You know how your nightclub experiences involve slipping on sticky floors, clambering over crying women to get to toilet cubicles and having song requests ignored by the DJ?
Well, Annabel’s nightclub isn’t like that. In fact, after watching BBC4’s documentary about the elite Mayfair establishment, you’ll realise that you’ve been doing nightlife totally wrong.
Strictly for top drawer people — the kind of people who never fall over drunk — the club was opened in 1963 by entrepreneur Mark Birley, with just 500 people being invited to be members. It cost £5 to join. FIVE QUID. Nowadays, you can barely get into any really terrible clubs for that amount.
Birley was determined to open the best nightclub in London, with the best staff. To make this happen, he went around the city poaching the staff from other exclusive and elite establishments. No expense was spared, not even for Mabel, the toilet attendant from restaurant Wiltons, who they recruited to even finer loos in Annabel’s.
It was such a hot destination that someone even brought their baby and put it under the coats, says one contributor to the film. I can only imagine that this was also because the glamorous mothers wanted to get their sprogs a membership ASAP. It really must be amazing there because surely no mother has ever, ever tried to get their baby into the Oceana Watford cloakroom.
Kate Moss pops up in the film, talking about Lady Gaga’s performance at the club, Naomi Campbell says she loves “the library room” and we see pictures of Tina Turner belting out a few classics to the guests. We even hear how Prince Andrew was “digging” the DJ’s tunes.
It does sound like something rather special. Goldie Hawn says in the documentary; “for any woman who wants to feel that the light is gifting her something, it definitely does in Annabel’s.” When I’ve had a bad hair night, I’ve simply hoped that the club will be quite dark so nobody can see me properly. But then, it’s women who think about things like flattering lighting who get invited to Annabel’s in the first place.
And because of this lovely lighting and general fabulousness, people get engaged there all the time. Actual love happens. “There were thousands of proposals,” says one member of staff. In my experience the height of romance is when someone touches your hair by accident when they’re pushing past you to get to the bar. Or they touch it on purpose, at which point you decide whether to duck and flee or just resign yourself to shame.
The thing is, while the club may be a wildly exciting place for the right sort of people, this is actually quite a dull documentary where lots of self-confessed ‘died-in-the-wool’ Conservatives discuss the merits of wearing ties to nightclubs.
But the film is worth watching if you play an entertaining game with yourself — every time you hear a phrase about the wonder of Annabel’s, you translate it into your own clubbing reality. So when someone says, “we celebrated Thatcher’s win with martinis in the library room but my favourite night was when Lady Gaga sang for us,” you rephrase it as, “we were drinking WKDs and then my friend slipped over in the pool of sweat that had dripped from the ceiling.”
Going out this weekend? Have a lovely time…
Annabel’s Nightclub is on Saturday 6th February at 10.45 pm on BBC4