Rocky Horror Show

Advertising Sectioned: Wine, Dine and Dance at The Parkside Club, c.1964

5 April 17 words: Wayne Burrows

Nottingham adverts ripped from the pages of history...

I think we can all agree that this mid-sixties advert for the Parkside Club, which ran at number 11 Station Street well into the seventies, is something to behold. In an age when the city's post-pub closing time entertainment options would have been somewhat limited, it's not surprising that this extraordinary combination of High Victorian brothel and Mayfair Gentleman's Club decor, offering food, booze, gambling and big name acts until 2am, became the success it did.

Stories about the club's heyday are many, though tales of the Krays drinking here, when East End gangsters tried to muscle in on the city's action, vary from teller to teller, and sometimes feature their notorious rivals, the Richardsons, instead. Whatever the truth of those stories might be, most feature stopovers at the Parkside Club, and our fair city does figure in that saga regardless. It was Nottingham-born detective Leonard “Nipper” Read who finally brought the Krays to book – and got played by Christopher Eccleston doing just that in the 2011 film, Legend.

Criminal shenanigans might add a frisson of the Roadhouse and Pink Room of Twin Peaks fame to the interior, somewhere Julee Cruise might rock up to sing Falling once in awhile, but the reality of its entertainment roster was equally impressive. Among the acts who caught the train up from London to perform among the red curtains and banquette seating back in the day were legendary Irish stand-up comic Dave Allen and the world's greatest crap magician, Tommy Cooper.

The Parkside's finest hour came in 1967, when Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor enjoyed its hospitality after the regional premiere of their film adaptation of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus at the (by then reputedly slightly seedy) Moulin Rouge cinema on Milton Street. Directed by and starring Burton in the title role, with Taylor as Helen of Troy in a variety of Cleopatra cast-offs and silver wigs, the production also had a script by world-renowned Chaucer scholar, Nevill Coghill.

On paper, Doctor Faustus ought to have been respectable enough, but things don't seem to have worked out that way. If the trailer is anything to go by, it's both much worse, and a lot more fun, than those credentials suggest. Burton chews his way through the sort of hammy horror scenery more often stalked by Vincent Price and budgets stretch to hosts of extras representing the seven deadly sins, with an inevitable emphasis on lust. Perhaps what it really needed was a part for Oliver Reed and Ken Russell in the director's chair. Imagine what a night that could have made.

You might like this too...

Shots in the Dark

You may also be interested in