Valentine's Ball 2014 Best was the life drawing and the reptile/arachnid/amphibian room. People got involved, experienced new challenges - scorpion love and putting charcoal to paper...Hot tubs looked fun and for once you could move around the Coronet! Half-hearted cabaret/burlesque performances and rather dull music made for a less than perfect evening. I went to the LTS 2012 Halloween Ball - crowd were amazing, naked oyster bearers slick with blood tantalized; candyfloss and a chocolate fountain filled the sugar void, and the insane asylum was inspired as was the Russian room. Somehow the subsequent parties haven't quite matched this one...recession? Or the prevailing winds of melancholy in February - not only in the onion cellar?
The Last Tuesday Society: clubbing with mother
Clubbing can bridge the generation gap, especially when crayfish and dungeons are involved. Just ask our Time Out writer and his mum
The Last Tuesday Society's masked balls refuse admittance to the 'ugly or ill-dressed'. They employ naked waiters. Alongside a vintage music policy, there's an undercurrent of the fetishistic. But once you've bought a ticket, they also offer half-price entry for a parent. I tested their family-friendliness by taking my mum to one of their events. Here are our verdicts…
When you agree to take your mum to a club that advertises its 'whipping dungeon', the first thought that enters your head is: 'Oh God, what if she hates it?' The second thought is: 'Christ, but what if she really likes it?' It's closely followed by the third: 'OH GOD! OH GOD! ERASE CONTENTS OF BRAIN!'
But in a way, it makes sense. Since my parents divorced six years ago, my mum's occasionally hinted that she'd like to go dancing. However, Momma Duggins subsists on a musical diet of Euro-pop, 'X Factor' singles and drive-time commercial radio. A crowd of day-glo drug casualties frugging to punishing sub-bass is therefore unlikely to be her milieu. The Last Tuesday Society's vintagey jazz/
classical/gypsy music policy, however, might just fit the bill. It's just a shame that it's also the kind of event where the dress code stipulates that 'all naked people must be painted'.
As we step into the venue, I realise that I'm more concerned about my mum having a good time than I am about enjoying myself. I needn't have worried: Momma D's surveying the assembled revellers with a wry smile.
I persuade her to take a crayfish from a waiter, and I ask him to show us how to eat it. Unfortunately, it's only as he puts his tray down that I realise he's naked. As his hands hover at waist-height, twisting limbs from the crustacean, we are eye to eye. But the eye that's staring at me is not in his head. I quickly usher my mum into the next room.
There, a mariachi band is playing. My mum gives a little coo of delight, and settles into a sofa with a beatific smile. Next to her, two braying Henriettas preen and pout for photos. They're part of an unusually large contingent of wannabe aristos (sample conversation at the bar: 'Bad news darling - no Champagne, only Prosecco.' 'Oh, God. Really?'), and as they start screeching and jumping on the sofa, my blood boils. But as I look questioningly at my mum, she's lost in a world of contentment, head swaying in time to the music. I instantly lose the ability to be grumpy. Right now, I realise, if my mum's happy then nothing can faze me. She leans over to me. 'Is it me,' she asks, 'or did that waiter have no pubic hair?' ARGH!
The mariachi band finishes and my mum applauds rapturously. We head to the bar and end up mingling (with brief pauses during which I cover her eyes). There's a man whose plastic bag mask is apparently based on Irish comedy duo Rubberbandits ('But my outfit's upper class: this carrier bag's from Waitrose'), a naked dude who has painted the end of his penis red ('Well, it's a good cheap costume') and some frock-clad 'rugger buggers' ('Oh, it's traditional dress at our Christmas parties'). I'm getting quite drunk by now, and as I start trying to lock my mum in one of the cages, I realise it's probably time to leave.
As we pass the other punters on the way to the exit, I decide that this is not my usual idea of a good time. Frankly, it's a tad pretentious for my liking. And the music could have done with being less twee, more danceable. But due entirely to being there with my mum, I had a lovely night. Seeing her enjoy herself rendered everything else as background detail so, oddly, it doesn't actually matter if the night you go to has a whipping dungeon. As we climb into the taxi, my mum confirms this assessment. 'Well, that was a funny night, wasn't it? Imagine being that waiter…' Phew, not weird at all. 'Still he did have a lovely physique, didn't he?' Okay, maybe a tad weird.
If you ask me, it's a bit strange to ask your parent to go to a nightclub with you. It's not something people usually do, is it? It just isn't. So when Alexi first asked me, I thought: That's a bit odd. Then I thought: Well, maybe he couldn't drag anyone else along. Finally, I thought: Oh God, he's just going to take the mickey, isn't he? Well, I know what he's like, you see.
Then he told me about the 'whipping dungeon'. I started to think: Oh my God, what have I done? Will I live to regret this? The more I found out about it, the more I worried. It just sounded bizarre, with the whipping, the masochistic stuff… I've never really done much clubbing and certainly not since I was a student. I did go to a fancy-dress Halloween party when I was at polytechnic, but, erm, this didn't sound anything like that.
As we step in the nightclub, I'm prepared for anything. It's quite exciting! First a photographer takes our photo; then at the foot of the stairs there's a chocolate fountain. But it goes downhill moments later when a naked waiter starts trying to make me peel a crayfish. There I am, happily dipping some marshmallows into chocolate, then all of a sudden this naked man's trying to show me his crayfish. I just don't know where to look.
Then we go into the main room. The mariachi band reminds me of when I was young and we'd hear 'La Bamba' when we'd go out. I sit on the sofa to listen, and then half way through, I notice a huge metal cage. When the band finish, I start thinking: How will they incorporate that into the evening? Do they want people to get locked in there? Are they hoping that some guests want to be whipped? While I'm pondering, a girl ties herself up and starts posing for photos. I watch her, trying to decide whether she's doing it for a laugh or whether she's genuinely into that kind of thing. Either way, it's a bit unusual. But I'm a relationship councillor, so I try not to judge.
In another room, a DJ is playing a waltz. Alexi suggests we dance, but I've never been taught to do the waltz. 'You watch a lot of “Strictly…”, surely this is your sort of thing?' asks Alexi. But it's one thing watching and another thing doing it, we discover as we spend a couple of songs shuffling around aimlessly. Halfway through, Alexi asks me if I think I'm better or worse than Ann Widdecombe. 'Please don't compare me with Widdecombe,' I say.
'I hope I'm more agile than her!' Ann Widdecombe? Come on! Back in the main room, there's a man whose mask is a plastic bag with eye-holes. He really spooks me out. I find the rest of the costumes funny. There are a lot of outrageous types using it as an opportunity to, shall we say, 'express' themselves. There's even a naked man who isn't a waiter. Alexi starts talking to him, and
I just try not to look down.
I nearly ask if he's not embarrassed. As I point out to Alexi, it's different for the waiter: he's quite well endowed. At this point, Alexi starts trying to cover my eyes for some reason. I just laugh. I'm trying to avert my eyes anyway.
When it gets to 1am, we decide to go. The night goes on until 3am, but it's already late for me and my feet are hurting. As we hail a taxi, I think back over the night. I really enjoyed it. It was a strange night, but being with my son made me feel really comfortable. I just knew that if there was anything I wasn't okay with, it would've been fine. The outrageous stuff I found amusing but then I always try to see the funny side of life. Mostly, I felt touched to have been invited. I know a lot of sons wouldn't ever ask their mum to go with them - in fact, we didn't see a single other parent-child couple. Overall, if anything, the night made me realise even more the strength of our relationship.
The Last Tuesday Society's New Year's Eve Eve Masked Ball is on Fri Dec 30 and New Year's Eve Animal Party is on Sat Dec 31 (both sold out); tickets are now on sale for The Valentine's Masked Ball at Adam Street Members Club on Feb 18 2012, www.thelast tuesdaysociety.org. Alexi and his mother's costumes were provided by Prangsta Costumiers. (www.prangsta.co.uk).