The Sad Death of London’s Weirdest Tourist Attraction
(Photo by Nick Hilton, all other photos by Mark Duffy unless stated)
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.
It wasn’t always this way. In the 1990s, the historic building was salvaged for the purpose of creating the biggest “leisure space” in London, packed with a Nickelodeon studios, an IMAX theater and its crowning glory, SegaWorld, which was essentially just loads of arcade games and a giant statue of Sonic. It was a feat of uniquely poor planning, and almost immediately developed a rust of crapiness. By the Millennium the Trocadero dream was dead: Sega withdrew their sponsorship and SegaWorld was relegated to something called “Funland,” the IMAX vanished, and the escalators stopped moving, never to be effectively repaired. As a final insult, the place was used as a location for the video of Madonna’s 2005 single, “Hung Up.”
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).
I Was an Accidental Porn Star
Civilian to porn star; it’s a route most travel via casting couches and cum shots. However, for Luke-Kristopher Davis—a 21-year-old physics student at Swansea University—everything happened the fairytale way. While spending a year in Spain, he was whisked off his feet by director Erika Lust, who cast him in two of her films.
Luke-Kristopher’s now back in the UK, but besides his bio on Erika’s site—which says he “dances and attends university when he is not wowing us with his great smile”—I didn’t know much about him or his accidental foray into porn. So I gave him a call to talk it over.
VICE: Hi Luke-Kristopher. So how did all of this happen for you?
Luke-Kristopher Davis: I was in Barcelona on a night out with some friends, and this woman came over and asked me if I was a model or an actor. I said I was just a student. Then she asked me to do a porn film.
Did she say what she found so alluring about you?
Yeah, yeah. Well, she thought I’d done modeling. She said, “Oh, you’re very good looking. Are you a model or an actor?” I do actually get it absolutely everywhere I go [laughs].
Yeah. Right now I work in a bar, and all my customers ask me. They come up to me and take pictures. It’s quite funny.
What went through your mind when she suggested it?
I wasn’t really shocked, to be honest. I just saw it as an opportunity to have a little—you know, fun [laughs]. I thought about it rationally: ‘Would this be worth it?’ I had to assess the risk and if it was safe. She described her company and it didn’t sound like a back alley thing. It’s very high quality. And it’s a feminist company, so I was impressed by that.
The Sad Demise of Nancy Lee, One of Britain’s Young Ketamine Casualties
Ketamine is that crazy wobbly-leg drug. The wacky-student drug, the post-club chill-out aid, the new-gen LSD that gives users the power to become—according to 1970s K-hole explorer and dolphin whisperer John C. Lilly—“peeping toms at the keyhole of eternity.” But its reputation as a popular recreational drug, since filtering into the mainstream via the gay-clubbing and free-party scenes in the 2000s, does not tell the whole story of what’s going on in modern British K-land.
Apart from a brief paragraph in the Brighton Argus’s obituary column, Nancy Lee’s drug death went unreported. There was no shock factor: She hadn’t collapsed in public from a toxic reaction to a pill or a line of powder in a club. Instead, at the age of 23, Nancy had died slowly over seven years, her body trashed by a steady diet of ketamine.
Nancy started using ketamine at age 16 when she made new friends. Most teenagers getting high in the local Brighton park were necking cider and smoking skunk, but Nancy and her group of indie-kid outsiders used the open spaces to take ketamine. It was cheap, at 12 grams for about $150, and, important for Nancy, it transported her away from real life.
“She was sensitive and very caring, but Nancy was a misfit,” her father Jim, a college lecturer, told me. “She was bullied at school because of a bad squint and for being a tomboy. She had a victim mentality, a feeling that the world was against her.” It’s just that Nancy ended up finding solace in ketamine. “If someone were to design the perfect drug for a teenager who is depressed and doesn’t have much money, this would be it,” Jim said.
The VICE Guide to Glasgow 2014
Edinburgh might have the castle, the parliament, the Japanese tourists, the neo-classical architecture, and the advantageously low murder rate, but Glasgow has all the fun. Scotland’s largest city is pretty drunk, yes, but we also punch above our weight culturally, with a dynamic music scene, one of the world’s most iconic art schools, and some of the best pubs and clubs in Britain. So taps aff ya dafties, ‘cos here we fucking go.
Jump to sections by using the index below.
– WHERE TO PARTY
– WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?
– POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
Self-Important Sectarian Bigots | Glaswegian Authority Issues | Immigration
– WHERE TO EAT
– WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?
– WHERE TO DRINK
– WHERE TO STAY
– LGBT GLASGOW
– WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU’RE SOBER
– HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP
– HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST
– PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID
– TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES
– A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF QUESTIONABLE LOCAL MUSIC
– VICE CITY MAP
Bare-Knuckle Boxing in the UK
Once regarded as something that happens exclusively in Guy Ritchie films and on Gypsy sites, bare-knuckle boxing is fast becoming a thriving scene in the UK—the ultimate British bloodsport.
When Clive Martin embeds with the bare-knuckle boxing elite, what he discovers is not dissimilar to Fight Club: IT technicians, builders, lifestyle coaches, and even a lawyer, all throwing their unprotected fists into one another’s faces. It’s a subculture of honor, pride, and violence.
As the UK prepares to play host to the first US-vs.-UK bare-knuckle title fight in 150 years—the biggest event the scene has known since it went underground in the 19th century—Clive tries to find out whether violence is a cause or effect for these angry young men.
Watch the documentary
The VICE Guide to Raving
Everyone’s a raver now. “Guitar music is dead” is the kind of thing your dad says—that’s how dead it is. Now, it’s all beats and bells and whistles. The future you glimpsed in 90s movies, when everyone’s into techno and has slime-green hair, is upon us.
But while so many of us go raving, the vast majority get it wrong. Be it the drugs, the joy, the communal toilets, or the pressure not to look like a dick, we often end up looking like dicks. We eyeball the DJ, we pump our fists, we kiss Europeans, and we piss our paychecks away on booze and drugs only to throw it all up later that night.
So treat this as Raving for Dummies: a kind of self-help manual for people who can deal with week-long comedowns. Maybe it seems fascistic to tell people how to behave at an event that’s supposed to be about hedonistic release, but watch this video and you’ll understand that perhaps the new graduating class of rave enthusiants could use a bit of guidance.
This is imperative. Looking good is one of the fundamental cornerstones of youth culture; however, that’s not really the case when opting for board shorts and rape-culture-slogan T-shirts. Remember, this all-important sense of aesthetic belonging is what all great cultural movements were built upon.
Except now it isn’t. Some people still make a valiant effort, but really, how long can you spend angling your Night Slugs fitted cap? You aren’t Michael Alig or Sting in Quadrophenia; you’re just one of those guys who gets his fade shaped up once a week. The days of people doing their hair with eggs and glue, ironing their Mohair jackets, or pouring blue paint over their heads are consigned to the past.
Modern club fashion is, by and large, cozily utilitarian—easy to wear, machine-washable, and unlikely to get you attacked at Sunday recovery brunch session. Sure, it’d be great if someone did push the boat out a bit, but in what direction? People standing near repetitive beats have a shameful sartorial history of bleached dreadlocks and furry, flourescent legwarmers; if fashion had a Hague, everyone at Electric Daisy Carnival would stand trial for war crimes. So maybe it’s best to stick with the streetwear.
Photo by Marco Tulio Valencia
Sorry to break it to you, but they’re all awful and they’re all bastards. By now, every dealer realized that cutting corners isn’t going to put a dent in their customer base. Especially not when that same customer base strictly buys drugs when they’re drunk and happy to shell out $100 for some mix of boric acid, levamisole, and a cursory dose of whatever it is that they actually want to buy.
A Yemeni Man Is Suing British Telecom over America’s Deadly Drone Strikes
A deep boom rocked through Sanaa, Yemen, the sound coming from outside of the city, perhaps from near the village of al-Masna’a.
Mohammed al-Qawli, who works at Yemen’s Ministry of Education, was at home with some of his colleagues. To find out what exactly had happened, he called someone he knew who lived in the village. The man on the other end of the phone read out the license plate of a car that had been hit; it belonged to Mohammed’s family. Putting down the phone, he immediately made the 20-minute drive out to the bomb site.
This is what had happened: Mohammed’s cousin, 20-year-old university student Salim al-Qawli, ran an informal taxi service to supplement his family’s income, a common practice if you own a vehicle in Yemen. He was approached by two men who wanted to be driven out of the village and—understandably, given it was his job—agreed. Ali al-Qawli, Salim’s relative and a local schoolteacher, went along for the ride.
While driving towards their destination, they were stopped at a military checkpoint. Then, just before 9 PM, a Hellfire missile tore through the sky and struck the vehicle. Everyone in the car died instantly.
Ali al-Qawli, who was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen on the 23rd January, 2013.
In footage of drone strikes, you normally see a target sitting in the center of a screen before a white flash erupts and fades, leaving nothing but absence behind. The process is quick and clean. But this isn’t what it’s like on the ground. With the car still on fire, local villagers had gathered around the remains of the pickup. “The smell of burning flesh was overwhelming,” Mohammed told me. “The bodies were in pieces.”
Stop Media Lies About Transgender Kids
Last weekend, the UK’s Mail on Sunday, a publication not traditionally known for tasteful headlines, ran an especially rancid pile of shit on its cover: “NHS to give sex change drugs to nine-year-olds: Clinics accused of ‘playing God’ with treatment that stops puberty.” You know what that means, don’t you? That the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) is definitely NOT giving nine-year-olds any “sex change drugs” and won’t be any time soon.
The Telegraph, a paper that revels in being openly hostile toward trans people, is now repeating the misleading headline. And what’s with the “playing God” bullshit? As one parent of a trans child pointed out by email: “The Mail wouldn’t be questioning the treatment of diabetic children or children with congenital hypothyroidism on the NHS, so what makes it OK to print this shit about children receiving another kind of endocrine treatment?”
I don’t quite understand everything she’s talking about, but you can’t argue with an angry mother.
Papers pull stupid shit like this all the time; six of them recently admitted they got it wrong by making irrelevant references to a woman’s transgender status in a story about her nearly dying after being attacked by a buck. A buck whose antler pierced her throat, broke her spine, and narrowly missed her spinal cord and a couple of major arteries.
As far as we know, the animal didn’t attack her because she was transgender. Nevertheless, six national newspapers in England decided to print various details about Kate’s history, including her former name and the obligatory “sex swap” headlines. Admittedly the Mail wasn’t, in this instance, the worst offender, and quickly corrected its mistake. And they do run sympathetic—or, at least,neutral—articles sometimes. The point remains, though: The British media, as a whole, can be really, really shit when it comes to covering stories about transgender people.
This article is going to contain a lot of “shits,” because I give one. But does the media? I may be completely wrong, but the people arguing against so-called “sex change drugs” on behalf of vulnerable under-16s don’t, as far as I’m aware, go out of their way to combat gender-based bullying in schools. If you’re not doing anything to stop transgender kids from being beaten up—a.k.a., the most important issue here—then how the fuck are you planning to get away with starting a moralizing headline campaign about the choices they’re allowed to make?
Trans kids are some of the most vulnerable people in society; I know because I was one. Tiny violin time. It was terrible: I got bullied at school for talking like a girl and bullied at home for “acting like a poof”; I hated going to school, and I hated going home. I’ve written about this before, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself, but so long as there are still kids going through what I went through—those who aren’t protected at school and let down by parents confused by the shit they’ve read in the media—it’s a message people need to hear.
The British Soldier Who Killed Nazis with a Sword and a Longbow
Above: “Mad Jack” on the far right, clutching a claymore sword. Photo via WikiCommons
The first thing the Nazi garrison on Vågsøy Island, Norway, would have heard when the British No. 3 Commando battalion landed on December 27, 1941 was the sudden blaring drone of bagpipes. One commando stood at the fore of the landing craft, facing the impending battle and playing the peppy, martial “March of the Cameron Men.” Upon coming to a halt onshore, the soldier jumped from the craft, hucked a grenade at the Germans, then drew a full sword and ran screaming into the fray.
That maniacally fierce soldier was 35-year-old Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, and his stunts at this battle, known as Operation Archery, were hardly the most bizarre and semi-suicidal of his life. Over the course of World War II, “Mad Jack,” as he came to be known, survived multiple explosions, escaped a couple of POW camps, captured over 40 Germans at sword point in just one raid, and in 1940 scored the last recorded longbow kill in history. And that’s just the CliffsNotes on his wartime rap sheet.
For many war junkies and badass aficionados, Mad Jack’s exploits are the epitome of military romanticism. His recorded statements, full of swagger like, “any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed,” and, “I maintain that, as long as you tell a German loudly and clearly what to do, if you are senior to him he will cry ‘jawohl’ and get on with it enthusiastically and efficiently,” seem like the physical manifestation of some mid-century boy’s adventure tale. The Royal Norwegian Explorers Club found him such a paragon of brawn and endeavor that, in a book released this March, they named him one of the greatest adventurers of all time.
Photo via WikiCommons
Not much is known about Churchill’s youth, save that he graduated from Britain’s premier Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1926 and, at age 20, was shipped off to Burma, where he spent the next few years driving his motorcycle around the region. Possibly bored by a long peacetime, Churchill left the army for a period in 1936 and spent some time as a Nairobi newspaper editor, male model, and a bagpipe-playing, arrow-shooting extra in films like The Thief of Baghdad and A Yank at Oxford. By the end of the decade, he’d become so obsessed with the pipes that he took second place in a 1938 military piping competition at the Aldershot Tattoo, causing a mild scandal because an Englishman had beat out so many Scots. The next year, his archery habit landed him a place as Britain’s shooter at the World Archery Championship in Oslo.
As soon as the Nazis invaded Poland and war became imminent, though, Churchill rushed to the battlefield. The longbow came out almost immediately during the Allied retreat to Dunkirk, France, in mid 1940. He took to practicing guerilla tactics, staging raids, and earning commendations for his bravery, even surviving a clipping by machine gun fire. Then, while watching a German force advance from a tower in the little village of L’Epinette, Churchill signaled his attack by shooting a Nazi sergeant through the chest with a barbed arrow, immediately followed by a hail of bullets from two fellow infantrymen in tow.