Saturday Night: It was hell in there for housewives

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Pushca Parties have a hard-earned reputation for glamour and excitement. These big-budget productions feature specially constructed sets and furniture, slides, films, good lighting and sound systems. And the fliers are collectors' items.

Last weekend's 'Housewives' Choice' party was announced in London record shops and boutiques by the sudden appearance of dozens of left-hand yellow Marigold rubber gloves. Each cuff was edged with fake purple ostrich feathers, and a single feather 'jewel' adorned every ring finger. They were all gone within hours.

The general outlook of the organisers, as much as the events of the past three years, had set the tone for last Saturday night. Sadly, the party took an unexpected turn, but that was not their fault. It was mainly due to that most unpleasant of cocktails: testosterone, cocaine and alcohol.

Rick and Debbie, the husband-and-wife team behind Pushca, started putting on parties almost by accident. Rick was a fashion designer with his own company, Love Ricky, when he met Debbie, an interior designer, during the cultural meltdown of the acid house craze. She smiles broadly as he recalls how they 'fell in love immediately' and set off on a pre-nuptial honeymoon that included a lengthy spell in Spain and the Balearics, 'just having a lovely time, basically'. When their magic carpet returned to earth, they found the ride had cost something like pounds 26,000. Both had neglected their businesses, and the recession was beginning to bite.

'Then a couple of guys we knew in the fashion industry asked us to organise a small party,' Debbie says, 'for about 200 people. At that time there were no quality parties happening in London, and Rick said, 'Well, let's make it bigger and make some money.' It was a nightmare, because they didn't like our ideas. But we could see the potential, so we decided to do it ourselves from then on.'

Pushca made its debut at the London Zoo Aquarium in July 1991 for a select gathering of 200 people. A little too select, according to Rick. 'We were so careful that the crowd was too cool for its own good. Everybody just stood around, no one was dancing. It taught us a valuable lesson.' Then came 'Smooch', their Valentine's Day ball, complete with all-night champagne, waiters, oil paintings, gilt furniture, four-poster beds and the like.

For 'Elvisly Ours', a night of rhinestone and catsuits, they hired the Presley impersonator Paul Chan (who performs regularly in his own Chinese restaurant in the Old Kent Road, south London). 'Spend, Spend, Spend' was a tribute to Vivienne Nicholson, the Sixties pools winner whose extravagance made her a role model for drag queens everywhere. Another high point was 'Playboy', themed around a fantasy Hugh Hefner country mansion orgy. Almost all the furniture, including original Sixties and Seventies furnishings, was hired from a private collector.

'A lot of our following is gay,' Rick says, 'and we get a lot of transvestites, too, which we encourage.' Debbie explains that the 'trannies' give Pushca parties a more flamboyant and flirtatious atmosphere; the 'third sex' helps to blur conventional sexual boundaries, breaking down the male-female divide and dispelling the heterosexual 'pick-up' vibe that can so often mar an otherwise imaginative party.

'Cross-dressers, trannies, drag queens, whatever you call them,' she says, 'tend to dress quite outrageously, in a revealing way, and that allows the girls to do the same without feeling exposed. They flirt with the straight guys and keep everything bubbling.'

The cherry on the icing at Pushca is the DJ line-up, with top billing inevitably going to Danny Rampling, a prime mover of the original house movement. He is expert at working a loved-up party crowd. Few other DJs can tread the line between mainstream and avant-garde with consummate ease. It was game on for a great night out.

Arriving at 2.30am, we found Debbie, in white mohair twinset with fluffy mules, saying goodbye to the Tom Jones impersonator. Behind a bar made of (right-hand) Marigold gloves, the bar staff wore white lab coats, divided down the middle: one side daubed in grease, food stains and cigarette butts; the other glowing brilliant white under the UV lights. Slogans and film clips were projected on to the walls, including Zsa Zsa Gabor's memorable remark, 'I am a very good housekeeper. Every time I lose a husband I keep the house.' It was Housewife Heaven in Ealing Film Studios.

But at 4am, Rampling was doing his thing when a huge security guard leapt on to the stage, snarled and turned the music off. The lights came on. Through a microphone howling with feedback, he informed 1,200 confused party- goers that, since we could not enjoy ourselves without causing trouble, we all had to leave.

Disbelief turned to outrage; people were shouting and jeering, screaming for Rampling to resume. No one knew what was going on. Rick jumped up to reason with this fool and gradually talked him offstage.

This is what seems to have happened. While 80 per cent of us were sweating on the dance floor, a fight erupted in the bar between two local gangs of 'Charlie Casuals' - white hooligans in designer togs, rabid with booze and cocaine. Bottles were thrown and a blade was drawn. A CS gas canister was discharged. The security advanced and retreated, the fight fizzled out and the police turned up in full riot gear, just in time for another fight to break out in the same bar. After making some arrests, they ordered the place closed. Hence the idiot announcement.

Debbie and Rick explained that if 1,200 innocent people, who had paid pounds 20 a head to dance all night, were ejected on to the streets of Ealing at 4.30am, they would probably have a real riot on their hands. Luckily, the police saw the logic in this argument and allowed the party to continue.

Rampling, with a point to prove, soon worked the crowd back into the customary frenzy. An hour later, everybody had forgotten about it, except Rick. He looked close to tears. 'We've never had a fight before,' he said. 'I'm so angry with those bastards.' I told him he and Debbie were unlucky, it could have happened anywhere, to anyone.

In the queue for our coats we saw a blonde girl, just a kid, no more than 20 years old, with a bloody gash on her temple. She had been hit by a flying bottle. We offered her a lift, but her friends had a car. Did it hurt? She smiled and said no, it was OK. I felt ashamed, as if I was responsible in some way, and for an instant I wanted to hold her. But I couldn't find the right words, and I thought I might scare her, or even start crying. So I said: 'It will do tomorrow. Make sure you see a doctor in the morning.'