31st October 2014: After my recent blog looking at notable Soho addresses, I’m back knocking on a few more naughty doors…
Number 11 Walkers Court. This wide, wooden (and recently varnished) doorway was once the entrance to the most famous ‘adults only’ venue in London, the legendary Raymond’s Revuebar. Established by the one-time ‘King of Soho’ Paul Raymond in 1958, this garish striptease theatre was dubbed the ‘world centre of erotic entertainment’. Between the 1960s and 1980s it was the very epicentre of Soho nightlife and featured in several ‘X’-rated films, including Mary’s 1978 effort What’s Up Superdoc! It officially closed in 2004, but in late-September 2014 the new owners reapplied for a license as a ‘sexual entertainment venue’.
Number 26 Wardour Street. In the heart of what is now called Chinatown, sits, rather ironically, a little Italian bistro named ‘L’Cellar’. The restaurant covers all bases, selling pasta, burgers, and steaks, but 35 years ago it was serving up far saucier dishes. This is the site of the well-remembered Tunnels of Love sex shop, seen in the opening titles of 1978’s The Playbirds. Above the shop was also an escort agency and ‘Miss Candy’s Photo Studio’, where nude girls could be photographed for £5 per 30 minutes. Next door, at number 28, used to be the Playboy Cinema Club (‘the hottest porno film club in the West End’), which is now a Chinese buffet bar called Mr. Wu.
Numbers 89-91 Wardour Street. For nearly 40 years the Las Vegas amusement arcade has stood in the heart of Soho, its neon letters glowing defiantly whilst all around it other businesses have come and gone. Back in the 1970s this venue was a mecca for Soho rent boys, and Jake Arnott conjures up the scene brilliantly in his glam rock novel Johnny Come Home (2006). You can glimpse what the Las Vegas actually looked like back then when Alan Lake plays the slots in 1979’s Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair. Today the arcade still chimes with the jolly sounds of jackpot and pinball machines, and the basement boasts the biggest selection of imported Japanese video games in all of London.
Number 12 Brewer Street. For over a decade this cavernous shop on the corner of Brewer Street and Walkers Court was ‘Doc’ Johnson’s Hollywood Love Shop & Cinema, a vast complex comprising shop space, peep shows and individual cinema cabins. Since 1993 it has been home to the Soho Original Bookstore. On ground level the store sells erotic books, and arts & entertainment titles, but the basement caters for a more hardcore crowd. The shop shelves bulge with London’s most extensive collection of porno DVDs, sex toys and magazines. Recently the shop has expanded its repertoire to include ‘adults only preview booths’; the subterranean doorway promises access to over ‘1500 XXX movies’, which can be viewed ‘in private’.
I dedicate this little article to my friend David B.
All words and photographs strictly © Simon Sheridan 2014-2015