Some nightclubs and ‘dives ‘ of post-war London


Jot 101 Night club dancing pic

We at Jot HQ know our audience. We know, for instance, that Jots on long-departed restaurants and pubs in London are popular. Presumably, Jots on seedy night clubs and ‘ dives ‘ ( do people still use this word to describe such resorts ?) will also prove popular. People are certainly curious about the London drug culture of yesteryear. They are aware that drugs like opium and cocaine have been around, thought not always easily available, for two centuries or more. They know that S. T. Coleridge and Thomas de Quincey were slaves to laudanum and that Sherlock Holmes was a cocaine addict. They are perhaps not so sure about the history of marijuana consumption in the UK before it became the drug of choice among hippies in the swinging sixties.. One of the most interesting sides of The Good Time Guide to Londonis the candour with which the more disreputable and sleazy pleasures of the flesh— from sex , (the while slave trade and prostitution)—  to hard drinking and drug taking are discussed in 1951. This is such a contrast to a guide like Dining Out in London, published in the same year, which merely covers restaurants. In fact, The Good Time Guide to Londonseems to revel in the seamier side of London.

Take the general introduction to the section on night clubs:

‘…In theory all the clubs are for the use only of members and their guests. Some of them stick to this rule, and it isn’t easy to get in without preparation ( though nothing, of course, is impossible). Others are, shall we say, less insistent on the letter of the law. A day ticket is produced from somewhere, or the secretary may discover you are a life-long friend of his…The dives vary a great deal. Some have specialised clienteles—artists, coloured folk, poets or crooks. Some play be-bop all night; others prefer poker. A sniff of marijuana. Not all of them places to go with your wife. Whatever happens, you’ve been warned !’

The writer then proceeds to make notes on individual night clubs, which we shall discuss under various headings:

The Pigalle

‘…just opened in Piccadilly, offers the disturbing attraction of 40 pretty girls, properly dressed to be undressed, accompanied by a really lavish stage show. You can dance between times, and enjoy yourself for the remarkable small sum of 17/6 which you pay for your dinner…Original idea was provided, it is said, by the world famous Tabarin in Montmartre…’

The Society

Sited in Jermyn Street ‘…with its tiny dance floor and its beautifully panelled walls, ( it) is an excellent rendezvous if you are in the mood to appreciate an intimate, relaxed, unmistakably French atmosphere. Here the gypsies will leave their stand to sing just for you; here the rumba-drums mix with the ripple of whispered conversations and subdued laughter…’ Continue reading

Mona’s 440 Club – dancing at the Lesbian Bar

Found, folded into an American thriller from the Donald Rudd collection of detective fiction, this napkin - a memento of Mona's 440 Club generally credited as being the first lesbian bar in the United States -'Where Girls Will be Boys.'

James R. Smith's San Francisco's Lost Landmarks (2004) says the following about Mona's:

Mona's 440 Club was another [club] that took advantage of the city's tolerance and tourism. Opening in a Columbus Street basement in North Beach in 1936, Mona Sargeant's tavern quickly hit the travelsheets as a place "where girls will be boys." The first openly lesbian club, Mona's female waiters and performers wore tuxedos and patrons dressed their roles. Within a couple of years, Mona's moved to 440 Broadway and took the address as part of the club's new name, Mona's 440 Club. Great entertainment, first local and later national talent, made a night at Mona's an event.

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