One Night In Vauxhall
It’s a piece of London apocrypha that’s been circulating for years, a story unverified by the press at the time but which turned out to be true.
Supposedly one night a bored Princess Diana left the Palace to hang out with her pals Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett. Complaining she never got to go anywhere fun, so she let comedian Cleo Rocos, Mercury and Kenny Everett dress her in an army jacket, cap and sunglasses for a night out at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a traditional London drag pub, in the late 1980s.
‘When we walked in… we felt she was obviously Princess Diana and would be discovered at any minute. But people just seemed to blank her. She sort of disappeared. But she loved it,’ said Rocos, who co-starred in Everett’s television show. ‘She did look like a beautiful young man.’ The presence of Mercury, Everett and Rocos diverted revellers’ attention and Diana was able to order drinks undetected.
It’s certainly true that she used to sneak out in disguise all the time; my pal George used to be the projectionist at United International Pictures in Hammersmith, and would let her into the building for private screenings with her mates. She loved films and used her fame to make fortunes for charities by raising money at premieres. Many of them struggled after her death.
An Edinburgh fringe show ‘Royal Vauxhall’ explores what happened in this rough-edged messy-night-out of a play as the three of them, all feeling trapped by their public personas, hit town in disguise. The result is charming, filthy, funny and ultimately moving as we realise that Diana will lose her two friends to the AIDS crisis and will closely follow them, hounded to death by the press.
Now the play is running once a month at the site where it happened, in the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, which was recently saved from property developers. It’s the story of three brilliant people who felt alone and adrift in their lives, and how they found a kind of solace in each another’s company, and is well worth catching. There are two more performances.