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The history of G-A-Y (with Jeremy Joseph)

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jeremy joseph

When most people think of G-A-Y, the iconic club night that has hosted performances from such superstars as Kylie Minogue, Spice Girls, Madonna, and my personal favourites Daphne & Celeste, they think of The Astoria, the central London music venue that hosted the night from when it started in the 90s up until the late 00s.

The Astoria was the victim of Crossrail, a railway construction project that started in 2009 and completely changed London’s queer scene, resulting in the demolition of the Astoria, as well as other queer venues Ghetto and First Out Cafe.

I caught up with Jeremy Joseph, the owner of the G-A-Y nightclub chain, to find out about the early days of the club, working with the mafia, who was responsible for the worst performance in the history of G-A-Y, and why the Astoria was such a special place.

For more on Jeremy follow him on twitter.

Jeremy Joseph 0:00
is not going to happen anywhere else in the world and I think that’s what makes G-A-Y so special is that they know that certain things will happen that won’t happen anywhere else.

K Anderson 0:15
i am k anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. every episode i talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there, and the people that they used to know.

When most people think of G-A-Y, the iconic club night that has hosted performances from such superstars as Kylie Minogue, Spice Girls, Madonna, and my personal favourites Daphne & Celeste, they think of The Astoria, the central London music venue that hosted the night from when it started in the 90s up until the late 00s.

The Astoria was the victim of Crossrail, aa railway construction project that started in 2009 and completely changed London’s queer scene, resulting in the demolition of the Astoria, as well as other queer venues Ghetto and First Out Cafe.

I caught up with Jeremy Joseph, the owner of the G-A-Y nightclub chain, to find out about the early days of the club, working with the mafia, who was responsible for the worst performance in the history of G-A-Y, and why the Astoria was such a special place.

So, where do we start? At the beginning?

Jeremy Joseph
What, like the Bible?

K Anderson
Yeah, yes. Yeah. Okay, so, can you tell me about Adam and Eve?

Jeremy Joseph 2:19
Yeah, well, God said, Let there be light. And there was, uh huh. And then God said, Let there be disco and the light started. And that’s how it all started. I do what I do want to say very clearly, that was performed my time.

K Anderson 2:37
And you know, was the disco ball, the first iteration of that plan, or did he start with cubes? Did he start with other objects?

Jeremy Joseph 2:48
I wasn’t there. So I’m going to guess that the Apple was the first disco ball.

K Anderson 2:54
Yeah, well, that would make sense. It’s got their build. Yeah,

Jeremy Joseph 2:56
it was on the tree. It was spinning the light hitting. And it created this kind of disco and the snake and there and I think it was just the snake and he Adam and he, they were the first people in there.

K Anderson 3:11
Just Just getting down. And yeah, okay, but so DIY started in 1976. And that’s um, you are not and what year? It’s I got this on wikipedia. 1976 Absolutely not. Well, okay, but it was like earlier iterations earlier.

Jeremy Joseph 3:31
Absolutely not. No, no. All right, so why didn’t Wikipedia listen first things first. never listen to Wikipedia. I mean, like it’s like they put out what they like is that no, absolutely not. I don’t know where 1976 that would i would be I was at school then. So hardly a G-A-Y didn’t start to ninety – I’ve got to think what year confide with me was knowing that was 92 honour and I’ve noticed for the G-A-Y would you started 93 or 92. I mean, because you why when it actually started. It started as the very first it didn’t start as a club night started the very first LGBT radio programme on spectrum radio. Joe, the first LGBT London radio programme. And I was at that time, I hated that radio programme. I was at that time I was working at the Royal Oak pub in Hammersmith. As a DJ, I was one of those annoying talking DJs because in LGBT pubs in those days, we used to, like put a record on talking between and then bring on cabaret act. So I would obviously choose people like Lily Savage, Regina Fong, Adrella

K Anderson 4:49
and so what would you say in between, like this song is?

Jeremy Joseph 4:52
Well, you may do a dedication or why are you trying to pitch and be funny you try and lighten it about somebody new I’ve got all sorts of funny about the bar staff or, or say something that you thought was funny, but nobody else did. But it amused you. I didn’t know, it was a very different time because LGBT venues were very much more community orientated. You, we didn’t have equality. And even though we LGBT venues now are supposed to be safe spaces, they were even safer spaces. Because you know, that was 90s, people were very much like, we’re not as out as people were now. And you would go out and you would, you know, and sometimes that was the only time you would be out. And obviously, during that time as well, you know, for a lot of people, we were facing HIV and AIDS for the first time, and we would growing up with that. And lo and our lives are very different. And we will fight. We were fighting for so many different things. And actually venues were much more community orientated than they were say now, because there was a fight on our hand, we were fighting the government, we were fighting public opinion, we were fighting for our lives. And we were fighting for the you know, for the rights of things like to be in the armed forces to for an equal age of consent. You know, there were so many things we’re fighting for. But you could feel a change in attitude and and that fight with mechanic becoming a fight to win. I, at that time, as you said, was working at the Royal Oak. And the big clubs at the time were the Fridge in Brixton, obviously Heaven and Bang, which was run by Colin Peters. And unfortunately, we lost Colin Peters to an AIDS related illness and his business partner and brother carried on running Bang. And I kind of got to know them and did some one off events for them. And they were struggling with buying numbers were dropping. And they had decided to open a bar in Streatham. And they’d asked whether I’d take take on the venue in, which was then in the LA2, which was below the Astoria. It used to be like they used to have three, four nights a week and it dropped down to they had three nights we had their Mondays or Thursdays and their Saturday, they’d lost the Mondays and Thursday, I was brought in to revive the Saturdays. And then as it grew, I was asked to the owners, the Astoria. And you have to remember this was kind of when venues were run by gangsters. I mean, it was like, you know, it was not an easy time. And they were not easy people to work for. It’s all over was bought into bring the Thursday night. And at that time, the Bang name Debbie who had the business partner, and Jamie who’s Colin’s brother, they were receiving a an amount of money for the use of the name, I was paid a fee. When we got the second night going, obviously, there was a fallout between Bang, the people who own Bang and the people who own the Astoria, because they were trying for more money. And it got as always got quite nasty, but I was just employed at the time. So I’m the one in the middle. And when you work for gangsters, they don’t really care. And they kind of just go, you know what we don’t like it go at it, you know, that’s how it is. And I was kind of given the ultimatum with like, you can go with Bang, or you can stay and keep this going. And at that point, that was my livelihood. You know, that was our journey money, I could just walk away. And also there were people who are the DJs boss or everyone else’s job are on the line. So I took the risk and said, Okay, I’ll take it on. But obviously, I didn’t own the Bang name. So I had to change the name by then G-A-Y was establishing itself as a radio station. I’d done some big interviews. I’ve done an interview with Jason Donovan, which was, at that time, quite controversial and front pages, lots of newspapers. So I the G-A-Y name got known for radio, I thought well, why not actually create it into a club night as well. So from that point, we changed. That’s how G-A-Y was born.

K Anderson 9:19
So like, obviously, it’s one thing working for the Bang promoters and running a night on their behalf. And it’s a completely different thing to suddenly be the person that’s responsible for everything. How did that feel taking that responsibility on?

Jeremy Joseph 9:36
I don’t think I really thought about it because at the time it just kind of happened. I mean, nothing really changed in the sense of like, I had run Bang to the way I wanted to do and it with the format of G-A-Y already I’d kind of changed it because at the time what were bang had lost its personality was because the DJs kind of changed the music policy. They can’t It went a lot harder. And you know, because, you know, the LGBT press will kind of being very much more favourable to the, to the clubs like Trade and things like that. And so, Bang had started playing heavier music and it lost its identity, which was to be a party venue. So I kind of brought that back. So there wasn’t really a big change, to be honest, if the pressure hadn’t changed. It’s the responsibility of whether you know what you work someone or you’re running. So didn’t change, because at the time, you were like, you know, the responsibility was already on your shoulders of make or break. And also, I’d been working at the Royal Oak for about five years before. And you know, I’d given up my job at the Royal I’d given up everything to, you know, a job that I’ve had five years, I was working, I was earning money, I would do very, you know, doing well out of it, it was paying the rent and everything. So I needed it to work, because otherwise I’d be out of work. You know, my job at the Royal Oak had gone to somebody else, I’d kind of given up DJ, to do this. I had to make it work.

K Anderson 11:04
Well, nothing like that kind of pressure to get you going.

Jeremy Joseph 11:07
But he wasn’t I think it I don’t think it was a pressure. I don’t look at it like that as much because it was I was making it work. The only pressure was it like you when you work for people like that. And, you know, gangsters you get ripped off all the time. I mean, people see a packed night, and they say, Oh my god, you must be earning millions. And actually, you’re not good. These people are ripping you off. But you know, that’s the problem. When you get when you get a job, that you’re reliant on that job, and people are relying on that work, you do get ripped off, as you know, and people and there’s nothing you can do, did you call walk away?

K Anderson 11:43
So are you able to talk about that any more?

Jeremy Joseph 11:46
I’m a bit like, Ah, you can ask me questions. I mean, the people who aren’t necessarily like, unnecessary, I don’t know, you. It’s a very, it’s a very different time. You know, I mean, it’s like, you know, what went on in 90s, early 2000s. And what went goes on now, were two different times, you know, think things would security controlled? A lot of things, you know, I mean, it was run by gangsters. It’s just, you know, it’s it. That was a kind of like, even when I worked at the Royal Oak, that the family who wrote that word, you know, they were each then gangland people, but But actually, in a way, the good side of it, it kept LGBT people safe. Do you not mean, because they were like that, you know, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t get picked on, you know, because they kept those things. These are, yeah, these are kind of people you don’t, you know, you don’t argue with, okay, on a negative, but if you look at like, you know, when people talk about the Kray twins, and, and how the east end at one point was safer, because you had gang no running, you know, and actually, that was the same as clubbing like you will kind of protected.

K Anderson 13:00
But so how did you like navigate that world, knowing like that just things could get really messy really quickly, at any point.

Jeremy Joseph 13:10
As I said, it didn’t because it was in a way that was the way the club club club land was, but in a positive side of it, it was, you know, for the people who worked in it, the people who, you know, you got looked after, you know, you

K Anderson 13:24
knew that, you know, nothing would happen to you kind of thing. So it was just something you accepted as part of everyday life.

Jeremy Joseph 13:32
I wouldn’t say everyday life, but you you just accept these are the people that own the venue you work in, you know, as I said, it probably sounds weird talking about it now, but it was a different time. And, you know, things changed. You know, suddenly the councils and the police and all that suddenly didn’t allow these things to happen anymore. But at that time, they close, you know, they close their eyes to certain things. There were always rumours rumours flying around that the police and and the council were paid off. Whether that was true or not, I don’t know. But that they were the rumours flying around that time.

K Anderson 14:10
Yeah. Okay, so I will be asking more questions about gangsters. Bad Guy. Let’s, let’s talk about that first night, then. So you you in some ways, it was just a continuation of the night you would already have been running for Bang. But do you remember that first time when the billing was G-A-Y?

Jeremy Joseph 14:28
No, because it really literally didn’t. It didn’t feel like a new like I was doing dinner it literally and people go into the venue had no idea. It was you know, one it changed names. And and that was it. Nothing else really changed because I’d already been running it. So I kind of you know, the format hadn’t changed. Nobody really noticed. Maybe the, you know, the staff have receded. Well, even they said they didn’t because they were answering to me anyway. So they didn’t read. nobody reads Notice,

K Anderson 15:01
so it wasn’t momentous in like, it wasn’t a big relaunch or anything like that. Um, yeah,

Jeremy Joseph 15:04
I mean, we also wanted to make it low, we wanted to make it low key, I mean, you know, we didn’t really want to make a big deal out of it, because a I was running it already be, it was just the change name. And also, you know, I felt a little bit, you know, I’m in between two kinds of parties, the people who own the Bang brand, the people who own the Astoria. And I was kind of caught in between the two. And obviously, whichever way I had gone on it, I was going to be the bad guy. So if I’d gone and close down the club night and gone, that’s it, I’ve got to go with the on the Bang. So then there would that would have been LGBT venues. So that would put me on a bad day. And people have lost their jobs if I had carried if I, if I and I, but I chose to carry on. So I kind of want to, you know, obviously, Bang had a had a good history. It’s been an amazing brand and night for many, many years. So I was going to come across the bad guy, I knew whatever way this went, I was going to win. So and I was going to look like oh my God, he’s stolen that brand. Or he’s done that. So the best thing for me do is to try make it as low key as possible, and try and just carry on and then slowly build the new G-A-Y brand.

K Anderson 16:20
But did did you feel a difference in you? Like No,

Jeremy Joseph 16:24
no, I would teach because I was running already I was just carrying it on. The difference was politically, suddenly, for the first time ever, we would shut the bring in LGBT gay into the forefront of the of Central London, you know, you know, if you look at like where Heaven is, you look at where the Fridge was all very, like hidden kind of, you know, but suddenly, we are opposite Centrepoint in the centre of town. And here we are the centre of London suddenly go, this is a gay night, there was no hiding it anymore. That was the difference. And also we will suddenly bring in. I mean, obviously we’re booking artists who are getting headlines. And suddenly the branded G-A-Y was becoming front page stories on newspapers, for the first time ever, an LGBT club brand was suddenly being getting a positive image. You know, before, whenever a national newspaper wrote about an LGBT club night, it would be drugs, it would be seedy it would be it would be disgusting. But suddenly this we will bring in a positive image. So we were changing the attitude of by by branding at G-A-Y we were we were bringing a positive attitude towards you know, the gutter press.

K Anderson 17:55
And like, you know, you are a very ambitious man. So you really build that brand. I guess. I guess the question I have is like, had you Have you always been ambitious? Or was it just that like, oh, I’ve got this opportunity. I may as well, exploit it.

Jeremy Joseph 18:10
I’ve always been ambitious, always. But this wasn’t the career I chose. In my head, I was going to be a children TV presenter. Well, I want to be a TV presenter. And then I saw the likes of Andy Peters and Phil Schofield go for doing it. And I was aware, hang on, they look very camp. Maybe a camp gay man can do this. And so I think TV presenting was always my dream and doing game shows and things like that were my first love and getting into DJing. And being a talking DJ had been a way I always looked for avenues to to achieve that career. But this was not my chosen career path.

K Anderson 18:50
So then At what point were you like, Okay, I’m all in, like, I’m gonna,

Jeremy Joseph 18:54
I think you get yourself into a rut. I mean, like anything, you get yourself into a rut. And it’s interesting that, you know, we’re doing this interview now we’re in a, in a pandemic. And a lot of people are being made unemployed, like we will be made redundant. And a lot of people are like, unhappy at the moment. And this is probably a chance in a lifetime to actually make some changes, or try to make some changes. So you know, and I think basically, with me going back to that, you get yourself into a rut, you’re earning money, I took on a mortgage, I, you know, you suddenly get yourself into a situation where actually, you can’t make choices, because actually, you’re stuck in something and I was enjoying it. And I know, you know things will go very well. And and you had no choice but to carry that on because suddenly this is what you’re doing. And there’s a responsibility. There’s a responsibility when you run an LGBT club night, there’s a responsibility more so now actually believe it or not than back then. But at that time, there were like four regular major brands. And you know, each of the big club nights, whether it be the fridge or trade, or dtpa, or heaven, or RJ, why we all were very, we will try to be different, but also competing each other but, but ga y, which I now see the pop stars as well, but j y was slightly different from the others because they, the others tried to be trendy, they tried to be like different, you know, they, you know, pop stars at the time, which is huge, because indie music was huge at the time, trade, which he because obviously, that that clubbing, after out clubbing had suddenly become really big. They were all innovators in their own way. Whereas JPY tried not to be it was about being commercial about being part. It wasn’t about being trendy. So we were creating our own success in another way. But you know, there’s a pressure that when you’re doing that, because then you’re you’re becoming part of people’s lives. Because you know, as you said earlier on some people, you know, this was the only time they were ever out, this was the only time they could go be themselves. So you were creating, like each venue was kind of creating their own communities. So there was a pressure to make that work. It was more than just going to a bar or a club. It was about people’s lives.

K Anderson 21:23
Hmm. And so we’re actually First of all, so are you trying to tell me that during the pandemic, you’ve rethought everything, and you’re going to go in a different direction?

Jeremy Joseph 21:33
Yeah. 100% 100%? I mean, yeah, the pandemic has created. I don’t know where I am at the moment. I mean, we’re, we’re still in the pandemic. But you know, if I could walk away today from this, I would,

K Anderson 21:46
wow, that’s a big thing to say.

Jeremy Joseph 21:48
But I, when we bought Heaven, which we bought Heaven, 11 years ago, we bought, we didn’t just buy a club, we bought 40 years of LGBT history. Well, at that point, it was 30 years. So I can’t just walk away. And funnily enough, I did have an offer to buy Heaven. But the person who offered to buy it, I don’t trust them. I don’t trust them to keep it LGBT. I don’t think their love is LGBT, and they don’t have enough LGBT experience. So you know, it’s not a matter of go, Oh, I can walk away the pressure to keep LGBT venues open now, is so hard. And we’ve lost so many venues over the years. So I think now, when you own an LGBT venue, you don’t necessarily walk away from it as easy as maybe, if you owned a Wetherspoons pub.

K Anderson 22:40
So let’s go back. So at what point did G-A-Y move from the underground bar to the Astoria?

Jeremy Joseph 22:48
Ah, funny actually, because what happened was, I got conned into doing it. So LA2, which is underneath the Astoria, it was 1000 capacity. The Astoria was 2000 capacity. And so you got to remember, like now, like when we open venue, you know, if you if you go over capacity, now, you’ll be breaking the law with it when you’re run by in the debt. Those days when we run began, they went over capacity all the time. But they they got into trouble quite a lot, because things were changing. And the council were like saying, coming in and checking. And they could see that, obviously, like Joe was overcapacity, but they kind of somehow got over, got away with it. Anyway, I got called up for a meeting by the owner. And he said, The Council have said that they’re going to close G-A-Y down, because you’re over capacity as if it was my fault. It wasn’t, you know, I had no control over how many of you got into the venue that was controlled by the venue, I would happily have stopped the numbers that like whatever, but I didn’t, I didn’t have a control, they will because, you know, the owners were to queue outside go let more or less. Okay, anyway, so they kind of lied to me. And they said LD Westminster Council have said, they’re gonna close G-A-Y down. And they said, Look, the only way we can save G-A-Y, is if you moved to the Astoria. And I go, what the fuck is 2000? Am I gonna? How am I going to do that? I didn’t like what the hell is going on? Like, oh my god, you know, and I like, you know, but they kind of forced my hand and I thought, you know what, and, you know, you walk out of meeting and you go, Fuck, what if I fail? I know that and they kind of said, No, if it doesn’t work, we can always move back down there. And I’m thinking, Okay, maybe, you know, again, this is an opportunity. So I suddenly realised that if we moved into the Astoria, we would be the biggest LGBT venue in the country. You know, because it was a high capacity in The Fridge with the high capacity than Heaven. And I just thought, oh my god, I could be the biggest promoter. in the country, what the fuck?

K Anderson 25:03
So you weren’t just like no, no, Fuck Fucking just curled up into a ball. I

Jeremy Joseph 25:09
mean, you think about it. And then what I did was I didn’t tell anybody. So what I did was I put an advert in, in Boyz. And I think there was suddenly I think it was like MX at the time, or thought or whatever. And it was just a plain black and white advert and texts, and it just said, and I may, I checked them, if you tell her who put this idea in, I’m not paying for it. So you cannot tell anyone. And I put in detail about coming to the biggest LGBT club night in the country in London, you know, in line coming to London. So there’s a long line to go with a legal capacity, I believe, because we all broke the law that includes having to pay everyone like everyone else, because obviously the Fridge couldn’t go. But we do 2000 every Saturday night is that go your classes in 2000. So, you know, you’d be breaking the law, so they couldn’t say it. So I did with a legal capacity of 2000. I didn’t name the venue or anything. And I remember the owner that the the the owners of the Fridge, and the owners of Heaven ringing me go, do you know who this is? I’m going No, no, I’ve got no idea. Oh, my God, I’ve been lying. And I let this advert run for two weeks. I created this buzz. And then we announced it, we share G-A-Y moving and I got Dannii Minogue to do the opening night. And I knew it was about three, four weeks before Pride. And I really wanted Kylie to do it. But I know, at the time, Kylie and Dannii had the same manager and, and Kylie already done G-A-Y in LA2 twice and, and I head off if I do if I move up to the Astoria. And this could be the future would Kylie do Pride for me? Cause she’d done a Pride for me before? And Terry said, Well, I’ll let’s do Dannii on the opening night. And let’s see how that goes first for good, like if it’s a disaster. So we did Dannii on the queues went round the block. And the Astoria has the most amazing stage. I mean, just incredible. I mean, like there’s, there wasn’t a stage like it in London, we could do things on there that we couldn’t do anywhere else. It was amazing. I remember standing on the side stage with Terry, Dannii did the show, which was amazing. It was just like, it was like, the atmosphere was electric. It was just like, wow, I mean, it was like, it was incredible. And it was like this was beyond my dreams. You know, these were people that I used to play their records. And then suddenly I’m working with them. And I remember standing at the side of the stage, with Terry watching Dannii watching the crowd reaction. And I looked at Terry, and I said to him about Kylie for Pride, and he just looked at me and went, yeah, I don’t go. Oh my god, I got it for pride again. Oh, my God, I got Richie COVID you can’t tell anyone. Yeah, why? why you’ve just said yeah, I haven’t told Kylie yet. On Okay, though, cuz I already had, it was just amazing. It was just like, it was just like the, and it was like this, in the beginning was an incredible journey. But did like to have Dannii on the opening night, and you knew that you were going to be building this brand in Astoria because you were suddenly getting bigger names. And then suddenly, this was a credible venue for people to perform that because they were going to get, you know, perform on stage. That was huge. It was just like, you know, and suddenly we were launching x, you know, and you know, and it was a complete game changer. Yeah.

K Anderson 28:50
So let’s talk about the pop act and musical acts that you had performed. You’d started doing it when you were in LA2 do you remember who the first the first act was that you booked?

Jeremy Joseph 29:01
At the time? I remember like, I mean, the first thing was I wanted to put Archie shop. I mean, the third time it was like, kind of like the Divas that were that were going around doing other venues like people like Kim Mazelle, Jocelyn Brown, they were the kind of first step to putting on, but I wasn’t I always had in my heart to put on acts that I thought were like that hadn’t done venues before. And I wanted to try and put onto max out there. And obviously you got to remember that this is not now in that. But I remembered that the two apps I really want the two game changing acts for me in the sense of changing the atmosphere of ga why was Sonia and boxfish and I’d never known anything like it. So we put I remember putting Sonia on Valentine’s Day, back in whatever year it was now. There was joy and Dannii Dannii was a cheat game changing that so but but it was in order. I think I know the first step was buffets, and I remember putting them on I thought were their pure pop. And I thought why, you know, no gay then you’d put them on before. You know why. And it made like, at the time they were this huge papac and I couldn’t understand why no one put them on. So I put them on the atmosphere, or putting an act like that on was just electric I’d never known anything like it. And it was and it was a game changer. It was this huge pop party and I’d never felt anything like it before. And I suddenly realised that we actually that was when I knew that this was the beginning of something special. And I remembered and I’d never heard in a crowd charm, a name of that and everybody just and they during I can’t remember what song it was they always say chanting for Cheryl. And even the boys was done and Cheryl, which is standing there at that time box, which was only three gone down three. It was my Bobby and, and Cheryl, but Cheryl was obviously a star on TV and things like that. But she was a huge star. And everybody just loved her. And that was good. And then exactly the same thing happened. I remember, it was a very special Valentine’s Day because I was involved at the time with outrage. And I had been asked to do something on the back of a lorry. And Peter Tatchell had arranged to change the name of old competency to to queer Street. And I remember being on the back of a lorry going down old comms sheet renaming it, we had it. We were playing loud music. And I remember also be on this platform on a microphone with Peter Tatchell and Derek Jarman. And it was a huge party down old country. And then we were doing an after party with Sonia. And again, that atmosphere we had backstage was exactly the same, the place just started chanting Sonny’s name. And it was just electric. And I totally realised that again, we had something really, really special. And then, about two weeks after that to three weeks after that we had, who is on the

right track, I was supposed to have Boy George, and he cancelled. I, for some reason, I can’t remember why. And at the very last minute, the agent that I booked him through, had said, I can try and pull a favour. I Dannii Minogue should do it. And Dannii said yes. And that was the first time obviously, we had Dannii on and that were to to get that with the game changer because I was building a relationship between myself and Dannii. Well, mainly with between Terry who managed our 30 relationship with Him. And that, and that kind of changed things as well. Because he you know, because obviously then from that we managed to get Kylie. So it was all kind of a journey of a route of where you get to, you know, because obviously people look at go look at you right now go, Oh, my God, you had Kylie, Dannii, do you know the names you had the list of people who’ve done G-A-Y over the years, the Spice Girls, all of those artists, it didn’t just happen overnight, it was a gradual thing. You know, to build it, you had to create a trust between you and record labels. And that was very hard. Because interesting enough, as much as record labels. were run by a lot of gay people. They were not literally the most supportive people of LGBT venues. You know, it was easier to get female performers than it was to get male performers. I remember one time that I nearly got Justin Timberlake to do G-A-Y nearly? And I remember, like, the agent at the time kind of stopped it. Because he said, Well, we don’t want people thinking that Justin is gay, do we? That that was that was the act kind of attitude, then, you know, for a long time, I was convinced that maybe Justin was homophobic and because obviously I would kind of work out Hang on, why do we nearly have him? Why did we get down so far down the route to getting him? And then it didn’t happen so well, it It got to a point where somebody had stopped it from happening. So I kind of thought, but it turns out actually but when you look at you know, it’s important to say this now because obviously I don’t want people to misconstrue that he isn’t good. You look at what he’s done for support for LGBT rights and things like that. So I It wasn’t until after I realised it wasn’t him. That was the problem. It was people who underneath him who were like, obviously, you know, he probably doesn’t even know that this even.

K Anderson 34:38
But isn’t it incredible? Like Like right now. It’s just a given that if a musical act is trying to break that they will have a specific strategy around how to reach queer audiences. But about 20-30 years ago, it was like no, maybe maybe we don’t need a queer audience.

Jeremy Joseph 34:52
I don’t think it’s just the queer audience because also you have to remember as well for a lot of bands. It’s not just a gay audience, but it’s also the first time that they get to perform to an adult audience. So, you know, because if you look at like children like the fact that, you know, like the boy bands we had, I mean, we did one of the very first gigs ever for boys Oh, and I built up a relationship with Louie Walsh, we’ve become very good friends it tight. But if you think about it, that boy’s own two of them had only performed two teenage girls. So, you know, so for them to perform a G-A-Y would be the first time ever that they performed to an adult audience? So it’s not just, it was it’s two types of audience that go over. But you know, it’s crossing over that for for tea bags and suddenly performed to actual ad.

K Anderson 35:43
And so I’m obviously going to have to ask you, who was the worst? Like, what was the nightmare act that you had?

Jeremy Joseph 35:51
The nightmare I really kind of slagging people off, because I don’t really believe in that. And it’s not really, but I mean, the only Nightmare Night once was for me, but it was probably, again, a bit like, of me being an educated as well. Because sometimes, you know, so before often before, like G-A-Y Or, you know, even Heaven now we do, sometimes we do gigs, before the venues open. And I remember that Gary Newman, were doing the story before a gig before the club night open. So I thought, Oh, my God, Gary Numan, that that’d be really iconic. He He’s like electronic. You know, he he was the star of electronic music. So he’s a pioneer. So I thought, Oh, go. But Gary Numan had changed. He decided that he would no longer electronic who was rock. So suddenly, he was performing this gig and I’m watching Oh, my God, this isn’t he doing a rock version of cars. This is going to be a disaster. And you know, when he did you way after, it was a fucking disaster. I booked someone who I booked it under the premise that they were an electronic artists. I wanted to hear cars, not a rock version of cars. Yeah, probably that one.

K Anderson 37:06
So you were at. So you were at the Astoria for about 15 years.

Jeremy Joseph 37:11
I think it was about. Yeah, I mean, I’m 20 actually, maybe longer. I think it was about 16 years. can find me at 94 G. Whiteside. 93. Or hit 90, I think, yeah, I just remember that. Oh, hang on a 92. I think we started at 92 Katie second pride would have been knocked out. I’m gonna have to look this up. Now. Hang on, that I can get I can get a sack. So let me just type in confide with me.

K Anderson 37:41
I bet you it’s 94. Put my

Jeremy Joseph 37:43
1994 Yeah, so Kylie 93 was the year Kylie did her first pride at G-A-Y. I started 92. About around October 92. We then left the Astoria 11 or 12 years ago?

K Anderson 38:02
Yeah. First of all, it stopped in 2008. at the Astoria. Yeah. And it was because of Crossrail. Because the Astoria was going to be knocked down. When When did you first hear that this was a possibility?

Jeremy Joseph 38:15
Well, the rumours of Crossrail had been going for years. And it kind of been going for years and years. And we kind of thought it was never going to happen. And then of course, the owners, the owners of the Astoria sold the venue to the Mean Fiddler group. So we kind of thought when the Mean Fiddler group bought it, it was safer. And then the Mean Fiddler group got bought out by Live Nation. So we thought that that was a real security of that, you know, that was a big company buying it we were saying, but we didn’t kind of realise that the real reason that Live Nation had bought out the Mean Fiddler was because they wanted the Reading and Leeds Festival, which was done by Mean Fiddler’s group. And so they they kind of made out, they wanted to protect the Astoria, but they didn’t. I wanted to fight the whole way. At one point. I didn’t know what we were going to do, but we kind of knew it was going to happen. But you know, everybody would lying, whether it be the government, whether it be Ken Livingston, who was the mayor at the time, because we will write to everybody tried to save the Astoria. And there were and there were also loads of different plans, so that you could look online and see different plans. And there were a couple of plans that actually the Astoria didn’t need to be knocked down. So we thought it’d be safe. So it got to a point where we knew that the Astoria was going to get knocked down. They were running down the venue which was suddenly not becoming fun to be there anymore. Because it was they were not spending any money on the upkeep. So it was getting harder and harder to work there. And on the year that we left around, April, May I was done. I was Alright guys, I don’t want to stay here anymore. I want to go out on a high at the Astoria. And we already started making moves to buy Heaven. And my plan was about a year earlier from that we were trying to buy heaven, and we set a deal. But again, the owner of Heaven wasn’t the easiest person to work with. And he kept, he kept moving the goalposts. So the deal fell through. So we had walked away from it. And it again, this is where luck comes into it. I had decided I was going to leave the Astoria, I’m going to we’re going to lose it anyway. I’m going to end on a high. So I thought I don’t mean to do it on my way I want to do it. So I decided to call it a day, or take the biggest risk of my life, call it a day we had G-A-Y bar, G-A-Y Late, they’re both doing very well, if that’s what I was going to be left with that too. But we knew we’re going to lose the Astoria. I am not going to leave it on a low. And I thought again, so we created the most amazing Pride night. I had Cyndi Lauper booked for two weeks after that. And, and then I created this last night where I had literally 10 artists who perform a degree and I walked away. And I did it myself on my terms. I was very angry at the time, because there were some knowing our history until some other people set up a gay night. That completely failed. But I was really angry with them. Because the most they could have done it for which four months, they would just try to grab money.

K Anderson 41:44
So that was replacing replacing for a story. It was clear,

Jeremy Joseph 41:50
I think, but luckily failed. And I don’t mean that bitterness, but I wanted to I had decided that we that, that I wanted to leave the LGBT history of the Astoria or the high. And these people went in and did a crap night that failed. People didn’t go to it. It only lasts a few weeks, it died on its arse, it was over. But to me, it wasn’t about somebody trying to be better than me it was about I want to control of leaving the Astoria on a high, and you tried to bring it down. But it didn’t work. And you know, we still left. And then literally, when we left the Astoria in that same period of time, the Heaven was in serious trouble, the owner of Heaven rang me and said, I’m going to knock a million pounds off the price. If you could do the deal within one month. If we didn’t do the deal, Heaven would be not be here. Now. It was going to go bankrupt. And it was a deal with the bank and everything. And we have one month to turn it around. We had about 100,000 pound deposit on it to guarantee that we could turn the deal around in one month. Wow. Well, again, nothing like the pressure to get you going. Yeah, so Exactly. So literally, and we did the deal we and then obviously the Heaven go. And it’s funny because obviously G-A-Y and Heaven were competitors. So there was a lot of people who went to Heaven who hated G-A-Y today was slagging me off against social media. Oh, he’s gonna ruin Heaven. He is going to destroy have a monk guy. You are such idiots. You don’t know that Heaven was about to go bankrupt. If I didn’t do this Heaven, we’ve got whether you hate me or not is immaterial. Heaven was going to go under. It was over. Yeah, we saved Heaven.

K Anderson 43:39
Yeah. And but but we’re not talking about Heaven. We’re talking about Astoria. So that last night. So you know, having worked there for over 15 years, knowing that it was going to be the last night. Where was your head at that day?

Jeremy Joseph 43:55
I don’t know. I mean, regret all the time. I didn’t want to leave. It wasn’t a choice. But I am creating moment. I remember the week before we had changed the loot law programme. And it was just the most amazing night she got on the most incredible show. And having Cindy on, I was on stage with her my head guy and I’m about to lose this. You know, I’ve got a legend on my stage, like a legend. And it’s like, I may never have this again. And that that you know, but I knew at the end of the point I was going to lose it. So you know, I could have kept it for a few more months. But it wasn’t going the direction I wanted it to go. I felt like as I said it was becoming harder and harder to run the venue. It had no heating in the venue October’s so I kind of left it during summer. So that because I knew that the Astoria in winter was hell. So I’m thinking like, you know, I didn’t really want to go through that.

K Anderson 44:58
And then say the last night they were Were a number of performances, then, you know, obviously there would have been a few balloon drops. And then the venue closed. Everyone left. What did that feel like?

Jeremy Joseph 45:13
Well, what happened was we we went on stage, I think orien all the staff everybody went on. So I know we let you said we’re all gonna lead together. And we all walked out together. And I realised that I’d left something behind.

Magic walk out with everybody, they come on, we’ll go together. And actually, I denied to go back and pick something out. Or I had the staff wages I hadn’t paid, I’ve got to pay everyone. And I had to start wage in the office. But they all came they came met me outside Gao y bar. And they said to me, we haven’t been paid and we’ve got no money a minute, oh, my God, bless your wages, get back to the erratic walk out and had to go back to work today.

K Anderson 46:03
So one of the other things that I always ask anyone who comes on the show is what kind of canoodling you got up to? And obviously, I know you were very professional. What do you mean by canoodling? Well, you know, was there ever any romantic or sexual dalliances in the interior? Why did you wait till everyone to leave and then make out on the stage?

Jeremy Joseph 46:27
Oh, God, Jess. can’t lie about any adapt. I mean, yeah, but I mean, it’s weird, because it’s one thing you look back on. It’s quite, it’s also a little bit scary as well, because things were very different then. And what you got up to, then you couldn’t get up to now,

K Anderson 46:46
what were you doing hanging from the rafters?

Jeremy Joseph 46:49
No, but I mean, like, No, you have to remember like, okay, things happen in? Yeah. Okay, I’ll give you a primary job. I’m not going to name drop some, because I think it’s not fair on them. It says story. But there’s, there’s a certain celebrity, or at the moment, American celebrity, which is, who is in this coal council culture, about there’s allegations against them. Now, whether those allegations are true or not, and I don’t know, and I don’t know this person, okay, I’ve never met them. But I know that they, they were caught in the toilets, having sex at heaven. This is before we owned it, but I know of this story. Now, that person has been now kind of crucified for having sex in toilets and clubs. And, you know, one of the managers of heaven said, Oh, my God, that happened at heaven as well. But the difference is, when that happened to heaven, those kinds of things happen, men went and had sex in toilets, you know, look at the whole situation with George Michael. And they’re like, you know, and a lot of it is not necessarily Oh, that’s going to have sex enjoy. It was somewhere where you maybe you couldn’t take somebody home, maybe you know, it was a different time. So what went on then may not be acceptable. Now, unfortunately, cancel culture is cancelled, allowing you to cancel out, but actually, you have to look at like, actually, that particular celebrity wasn’t out then. So that was their opportunity. Only opportunity, probably to have a dalliance with another man, you know. So things did happen so often, like, yes, you would have an experience in a club with somebody because often you couldn’t take somebody’s home or you couldn’t go back to their because maybe they, you know, live with their family or they live with a flatmate that didn’t know they were gay or wasn’t accepted. It was a different time. So as I said earlier, in the interview, people would go to LGBT venues, because that was the only time they could be gay. Well, that includes sexual experiences, but things were different then. So as I said, What was acceptable then isn’t necessarily acceptable now, but doesn’t, you know, so? Yes, thing did happen. I can’t, I can’t pretend they did. But you’re

K Anderson 49:04
sidestepping my question somewhat, though. Oh, okay. What should you get up to anything?

Jeremy Joseph 49:12
Yes, I but I’m, but I’m going back to that story. That guy. I said, yes, it Yeah, I did. Because, you know, you would meet guys and you would, and things would happen, you know, you know, there would be times where, like, you know, somebody will they got an office and they go, Well, I don’t have an office, but I know somewhere. And you weren’t the opportunity for that what would happen, you know, so yeah, you can’t lie and say did,

K Anderson 49:39
I’m getting as

Jeremy Joseph 49:43
well, I mean, if you want to be a bit more, I’m telling you. Well, I’ll see you’re not I asked.

K Anderson 49:51
Are there any other any any particular memories that stick out?

Jeremy Joseph 49:56
Um, no. I’m trying to think Um, no, not really. No, I’m trying to I mean, I’m sure there would be if I really thought about it, but not Not really. I mean, I would always prefer someone to come home with me. I always prefer that I mean, I’ve never really been the kind of person that wants to like, have sex and then I even though even if it’s a one night stand, I prefer to wake up with someone in the morning. Oh,

K Anderson 50:23
really? Yeah, I have to like have breakfast with them and everything.

Jeremy Joseph 50:27
Well, I don’t eat breakfast. I have any I’ve lived with an eating disorder all my life. So I’ve kind of like I don’t really kind of eat breakfast. But now I kind of like that. I mean, like, you know, I kind of live in this Disney world where I, I always hope that one night Dan would lead to more, even if it even if it’s just the one night Stan is the hope we were Jovi. If you wake up with them, you’re you get to find out whether you want to see them again or not. I kind of had to kind of judge the person I am I mean, I suppose I suppose you trying to fantasise that something not a one night down when actually is

K Anderson 51:00
like prolonging it. But what ratio of where it stands ended up being on the second two nights downs?

Jeremy Joseph 51:08
Oh, I can’t answer that question. But I can’t answer the question that most times, it was them that didn’t want to see me.

K Anderson 51:15
You know, a Yeah.

Jeremy Joseph 51:18
I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them that question. You know, I can go with those dating show. Why did you not want it to be a second date? Maybe I was crappy in bed? I don’t know. I mean, I did have a period of the show where I had a long term relationship. I also had issues with my body, we’re just still have to do with having an eating disorder, that that, that that affected things as well.

K Anderson 51:43
Yes, that’s a bit difficult, isn’t it, especially when the scene is so or I mean, it’s it’s diversifying now. But at the time was so body focused, it

Jeremy Joseph 51:52
is it was, but it was very body odour. I also did some really bad things at the time to stop me from eating. And those kinds of things also created mood swings, taking diet pills, and, and things like that, that would create mood swings, you know, and that that kind of changes who you are, as well. So, you know, so creating mood swings, probably maybe not the probably the easiest person to be around.

K Anderson 52:19
Interesting. You’re not doing those now. I hope

Jeremy Joseph 52:24
not doing it now. I mean, but I still live with eating shorter, it’s a matter of like, learning how to how to deal with the I use running now. But it’s an obsession with running a marathon training and things like that, to deal with the eating and body issues. But I have done some really bad things to me, which I’m open about because I hope it were because I don’t think enough men talk about eating disorders, but but when you do things, you don’t necessarily realise the other damage that you could be doing to yourself. When diet pills, for example, do create, you know, damage on on other things, it obviously stops you from getting proper night’s sleep, it creates mood swings, it

K Anderson 53:09
was really weird how I could lose it over something really tiny, but actually not over something major. And it is this really interesting thing how addictive exercising can become and how you can become really singularly focused on like,

Jeremy Joseph 53:29
I think, I mean, it’s slightly different for me so it’s so the problem is often people want to put labels on things and when you put labels on things it becomes hard to deal with but I wouldn’t say like I’ve had Believe me, I haven’t I don’t you know and I definitely haven’t had what’s the other one that I forgot in my mind compliant anorexia anorexia, I don’t know whether I have had a full cuz it’s when you look at the terms they’re very specific. I mean, definitely not believe me because I’ve never tried testing. I mean, I have tried to get my fingers down my throat but I’m not very good at throwing up so it doesn’t kind of work. I’ve tried more laxative, because it’s easier. But when it when you when you do things I have 80 judges sometimes I can’t have food in the house. So if I if I can’t do a week to shop, if I did a week the shop I would eat it all the more it would be gone in one go is I can’t even have it in I just can’t even have food in the house. Otherwise it will be gone. I mean, I’ve woken up with a Cornetto wrapper on my shoulder and I’ve eaten it in my sleep and it was in the fridge, the freezer. I it’s like I can’t throw food in the bin. Because I would get up in the night and take out the bin. I’ve been known to throw food out of the out of the window onto the street because it’s that way I won’t eat it. So a bit joy I only I buy food as as a tip rather than thinking but then I also worry about putting on weight so What I do is like so if friends say Jordan golf dinner, very mostly I’d go out for dinner with a friend on a Tuesday night. Because I don’t worry about what I eat on a Tuesday because my my marathon training and my longest run of the week is always on a Wednesday morning. I put Wednesday morning, john for marathon training. It’s an average of 1314 miles every Wednesday. So I psychologically in my head, I can eat what I like on a Tuesday night, because I burn it off on a Wednesday. So it’s a show I kind of use running as when I’m going to also eat as well.

K Anderson 55:35
And yeah, and it’s it’s very kind of controlled way of thinking about things, isn’t it? Like, if I do yeah, then this will be fine here. And this will be this here? Yeah. Yeah, I was doing, I was running like quite a lot for like a while, like, doing like, like half marathons three times a week, just because it was like, this is going to help me not think about things that I’m thinking about. And it’s actually sometimes

Jeremy Joseph 56:02
running, running helps me think about things. So sometimes, like, running, running, when I go for a run, sometimes if I’m on my own, it gives me ideas. So I can go for a run or suddenly go, Oh, my God, this is what we do. And then some of my ideas for club nights, I think I’ve come from running because you’re coming out with idea. Sometimes running is a good time to you can use it to think about things. But sometimes also running can be very difficult because sometimes you can go for a run, and you’re on your own. And if something negative happened, and sometimes if something bad happening in my life, and I’m going for a run as you can stop my run because I need to go I can’t with this. Oh, really? Yeah. Yeah. And then, and then the problem is they but I, if I fail a run, I go, well, hang on. I ate last night. So I didn’t. I’ve only done like two miles. I’ve only been 200 calories. Oh my god. And so then it creates another worry. Yes, yeah.

K Anderson 56:57
Yeah, there’s like, anxiety upon anxiety. Do you have conversations with people in your head whilst you’re running? with it? Difficult question.

Jeremy Joseph 57:05
I talked to myself while running. don’t necessarily think their conversations with other people. So you don’t?

K Anderson 57:13
Because I think that’s what I do a lot is like rerun conversations or like show. Yeah, like we run it, and then we write it as well.

Jeremy Joseph 57:22
Yeah. I mean, sometimes Yeah, I do think like that. And, you know, and sometimes I do you kind of talk out loud to yourself, which I do. And people look at you weirdly I remember, but then I totally do that when I’m walking the dog. And I’ll be walking dog and I’m talking out loud and someone looked you strange in and so then I pretend I’m talking to the dog. Oh, yes. Good for you. But I haven’t I used to wear headphones sometimes listen to music, which I don’t really do because I actually prefer to know my surroundings when I’m running. But I do remember once listening to Dolly Parton 95 humidity down off the street, and not realising how loud I was singing along because obviously with headphones, you don’t realise how loud you’re being? And someone said to me, by the way, next time you run down Oxford Street try singing Dolly Parton in tune or what? Oh my god.

K Anderson 58:15
Well, I mean, it couldn’t have been that far out of tune if they knew what the song was.

Jeremy Joseph 58:19
Well, I think everybody recognises the lyrics of of nine to five. If you don’t, then you’re not a friend of mine.

K Anderson 58:27
Ah, oh, no, I know the chorus. I don’t know the verse. Well, I think mainly Yeah, okay. Okay. I was just thinking oh, no, I’m gonna be blacklisted by you!

Do you have any memories of The Astoria or your own queer scene that you want to share? Well, if you have please get in touch – I want to create the biggest online record of people’s memories and stories – go to www.lostspacespodcast.com and find the section ‘Share a Lost Space’ and tell me what you got up to! Bonus points for embarrassing photos!

You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as lostspacespod

For more on Jeremy follow him on twitter – @jeremyjoseph

Lost Spaces is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there and will be releasing songs over the next year. You can hear the first single, Well Groomed Boys, which is also playing underneath my talking right now, on all streaming platforms.

If you liked this episode I’d really appreciate if you subscribe, leave a review on apple podcasts, or just tell people that you think might be interested!

I am K Anderson, and you’ve been listening to Lost Spaces

 







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