‘Tell Him What I Said’
I’m quietly working on a book called ‘Film Freak’, which tells scandalous stories from the film world and the London party scene in the 70s and 80s. Sometimes, though, you need a visual jolt to remind you of what the period was like. When it came to going out, there was certainly less attitude and more frivolity. Luckily, lovely Paul Burston at Time Out reminded me of fond memories spent in Camden’s Black Cap watching a bunch of comics, singers and blokes in frocks yelling at the utterly wasted audience.
England has a peculiar, complex relationship with camp men and drag queens; they’re the stars of children’s pantomimes, they feature on TV during the family hour, and star in sketch shows from Monty Python through to The League Of Gentlemen.The Black Cap has a drag bar in the middle of a busy High Street and it was common to find locals there for a night out. Of the many former music hall comics who appeared there, Mrs Shufflewick, an elderly man who played a rather sad little old lady, is the most fondly remembered. Sample joke: ‘I can’t believe the price of things today. I went to the shops and bought a packet of biscuits, half a pound of butter and two bottles of gin and it came to fourteen pounds! I must switch to margerine.’
I’ve forgotten why the punters took boxes of soap powder to the show to throw at the cast, but this clip shows a surprisingly sober Regina Fong and gives an idea of the energetic jolliness that was being at Titanic on a Tuesday night in Camden Town’s Cap at some point in the 1980s. Regina is gone but not forgotten. And the singer, of course, was Helen Shapiro.