George was 15 and reapplying his makeup in the ladies. He loved my vintage lipstick, so matte it practically tattooed your lips and lasted almost a week. George wanted to borrow it. His friend 'Mickey', with a ginger mop and svelte body minced even more loudly, their quickfire repartée crackled arcs of lightning-fast bitchery into the Soho night air.
I liked George straight away. I'd never really met a gay man before who was so open. A week later he turned up at my parent's house in Highgate
"you coming down the Vortex?"On the top deck of the number 43 bus he explained gay sex in detail: that they took it up the arse, although some men preferred to be the fucker. He told me about some posh party where an older man locked and mounted him in the loo. I lapped it up. George told me that he was gay but that he expected to get married and have children later. That seems kind of poignant now.
Every Thursday night for a few weeks, George and Mickey (feather boa, piping voice) would come round on the way to the club. We'd perform last minute adornment on my parent's enormous Heal's zebra print sofa.
I was into a 'mod' look at that time, even though I was a punk. Sixties Twiggy-style dresses were cheap and plentiful in the charity shops: painted eyelashes, pale lipstick, white tights and I was set. Every Saturday I'd go down to Camden market, before it became a money laundering joint for Israeli mafia, and create my look for that week.
My friendship with George cooled when I threw my 18th birthday party during my parent's holiday abroad. In those days you had to deal with tribes, as neatly delineated, warring viciously in the high streets of Britain, as any civil war. You had your Punks, your Teds and your Skins. I spent hours taping a party cassette, alternating all three genres of music. Ever the cook and hostess, I made tons of food. A harbinger of the future, I spent almost all my party budget on food: cheeses, baguettes, salads. People laughed. It wasn't very rock n roll. But I was glad of it, people vomit less when they've had something to eat. For my hostess outfit, I ran myself up a pink tutu, badly, it kept unravelling throughout the night.
I'd invited a few people from the pubs where I lurked every opening hour in Highgate, some mates from the Roxy and the Vortex. I had a boyfriend: Tone, to whom I'd recently lost my virginity in the back of my mother's Honda. It was cramped but surprisingly pleasurable. I was dating outside of my caste: Tony was a Ted. He had a solid laquered quiff and jeans so tight that he sewed himself into them every night. He smelt of Paco Rabanne, hairspray and fags. To this day that smell turns me on. I wasn't allowed to touch his hair
"I love you babes but don't touch the barnet".He only ate cheese sandwiches. His sister was in jail. In his fonzyesque leather jacket, rough but rule-bound like so many working class men, his 'otherness' and his talent as a cartoonist enamoured me. Like most men, he was prepared to spend any amount of money on me for drink, but food was something else: once, after a drinking sesh at the Duke of Hamilton pub in Hampstead where he and his crew, who were later to become the band Madness, hung out, I said I was hungry.
As we walked down Hampstead High street in the rain from the chip shop, sharing the damp vinegar soaked bag, he said
"'Course I love you, I bought you chips".I looked at him: he was serious. Buying me food, even a take-away, showed commitment of a different order.
I was in the papers with Tone, front page of the News of The World 'Punk and Ted in love'. Going to clubs together was difficult: if I went to a rockabilly club, I needed a set of bodyguarding girl-Teds, all clad in gingham blouses and hoop skirts, picked out by Tony, to accompany me to the loo otherwise I'd get beaten up. When I took Tony to punk clubs, it was easier: punks were more liberal, allowing Skins and Rastas into their clubs. In fact all the girls fancied him; my good friend Simone, ha! briefly ended up with Tony when we split. Ah the heartbreak and betrayals you learn growing up.
So my 18th birthday party was all prepared. My brother and I had moved all the furniture upstairs.
Later, when 300 people were crammed on the dancefloor (punks were pogo-ing to the Clash, then the teds would take over for Sha Na Na, it was a dance off!), fights were breaking out all over, my boyfriend was nowhere to be seen, the food had gone, the police had turned up and people wouldn't go home, I was very glad we'd taken that precaution.
About 50 people stayed the night, including Melissa Caplan, shortly afterwards a famous fashion designer for New Romantics, and Boy George.
"I had to stop George from spray painting your parent's living room with graffitti" Melissa told me.I was shocked that a friend would consider such a thing. I still got in a heap of trouble with the parents, even though my brother and I had spent a week clearing up. We weren't sure how to repair the fixtures and fittings though, such as the wood surrounds of the doors which had been ripped off. For a week or so afterwards whenever I went out to a club, I was famous as the girl that had 'that party'.
A couple of years previously I hosted a dinner party for a guy I thought fancied me. My menu was laughably seventies: grilled grapefruit halves with glacé cherries, spaghetti bolognese, and baked apples with custard. I had 12 or maybe it was 15 people over, a ridiculously large amount for a 15 year old. Grilling the grapefruits took forever and the main course didn't get served till 11pm. By which time I was exhausted and drunk. Then my good friend Clare Bennett got off with the object, a preening cock whose millionaire father owned a plastic bag factory, of my affection. Bitch. Story of my life: I'm in the kitchen, thinking bizarrely that my beautiful food would pull in the love while my mates are outside, wearing platforms, face glitter and flicked up fringes, actually getting some.
One of the guests was a pixieish young man, black hair, tiny features and periwinkle blue eyes, named Jon Moss. He had access to a car and would sometimes whisk me off to Maxwell's Hamburger joint in Hampstead after the pub. He seemed interested in me.
Maxwell's was a very exciting place: you wouldn't believe how novel burgers appeared in the 70s. Mostly I couldn't afford to eat there: I'd go with someone else and pick at the free tray of sauces.* There were four sauces I seem to recall: 1) ketchup, proper Heinz, not the watery vinegared red stuff they served at Wimpey 2) a lurid green relish, which may have had pickled cucumbers in it 3) a nuclear yellow relish, perhaps made of corn 4) thick Helman's style mayonnaise, not 'salad dressing'.
Jon Moss represented glamour and money, he was also exotic because, it was whispered, he was adopted. I'd never met anyone adopted before.
One weekend he invited me to Liverpool. My nan was babysitting as my parents were away. I was almost 16 and determined to lose my virginity. So I persuaded my nan to let me go. We drove up in a tiny car, disappointingly I was in the back seat, Jon had a friend with him in the front seat. We stopped at a motorway cafe (something I'd never been to before, as my family never holidayed in Britain) and irritatingly Jon decided to pick up a hitchhiker. It meant I had even less room in the car and the prospect of a romantic hymen-busting weekend with Jon dimmed further. I felt sidelined especially as Jon was noticeably friendlier and chattier to this Hitcher than me. They jabbered away, ignoring me, obviously considering me too young to understand their lofty talk.
Suddenly I heard them talking about prophesies, I jerked into action:
"Are you talking about Nostradamus?" I interjected.
A moment's silence followed in which I could almost physically hear their minds reappraising me as perhaps not the bimbo they had thought. They had no idea of course that I'd been brought up in a family immersed in mysticism such as Arthurian tales and astrology.
In Liverpool the party was in a barely decorated house. I was hungry. The party dragged on. I kept wondering when Jon was going to have his way with me. After all why else did he invite me? Jon was upstairs, busy, talking to others I guess. I was alone on the sofa with his mate, front-seat guy. At about 4am in the morning, front-seat guy did that creeping his hand along the back of the sofa thing, trying to put his arm around me. Ugh! No way! I thought. Just then Jon came down and saw. He smiled. He was fine with it!
The next morning we drove back to London. I was perplexed. I didn't understand what had gone wrong. I'd returned virgo intacta, what humiliation. I didn't see Jon for a few years after that.
Can you imagine my surprise when Culture Club burst on the scene?
*I'd recently been to America on holiday with my parents. American restaurants were a revelation after years driving through France going to Relais Routiers. They had 'help yourself' salad bars, blue cheese dressing, huge glasses of iced water which were brought to your table even when you didn't order it. The service was friendly. Friendly!! They told you their names and everything! They said 'you are welcome' and 'hi' like they knew you!