S.S. [Siouxsie Sioux] mentioned this exclusive little club in Soho that you had to be a member to get in and was populated by lesbians and the odd male lesbian watcher and a couple of well-known actors. We all went, led by S.S. through the streets of Soho to 61 Poland Street to a red painted door with gold plates. S.S. rang the bell and through a little peephole a voice said in lisping tones, "Are you members!" What, I wonder, did we look like through that little window; some nightmare WaIt Disney might have had! We got in. Sitting at a low desk in the entrance way was a very old lady with a pile of grey hair atop her head and long grey dress and grey fur coar- grey lady? Bits of diamonds here and there, she looked a thousand-years-old. "Ah, you must all become members, my dears," her accent was French. Three pounds bought us a little red and white membership card.
Michael the doorman was an American fag and Madame Louise's toy-boy. This was her club. We were all under twenty-one and looked it, but somehow they didn't care, we must have passed some test. Perhaps Louise wanted to attract a younger clientele? The small foyer led into a bar room, a large mirror ran along the back wall, very dim lighting so you could hardly see your reflection, long black leatherette sofa seating, small tables with red cloths on them, black chairs, red carpets.
It was empty except for a waiter we named 'Ballerina John', an Irish queen with really awful acne and long red hair that he kept flicking over one eye. John had been thrown out of dance school because of some sexual indiscretion in the toilets. Ballerina John came over and took our orders-five vodka and oranges. And because of the licensing laws, it was required that we were served food-food was a few slices of anaemic-looking Spam and shrivelled gherkins on a paper plate.
S.S. had found this place on one of her jaunts with pretend-girlfriend Myra. Most of us kept looking at ourselves in the gloriously long and flattering mirrors. From our table we could see a spiral staircase going down. "I love these mirrors," S.S. purred. "What's down there?" I asked. "A dance floor," S.S. said, retouching her nose with her powder puff…
What did I wear to Louise's the first time? Old men's pyjama jacket with a silver grey tie over black ski pants and black plastic sandals and white fingerless gloves. S.S. in one of her fifties Swanky Modes dresses, (Swanky Modes was a shop in Camden run by two sisters, designers of vaguely fetish women's wear). S.S. was wearing a b/w polka dot 'Betty Boo' dress; she would do impersonations of the cartoon character now and then. We'd catch ourselves in the mirror, suck in our cheeks and pout like mad. Sipping our vodkas, we could hear strains of music, Diana Ross and the Supremes ... S.S. decided that we should all trot downstairs... a small dance floor surrounded by low tables with red cloths and mirrors around the walls. We sat at a table under the stairs.
There was a smoked-glass DJ booth, where a young dyke played Bowie then Marlene Dietrich ... around the room sat a couple of butch dykes with feathered haircuts and three-piece men's suits. S.S. pulled me onto the dance floor to Bryan Ferry's 'Let's Stick Together'. I followed her in a demented jive, swinging each other around and around, yelping and cooing. We'd suddenly stop mid-jive and turn and look at ourselves in the mirrors, as though fixing and freezing our features forever at sixteen. With the help of make-up and the dark lights of the club we looked perfect and glamorous… Louise's closed at 3 a.m., which meant getting the night bus home, a cab was too expensive.
Marshall also mentions that the Roxy in Neal Street, Covent Garden - the first punk club as such - has previously been 'Chagarama's, the trannie bar', and recalls that as punk exploded and Louise's became too popular, some of the scene decamped elsewhere:
We discovered another club. Sombrero's was on Kensington High Street and a very GAY Disco, owned by a pair of Spanish queens, it had a raised dance floor of multicoloured Perspex that resembled a boxing ring and had waiter service. A lot of Oriental and Middle Eastern queens went there, it was very faggy indeed, gold chains and sprayed hair, little leather clutch bags, rich older queens and their younger pickings. It was home in the early 1970s to the glam rock scene, Mr and Mrs Bowie.
One time Johnny Rotten was hero of the week down at Sombtero's, he intervened in a knife attack against one of the door staff, stopped the queen getting it in the gut, by kicking the assailant in the nuts! Rudy, a rotund and chirpy Spaniard was the DJ, he played 70s disco. My favourite story that he told, was one night Marianne Faithfull came down and went to his DJ booth on the look-out for free drinks; of course Rudy obliged. She repaid him by singing a drunken version of 'Little Bird'.