It caused quite a hullabaloo at the time. It was “the” topic of debate at wine bar gatherings and pub events. I’m talking about the huge party in Earls Court scheduled for the end of month, of course, sometime in 1975. Great location and a professional disco was laid on. The nasty fly in the invitation ointment was the entrance fee. Each party goer will be charged one pound at the door, then beer was free. Charging for an event? What had happened to BYOB or a six pack of Tuborg Gold? The organizers evidently failed to grasp the esprit de corps central to the London Village ethos. (For sure, if it was a boat trip or a coach was rented one expected to defray the cost.) That said, everyone and their sister showed up and presumably paid the entrance fee. “Good evening, can I check you for the pound,” said the man standing in the door way to the flat. I loved the turn of phrase. He wasn’t asking you for anything as grubby as money, simply checking the transfer of funds – City material to the core. The controversy made it a must go to event – funny how that works. Pros: Everyone you might want to see was there. Cons: The flat was tiny, you could barely move and wisely, a bar and servers was set up in the kitchen to regulate the distribution of alcohol. I didn’t stay long, spending much of the time on the stairs chatting with other people who were still grumbling about the free enterprise demonstrated by the organizers.
CHAMPAGNE AND CINDY
Once the pay-as-you-party taboo was smashed, the same business model popped up at other events. One such event was an all champagne tasting evening. The event took place at a large and luxurious private apartment on, to the best of my recollection, Regents Park Road, Camden Town end. The fee for this chic evening was 5 pounds, which is not unreasonable considering the beverage being served. (What might be the fee for a similar offering today? I’d estimate 25 pounds, which would make it almost as exclusive as the event in 1976.) I arrived via public transport which was a smart move given that champagne and my brain go well together, but far too rapidly. Servers dressed smartly in wine waiter suits poured the champagne. Let me relate what I can recall before the champagne did it’s work on my neurons. Firstly, Gita from the Serpentine coffee shop evening, was there. (See “Meeting Brian” post.) Her charm and confidence were absolutely perfect in this setting. Scanning the room from memory I would estimate about 25 to 30 people had paid there way into the event. The flat was a walk through, meaning the front room and the dining room flowed together which made the mingling area long and spacious. That would be the limit of my recollection were it not for Cindy. (I do remember her surname but it’s not required for the story.) We chatted about goodness knows what. The evening passed and we were still chatting.
“Have to go, now.”
Yes, I said. “How far did you travel from?”
She waves her arm. “I walked here. I lived on….” It’s gone.
“Want to come back for coffee? Clear your head?”
We walked back to her place. Coffee, the bedroom, and night rolled into morning. Bless champagne.
THE MORNING AFTER
For whatever genetic reason, I am a morning person. The walk to Ash Court was especially delightful that morning. I actually have a strong recollection of walking Broad Walk through the centre of Regents Park and observing to myself what an enjoyable place and moment this was. The sun was up, the sky was clear and the park was near deserted. Back at Ash Court, Jerry, a visitor from Columbus, Ohio, was just rising. I suspect breakfast was made and consumed but the most important parts of the night and the day were already in the books.
GROUND HOG DAY ALL OVER AGAIN
The very next year, 1977, at almost the same time of the year the champagne event was on the London Village calendar once again. And once again I paid my money and this time I drove to the luxury flat on the north side of Regents Park. Nothing of the event remains in my memory except for one key point; Cindy was also there. What are the odds of that happening? And what are the odds of…yes. Except by now she had leased a small flat on Gloucester Crescent near Camden Lock, so we drove. (I just used Google Maps, Street view to examine the crescent but it’s not there. Is there an establishment with national security status along the Crescent nowadays?) Cindy was talking of her plans to go to India for a while. Odd, I thought as we were now a full decade beyond the Summer of Love and the Sgt. Peppers era. But those were her plans, and that was the last time I saw the voluptuous and generous Cindy. There were no more champagne events.
I’m sure this doesn’t just happen to me, but as I drive through neighborhoods, memories and concomitant emotions emerge without prompting. Elegance and champagne come to mind while driving along Prince Albert Road from Camden Town to St. Johns Wood, and I suspect always will.
Comments are welcome below.
Did you attend either of the stylish champagne events? Or the “check you for a pound,” Earls Court crush? I would love to hear your memories and post them for others to enjoy.