Walking along the streets of Soho of a Wednesday night after a sterling Lebanese dinner, I was reminded of the depiction of Greenwich Village in Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. The main streets (Greek, Frith, Dean, and Wardour) which stretch away from Old Compton Street like tines on a fork, are festooned with sultry lights of myriad colours.Curiously, Soho is a lot less cluttered than I remember it being a decade ago. The Village in ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ was filmed largely on a soundstage (although partly on location in London including Soho strangely…) and perhaps this is what makes me make the link between the two locations. There is something stage-like about the restless avenues – as though the pavement has been set for the playing out of bizarre dramas. Every shopfront offers a different sideshow for your delectation.
I have always been struck by the strange adjacence of Soho’s opulent refinement and its meretricious abandon. You can look into a dazzling eatery, marvel at the fortune of its guzzling patrons. Then you notice that, but a metre away, the neighbouring establishment is a simple yet ominous door with a hand-written sign advertising: “model – young, curvy, and sexy” followed by an arrow pointing towards a rickety set of stairs leading down to the underworld. I imagine the girl at the end of the tunnel is being falsely advertised. It’s going to be “old, staunch, and angry”.
Anyway, we were strolling down the glittering streets last night, enjoying the wafts of espresso and the champagne cackles from the bars when we noticed this cool shop which was still peddling its wares at 9:30. Its walls were dressed with antlers, clothes for aspiring nu-rave bands, and rakish interior-designers, whoever the fuck that might include. Coincidentally, they had a replica of the penis-statue from Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’: a nice touch by the proprietors.
As I walked in, I was aware that I was about to judge the shop by the music it was playing. Unfair, but inevitable. I was taken aback by how avant-garde the choice was. Dispersed chuckling and snappy interjections from a digitized male voice. I was about to aske the sales-assistent about his eclectic music-taste when I realized that he was busy chatting to his mate on Skype, which was being piped over the shop’s loudspeakers. Close thing.
Things took a pleasant if absurd turn when we were having a natter with the shopkeep. He brought his skype-mate into the conversation, who seemed to have some detailed knowledge about a certain pair of shoes we were perusing [we were actually sniffing it, because apparently it smelled sweet like a My Little Pony]. I could not tell if the man on the other end of the computer was bullshitting, though, because he was clearly very stoned.
Over the miracle of ip video telephony, he proceeded to show off his latest discovery – a perfume dispensed by an aerosol which stained you bright blue for about ten seconds, then faded to invisible. At that point I wondered if I had become stoned. Somehow. Maybe it was sniffing the shoes. He stood there spraying himself temporarily bright blue all over. I remarked that he must smell incredibly powerful. He said that some people pass out because they get so carried away with the spraying.
Anyway, I would reccomend Kokon To Zai on Dean Street for its thrilling shoes and conversation.
After more strolling, party-location scouting, and bumping into a friend of mine wearily awaiting an exceptional hamburger in Garlic and Shots, we caught the tube home.
I used to love Soho, then I grew sick of it, then I feared it, then I liked it again, now I love it again. Like Kubrick’s vision of Greenwich, it is a dreamlike place of weird frolics and fantasies, tingling incitements to the id. A fine place to sleepwalk.
I cannot believe that I never saw this till recently:
Now, I never thought that Parson’s Green and Sand’s End had particularly flourishing gay scenes. You are more likely to see pink pashminas than pink pride, blt sandwiches rather than l/g/b/t sandwiches. Perhaps the somewhat reserved status of these areas is brightening up a bit.
Perhaps they have some preposterously effective way of turning Tories there? I wonder how many local Telegraph readers amble in and wonder ‘Oh what might have been? Had that sunny day at Cambridge turned out differently… bollocks, they haven’t got the egg out of that properly’?