The alarm went off at 6.00. The old git had inadvertently set it and the American woman repeatedly told me it was 6.0’clock/6.0’clock/ 6 0’clock/6 0’clock
So I got up.
Brushed my teeth according to my Swedish hygienist.
Washed my face according to my Swedish face gel
And brushed my hair according to years of hair brushing.

Swung on a vest and pj pants and went downstairs to feed the cat.
I meditated in the back garden. It was a mite cooler – only a mite, mind – the sun hadn’t come up over the trees yet. After twenty minutes I leapt in the car, drove to the garage, bought an ‘Observer’ and drove home.
I laid the newspaper out on the kitchen table ready to have an early morning read, when the cohabitee entered the kitchen all sparkly clean from his shower.

The paper is full of what you’d expect it to be full of. Trump and the FBI. Biden and his balance. Truss and her need to be photographed for Vogue and Gerry Sadowitz who has been chucked out of ‘The Pleasance’ in Edinburgh for showing his member to a member of the audience whilst slagging off Rishi Tupac.
I skimmed the recipes and read a piece by a young woman.

The flies were a-buzzing so the ‘oosbind walked around with a fly swat like a Ghanian Prince with a horse tail switch, the kitchen ass as hot as Accra. And then I read a piece about ‘The Groucho Club’ in Dean Street. Apparently it is under new management who want to encourage a younger clientele. The Groucho has always been expensive but in postspandemicpoortimes who has got the money for a night out in Soho? Certainly not the young brigade, not unless they have been left a legacy by a dead relative or have a job sweeping up after Boris.

I have extremely fond memories of Groucho’s. When I had early starts I would stay in one of their cool rooms above the club. Designed for accidental stopovers, a bag of goodies was provided, stuff for the shower, a toothbrush and a condom. The sheets, always crispy linen white, the soap always an exotic fruit concoction, meant collapsing onto a bed was all that was necessary. The window opening onto the sounds of a Soho night, drunks, revellers and the 3.00 a.m. bottle collection. The kindness of the staff and the alarm call normally from an out of work actor who worked the night shift just in case a bloated director was looking for an eager actor.

My contact at Groucho’s was Bernie Katz, ‘The Prince of Soho’. He was a friend to many and a support and pal to me. Bernie was minute, wore silver suits or leopard print outfits, was the son of a jewish gangster, and had the lingo to prove it. I interviewed him, worked with him and for him, and learnt how to receive his endless generosity, not always easy for a gal from the East End who had always paid her own way. Bernie hugged and kissed, was noisy, in your face and filled the club with a timeless madness. He allegedly took his own life. On August 31st 2017 Soho was taken over by black horses with plumes, a carriage with his coffin and flowery tributes saying ‘The Prince of Soho.’in ostentatious colours. The streets were lined with mourners many of whom wore silky leopard skin button holes. We clapped and cried and then wended our way to the cemetery. The trendy and arty hung off beams as celebrity friends choked on poems. I was put in Bernies family limo to get back to the club. Groucho’s was heaving, glasses clinked and the Prince of soho was gone.

As long as I knew Bernie I never paid for anything. If I walked in a Bernini was shoved into my hand. If I sat in the bar I was given plates of delicious bites. If I had meeting I was given the best sofa. When Bernie died it stopped.

I have never been back.
Will never go back.
Groucho’s belonged to Bernie Katz.

In 2012 Bernie asked me to go to Ibiza and run a quiz night. I flew into Ibiza and looked for a man in a vest.
That was all Bernie had given me, ‘Look for a man in a red vest.’
I arrived in Ibiza and every fucker was wearing a vest including the women.
I wandered a bit and saw a young Spaniard, in a red vest, looking for somebody. We locked eyes.
‘Berni ci.’
He did not speak English and I don’t speak Spanish but we managed to communicate to each other.
‘Bernie.’ was all it took.
I was driven to a swanky doodle place for the well heeled Groucho inmates. I stayed up all night talking to moneyed, titled people, most of whom were obnoxious. Went to bed at three and woke to my mobile ringing at 7.00.

‘She’s dead.’ said the disembodied voice.
‘I gave her her coffee and when I turned round she was dead.’
My mother’s nurse was in tears.

Now what to do? I’d committed to running a quiz night, had flown in for it, but now I had a bereavement on my hands.
I went to Bernie
‘My mother has died what do I do?’
‘You go home you idiot.’ he said.

I had never taken time off work for personal stuff so I dithered.
‘Go home’ said the diminutive Katz and he sent me packing. Literally. All the obnoxious ones turned into Saints. They arranged flights, paid for cars and taxis. The journey was a daze. They had got me home without me spending one Euro. Bernie had organised everything.

Bernie managed the Dawter for a bit when he saw her wandering around at a festival singing. Bernie loved her voice, treated her like his long lost daughter. She towered over him. Bernie made Groucho’s a home from home for hundreds of us. And then it was taken over and was overly priced. Bernie gave me an honorary membership so I would never have to pay anything again, but the new mob revoked it.

Now the newer new mob will try and make it accessible to those who have more money than sense. No longer a refuge for actors who would tumble out of the door at silly o’clock no longer a place for unemployed thespians to network. No longer a home from home.

Bernie Katz will have been dead five years in two and half weeks time. I have a naked photo of myself hanging in our bedroom.

‘Will you pose naked for me?’ he asked.
‘Yes’ I said before I knew what it was for.
‘For my autistic nephew – his charity.’
I went to the snooker room at Groucho’s took off my kit, Bernie gave me four brandies, and I balanced by the snooker cues. He only had to ask.
One of his legacies is SOHO RADIO now on Great Windmill Street. With a pink neon sign Bernies’ light shines bright.

The Prince of Soho lives on.

1 thought on “GROUCHO’S”

  1. I remember going to Groucho’s for your gig & loved its ambience sprawled over two and a half houses in Soho. And another time you took me there for coffee. I would never otherwise have accessed such a place. It was pitched as the alternative to the Garrick Club – whose members included actors Charles Kean, Henry Irving, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Arthur Sullivan, Olivier, and Gielgud … writers Dickens, Wells, Barrie, and painters Millais and Rossetti. And it was called Groucho’s because of his quote “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” It’s not just because Bernie has gone, it’s because it’s now part of the establishment.
    I’ve been in the foyer & the garden of the Reform Club in Pall Mall – the closest I’ve ever been to one of the real old ‘gentleman’s clubs’. And they really are like fluffers for the establishment.
    I only met Bernie that once & I remember you telling me about the funeral. I’m glad he isn’t around to see his vision disappear.


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