Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Girls night out in London: Guilty Pleasures

Last Saturday, I kissed the dog goodbye, threw my sequin party dress & high heels in the back of the car, took off the roof, and sped down the M1 to London for a sneaky night of flouro accessories, too much champagne, debauchery and dancing.

I can’t remember the last time I went dancing. Proper, get dressed up, wear high heels, drink vodka, dance like a fiend, love my lovely girlfriends dancing. So it’s a very, very good thing that my last minute trip back to London from Los Angeles coincided with a Guilty Pleasures night at Koko in Camden. I miss nights like these so much that I would happily get on a plane from LAX just for Guilty Pleasures.

That’s probably got something to do with GP having been my night out of choice since I saw GP’s DJ Sean Rowley rock the sleepy afternoon audience at the Big Chill festival in 2004 with a choice set of 70s & 80s classics that included Guns n Roses and Dolly Parton. His main criteria? Sing-along, dance-along tracks that the too cool for school crowd would never admit to knowing, let alone dancing to in public.

Miss P and I ended up having some ludicrous nights at GP’s regular night at the Carling in Islington where the atmosphere was one of glorious amateurism. Akin to a village hall bop, a GP night always celebrates English eccentricity with a tongue placed firmly in cheek. There are theme nights, dressing up, confessional booths, a slow dance room called the Erection Section and, on stage, entertainment from bewigged dance troupes in legwarmers with bosoms wobbling and portly male dancers in leotards and spats.

Eventually GP grew out of The Carling and moved to Koko, formerly the Camden Palace, a glorious old Victorian music hall in Camden, complete with rococo boxes, a real stage and rather too many flights of stairs for vertiginous heel wearers.

We were there at the opening, and again as often as we could make it. The last time I went was just before I moved to America and the next morning had to crawl out of bed to bicycle to BBC London in Marylebone to appear as the fashion expert guest on Sean Rowley’s Guilty Pleasures radio show.

So, last Saturday, courtesy of the very nice people at Malmaison London in Charterhouse Square, Miss P, Clare, Tara & I gathered in one of their lovely big hotel rooms to get dressed, glue on our fake eyelashes, drink Tesco’s Cava (sooo classy) and eat delicious club sandwiches & fries from room service whilst watching Britain’s Got Talent on the flatscreen, before piling into a black cab to Camden. The night’s theme? Club Tropicana. Bloody brilliant.

(Tara looking very sultry). One of the rather nice things about being a grown up is getting VIP’d. The pulchritudinous publicist whisked us up and down stairs to a series of VIP private boxes with a bar and, hallelujah, a VIP loo. (I know I’m getting old when I get over-excited about not queuing for the loo.)

Within seconds we were wristbanded up,

getting stuck into the first round of vodka Red Bull & tequila chasers (my three friends had locked their infants under the stairs to come out to play and today’s drug of choice is caffeine), and dancing around our handbags to Wham!, Duran Duran and the rest.

Guilty Pleasures(Tara & Clare - the publishable photo). Upon discovering that one of our wristbands gave us backstage access we were off through the serpentine corridors to the wings to watch some of the cabaret acts from the back of the stage. That's not all the back we saw:

I was blissfully happy to see long time GP regulars The Dreambears giving it up, fresh from their semi-final appearance on Britain’s Got Talent.(NB I do wish that straight America embraced camp like the Brits do). They were working it in these:

I didn’t go backstage to end up on the stage. But my Clare had other ideas. This is why we were to be found throwing shapes in front of 1500 people for the last couple of hours.

Fortunately it wasn't just us or the audience would have been justified in asking for a refund: it’s a Guilty Pleasures trademark to grab twenty or so people to come and dance on stage from the wings and from the audience in between acts. And it's not the punters who get down: the publicist, MC & DJ join in too. Here's Sean Rowley playing air guitar:

Sean RowleyI would have stayed till the bitter end but I was in danger of developing shin splints from dancing in 5inch platform stiletto hooker shoes. I was also becoming aware that every time I reached for the stars, my black sequin mini dress was riding up to flash my knickers.

So the girls hopped it to their night buses (New Yorkers you have NO idea how lucky you are to live in a city where cabs roam the streets at all hours,) and I waited 25 minutes with throbbing feet in a mini cab office for a ruinously expensive car.

I have never been so glad to arrive at a hotel. I drew a bath full of super hot water & bubbles and had a final glass of Champagne, before wrapping myself in a fluffy towel and falling into bed. Oh the wonderful, comfy bed...mmmm, with your Egyptian cotton cool white sheets you were really spoiling me Malmaison.

My now obligatory photo in the rather chic Malmaison London bathroom - I feel I have to prove I was there now after that evil commentator accused me of making it all up!