I am chuffed to say I personally know Bernie Katz. He has just written an awesome book called Soho Society, which has a lovely foreword from Stephen Fry.
Soho is an altogether fascinating place for me, I wandered around it when I arrived in London 16 years ago, I loved every coffee bar, club and rat trap that I spotted.
I imagined that the women who had ‘model’ above their windows were actually ‘models’ and not faded foreign hookers.
The hub of Soho for me is the Groucho Club. Bernie Katz is the Joel Grey Cabaret type Emcee of the club- he is the small whirlwind of a man in the centre of all the action. Bernie is about as tall as me which reaches five foot nothing to be honest, yet his presence is enormous and wondrous.
He is one of those wee enigmatic blokes who have been present in every century. Dickens has described him in detail, possibly picturing the Victorian Bernie as ‘The shifty Gay Jew’ as we know how Dickens loved his stereotypes and never missed a chance to display his anti Semitism.
Pepys no doubt recorded a night out with a 1665 version of Bernie Katz which would have left him either sterile or bisexual, but either way a heap more fashionable for knowing the firecracker that is Bernie Katz!
Bernie’s book ‘Soho Society’ is both touching and laugh out loud funny.
There were characters and places in the book that I recognised and will now cast a softer more sympathetic eye on super fast agents like Harrison Avenue (the character name in the book) I never knew his anus suffered so much pleasure/action/pain and or that he had a cocaine shrivelled cock, which explains so much about Harrison’s extremely odd behaviour the last time we met. His insulting madness made me almost choke him, but I did get a magnum of expensive champagne for not killing him in the upstairs bar, Bernie was right, Harrison needs to be pitied not scorned.
My favourite story about Bernie is a personal one. I was in Glasgow shopping and Bernie called me.
“Janey, its Bernie here from Groucho club, how are you darling? I need you to give me a number you may have….where are you?” Bernie’s voice became serious.
“I am in Primark Glasgow” I said.
Bernie simply hung up on me. The buzz down the line was ominous.
I could just imagine his wee face all screwed up in disgust that I was standing in Primark, Bernie does fashion, he does couture he doesn’t do Primark. I laughed and carried on with my day, I forgot about Bernie’s strange phone call.
Then I stepped into the Fraser’s Department store in Glasgow and wandered up to their Gucci display. I could smell the expensive leather jacket, I reached out and touched how soft it was –like a slippery moist babies cheek when my mobile rang out.
“Janey, its Bernie, where are you now?” he snapped at me.
“I am standing at Gucci and looking at a leather jacket” I replied.
“Good, now we can speak, I really can’t bear to have my voice be exposed in Primark, I knew you were near exclusive things, I feel comfortable speaking now” he said.
I laughed my head off as Bernie simply chatted. Only Bernie could know I was in close proximity to couture!
If you get the chance to get your hands on Soho Society do grab it, sit down and greedily read each vignette and devour the stories. You will be amazed at the content and stunned by the art it contains. A real significant slice of Soho culture._