You can spot them across six lanes of the Euston Road, these skinny, glittering figures, shoulders hunched against the biting wind, St Pancras station looming in the darkness above them, its neo-Gothic bulk shrouded in plastic sheeting like some post-modern outcrop of Gormenghast castle. Watch them trudge past London's scariest prostitutes, past the piss-stained drunks clutching cans of Tennant's Super, and the hissing crack dealers.

They troop up York Way and through the rusted wire-mesh gates, towards the disused freight depot at the centre of a vast industrial wasteland. Already, hundreds are waiting, shivering in the pool of tungsten light, their breath forming clouds in the diesel-drenched night air. How odd they look here, these party people in silk and leather, gold lame hotpants, slinky black dresses, Westwood and Hamnett and Gaultier, wigs and sequins, platform shoes and velvet suits. Welcome to the Mud Club.

And here is your host, Mr Philip Sallon. Dressed with customary grandeur in an outfit woven from knotted plastic carrier bags, he is fussing and cursing and snubbing and greeting, giving friend and foe alike a once-over, as if to say: 'You might have looked in a mirror before coming out, girlfriend.' And they love it, they lap it up. Just as they have done since 14 April 1983, when Philip first opened the Mud Club in a sweaty discotheque in Charing Cross Road.

Ah, what a night] Malcolm McLaren performed his new single 'Buffalo Girls', while long-forgotten pop stars peeked over shoulders along the upstairs bar. British clubs were introduced to hip-hop that night, and Philip never looked back. Yet he was already a star, even then. Look through The Sex Pistols File or any other punk photo-book of the time and you will find the same sallow Jewish youth wearing a sneer, a PVC jacket, black gloves with matching lipstick and eyeliner. Philip was a founding member of the 'Bromley Contingent' - the original punks, the crew that launched a thousand ripped T-shirts.

Philip knew everybody, or at least they knew of him. Vivienne Westwood sold clothes from a rail in one of his clubs and he threw catwalk parties for her collections. Philip was 'Boy George's best friend,' according to one book about the singer. He appeared as a prime example of cross-dressing on Parkinson, with Boy George and Marilyn. And when the Mud was at its height he would patrol the queue, terrorising those he thought less than well-dressed. He made enemies as easily as he made money.

And did he make money] One night, he was taking a bag of cash from the club's front desk to the office when a man rushed up, stabbed him in the stomach, slashed his throat, and ran off with over pounds 3,000. Philip went to hospital holding his guts in his hand.

Tonight there are over a thousand in the queue. A few hundred yards away, the security guards are screaming at frightened punters. Everybody knows that most of the bouncers at this venue, Bagley's, are vicious, and everybody complains, but Philip says he can't get rid of them - they come with the venue and that's that.

Boy George was meant to DJ tonight, but he left in a huff after the bouncers intimidated him. Getting into Bagley's is an ordeal even for the host's rich and famous guests, it seems. Imagine how the rest of us are treated.

Philip creates a theme for each monthly event, and the crowd dresses accordingly. For the Arty Farty party, 20 Mona Lisas holding large golden scissors were hung above the main dance floor, their mechanical arms dangling from the frames. Another room was dedicated to Jackson Pollock. It was fun, but like most art students, Philip could try harder.

But why should he? People who can estimate these things say that nearly 5,000 turned up for his New Year's Eve party - about twice the legal capacity. Most of them paid pounds 20 to get in. It was almost impossible to move, let alone dance, they say. 'But everywhere is packed on New Year's Eve,' says Philip. 'And anyway, my crowd looked better than anyone else's. People are only slagging it off because they're jealous.'