Sunday, 31 July 2011

Ramblings: Brighton Sleazy

One of my favourite cities in England is Brighton. I've visited Brighton many times since my teens and love the faded grandeur of the place. From the chipped and faded pale blue railings through to the imposing and camp pavilion, built with adultery in mind, Brighton presents an image of decadence and freedom of expression. There are loads of vegetarian restaurants, quirky little shops and funky bars. The beach is pretty if hard on the feet, the Georgian architecture is stunning and the nightlife lasts all night. I loved the derelict West Pier before it burnt down. It reminded me of the set for a zombie flick. Oh, there are loads of gays about too, of course.

I was shocked, in my teens, to see openly gay bars on the sea front with the men inside visible through glass windows for the entire world to see. My home town in the Midlands was slightly less progressive in the 1980s with the one gay bar being shuttered up and having a policy whereby you had to knock on the door for admission and they'd peer at you through a hatch. A bit like Fat Sam's Speakeasy in "Bugsy Malone but without the luscious Scott Baio. The shutters were essential defences against missiles and gangs of rowdy men. You'd often end up trapped in the bar for ten minutes whilst you waited for a gang of skinheads to stop hammering on the shutters. By stark contrast, here were men walking around holding hands and shops selling naughty pictures of naked men. Naturally, I fell in love with the place instantly.

Rob and I had another of our hapless holiday exploits in Brighton. We stayed in a gay hotel which allowed only male guests. Strange concept but it looked a bit cheeky and fun and the location was good. We arrived at the hotel and the room was absolutely plush. There was a walk in wet room and a big comfortable bed. We later learnt that the hotel had been used to shoot a well known porn video and our wet room had become, well, a bit wetter during a rampant orgy scene. No worries though, it was well bleached and squeaky clean.

There was a sauna in the basement. Not the kind of sauna that you go for a steam and a facial. It was the kind of sauna you go to get steamy and get a different kind of facial. You could get a massage but it wasn't shiatsu. The smell of chlorine permeated the hotel. The hotel bar was quite lively but Rob wasn't too impressed when within minutes I'd been chatted up by two older gentlemen. I wasn't impressed by the amateur stripping whereby the DJ would ask men in the bar to strip down to their underwear for a tenner. I wasn't impressed because he failed to ask me. I wouldn't have done it but it would have been nice to be asked.

The August weather was rare in that it was sunny and bright and we sauntered from bar to cafe to beach. I spotted a strange Tin Tin like chap at the next table in a cafe and wrote "Jimmy Somervile on the next table" on a napkin which I passed to Rob. He squinted and said loudly "Jimmy who? I can't read the surname." Jimmy glared at me. Has-been pop stars can be such divas.

We walked to the marina and ventured past the nudist beach where the leather skinned middle aged and elderly bathers stood on hillocks of stones in catalogue poses, their orange hue illuminating the vista. We ate and walked back along the cliffs, accidentally walking through the gay cruising area which was surprisingly lively for mid afternoon. I was very impressed that the two gentlemen engaged in mutual masturbation were polite enough to have covered over their laps with a copy of The Guardian and even took the trouble to give a polite "Hello!" as we passed by. We scuttled away tittering.

Breakfast in the hotel amused us and we struggled to keep our composure when a gaggle of pretty Thai boys descended into the room followed by their elderly boyfriends. It's amazing what you can buy online. I wouldn't recommend staying in a gay hotel. It's exhausting having to exfoliate and shower and be in freshly ironed clothing before going down for a full English.

On the final night we went out drinking, saw a drag act and returned late to our room. As we walked round the corridor I spotted a series of Post-it notes along the wall with little arrows on them. I looked at Rob and he was the right side of drunk to persuade into impish behaviour. We followed the arrows. They led up a flight of stairs and along a corridor to another hotel room. The door was slightly ajar so we peered inside. Lying face down, naked, oiled and ready was a very fat man. There was a Post-it on his buttocks but we didn't stop to read it. I laughed a lot, Rob shuddered a lot as we scurried back to the safety of our room.

The next time we went we stayed in a standard hotel on the beach front. It was much less interesting. I read a lot more.


Selina Craze said...

lovely account of Brighton. I often go as my daughter and grandson live there. Beautiful city. I love the Laines, and the Pavilion, and street theatre. Hated the Sea World, however, and had to be led out in full claustrophobic attack by said grandson!

Melanie Rees said...

Your writing is tremendous Chris - I'm really enjoying it. I come back a couple of times a week and I'm always amazed by how prolific you are.

C said...

Thanks you two. Sea World is evil and scary. It's in the old Dolphinarium site, I think.