Monday, 23 May 2011

The VIP (Very Important Party), Part II

To continue with the teasing account of the Opening Night Revels, I have added some bits to the previous posting and continue here with the roll call of thanks. Dear Donny Slack made himself available once again to assist and prepare. I must commend him for the most valuable of attributes, the art of ANTICIPATING what needs doing. Wielding a glue gun he attached the military buttons onto the padded wall (only, there weren't quite enough). Meanwhile, local landscaper Anders (a live ringer for Heath Ledger) was in command of the crew rebuilding the deck at the front of the shop. For some time, my father had doomily predicted the headline "Partygoers maimed in horrific platform collapse" so it was pretty much back-breakingly rebuilt by the handsome squad of Anders, McKinley (who works in Brixton's trusty Blissets hardware store that we have come to frequent on a daily basis) and Chreos.

I shall not live long enough to extol all the virtues of Harriet who came back and forth from her office off Savile Row with neon bar signs, strings of fairy lights, bags of limes and gingham plastic sheeting which she then hammered onto the roof of the wendy house (not the limes, just the sheeting). It has to be said, no, I'm sorry, but it does, that the Bulgarian contingency were lax in acquitting their allotted duties and by Monday the loo was still in no fit state to greet the Mayor or my mother. So on our way to the Albert Hall to see Bedlam's old pal Andrew Roachford perform in his day job as current lead singer of Mike and the Mechanics, we screeched into the security hut at the Victoria & Albert Museum to collect the old exhibition posters that Ms. Carr at the museum had sequestered for us as emergency wallpaper. AndrĂ© then set about pasting these with panache and the final effect  - WC walls of "Golden Age of Couture" and the corridor approach plastered with amusing and a propos, not a pro-pooh, decoupage, was most effective in diverting the eye from comedy (yeah, funny til it kills you) wiring and unsightly damp patches.

We held our party on the odd day of Tuesday (such as I decree is the new Thursday) because it was Andrew's only day off during the Mechanics tour. Conveniently amongst some marvellous things Bedlam recently inherited from the late and illustrious Judge Ann Goddard - - was an upright piano. On Tuesday morning Roy the Tuner arrived to do what he could with its inconvenient discordance, and rendered it playable for the evening. Playable, that is, when you are as talented as Andrew and his brother Stephen who supplied the PA for speech making and serenading and ably accompanied him on guitar. I'm making you wait a long time for the full on party action here so look, to reward your patience, get a jump start of joy from this, the musical entr'acte to which Andrew treated us and that astounded our guests in the most delightful way:

My mother augmented the M&S party food, peeling quails eggs 'til her fingers were raw, blobbing dill sauce on open smoked salmon sandwiches and honey-basting chipolatas. Yum. Tim, needless to say, was tidying like a man possessed all around (a week later we are still yet to find the base of the kettle or the special stash of swatches) and helping Mark dress the new mannequins such as arrived that day to display the newly made pieces. Ian (the man who put the "in" in innuendo) was lolling around at work while all this was going on. It has, however, been noted he can quickly enough organise a day off when a photo shoot involving Bedlam poster boys McKinley, Ollie (from the Oval Lounge Restaurant next door, who, thank you thank you, gave ice and removed debris) and Anders is mooted. Wait! Did someone say "new pieces"?!

The Poacher's Jacket and waistcoat (with pockets big enough for a bunny)

The Seville Marmalade waistcoat

The Liquorice Dab jacket as modelled by Oval Area Manager  Tim
Our barman and his waitress girlfriend, as provided by my Pa after he concluded we had undercharged for the trousers made for my Ma, were in position. Corks were popped and stoppers unstopped. The Chase vodka was prised from Mr Wesley (here wearing the new "Ni Dieu Ni Maitre" tee):

With fifteen minutes to go before the published kick-off, I was on the blocks to dash round the corner, home, to scrub up. Then who should arrive early but the boys from Crescent Trading - no doubt to get me back for all the times I turn up late to get our fabric from them! And so it was that I greeted the first round of guests bare of face and in clothes so utilitarian I would (almost) rather have been bare.

Mr Martin White and Mr Philip Pittack of Crescent Trading

Prompt party goers, local design-o-tocracy, Mr and Mrs Stephen Bayley and, in the middle, Mr Nick Curtis, menswear correspondent of the Evening Standard
The lady who more or less invented the concept of modern company branding, Jean Carr
Oh brother, me looking a pitiful Cinderella pre-ball state but you had to see the lady with whom I share the frame, the most beneficent Betty Severn, octogenarian of Kennington and recent recipient of an award from the new Mayor of Lambeth, First Citizen of Lambeth, for being an OUTSTANDING citizen (ditto, friend)
Mr Lyall Watson, rock god and my tutor when I did go to the RADA with a pretty lady that he brought along
Lyall - pictured above  - is the scion, son and heir of a previous lady Mayor of Lambeth. That historical link leads us neatly to tonight's cliff-hanger break. Tomorrow, in Vol III of the party chronicles, I shall reappear in clean clothes and maquillaged. But utterly eclipsing my shakey dab at glamour, the CURRENT HOLDER OF THAT DISTINGUISHED POST, the Worshipful the Mayor, Councillor Christiana Valcarcel, will make her dazzling entrance to the delight of the assembled hordes. Until then, adieu.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The VIP (Very Important Party), Part I

So as weeks of preparation reached critical late night hammering (sorry, hotel across the road), furniture shifting and fanatical tidying (I give you Mr Timothy Balmain-to-Bedlam-Oval-Area-Manager-Chapman, the man who put the anal into fanatical) (is that too rude??) (the "ass" into "fastidious" perhaps? No? Worse, right) - most of which I hope has been recorded pictorially on Facebook, which you must forgive if that forum is not to your taste but there are only so many so' med' hours left to live - with whole days to go we sent out the invitations to our opening party:

You will note the high honour we were paid by a brace of very British companies renowned as foremost in their field. Firstly, Fentimans plied us with their deliciously nostalgic pop. Tonic, Dandelion & Burdock, Victorian and Rose Lemonade were all consumed with gusto but it was their Ginger Beer that put the fiery fizz into the proceedings. We consider ourselves red-headed connoisseurs of this tincture at Bedlam and burpily hail theirs supreme. Thank you Tiffany.

Next, lovely Lauren at Penhaligons sent over the scents to perfume our revels - delicate "Bluebell" for the ladies and, pour les messieurs, "Douru". The latter was created in 1911 for Sir Percy Croft of the Croft Port dynasty. It sets out to seduce one's innocent head with a fresh lime zing but before a gal can call for her chaperone the leathery musk base note is addressing her further down:

As if the ladies weren't vulnerable enough, already, Chase delivered cases of their award winning vodka, a distillation so devilishly pure that Mr Vincent berated Miss Carr (as if!) for not making Moscow Mules of sufficient, er, stiffness, and self-served further slugs. The photos that follow will testify to his subsequent sloshiness. He will swear on oath, however, that he woke with no hangover. We owe thanks to Ms. Clarke at Chase for organising that contribution:

Our own cup ranneth over when Norton motorcycles also agreed to lend their name to the evening. We are indebted to Kay for that. Mr Nick Ashley, a man of sterling biking pedigree, was particularly impressed and asked how we managed to wrangle such a class coup:
Well perhaps our sincerely avowed ambition to one day be as highly regarded as these British manufacturers won their indulgence and we hope to build our association with all of them. Last but not least, but too late for the invitations, Universal Records biked over swag galore (as we liked to call it in the music biz) - including the new PJ Harvey album "Let England Shake" - because that's the sort of top mate we have in Chris Dwyer. Our fave caff in all London Town, the Wolseley topped up the going home bags with a sexy spark for one's cigar.

A couple of friends penned messages of good will, none more treasured than my beloved Emiliana who came to visit a few days prior, bringing with her the reason we must launch Baby Bedlam soon:

Ali Mapletoft (Age of Reason) with Emiliana Torrini and her baby son
Emiliana would be deep in deepest Wales writing her next album come Party Night so she wrote something lyrical in the Visitors' Book:

Crucially, she also brought along Ali Mapletoft whose "Age of Reason" silk and safety pin scarves and snides (the rocker's snood, a word we agreed was abused) Earl of Bedlam is now proud to stock. Ali came back to London again to help get the store ready and set up the display. She has blogged with delightful enthusiasm about her first visit to Bedlam and the party:

Before turning her artistry to scarves, Ali did the animation for Emiliana's video "Sunny Road" which won best vid at the Icelandic Music Awards in 2006:

Their peach skin silk cajoles you into caressing them. As Ali pointed out, however, they are deliciously soft yet strong enough to restrain. Ahem. Well, here's the Bondage Baboushka in lush detail:

Ali unfurls the Union

For the party we redressed the pinstripe with Ali's punk pug stock (below). Unfolded Magazine, that attended the party and recorded it with many great photos, broke the story of our collaboration:

Much beauty did abound at the party - Ali "Age of Reason" with Jana Hopley

Another lady who regretted she was unable to attend, Mrs Anne Johnson, one of our first bespoke customers, penned this verse in tribute to our launch:

Girls with pearls
And Earls with curls
Are known to be well-suited
When asked where did 
they buy their clothes
"At BEDLAM", they all hooted.

And with that curtain raiser I am going to close my shutters for the night and continue with the tale of what was an epic night tomorrow.