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Steve Strange on the Door at the Blitz © Terry Smith/BlitzClub /LucyBellGallery

Steve Strange on the Door at the Blitz © Terry Smith/BlitzClub/LucyBellGallery

Blitz kids at Lucy Bell

Lucy Bell Gallery is exhibiting some rarely seen photographs by Terry Smith of the Blitz Kids era. This was a club hosted by Steve Strange and Rusty Egan on Tuesday nights in Covent Garden and went some way in launching the New Romantics Movement. This is a personal report by Janet Lyon about the time she worked there with Steve, “a young guy from Wales with a huge imagination”.

I met Steve in 1979. I was working at The Blitz which was a wine bar/club in Great Queen Street, Covent Garden. Steve was looking for a new venue to start a club embracing the phenomenon of the New Romantics, as they were then called.

He had to choose a staff member to work with him on the door  – and he chose me.

George O'Dowd ©Terry Smith/BlitzClub/LucyBellGallery

George O’Dowd ©Terry Smith/BlitzClub/LucyBellGallery

I was not a New Romantic, more of an ageing punk in my Vivian Westwood bondage trousers. So there we were, Steve and me, perched on our stools at the entrance of the club, then the fabulous madness would begin; amazing inventive outfits would appear on the likes of George O’Dowd – who at the time was a cloakroom attendant at the club, later emerging as Boy George – Stephen Linnard, Alan Macdonald, all the Spandau Ballet Boys, Princess Julia, the Creme De La Creme of the fashion world, film-makers, jewellers, Andrew Logan, Derek Jarman, Steven Jones, John Galliano, David Holah, etc, etc.

Strict dress code

There was a strict dress code at the club. The more extrovert the outfits, the hair, the make-up, the better. You had to come dressed for the event or you simply weren’t allowed in. Even if they were friends of ours we would explain that they just didn’t match up to the dress code and couldn’t come in.

Blitz Club ©Terry Smith/BlitzClub/LucyBellGallery

Blitz Club ©Terry Smith/BlitzClub/LucyBellGallery

Steve and I had a secret code which we applied under the counter : one tap on the leg gained entry; two taps was a refusal. While we were giving them the flick, we would each blame each other – ‘”Steve wouldn’t allow it” or “Janet would be very disapproving”. At the same time we were giving each other two definite taps on the leg – silently saying ‘no way you’re coming in’. We had a lot of fun playing mini dictators.

Rusty Egan was creating the background music – lots of Bowie, of course, but also Kraftwerk, Gary Newman, Nina Hagen.

I remember Mick Jagger coming in. He didn’t meet the dress requirements but we certainly couldn’t turn him away. Some people said we charged him for entry, but we didn’t. Ian Hunter Meek, who also worked at the Blitz and now lives in St Leonards, was on the bar that night and remembers Jagger saying, ‘‘I understand it can get quite busy later,” so stocked up with several beers.

Bowie in the queue

However, the ultimate night was when I looked up to see Bowie himself standing in the queue – after all it was called The Bowie Night. I whispered to Steve, “Bowie’s here, he’s in the queue”. He didn’t believe me. I persisted, “Truly it’s him”. Being the fabulous, modest guy he was, Bowie just stood in line like everyone else.

Steve Strange at Blitz Club ©Terry Smith/BlitzClub/LucyBellGallery

Steve Strange at Blitz Club ©Terry Smith/BlitzClub/ LucyBellGallery

Steve immediately dashed to greet him but he had to be whisked upstairs otherwise it would have been pandemonium. He had come to see if Steve would be interested in being in his video, Ashes to Ashes; he then chose a couple of other people. You can check out the video – it’s fabulous. And it was filmed locally at Pett Level beach.

The Blitz Club has remained to this day a complete phenomenon. Its zenith was at the Covent Garden venue in 1979-80. Then it was time to move on and find bigger premises like the Barracuda and Camden Palace. Steve asked me to go with him, which is what I did.

Sadly, Steve Strange is no longer with us. He died 55 years old of a heart attack in February 2015. He was a man of his time who had been at the forefront of fashion.

Terry Smith Blitz & Pieces is at the Lucy Bell Gallery, 46 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea TN38 0EJ from 7 June to 21 July. Opening times: Tuesday to Friday 11am-4pm, Saturday 11am-5pm, Sunday 11am-3pm.

Posted 17:18 Thursday, May 31, 2018 In: Photography

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