CLUBS: Pleased to meet you: In clubland even the female DJs are men. James Style talks to Jon Pleased Wimmin, a DJ playing straight clubs in drag

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The Independent Culture
With her long blonde hair spilling between the headphones clutched to her ear, the DJ mixes in her next record. She's good, the party crowd is dancing frenetically. For all its new- age values and youthful ideals, feminism has yet to reach clubland. The DJs are the heroes and with few exceptions they are almost all men. And they still are because, despite her gorgeous looks, our DJ, Jon, is a man.

Jon is the DJ at 'Pleased', a Wednesday-night club in the new and sumptuous Velvet Underground on Charing Cross Road. He runs it with his two, equally glamorous, friends, Darren and Peter. Collectively they are known as 'The Pleased Wimmin', and they are something of a clubland sensation. Darren and Peter, both over six feet tall, act as the meeters and greeters. Striking in their full-length ballgowns, they undoubtedly give 'Pleased' its famously happy atmosphere, cheer-leading on the dance floor and hosting at the front-door. By 11pm there's already a sizeable queue outside the club. The Pleased Wimmin are getting double takes as they pose for photographs, and a salivating Norwegian tourist asks Peter for a date.

Jon has an impeccable club pedigree. He graduated from St Martin's School of Art, the trendy art college that spawned John Galliano and many of the club luminaries from the late 1980s. With his boyfriend, Lee, he started a shop in Kensington Market, a great place to meet people. One of those was performance artist, Leigh Bowery, model for Lucien Freud but also a well-known club character. Bowery and Rachel Auburn, a respected DJ and darling of the gay scene, acted as mentors for the Pleased Wimmin.

Jon, Darren and Peter started out as a dance trio, The Pleased Wimmin Cabaret. With the popularity of gay / drag clubs like Kinky Gerlinky, it would have been easy for them to stay within the close-knit drag scene, but instead they performed their act in straight clubs and found that their extravagant outfits, cheeky repartee and good humour won them many friends. 'We used to get strapping Cockney geezers coming up and kissing us, saying 'Nice one mate'.'

Despite all the outfits and the giggles, the Pleased Wimmin are very serious about what they do. For a start 'Pleased' is not really a gay club; the bulk of those attending seem to be young, fun-loving and heterosexual. Jon is adamant that he wants to appeal squarely to a majority straight audience: 'I hate things to be shepherded into one area. I think I get more toleration for gay people by playing at a straight club. If someone really enjoys themselves, you've broken down a barrier. It does more than standing in Hyde Park snogging and shouting 'I'm queer as fuck'.'

Jon was born in the Belgian Congo, where his parents were Salvation Army missionaries. Revolution brought them back to Croydon where he grew up. Years of playing in the Salvation Army band, cello and piano lessons have set him in good stead because he has just signed a recording contract with Warner Brothers. The first release is planned for late August, a serious housey dance track on one side with a poppier song on the other. 'The age of the guitar is dead,' says Jon, melodramatically. 'There's no good pop songs anymore. Although I DJ house music, the New Romantics are definitely my biggest influence.'

The success of 'Pleased' is hard to pin down, but is real enough; the Pet Shop Boys frequent, as do the Manic Street Preachers and Erasure. Undoubtedly Darren and Peter's exuberance has something to do with it, but Jon's DJ-ing skill is not to be underestimated. He now has a busy schedule that takes him all over the country, alternating between 'Back to Basics' in Leeds, 'Cream' in Liverpool, 'Miss Moneypenny's' in Birmingham and 'Progress' in Derby, the top clubs in their respective areas. As Jon says, 'We have a strict music policy, there's no handbag crap here'.

Pleased at the Velvet Underground, 10pm-3am, 143 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2 (071-439 4655) pounds 5

(Photograph omitted)

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