Jorginho in London

mane

The human memory works this way… You remember mostly the good times and forget the unpleasant ones. After the Hippie surge in the sixties it became rather popular and romantic to live together and share as much as you could. Some youngsters went off to the Kibbutz in Israel, but many tried to make it work near home. When four Portuguese decided to share a flat, it was mostly for practical reasons.

Gilberto worked in a restaurant, Mané, Quim and I worked in the same disco, The Maximus, in Leicester square. We worked at night and it was a good solution to change individual digs for a larger accommodation. I do not know, who found the flat in Nevern Square, but I was responsible for the contract, most probably, because I was the only one carrying a British passport!

Living together was fun most of the times. But it seldom lasts too long. Conflicting personalities, economic issues, standards of tidiness, sense of responsibility, love of privacy, female contacts. All these aspects could and did contribute to animosity and bad feelings. But who cares about this, some 40 years passed?

I was, unlike my flat mates, in the unique situation of having family nearby. Now and then, when not working, I could visit my grandfather in Croydon and stay with him over night and even for a few days. This is most obviously what happened at Christmas in 1971 when Jorginho came to stay!

Jorge Paixão da Costa was a Lisbon neighbour to Mané and Quim from the Avenida dos Estados Unidos! At the age of sixteen, this youngster came over and was left at their responsibility. Whatever prompted Jorge’s parents to put him in Quim’s and Mané’s hands I do not know, but I recall how worried Quim was that everything would go alright with “the kid”.The picture I am publishing here shows Mané’s farewell party with Jorginho and Tony Carolo present… This took place on the 1st january 1972.

Jorge went on to study cinema in Sweden and became a successful film director in Portugal, after surviving the London experience.

My friend Mané!

Mané2

So I managed to find one of my friends from the London days, Mané Fernandes. He now lives in Macau and I last saw him in Lisbon, 25 years ago! Internet and Skype put us in touch! Mané took Gilberto’s place in the cloakroom at Maximus!

Maximus at Leicester Square was meant to attract the passer by. There were a few regulars but not enough to justify an economic stable situation for the club. The members of the staff at this point were mainly Portuguese as Quim Semião was in the bar and I was at reception!

There is a lot to be said about the cloakroom. There is also a lot to be said about London and nightlife’s employment and working conditions. What was above board and what was not, is unclear! As far as I remember there was hardly any salary to talk about! According to Mané, who seems to have a better memory than mine, we earned about £2 a night. Somehow the owners expected the staff to work for peanuts or maybe they accepted that the staff would find their own incomes in way of tips and the like! We could really say, illicit incomes for which no taxes were paid and everybody was happy!

 

The cloakroom gave enough to survive but still not enough for Gilberto who moved on to the restaurant business! Mané took his place and got another guy to replace him when he had to go somewhere. This guy seemingly “spilled the beans” to the manager, on the way things were run among coats and umbrellas and by doing this tipped the plates of the silent agreement! Mané had to go!

 

As young immigrants we lived in a world of eat or get eaten up. It was all a question of survival. Imaginative power was a main ingredient! Mané recalls for example how at one time we had run out of English money to put on the meter for the boiler! Someone discovered that some of the Portuguese coins of a lower value fitted exactly on these meters so they were used as long as possible! Later the bill had however to be paid!

Glad to have gotten in touch with you again, Mané!

Sexual entertainment soon on these premises?

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Back from London I have some news of little if any importance to the reader.

I told you about the Maximus, where I worked after leaving City business life, and whose owner Mr. Nat also was in charge of the Concorde Club which was the first disco I went to on more regular basis.

The Maximus is gone and all shut up according to the notice boards on the door. Whoever owned the Club Concorde since 1999 and ran the premises had now and after action from the landlord lost the lease. Simowa Limited has the 28th February applied to open a new sexual entertainment venue at what is called the Koru basement, at Victory house, 14 Leicester Square! Anyone opposing this application is required to contact the Westminster City Hall and its Licensing Service.

Leicester Square like most of London has changed but very much remains the same! The big difference after all is that it is today free of traffic contrary to what it looked like back in 1971. In those days you could park your car outside the club and I remember getting invited by manager john to listen to a cassette player on his Jaguar. It was the very first type of cassette music player and the cassettes were enormous if anyone ever saw those short lived models as they were soon replaced by the smaller and more practical variety.

We stayed very near the East End (where many of my ancestors lived) by the Southwark Bridge Rd. very close to London Bridge and all the Elizabethan theater history which really spells Shakespeare and the Globe Theater.  An area that once upon a time saw an industrious river related activity has been transformed and today invites millions of visitors to see contemporary art at the Tate Modern and go to the rebuilt theaters!

Picture taken from a fast food restaurant opposite old Maximus, lately Metra!

Humpty Dumpty at the Hudson Bay Company

furs

Obviously I was not prepared when I got the sack from Maximus in Leicester Square. But I always knew it would come so new life was eminent. Just as when I left the City I looked forward to what life would bring. I did not have a great fall like Humpty Dumpty , just a small one. ..

 

As I had not been unemployed up to then I immediately set out to look for a new job or jobs. I never bothered to go on any unemployment benefit. There was in Earl’s Court at least one employment agency. I was informed that you came early and if  needed you would get work immediately. I looked for this place early in the morning and that is how I managed to experience in the course of a few months several different jobs which gave me a new important perspective on life. At this time the Asians from Uganda had been coming over before finally expelled by Idi Amin in August and many of those queuing up for jobs were refugees from that group.

We were transported to a large building in the centre of London, near Bishopsgate- The Beaver Hall, I think it was. This institution dated back to 1760 when British interests wanted to get control of the french fur trade. I was shown to a large room with packed carts containing Swakara- South African lamb. The furs were completely black and shiny, short and wavy. My job consisted on getting carts and showing them to potential buyers that after inspection would participate in the auctions.

I must have been there for some weeks as I remember the mink and the beaver auctions. This place was huge and lived on for a few years more before closing down and seeing all operations transferred to Canada.

The paradigm shift

Maximus

In that autumn of 1971 my life was very much divided between 10, Nevern Square and 14, Leicester square. The Piccadilly line united my flat in Earl’s Court and my work place, Maximus Discotheque. Almost every week we paid a visit to the Ginger group’s hairdressing school in Knightsbridge where our hair dos were created and developed. And all at reduced prices! Maximus manager Jay had fixed us up with his brother who taught hairdressing at this school.

Two blue eyed girls with long blond hair in hot pants did come in one evening after pub hours. These were Mona and Åsa. They were in my opinion the two most beautiful girls that ever came into Maximus. They were childhood friends and they did not drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. It was as if they were from another planet, these two nineteen year olds…

Quim and I decided that we should invite them for a date to get to learn some more about the two Nordic angels from the mysterious country of Sweden.

I was at this point completely unaware that one year later I would have married one of these girls and that this particular event would mean that my life would soon change so drastically. It was as Mona would have liked to describe it a real paradigm shift, if those words would have been put together in 1971.

Unfortunately I have not been able to find one single picture showing the entrance of maximius as it was in those days, where at one time a blond American called Mike would stand outside as a barbarian gladiator.

The Roman style dungeons

maximus

The period of transition between my City gentleman’s life and night club worker occurred gradually. After my more regular weekend visits to the Concord, it didn’t take long before I went from the junior Night Club to the senior one.

The necessity to make more money, in order to keep up with my new life styles, put me on the lookout for income opportunities. The owner of the Concord was Mr Nat but he was also a part owner and active controller of the Maximus disco in Leicester Square.

If Tony was at the Concord, Gilinho or Gilberto Matos, “the good giant”, was at Maximus and digging gold on the cloakroom there. Sometimes he needed help mainly at weekends and at given times when most costumers arrived. But my grand activity was trying to sell the Club to passers-by for which I received 10 pence per successful Club visitor.

The job consisted on chatting up and convincing people on the street that this Roman styled Discotheque was the place to be. And in many senses it was! The place was at the time rather African American influenced and the DJ was an American. It was here I discovered James Brown and other artists of the Tamla Motown label. The waitresses wore very little and the Go-go dancers were as far as I could understand very competent!

Here the reader can see what the card looked like, that I dealt out in front or around, 14 Leicester Square.