Bohemian artist Walter Sickert spent the turn of the twentieth century hanging out in Camden’s answer to the Moulin Rouge, infamous music hall the New Bedford (pictured in his 1915 painting, above). Here, rowdy working-class punters mingled with the literati to drink and ogle showgirls and relish acts like innuendo queen Marie Lloyd, who could make the most innocent phrase sound utterly filthy. The Bedford’s most talked about showgirl was Cora Crippen, stage name Belle Elmore. She was at the centre of a tabloid-fuelled mystery when she disappeared in 1910 and her husband, Dr Crippen, tried to skip the country with his mistress disguised as his son. After the dismembered remains of a woman were found in the doc’s nearby flat, he was hanged – though DNA analysis has since cast doubt on his guilt. Sickert’s fascination with the murder of a Camden prostitute saw him accused of being Jack the Ripper, most famously by American writer Patricia Cornwell, who ripped up one of his paintings in her search for clues. Charlie Chaplin and Gracie Fields are both said to have walked the boards at the Bedford. Before it was torn down in 1969, the young Peter Sellers lived in a flat above the theatre on Camden High Street, with his revue-performer mother.
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