Saturday 2 January 2010
Dylan Jones: 'The Groucho Club was loathed as much as it was loved. And boy, did some people hate it'
Talk Of The Town
This summer the Groucho Club will celebrate its 25th anniversary, and as a member of 20 years' standing, that makes me feel very, very old.
I was in the Zanzibar when I first heard about the Groucho. It was late 1984 and I was having a drink in the Covent Garden media hangout with Peter York, discussing the current ins and outs like two pinstriped Runyon-esque dandies. As we were leaving we stopped at the table of some high-flying advertising bods (friends of Peter – Peter's friends!) who started discussing this brand-new media watering hole that was opening in Soho in a few months' time. What did we think? Who was going to join? Who would they let in? Who was already barred? Would it work? How long would it take for the investors to get their money back? And, more importantly, would the Groucho kill off the Zanzibar?
Well, did it? You bet. Stone dead. The Groucho became legendary almost as soon as it opened its doors, which, in a decade that made a point of celebrating nightclubs, hotels and private members' clubs as though they were churches or palaces, maybe wasn't so surprising. A post-modern gin palace catering for every Tom, Dick and Tarquin, a media-centric wet bar for every publishing wannabe, every aspiring film director, every copywriter and hack, the Groucho immediately became the centrepiece of Swinging London II.
Which meant from the off it was loathed as much as it was loved. And boy, did some people hate it. The first time I went there was a hot Friday evening in the summer of 1985, to meet pop archaeologist Jon Savage. We were ostensibly there to discuss work – I wanted Savage to leave The Face and join i-D – but Jon spent the entire evening slagging off everyone who walked into the bar. "Hate him"; "Hate her"; "Talentless"; "Fool!" etc.
Wow, I thought to myself, this is definitely the place for me.
And it was.
They say that if you can remember the Sixties then you weren't really there; well, I can remember every night I spent in the Groucho as though it were yesterday.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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