out there; Alix Sharkey invited 500 friends to enter his own Palace of Wisdom

John Walsh: a stranger in the Palace

Desmond from Tipperary was there, of course, sporting his shimmery gold carnival mask, his chaplet of flowers and the brown crepe angel's wings made specially for him by Penny MacBeth, wife of the late poet George. How would he describe...? "Performance artist, I suppose," he said coquettishly, "if you must pin it down to any one thing." It had been his brother Julian's idea to write to Alix Sharkey for tickets. Julian, earnest and puppyish, looked like one of the Proclaimers and talked media bollocks at high speed about how, after three albums and two novels, he was ready to find an audience at last. I wished him luck, but he was in the wrong place. The last place to find a sympathetic ear for your tortured soul was the Palace of Wisdom party.

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 and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Midsummer swimwear season is well and truly upon us – but diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    BC2

    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    SAP Data Migration Consultant

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

    Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

    Linux Systems Administrator

    £33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice