Monday, 19 December 2011

Red Blood Cell

The busy Christmas season continues, with my working life a healthy mix of (usually) soul-destroying office parties and lovely cabaret and burlesque shows full of friends. In the last week or so I think my battered show suitcase has visited pretty much every basement cabaret venue London has to offer - so much so that a couple of nights ago it gave up the ghost and died on me. I was on my way to a gig in Soho, and suddenly realised that the suitcase wasn't rolling along as smoothly as it should. I took a look over my shoulder to see a small trail of props behind me that has slipped out of the hole in the suitcase left by a wheel falling off. A line of cabaret performer breadcrumbs.

Maybe it's the holiday season, maybe it's that I have a week off coming up, or maybe it's the free drinks that I get at venues, but there have been a few moments of lump-in-the-throat beauty in the last few days of my working life. Elle Amour dancing in her own personal snowstorm (see picture above) can't fail to captivate. The delightful Lisa Lottie (picture hooping below) hanging from her hoop over the crowd in the most effortlessly elegant way at the Wam Bam club, slinking back to earth and leaving the stage, only to stop, turn back to the audience and flash them that million-watt grin. Spectacularly talented Arron Sparks finishing his bulletproof act by sending a yo-yo flying into the air, hitting a pirouette, and catching the yo-yo in his hat, exactly on the final beat of his music. How can you not love shit like that?


A couple of weeks ago I shot some promotional images for killer tap dancer Josephine Shaker. We spent a fun afternoon in my home away from home, the Bethnal Green WorkingMen's Club, a perfect location for the slightly faded cool variety feel we wanted. She was adamant that she didn't want any photos of herself actually dancing - "No jumping in the air shit" - so we concentrated on letting her look glamorous, seedy and vampy. Our favourite shot is below.


The best thing that happened to me in the last few days though, by a mile, happened in a felafel shop on Charing Cross Road. Gaby's Deli has been serving incredible salt beef sandwiches, felafel and the best hot greasy potato latkas you'll ever taste in the same location just opposite Leicester Square since 1965. When I was a street performer it was a regular hangout. I had one of the first dates with the woman who became my wife there. It's one of those important London places. And unless we do something about it, it's going to vanish on May 1st next year. The current plan to for the landlords to evict Gaby and his wonderful staff and redevelop the property for a chain restaurant. This, obviously, must be stopped. Quickly, a "Save Gaby's" campaign was launched, and I got involved. One of the ways they've been publicising the situation is by having shows take place in Gaby's, so that's why, last Friday, you would have seen me host a pop-up cabaret show to a packed house of happy giggling felafel fans. It was wonderful. Magician Christian Lee and musical comedian Loretta Maine answered my call and helped out, and we had a brilliant time.

From a personal perspective, it was something special. Gaby's Deli has been part of pretty much every year of my adult life, and if it goes, I'll always walk past the the place it used to stand with a tear in my eye. From a commerce oriented perspective, evicting Gaby is a ridiculous thing to do. Here's a small, profitable family owned business with stunning customer satisfaction that is being bulldozed to make way for...well, for what? We're in a recession - virtually all chain restaurants are downsizing, not expanding. Nobody has come forward saying that they'd be interested in taking over the space. It's spectacular bollocks.

I left Gaby's that night full of love. And felafel. I get sappy when I talk about London. I'm not often patriotic - that way awfulness lies, all to often, I think. But I am a Londoner. Born here. Work here. Lived here all my life. Have a zillion sense memories of this town. Can't walk around without triggering geographic memory flashbacks. I left Gaby's to warm handshakes, walked across to Soho and into Madame Jojos, where the doormen greeted me with equally warm handshakes and jokes. And I felt like a cog in the machine of London. A red blood cell flowing around in the veins of my city. A tiny tiny part of something I adore. And it felt good.

If you want to help save Gabys - and all it will take is enough pressure on the Marquess of Salisbury, so it's doable - then there is a website here with all the information you need. Be a mensch and do a good thing.

And, y'know, happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, whatever. Every so often I meet someone I don't know, and they mention that they read my blog, and it blows my fucking mind royally. So really, really thank you. Have a lovely holiday. x

2 comments:

SteveE said...

Enjoyed reading your blog post, and I enjoyed your gig at Gaby's even more! Long may it last.

Curt said...

Just found your blog. Very interesting.

So here it is July 9th 2012. What happened to Gaby's?

I guess I could google it but that would ruin the suspense.