out there; Alix Sharkey invited 500 friends to enter his own Palace of Wisdom
John Walsh: a stranger in the Palace
Prolific writer and commentator John Walsh contributes columns to the paper as well as writing features, interviews and restaurant reviews. He has been editor of The Independent Magazine, literary editor of the Sunday Times and features editor of the London Evening Standard.
Saturday 16 December 1995
I arrived at 11pm, in the grip of a) a virulent strain of Johannesburg Flu, and b) a pair of artery-constricting black Moss Bros strides last worn to a wedding in 1975. The dress code was "Divine Madness, Daemonic Glamour", an enigma I struggled to crack for hours. Obviously it just meant Bette Midler for the girls and Basil Rathbone for the blokes, but you couldn't be sure. (Didn't Bertie Wooster's friend Gussie Fink-Nottle once make an ass of himself by going to the wrong house in a Satanic red jumpsuit and a spiky tail?) Eventually I settled for the Tierra del Fuegan Dope-Pusher's Ensemble: bootlace choker, oil-slick shirt (20 acrylics were sacrificed to give it that sexy black shine), leather jacket, leer. The taxi driver studied my demonic face, on which my daughter had drawn a slender, Geldofian line of beard with an eyebrow pencil. "Wanna borrow a rag, mate?" he asked. "Got somethin' nasty on yer chin".
I shouldn't have worried. The place was crammed with red horns and glowing tridents. Cheapskate look of the evening was the Reservoir Dog (black suit and tie, white shirt). Synthetic fetish of choice was PVC, especially as worn by a couple in powder-blue police uniforms, complete with nightsticks. The party was in two rooms. One was a dark, throbbing dancehall playing an unvariegated stream of leaden trance music. The other was for no-holds- barred posing, where we talked and drank and strove to look unimpressed by the new arrivals. It was where at any moment you'd hear someone say, "Well of course I don't know him as such, but my ex-girlfriend once played poker with him..." Meaning, of course, Alix Sharkey, reputedly the coolest man alive, a devotee of catwalks, bands, style magazines, nightclubs, newly-invented pharmacological compounds and serial heartbreakers. Nobody at the party seemed actually to know him; they were all, you know, friends- of-friends. When he appeared in a crown and floor-length silver robes over a black leather corset - a deviant hybrid of Mongolian warlord, Venetian doge and the Emperor Bokassa - it was clear how things stood. At the court of King Alix, the courtiers are far too cool for warm emotions like friendship.
But what a court. I talked to a crumbling beauty in Miss Havisham weeds, her hair an explosion of orange spun sugar that trembled sweetly whenever she emitted her eldritch cackle. Escaping, I ran into a beauty in an advanced state of deshabille, one of a contingent from Agent Provocateur, the lingerie company, who stood around chatting in their undies. Her name was Eileen, she worked for a Gothic-erotica film company and it was, she modestly admitted, her tush which adorned the cover of last week's Time Out. Why she was wearing a mesh birdcage, like a rudimentary bustle, on the back of her knickers, she was less sure.
After midnight, the costumes got wilder. A full-fig Pharaoh chatted to a mad person in a baldie bathing-cap and Mr Spock ears. A sufferer from galloping hypertension turned out to have merely upended a litre of red poster paint on his head. The Irish guardian angel drifted about the dancefloor.
But as we schmoozed and shot the breeze and wondered if the party offered a snapshot of the British zeitgeist, bang in the middle of the new Nineties, it became clear that, style-wise., things were in serious retro-thrust. Everywhere you looked, the Eighties were back in force. All the little cells of clubland, all those sub-divisions of style - New Romantics, Goths, Batcave, Blitz, Wag - had suddenly returned, bewildered to find themselves under the same roof. Among the gay brotherhood, it was all peaked caps and Holly Johnson pouts. If Boy George had wandered in, you wouldn't have been surprised. On the dancefloor, a chap in a suit ceased trying to score with Rachel, the aloof Planet 24 beauty, fell to the floor and started breakdancing...
Just before I left, I met a Scouse charmer, one of this organ's devoted readers. He indicated his pretty girlfriend (who turned out to be John le Carre's niece) and said, "I've brought her here to find out about Nineties ideology". Nice try, but all she'll learn is that it means a desire to return to the lucrative past as soon as possible. Palace of Wisdom, no; Museum of Style, yes
Life & Style blogs
iPhone 6S price: new handset to cost the same, Apple unlikely to increase phones' storage
A daily walk 'can add seven years to your life'
Pansexual: What is it - and when did the word become popular?
Ashley Madison leak reveals Cambridge as the UK's cheating capital
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
- 1 VMAs 2015: Was Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus' awkward acceptance put-down real or staged?
- 2 If you're not already angry about the migrant crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
- 3 Rules on 5p plastic bags likely to lead to arguments at the check-out
- 4 Chaos breaks out in courtroom as father attacks killer of three-year-old daughter
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique & exciting opp...
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...
£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...