Roger Perry’s long out-of-print The Writing on the Wall—–a collection of photos charting London’s early graffiti scene—is being republished this week. Here, George Stewart-Lockhart, an art historian and publisher who wrote the extensive new foreword for the re-release, takes us through a few of his most striking images.
Meet the Man Behind London’s Biggest ‘Elite’ Sex Parties
Chris Reynolds Gordon is kind of like Britain’s answer to Dan Bilzerian. Only, where the latter made his name playing poker, throwing naked women off roofs, and rapidly becoming Instagram’s most-followed misogynist, Chris has managed to get where he’s at without any of the awkward social media machismo of his American counterpart.
He’s been a millionaire; he’s gone broke. He’s owned property around the world; he’s been homeless. He was a junior national 800 meters champion; he’s met with Vladimir Putin about trading rough diamonds. Now, before hitting his 30th birthday, he’s turned his and his friend Eva’s “Heaven SX” concept into one of London’s most popular “elite” sex parties.
In light of the Killing Kittens group—probably the UK’s largest sex party brand—recently inviting Heaven SX into its fold, I thought I’d catch up with Chris to find out his thoughts on how he makes his money.
VICE: Hey, Chris. So, first off, run me through what happens at a Heaven SX party.
Chris Reynolds Gordon: It’s like going to any normal bar or club—you have people dressed up looking nice, chatting, laughing, getting to know each other. Then, a little bit later on—at about 12:00 or 1:00 AM, when the mood’s right—the girls will go and get changed into lingerie. It’s a bit of an awkward moment, with all the guys chatting and sitting with each other, then all these girls come in looking super hot and the atmosphere changes and people start disappearing.
Why do you call it “elite”?
I went to quite a lot of parties in the past, and everyone was calling them elite. But then you’d see, like, 50- or 60-year-old people who weren’t that attractive. Not that there aren’t attractive people in their 50s and 60s, but these weren’t people you’d stereotypically think of as attractive. It’s really quite a shallow thing, though, because what is good looking? Basically, the hottest [people] we wanted to play with just got together—everyone who was a 10 on the hot chart. The average age is also quite young. There’s nothing else like it.
The Sad Death of London’s Weirdest Tourist Attraction
For tourists visiting London, the beating heart of the West End isn’t the Eros statue, Chinatown, or the flagship Waterstones book store, or any of the other high-profile TripAdvisor-friendly attractions. It’s the palatial white building that sits between the freak show at Ripley’s and the freak show at the Leicester Square KFC: The London Trocadero.
In his 1968 poem “For the Union Dead,” Robert Lowell describes the derelict South Boston Aquarium as standing “in a Sahara of snow.” The Trocadero stands in a Kalahari of krap. The Baroque restaurant, opened at the turn of the 20th century, is now the home of invasive souvenir hawkers and chain gift shops displaying a level of bad taste that borders on satirical performance art.
Yet, despite the inexorability of this decline, a couple of years ago, the ground floor of the complex was fighting bravely against its inevitable destruction. An apparently salaried attendant was employed to supervise the bungee trampoline. There were public toilets that charged a full £1 ($1.68) and must’ve made a fortune catching the urine of children who’ve had too many sugary tourist-drinks. There was even a time-warp underground connection to Piccadilly Circus subway station, which was populated, at all times, by a silent Japanese break dancing troupe. They head-spun to their terrible J-Pop while the scent of cinnamon wafted down from the fresh bun store (which shared its premises with a shop that, obviously, sold scuba diving equipment).
LBR—the group the activists belong to—stands for “London Black Revolutionaries,” or the Black Revs for short. LBR’s direct action approach seems to have worked—Tesco has announced that they’ll remove the spikes, claiming they were never meant to deter the homeless anyway.
We Asked an Expert How London Could Gain Independence from the UK
Declaring independence is all the rage in international politics. Recently, Venice voted overwhelmingly in favor of becoming an independent city-state, while over in the UK, the Scots are debating whether to consign the Union Jack to the dust bin of history. And ever since the whole Crimea incident, rumors have been flying around that Taiwan will formally attempt to declare independence from China, and that Misrata will attempt to do the same in Libya.
What if the next big independence movement happened closer to, say, Britain’s capital? With a booming population and established trading links with the rest of the world, could London’s people go to it alone?
It’s an idea that’s been mooted a few times, not least by former Mayor Ken Livingstone. When asked what he wanted for London during the 2012 elections, he claimed he wanted a “Republic of London,” and that the city could be improved if other areas of the UK weren’t so busy sucking all the blood out of it. According to Ken, London generates £10–£20 billion (about $15–$30 billion) more in tax for the UK than it receives in public expenditure, making it the cashcow of the UK’s feckless regions.
How feasible would London’s independence claim be? After convincing him this wasn’t a joke, I spoke to Dr. James Ker-Lindsay, a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics who specializes in secession movements.
VICE: Hi, James. What would London have to do to prepare a claim to independence?
James Ker-Lindsay: First of all, if it were to have any hope of success—by which I mean it would receive widespread international support—a formal process would have to be agreed. With Scotland, for example, there’s an agreed process by which it must prepare its independence claim, which will have been negotiated through democratic and legal processes. With London, the same would have to happen.
What are those processes?
It would have to start with a referendum. The wish for independence would have to be expressed. To do this, the central government is usually expected to agree to such a vote; it could take place without permission, but it would have no real effect and would probably just be ignored. In the case of London, this seems a very unlikely prospect. Unlike Scotland or Wales, which have their own historical character, London’s always been an integral part of England. Moreover, considering how interwoven London is with the rest of England, and its wealth, it just seems difficult to see how any government would ever agree to such a vote.
London Is Turning Into a Depressing and Dumb City of Living Stock Images
Every city has its visual cliches. The stereotypes, falsehoods and cheery slices of xenophobia sold to us on cheap postcards and in crap films that reduce the world’s great cities to a handful of worn out cultural cues. If you’ve never been to Paris, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all girls who look like Charlotte Gainsbourg skipping along the Seine in Breton tops, doling out filter-less cigs to homeless accordion players. When in actual fact, it’s more like a bunch of exchange students laughing at dachshunds and dudes who are still bang into Justice plying rich schoolgirls with shit MDMA.
For New York, the cliches are motor-mouthed cabbies and kids fucking around with water hydrants. For Barcelona, it’s psytrance beachbums and animal cruelty on La Rambla. Tokyo? Weird fish, games machines and businessmen throwing themselves in front of bullet trains.
But what about London? Pearly Kings and Queens? Pie and mash? Foxtons Minis tearing down Brixton High Street, on fire? Rita Ora?
So I decided to pull back for a moment, and consult Getty Images’ wide range of London stock photos. What do they see when they look at the UK’s capital?
The vast majority of the London stock photos on Getty are scenic wide shots of the city’s skyline, usually taken at sunset and very rarely from anywhere east of Tower Bridge. Of course, this makes perfect sense. If you’re a journalist writing something about London’s chronic housing crisis, or a body in the Thames river, or Millwall’s terrible run under Ian Holloway, you probably want to illustrate your copy with a picture of the Shard and a few anonymous riverside yuppie-farms when the sun’s going down.
From the outset, it’s clear that this is the London that Getty are most interested in selling to their customers, the London with all the big glass buildings and shimmering water, the one that girl from your school has as her Facebook cover photo, the one on the opening titles to The Apprentice. Not the one where there’s three Paddy Powers on a single high street, or the one of food banks, pigeons cannibalizing fried chicken bones and crack squirrels.
But this one, the nice one by the river with the big buildings.
The people in Getty’s pictures are predominantly happy young heterosexual couples who drink coffee, take selfies, and love life and London. And that’s fine. It’s not like they’re going to embark upon an investigative social project about co-dependent heroin addicts crying and vomiting in each other’s arms, or abandoned widows lying catatonic in single bedrooms in Catford.
The place is much like a film set—many of the peripheral buildings are just facades, while those at the “city center” are a lot more developed in order to give the trainees more varied terrain.
The ‘Women Eating On the Tube Protest’ Was Weird
There’s recently been some media coverage and a lot of hoo-ha surrounding a Facebook page set up to gather pictures of women eating on the London Underground. Before it was removed from Facebook, the group—titled “Women Eating On the Tube”—provided an outlet for camera-wielding voyeurs to take a break from sneaking up-skirts and instead indulge in a far more manageable, less arrest-able form of creepiness.
The page’s founder is “filmmaker and artist” Tony Burke. He claims that taking candid iPhone shots of women mid-chew is “an observational study” and “reportage photography,” as opposed to a bunch of assholes embarrassing busy people for indulging their basic human need to feed themselves.
The page was taken down last Friday. On the day of its demise, Burke visited the Radio 4 studios to sit down with pissed-off student Lucy Brisbane McKay, who had announced a protest on the Circle line against the page, “Women Eating Wherever the Fuck They Want.” McKay was correct in what she said: The policing of women’s behavior in this way is unacceptable, weird, degrading, and pretty embarrassing for Burke. But McKay said she wanted it to be a “celebration of women eating.”
“I was told to help the gang beat them up and [steal] their stuff,” he says. The gang shouted “fucking homo cunts” as they laid into the couple. Ty tears up as he tells me how ashamed he was, so much so that he couldn’t look at himself in the mirror for more than a week. “If I saw them again, I’d want to apologize—I did it because I was scared, probably because that could have happened to me. It could still happen to me.”