a known as a "weirdo."
"We paid £50 for Hendrix - there's an advert in The Sheffield Star archives which says, 'The well-known weirdo Jimi Hendrix.'
Poster against threats of closure - Colin Duffield
"Someone tipped the police off saying that Hendrix had drugs. They didn't have a drugs squad in those days so they sent the fire brigade! The fire officer said, 'Come on then son, where are these drugs?' Jimi Hendrix had this big reefer and he said, 'Sorry man, I don't do drugs.' They had no idea and just walked out! Jimi played the most incredible set that night."
Alcohol is available almost everywhere nowadays, but when Peter started out his clubs weren't licensed: "The Black Cat Club, The Blue Moon Club, Down Broadway - no alcohol," says Peter. "I didn't get a license for alcohol until 1969 for a club I called The Penthouse." Instead, Sheffield's teenagers hung out in Coffee Bars like Bistrotheque on Sheffield High Street.
Down Broadway: the Bistrotheque, after the Mojo
In February 1966 the Mojo Club was closed down by the authorities owing to "nuisance caused by noise." Peter Stringfellow went on to open Bistrotheque on the High Street in Sheffield, and then the successful Penthouse club.
Pop art and beyond
The Mojo Club wasn't just a place for progressive music - it was also a hot spot for contemporary art.
Two Sheffield lads Dave Manvell and Paul Norton were responsible for nearly all the art on the walls of the club, while Colin Duffield designed the posters for this club and other successors.
"They did it for free at The Mojo Club, these boys and other art students would come and paint the place. There was lots of psychedelic art," says Peter.
Many of the images are reproduced in the book Pop Art of Sheffield's King Mojo club and Beyond...
The book includes art from the walls of other clubs - Chesterfield's Victoria Ballroom, The Ark Club in Sheffield, The Penthouse, the Bistrotheque on the High Street and more - including the high street store C&A!
Stringfellows nightclub, Wardour Street
The book is priced at £9.99 and proceeds go to the Sheffield Children's Hospital Charity.
Until the 1980s Peter had been holding normal music nights, but at this point he started selling his most profitable “product” – girls, lots and lots of girls.
“I went to a strip club in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the 80’s and loved it. I then immediately opened up Stringfellows New York and it became a great success as I changed it to a strip club.”
Stringfellows, Dublin in 1996 (© PA)
However, Peter Stringfellow's success didn’t come without any pitfalls. Other clubs in Miami and Los Angles were a disaster and put Peter in huge debt. Yet his passion and dedication didn’t falter and he was soon back on track.
He converted his club in Covent Garden, London from having girls three nights a week in 1996 to rebrand it ‘Cabaret of Angels’ in 2000 when it became a strip club seven nights a week.
“It’s a nice feeling having the success I have, but I have spent a lifetime getting here. I didn’t just win X-Factor!”
He now sits comfortable on his throne of girls and money, but his past has been pitted with debt and critics slagging off his personal life. In 2003 he was voted by Channel 4 viewers as the 18th worst Briton.
“That poll was frivolous and it just made me laugh. As you get older its just all funny.”
The life of Peter
Nothing seems to affect Peter in his personal or business life. It is all about his success and he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Yet is he willing to share his success with anyone else?
“First of all I’m not a businessman, I’m just a bloody good club owner. I’m very autocratic and have a very good team but ultimately I make the final decision. When you work for yourself you can go bankrupt but if you’re a chairman of a PLC (Public Limited Company) then you can get a very good payoff. I would possibly consider turning the Stringfellows brand into a PLC and letting people buy shares, but I have no hot plans for it yet.”
Peter Stringfellow in 1995 (© Allstar)
Let's talk girls
He neither confirms nor denies claims that he has slept with over 3,000 women, rather he is more focused on his future.
“The past is such a long time. I now have a beautiful fiancée who I am marrying next Valentines Day and have three little dogs, two children and four grandchildren who I love all dearly.”
His fiancée is 25 year old Bella Wright, a former Royal Ballet dancer. So is he finally growing up and settling down for good?
“My life at the moment is fantastic and I have no plans to change. The idea of retiring is old and dated. I will continue what I’m doing my whole life as long as it keeps me happy and interested. I will see what comes my way.”
Wearing his signature leopard print
Peter lives his life by the second and puts his success down to pure determination and passion. He will not settle for anything less than he desires.
“If you can find something that you enjoy and can dedicate yourself to and wake up every morning and think ‘wow’, then you have it. It doesn’t have to be easy and whatever you think your future is going to be like, it’s not going to be that at all. In life you have no idea what is coming, and that is a wonderful thing.”
Watch footage of Peter Stringfellow talking about his life growing up in Sheffield:
Peter Stringfellow speaks to the Commons
BBC News: Stringfellow slams lapdancing plans (Nov 2008)
In November 2008, the Local Government Association called for lapdance clubs to be reclassified as "sex encounter establishments" (like peep shows in London) which would mean local authorities would have more say in where they are placed.
But Peter Stringfellow strongly opposed the plans, telling the Commons culture committe that this would make it harder for premises to open.
last updated: 12/05/2009 at 15:21
Have Your Say
Did you go to the King Mojo Club on Pittmsoor Road - or any of Peter Stringfellow's other clubs?
Jennifer Ludlam Nee Jenkinson
carole haslam nee Battison
Jacqueline Slack Sheffield
Josie Warburton Powell
Barbara Whitfield (nee Hopewell)
Maggie Freemantle from leeds