A vintage “tart card” that you would find inside a London telephone box.
During the mid-80s and 90s in London after the privatization of British Telecom, the telephone box was used by prostitutes to advertise their services. The boxes would be plastered with “tart cards” which were affixed to the box by professional “carders” who would routinely update the booths with replacement cards. “Carders” were also known for removing cards of competing prostitutes.
This form of flesh advertising would remain in place until 2001 when the UK made the act of posting tart cards inside telephone boxes punishable by either six months in the clink or a £5000 pound fine. The cards from the 80s and 90s included in this post were much like something you’d seen in a homemade fanzine—naughty illustrations along with some tongue-in-cheek catchy phrase (“Your pain is my pleasure” is a favorite) that were printed on brightly colored cards. Another interesting aspect of the old-school tart cards is that they were often devoid of full-on nudity, and preferred instead to imply certain services, such as an illustration of a female dominatrix holding a whip, stepping on a man with her stiletto boot heel along with her phone number. By the time 2002 rolled in, the cards were used as a means by police to track down the prostitutes and evict them from their apartments or homes as well as possibly deport call-girls who were in the country illegally.
The cards are such a memorable part of London counter-culture from that era that the neon-colored tart cards were prominently featured in the 2003 book Tart Cards: London’s Illicit Advertising Art. I’ve posted images of tart cards from the early 80s and 90s below for you to peruse which, as you can imagine, are NSFW.
The 1970s were a hugely contentious time for the UK. In 1973 the country was reeling from a massive outbreak of worker strikes that were in retaliation to new bills that put harsh restrictions on pay increases. By May there were over 1.6 million workers walking the picket lines. On January 7th, 1974, hinging on measures introduced by then Prime Minister Edward Heath, a mandatory three-day work week was instituted. Initially a five-day restriction, the new three-day mandate came into play in order to avoid any further fallout due to the crisis-level lack of energy and fuel resources. Once the measure went into effect 885,000 workers applied for unemployment benefits. All of this discontent during this dangerously tumultuous time would be fuel for the fire of the Cockney Rejects.
The Cockney Rejects were hardass guttersnipes, the sons of East End dockers, who were inspired by the Sex Pistols. They sang about fights, how much they hated the police and how much they loved football. And there were songs about fighting over football and being arrested.
The original group consisted of the Geggus brothers, Mickey and Jeff, AKA Stinky Turner. Both brothers were good boxers and neither had ever lost in the ring. They were joined by Vince Riordan as their bassist in 1979. After getting their start as The Shitters, the band signed with EMI (tipped by Sham 69’s Jimmy Pursey) after playing a small handful of live gigs which would quickly become known for regularly descending into violent riots. Much of the contention stirred up by quad was based on their support of their beloved West Ham United Football Club.
When the group appeared on Top of the Pops on May 22nd, 1980 following West Ham’s ascension to the FA Cup Finals, the band literally wore their pride on stage donning their “West Ham” shirts in support of their team. Apparently after barely miming their way through their hit version of the West Ham theme “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” the band ran amok in the hallowed halls of the BBC and were subsequently banned from performing on the show again. Still just teenagers, the Cockney Rejects would continue to live up to their reputation by playing an equally unhinged live gig at The Cedar Club in Birmingham. That show, which left fans lying bloody on the floor would go on to be known as the “Battle of Birmingham” and has been called the most “violent” live show in British concert-going history. It would also mark a turning point in the band’s career as future gigs would devolve into clashes between opposing groups of football fans and skinheads who followed the Oi! movement.
Journalist Garry Bushell, who covered the Oi! movement for SOUNDS later wrote:
With the Rejects, football was the trouble. And it was understandable because they’d been fanatically pro-West Ham aggro from the word go. Even at their debut Bridge House gig they decked the stage out with a huge red banner displaying the Union Jack, the West Ham crossed hammers and the motif ‘West Side’ (which was that part of the West Ham ground then most favoured by the Irons’ most violent fans). Their second hit was a version of the West Ham anthem ‘Bubbles’ which charted in the run-up to West Ham’s Cup Final Victory in the early summer of 1980. On the b-side was the ICF-pleasing ‘West Side Boys’ which included lines like: ‘We meet in the Boelyn every Saturday/Talk about the teams that we’re gonna do today/Steel-capped Dr. Martens and iron bars/Smash the coaches and do ’em in the cars’.
It was a red rag to testosterone-charged bulls all over the country. At North London’s Electric Ballroom, 200 of West Ham’s finest mob-charged less than fifty Arsenal and smacked them clean out of the venue. But ultra-violence at a Birmingham gig really spelt their undoing. The audience at the Cedar Club was swelled by a mob of Birmingham City skinheads who terrace-chanted throughout the support set from the Kidz Next Door (featuring Grant Fleming, now a leftwing film maker, and Pursey’s kid brother Robbie). By the time the Rejects came on stage there were over 200 Brum City skins at the front hurling abuse. During the second number they started hurling plastic glasses. Then a real glass smashed on stage. Stinky Turner responded by saying: “If anyone wants to chuck glasses they can come outside and I’ll knock seven shades of shit out of ya”. That was it, glasses and ashtrays came from all directions. One hit Vince and as a Brum skinhead started shouting “Come on”, Micky dived into the crowd and put him on his back. Although outnumbered more than ten to one, the Rejects and their entourage drove the Brummy mob right across the hall, and finally out of it altogether. Under a hail of missiles Mickey Geggus sustained a head injury that needed nine stitches and left him with what looked like a Fred Perry design above his right eye. Grant Fleming, a veteran of such notorious riots as Sham at Hendon and Madness at Hatfield, described the night’s violence as the worst he’d ever seen.
The great actor James Mason stands in a Victorian urinal in London talking about goldfish. Here, Mason says referring to this Holborn convenience, is true democracy as “All men are equal in the eyes of a lavatory attendant.” It’s one of the many quirky moments in an excellent documentary called The London Nobody Knows.
Another instance is Mason turning up at the door of a resident on Hanbury Street to view the garden where Jack the Ripper brutally murdered Annie Chapman. The streets look little changed in the seventy-nine years since her killing—dark, derelict, and foreboding.
Mason was a major box office star when he fronted this delightful short. He had recently starred in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita and Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and was yet to make the few ill-considered choices that briefly dimmed his star at the start of the seventies. Between acting commitments in early 1967, Mason donned his brown brogues, wool cap and camel jacket to play—or rather perform—the role of inquisitive tour guide across the cobbled lanes, the dereliction, the people, the buskers, the down and outs, the nooks and crannies of a radically changing city.
The London Nobody Knows is a delightful yet oddly haunting film. The tone is set at the beginning when Mason visits the derelict Bedford Music Hall—the favorite venue of the legendary Marie Lloyd, the queen of music hall. As Lloyd is heard singing “The Boy I Love Is Up in the Gallery,” Mason recounts how the ghost of a little known performer Belle Elmore was said to haunt the theater. Belle, Mason explains, was better known as Cora Turner—wife and victim of one Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen—the notorious murderer. This mix of the comic and the darkly tragic filter through the whole film—as can be seen by the later sequences of down and outs and meths drinkers—those poor unfortunates who sought inebriation—and usually blindness and death—in the consumption of denatured alcohol. Even an almost picturesque scene by the River Thames is tinged by the tale of pirates chained hand and foot by the edge waters to drown. Locals came and ate picnics while watching these poor brigands die.
As a side note: the Bedford Music Hall was where Peter Sellers parents performed and Sellers was born and raised in a tenement apartment next to the theater. Sellers later claimed he was a reincarnation of another Bedford artiste—Dan Leno.
Now, when I said Mason performs as “tour guide”—he is in fact giving his interpretation of Geoffrey Scowcroft Fletcher—a journalist, writer, artist and long forgotten pioneer of what is now ponderously termed “psychogeography”—on whose work the film is based. Fletcher wandered London drawing its inhabitants, noting down events, sights and things of historical importance which he then wrote up in a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph. Fletcher’s books—The London Nobody Knows (1962), Down Among the Meths Men (1966) and a pinch of London’s River (1965) are the source material for Mason’s journey. (The Situationists were, of course, also known for taking similarly drifting “revolutionary” strolls, which they termed “dérive.”)
The London Nobody Knows was directed by Norman Cohen and produced by Michael Klinger. Cohen went onto make his name as a director of hit British comedy films like Till Death Us Do Part (1969), Dad’s Army (1971), and Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall and the series of seventies sex comedies—-Confessions of a Pop Performer, Confessions of a Holiday Camp and Confessions of a Driving Instructor. While Klinger who produced Roman Polanski’s early films Cul-de-Sac and Repulsion went on to produce Michael Caine in Get Carter and Pulp and the Lee Marvin/Roger Moore feature Shout at the Devil.
If there’s one thing you are going to watch today then make it this—as it’s a rewarding look back at a world long gone (London during a year change) the year of so-called psychedelia and the “summer of love.” As can be seen from this film—that world was media hype—the world of The London Nobody Knows was very, very real.
A bizarre illustration/caricature by James Gillray of the ‘Monster’ (aka the ‘Cutting Monster’) assaulting one of his female victims, 1790.
Nearly a century before Jack the Ripper terrorized the streets of London, a serial lady-stalker dubbed the “Monster” (or the “Cutting Monster”) would attack his first victim in May 1788. During a short walk in the early evening to a friend’s home, Mrs. Maria Smyth had the misfortune to cross paths with a man who, according to a vintage account of the incident, made a loud, lascivious request of Mrs. Smyth. Smyth picked up the pace of her evening stroll which in turn caused her harasser to increase his lurid taunting. By the time Smyth got to her friend’s doorstep the man lurched quickly with a knife and stabbed her in the breast and thigh—something that would become somewhat of a signature move for the Monster.
More than 50 similar attacks by the roving slasher would occur over the course of a three-year period in which the Monster would seemingly go out of his way to stab his victims in the same areas—the breast, buttocks or thigh—after verbally accosting them in the street when they were not in the company of a male companion or chaperone. The slash-happy assailant also incorporated the use of a bouquet of flowers to conceal a knife which he would use to stab his targets in the face when he was able to convince them to get close enough to the flowers to smell them. It’s also been theorized that whoever the “Monster” was. he enjoyed slashing up his victim’s clothing almost as much as plunging his knife into their flesh. As you might imagine the incidents were covered by the newspapers of the day and in 1790 a rather terrifying and wildly out-of-proportion caricature was done by Scottish artist Isaac Cruikshank (pictured at the top of this post) and was published by S.W. Forest, which was based on a first hand account by three women who were attacked by the Monster.
In the summer of 1790, florist—and frequent visitor to London’s many brothels—Rhynwick Williams was picked-up by the Bow Street Runners (who were essentially functioning as an early version of the police during the time) on suspicion of being the man behind the sexually-charged attacks. William’s not only insisted he was innocent but was able to bring forward numerous witnesses that would vouch for his whereabouts during the crimes. As the furor surrounding the assaults had reached epidemic levels around London the prosecution in the case decided that charging Williams’ with “destruction of property” would bring the longest sentence—a possible seven years per crime. The destruction of property in this case being the clothing the Monster had such an affinity for shredding up while attacking his female victims.
The charge didn’t stick and Williams was tried a second time four months later and convicted of “three counts of wounding” which sent him to chokey for six years. Though the attacks all but stopped once Willams was locked up, he would continue to profess his innocence (noted in the 2002 book The London Monster: A Sanguinary Tale by Jan Bondeson) in letters from jail where he would cite criminal cases that were similar to the ones he was accused of in an attempt to perpetuate the idea that the “Monster” was still “out there” and that the cops were even covering up crimes to save face. When he was finally released Willams apparently married a woman who wasn’t afraid of sharp objects and according to historians of the case no further references to “Rhynwick Williams” were ever recorded with the exception of one that strongly suggests Williams changed his name to “Henry” so he could avoid further association with the Monster.
A strange depiction of London’s the ‘Monster.’
The second panel from Cruikshank’s depiction of the ‘Monster’ featuring his victim outfitted with protective ‘copper bottom.’ And yes, ‘copper bottoms’ were a thing back in the 18th century though they were used by women to ‘enhance’ their appearance.
The ‘Monster’ (now with three heads) attacking a pair of ‘old maids,’ 1790.
A page from the vintage fashion catalog ‘Bogey’s Underground Fashion,’ late 80s, early 90s.
Today I have for you something that I know many of our readers will recall coming across back in the mid to late 80s: a catalog catering to goth, “new wave” and punk style clothes sold by the New York-based company “Bogey’s Underground-Fashion From London.”
Back in the Boston-area during the 80s (where I was busily stomping around at the time) there were several shops in Cambridge that catered to the crowd who wanted their clothes to be black and tight with zippers and holes in all the right places. I spent A LOT of cash at the Allston Beat (RIP) in Harvard Square. To this day I refuse to get rid of the few pieces I still have that I purchased there back in the late ‘80s.
Much of the clothing and shoes sold by Bogey’s appeared to be from London (specifically pieces from “BOY of London”). Additionally, they sold their own “Bogey’s” brand which I will cautiously assume might have been designed in the company’s former home-base at 767 5th Avenue in New York. I can also tell you that looking at these images (best viewed whilst listening to Bauhaus, Adam & the Ants or Alien Sex Fiend) you may wish that Bogey’s awesomely cheesey 800 number, “1-800-YO-BOGEY” still was in operation, as they called it a day back in the early spring of 1993.
More pages from Bogey’s Underground-Fashion From London catalogs after the jump…
Looking for a modern, easy to clean apartment in the east end of London? Then this maybe for you.
A fully tiled rental property is available in Walthamstow for a mere $1300 (£900) a month. And when I say tiled I mean fully tiled as every room comes with fully tiled walls in the same matching swimming pool design. Add in a tile pattern linoleum flooring and you have a dream abode for those who like Esther Williams movies or have a taste for hospital chic.
The apartment was available to rent through Spare Room—but apparently the ad has either been pulled or the property rented—and wouldn’t we like to know by whom? If still interested, keep a lookout—I’m sure the opportunity will resurface (ahem) again at some point.
It might merely be a product of nostalgia borne of rapidly encroaching middle age, but I’m not so sure. Whenever I find myself walking around a city where I used to live all I can see are the ghosts of what used to be in the spots where certain notable and unique places once existed. Book stores, art galleries, record stores, bars, night clubs, squats, drug dens and all manner of notorious afterhours sin emporiums that have been long been replaced by artisanal mayonnaise stores, gourmet cheese shops and Chipotle. Someone younger could visit any capital city and still find much to be excited about, of course, but for someone my age, it’s more about how much better things used to be. You know, back in the day.
But I just hate being that guy pointing out “See this deli? That’s where Max’s Kansas City used to be” (And besides that, Max’s was long before my time anyway.)
But now I don’t have to be that guy, at least as far as London is concerned, I can just point “young people” towards Punk London: In The City, 1975-78, Paul Gorman and designer Mike Haddad’s walking guide to the bad old good old days of punk:
“... charts the squats, clubs, shops and rehearsal spaces from which punk emerged and grew into a global phenomenon. It is the definitive tour of the city at a moment of febrile intensity.
Punk London takes us to Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s Sex shop at 430 Kings Road; the Hampstead flat shared by Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious; Saint Martin’s School Of Art, where the Sex Pistols made their debut performance; Pathway Studios in Canonbury, where The Damned recorded “New Rose,” the first UK punk release; The Clash’s Camden Town rehearsal space and many more locations associated with all the movement’s key figures. “
Punk London: In The City, 1975-78 is 28 pages and includes a foldout A3 map. It’s published by Herb Lester Associates, who clearly are innovating travel guides. What’s next? Lemme guess Punk NYC?
Mr. Freedom satin jacket designed by Muriel Carter and Pam Keats with art by Mike Rogers (from Nova magazine, 1970)
For a few short years back in the late 60s and early 70s, a clothing boutique called Mr. Freedom ruled the streets of London with its cheeky styles and glammy duds that were worn by everyone from Twiggy and Mick Jagger to Elizabeth Taylor.
Mr. Freedom t-shirts designed by Roger Lunn
Before opening Mr. Freedom, Tommy Roberts ran a shop called “Kleptomania.” It was an eclectic space not unlike a consignment store that carried non-wearables and collectables like vintage photographs and eroitica. It was a hit and quickly, Roberts enlisted his designer friend Roger Lunn to create a line of logo t-shirts (pictured above) that would go on to be wildly popular with the young London fashionistas.
It wasn’t long after that Lunn convinced Roberts that lining the walls of Kleptomania with Victorian-style military themed clothing was a good idea - and he was right. Kleptomania’s clientele soon included rock and roll fashion icons like Jimi Hendrix, members of The Who and Jimmy Page. This bit of luck inspired Roberts to start making and selling Mr. Freedom-branded clothing created by the hottest young designers in London. Like the “Bumster” jeans (below) designed by one of Mr. Freedom’s first in-house designers, Diane Cranshaw.
The “Bumster” jeans for Mr. Freedom designed by Diana Cranshaw
Mr. Freedom design by Diane Crawshaw
Mr. Freedom designer, Diana Crawshaw
“Mr. Freedom” Tommy Roberts (L) and his business partner, John Paul (R)
The grand opening of Mr. Freedom in Chelsea took place during the summer of 1969. Roberts had been inspired to curate a clothing line thanks to the visuals in the bizarre 1969 film, Mr. Freedom and with the help of another business partner and friend, Trevor Myles, soon the boutique was full of glammy satin jackets, statement beltbuckles and clothing with colorful pop culture details like rocket ships and stars. Roberts also obtained a licence to create a line of t-shirts adorned with Disney characters. Interestingly, it was t-shirts that helped finance the shop itself after Mick Jagger was photographed in one of Mr. Freedom’s “Zodiac” t-shirts that Roberts and Myles were selling at the Chelsea Antique Market.
Mick Jagger wearing a Mr. Freedom “Zodiac” t-shirt
Marc Bolan’s jacket (designed by Tommy Roberts) worn in the 1972 concert film, Born to Boogie
Roberts would go on to gain fans such as David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, and in 2011, a jacket designed by Roberts himself and worn by the mythical Marc Bolan in the 1972 concert film, Born to Boogie (pictured above) sold at an auction at Christie’s for a cool $15,375. If all of this sounds fantastic to you as it does to me, I highly recommend that you check out the 2012 book that details Roberts incredible contributions to glam rock fashion and beyond, Tommy Roberts: Mr. Freedom: British Design Hero. Loads of photos (some that are delightfully NSFW) detailing the history and evolution of Mr. Freedom’s glamtastic fashion follow.
Mr. Freedom fashion spread in Nova Magazine, 1970s
Design by Diana Crawshaw for Mr. Freedom
A few pages from the book, Tommy Roberts: Mr. Freedom: British Design Hero
1972 magazine article featuring clothing from the Mr. Freedom boutique
An elegant and modern chess set has been created by London designers Ian Flood and Chris Prosser, with pieces crafted to represent the architecture of their home city.
In our London set Pawns are terraced houses, Big Ben is the Rook, with the London Eye playing the Knight. The Gherkin is cast as the Bishop, and the Shard lends its elegance and might to the role of the Queen. No other building than Canary Wharf would be better suited to play the King, and this piece stands at four and a half inches tall.
As you’ll see in the photos, the set is quite a stunner, and I wonder, where has this concept been? Given the symbolic value cities put on buildings, it seems like such a natural idea, but for the most part, niche chess sets currently seem to be marketed largely at geek culture—there are Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, LOTR, and Doctor Who sets. And Monopoly knockoffs that appeal to regional vanity by representing cities other than Atlantic City, NJ do quite well, so it’s sort of strange that the notion hasn’t been applied to chess. (That said, Monopoly is kind of way out of control with the licensed editions—Who’s buying the Seinfeld Monopoly board? WHO?)
This could be taken so far it’s ridiculous—what about sets that reflect sports rivalries? Manchester vs Liverpool? Pittsburgh vs Cleveland? (I’m envisioning a Cleveland set with crumbling, foreclosed houses for pawns, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for bishops, Dennis Kucinich for knights, so what if he’s not a building…) Per an article on If It’s Hip It’s Here, Prosser and Flood have New York and Paris sets in the works. If you like what you see here and would like a set of your city, the pair offer customization.
Lucy In London was an hour-long 1966 Lucille Ball musical variety TV special that jumped off from a regular episode of her sitcom, The Lucy Show called “Lucy Goes to London.” The comedy of that episode revolved around “Lucy Carmichael” never having been on a jet before as she travels to New York (en route to London from Los Angeles) with lovable curmudgeon “Mr. Mooney” (Gale Gordon) on a free trip won in a dog food jingle contest.
In the special though, she’s actually in London, where the entire thing was shot. Lucy is expecting a limo, but instead she gets Anthony Newley, her Cockney motorcycle-riding tour guide who manages to get Lucy dumped in the Thames, takes her shopping for mod togs on the King’s Road and performs “Pop Goes the Weasel” with her. There is mime involved. The whole thing is supposed to happen during the course of just one day, as this is what the prize calls for, a single day in London.
Of note is that the special was sponsored by none other than the Monsanto Company. Another point of interest might be the Phil Spector penned and produced title tune (several sources on the Internet say that’s Spector singing, too). And then there’s the matter of pervy actor Peter Wyngarde (yes, THAT Peter Wyngarde) whipping her ass repeatedly as they act out a scene from The Taming of the Shrew!
In the Wikipedia entry for Lucy In London, it mentions that Lucille Ball wasn’t really happy with the way it turned out (despite the show tying for #1 that week on the Nielsen ratings) and so she let it pass on her contract with CBS to do two additional specials. Too bad because the among the ideas that were discussed for a follow-up included a Middle Eastern comedy to be called “Lucy in Arabia”!!!
Can you imagine? This might have been Lucille Ball’s The Day the Clown Cried, you know? I’d pay $100 to see “Lucy In Arabia” right now, wouldn’t you? It’s a crying shame that never got made.
Sadly, the entire thing isn’t online, but does appear as an extra on the DVD box set of The Lucy Show: The Official 5th Season. This clip, however, will probably suffice for most people. Note cameos by Twiggy and The Dave Clark Five, who sang “London Bridge is Falling Down” in the special.
Director and Kinks fan, Julien Temple beautifully captures Ray Davies’ wistfulness in his excellent documentary on the former-Kink, Ray Davies: Imaginary Man. Davies is allowed to gently meander around his past life, talking about his childhood, his family of 7 sisters and 1 brother, his early days with The Kinks, the development of his writing skill (the quality and consistency of which now makes him seem at times better than, if not on par with Lennon & McCartney, Jagger & Richard), and onto his life of fame, of parenthood, of growing-up, all of which seemed to happen so fast.
It would seem Davies has always lived his life with one eye on the past—from the nostalgia of The Village Green Preservation Society through to his film Return to Waterloo, Davies takes solace from the past. It gives his music that beautiful, bittersweet quality, as Milan Kundera reminds us that:
The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.
But it’s not just about wanting to return to some mythical past, it’s also about loss—whether this is the loss of the past, of opportunities, of career, or, even of memory—for without memory we are nothing. Memory keeps us relevant, and all artists want to be relevant. Throughout Temple’s film, Davies makes reference to this sense of loss, from the remnants of Hornsea Town Hall, to the changing landscape of London, or the songs he has written. And put together with the brilliance of the songs, the wealth of archive, and Ray Davies’ gentle narration, Temple has created a clever, beautiful, and moving film, which leaves you wanting to know and hear more.
Sharon Tate takes Merv Griffin on a tour of swinging London’s Carnaby Street, in August 1966.
A poignant piece of TV history capturing much of the innocence, idealism, and happiness that seemed to infuse the sixties. All of which is usurped by our grim knowledge of what happened to Sharon Tate only a few years later.
‘If you’ve got to ask what a Rhythm Stick is, then it may be possible you will never know the answer,’ Ian Dury tells one interviewer over the ‘phone, in this brilliant documentary from 1979. This was the first full length documentary on Dury and it captures the legendary performer’s humor, enthusiasm and sheer joy at doing what he likes best (even if it’s touring for 16 weeks, and owing more money than he earns), which all goes to making this a great pleasure to watch.
Includes performances of “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”, “Inbetweenies”, “Blockheads”, “Clever Trevor” and “Reasons to Be Cheerful (Part 3)”.
This short film on Member’s Only Gentlemen’s Clubs and London Club Life from 1965, may look dated and even slightly quaint, capturing a world of seedy Anthony Powell characters in run-down, thread-bare, drafty rooms, but in very real terms, little has changed.
The Old Boy’s Network of privilege and power is still very much alive, and the British Establishment is probably now stronger than it has been in decades. Look at the celebrations for the Queen’s Jubilee, or the sofa jingoism of the Olympics, or this week with the failure of the Church of England to vote in favor of Women Bishops, and now today, the appointment of Lord Tony Hall as the new Director General of the BBC.
Hall was chosen by Lord Christopher Patten, whose previous choice for DG had been the hapless “incurious” George Entwistle, the man who was forced to resign after 54 days in office. Now Patten has appointed Hall - without an interview - as the new DG.
Hall is a successful ex-BBC man, who currently runs the Royal Opera House. He may be a decent and honorable man, he may kiss dogs and pat babies, and help old age pensioners across the street, but he is a BBC man, steeped in the arcane and out-dated traditions of a Corporation that is out-of-touch with the reality of life in Britain. His appointment is rather like voting for a Mitt Romney rather than a Barack Obama, it’s a wishful return to an illusory past, rather than moving forward into the present century. Even some of the effusive praise on twitter harks back to an older time - this from broadcaster David Dimbleby:
‘A brilliant choice. It feels like being in the Royal Navy when they were told, “Winston is back!”’
It’s strange that a previous era of strife, hardship, bigotry and division should be seen as commendable. Earlier this year, the up-market Daily Telegraph (of all broadsheets) reported on the analysis of “the make-up of the Lords found that 45 per cent of peers also had a London club such as the Garrick Club, Carlton Club or White’s.”
The [analysis], published in the journal Sociology, also showed the enduring power of Eton and Oxbridge, with around one in 10 of all members of the Lords educated at the Berkshire school whose past pupils also include David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
Dr Matthew Bond, a sociologist at London South Bank University, who conducted the study, said that it showed that, despite reforms, the Lords continued to be dominated by those with “vested interests in traditional status structures”.
He said it showed that: “The persistent hold of the British establishment on the political imagination is not without reason.”
Those who went to school at Eton showed a particular propensity to join such clubs, the study found, while they were also popular among this with a background in the military, civil service and the church.
“These groups – hereditaries, males, Old Etonians, Tories and, to a lesser extent, business people – have vested interests in traditional status structures,” said Dr Bond.
“In their social characteristics they also closely mirror popular conceptions of an establishment which have featured in popular discussions of the British power structure since the 50s.
“If they do not have a monopoly over elite positions, they at least have a formidable presence.”
This “formidable presence” is what links Tony Blair’s working-class father’s move from Glaswegian Communism to middle-England Toryism, with Eton-educated David Cameron belief that elitism in education will mend Britain’s so-called “broken society.” This “formidable presence” isn’t tradition - it is the maintenance of an out-dated, misogynistic, divisive and malfunctioning Establishment.
Members Only is a fine snap shot of club life in the 1960s, which moves from gentlemen’s clubs to casinos and then onto the bohemian hang outs, such as the Colony Room (look out for the legendary Muriel Belcher) and jazz clubs, where a young Annie Ross performs.