From Absolute Beginners to Leo The Last, It Happened Here in
A psychogeographical journey through the streets of Hollywood W11.
Editor Jane Carroll Portobello Pirate TV London Psychogeography Vague
> Intro clips: Bedknobs/10 Rillington Place/Absolute Beginners/Performance/Italian
Job/Sid And Nancy/Notting Hill: plus backing track: All Saints ‘I
Know Where It’s At’/‘Black Coffee’
Bedknobs & Broomsticks (Robert Stevenson 1971) The follow up to ‘Mary
Poppins’, ‘Bedknobs & Broomsticks’ features a 1940
Disneyland Portobello set, which Angela Lansbury and her evacuee kid charges
search for a magic book. This inevitably involves a proto-Carnival song
and dance routine – featuring Cockney, Scottish, East and West Indian
turns – and Bruce Forsyth appears as a switchblade-wielding spiv.
> From “There’s only one place to get it” –
‘Portobello Road, Portobello Road, street where the riches of ages
are stowed, anything and everything a chap can unload is sold off the
barrow in Portobello Road, you’ll find what you want in the Porto
Chicago Joe & The Showgirl (Bernard Rose 1989) Keifer Sutherland and
Emily Lloyd as ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ in the Blitz, also featuring
the Portobello black market.
The Secret People (Thorold Dickenson 1951) Downbeat political drama set
in Notting Hill in the 30s, starring Audrey Hepburn as a refugee involved
in a plot to bomb the dictator who assassinated her father.
It Happened Here (Kevin Brownlow/Andrew Mollo 1963) Occupied London documentary-style
film which contains a scene where Nazi officers are attacked by resistance
fighters in the beergarden of the Prince of Wales, on Pottery Lane. When
in reality, at the time of filming in the late 50s and early 60s, neo-nazis
were getting the pints in for the locals of the Notting Dale pubs. (Prince
The Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang 1944) Adaptation of Graham Greene’s
5th Columnist thriller. The key séance scene takes place at ‘Mrs
Bellairs’ house’, which Greene described as ‘old and
unrenovated standing among the To Let boards on the slopes of Campden
The Blue Lamp (Basil Dearden 1949) Some years before James Dean, Dirk
Bogarde played a west London rebel without a cause, but with a quiff.
After murdering ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ on Harrow Road, Dirk’s
delinquent-spiv character 'Tom Riley' is chased through Notting Hill –
along Ladbroke Grove and Lancaster Road – to the White City dog
track. (Ladbroke Grove-White City)
The Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton 1951) The other great post-war
car chase concludes with all the police radio-cars converging in a pile-up
at the junction of Bramley and Freston (then Latimer) Roads, in front
of the Bramley Arms (now part of the Chrysalis Building) – and Sid
James appears as an archetypal spiv. (Freston Road)
10 Rillington Place (Richard Fleischer 1971) Adaptation of Ludovic Kennedy’s
book of the case of Notting Hill’s most notorious address; where
between 1943 and ’53 John Christie murdered 7 women and concealed
their bodies on the premises. The local crime of the century was solved
when West Indian tenants encouraged Christie to move out; and discovered
his bodies stash cupboard, in the process of installing a radiogram. Prior
to this, the first floor tenant Timothy Evans was executed for the murder
of his wife and baby: The Ludovic Kennedy address book contributed to
Evans receiving a posthumous pardon and the abolition of the death penalty.
Fleischer’s follow-up to ‘The Boston Strangler’, starring
Richard Attenborough and John Hurt as Christie and Evans, features the
street and the interior of the house nextdoor. The local pubs frequented
by the pair were the KPH and the Elgin on Ladbroke Grove, both of which
still retain some of their old London charm; and Christie reputedly worked
as a projectionist at the Electric on Portobello. Rillington Place was
demolished in the 70s and is now the Bartle Road driveway. (Bartle Road)
Absolute Beginners (Julien Temple 1986) ‘The kids live in the streets
– I mean they have charge of them, you have to ask permission to
get along them even in a car – the teenage lot are mostly of the
Ted variety...’ Colin MacInnes introduces Notting Hill as ‘Little
Napoli’; the pop dystopia of the ‘Absolute Beginner’,
his proto-mod photographer hero, our tour guide on the ‘scenic railway
ride’ through the 1958 white riot.
The first British manifestation of the teenager, the Teddy boy, evolved
from the spiv as a mutant hybrid of upper class Edwardian and Wild West
styles. This usually consisted of a quiff and greased back DA (duck’s
arse) hairstyle, drape coat, bootlace tie, drainpipe trousers and brothel-creeper
or winkle-picker shoes. Having originated in Elephant & Castle, the
Teds first hit the headlines in the mid 50s when Bill Haley and the Comets’
‘Rock Around the Clock’ (the theme to ‘The Blackboard
Jungle’) caused a rock’n’roll moral panic. As they progressed
from slashing cinema seats to harassing Cypriot and West Indian immigrants,
the Ted look caught on in Notting Hill, particularly on Southam Street
in Kensal. Meanwhile, Notting Dale was rocking anyway, regardless of pop
The ‘Absolute Beginners’ director Julien Temple eulogised
the Teds as “like something out of the Wild West, they were villains,
but they were epic in that context… Byronic in their scope, most
of all they frightened the establishment. They were much bigger and more
dissenting than rock’n’roll. They are a part of the despair
of Britain after the hopes of the end of the war.” But the MacInnes
character ‘Ed the Ted’ is mostly just gormless, as portrayed
by Tenpole Tudor; ‘The Wizard’ pimp-fascist (Graham Fletcher
Cook) represents ‘the dark side of the teenage dream’.
The Absolute Beginner first hears news of race rioting in Nottingham (the
week before Notting Hill kicked off) as he’s leaving a ‘Maria
Bethlehem’ (Ella Fitzgerald) concert. On a multicultural jazz high,
he dismisses it with cosmopolitan disdain, ‘but what could you expect
in a provincial dump out there among the sticks.’ The first teenager’s
friends include ‘Mr Cool’, a black jazz trumpeter, the gay
‘Fabulous Hoplite’, the lesbian madame ‘Big Jill’,
and rival trad and mod jazz enthusiasts who join forces against the Teds
and fascists. Yet, as the black and white ‘young and restless were
creating a new world of cool music, coffee bars and freer love’
in Soho, over in White City the London version was beginning. In the first
incident a gang of youths drove around Shepherd’s Bush and Notting
Hill attacking any black people they came across: After that racial tension
increased, unchecked by the authorities, and encouraged by the fascists.
In the film footnote to the book, Gary Beadle portrays Michael de Freitas
– on his way to becoming Michael X – as he organised the black
resistance at the Calypso Club on Westbourne Park Road. This involved
turning Totobag’s Café on Blenheim Crescent into ‘The
Fortress’, from which white rioters were repelled with Molotov cocktails.
The 1958 battle of Blenheim Crescent was re-enacted in 1985, dramatised
as MacInnes intended it to be, as a ‘West Side Story’ dance
sequence – Jet/Capulet hustlers versus Shark/Montagu fascists –
on a set at Shepperton Studios, combining the Blenheim Crescent and Bramley
Road riot zones. Totobag’s has in recent years been overshadowed
by its Hollywood W11 neighbour, the Travel Bookshop, also recreated –
on Portobello opposite the Star – in the 1998 ‘Notting Hill’
film. (Bramley Road arches/Blenheim Crescent)
Sapphire (Basil Dearden 1959) The follow up to ‘The Blue Lamp’
examines racial prejudice during the course of an investigation into the
murder of a light-skinned West Indian girl. The black suspect ‘Johnny
Fiddle’ escapes the law from the ‘Tulips Club’ in Shepherd’s
Bush, where everyone’s called Johnny something, only to run into
Notting Dale. There he’s beaten up by Teds under the Latimer Road
arches, and saved by a grocer woman locking him in her shop until police
arrive (re-enacting a real riot incident also incorporated into ‘Absolute
Beginners’). In the end ‘Johnny Rotten’ turns out to
be the mad racist sister of the victim (Sapphire)’s white boyfriend.
Look Back In Anger (Tony Richardson 1959) The year of the Kensal Green
funeral of Kelso Cochrane, a West Indian stabbed to death by fascists
on Southam Street, ‘Look Back In Anger’, Tony Richardson’s
adaptation of John Osborne’s play, came out featuring the cemetery
and Richard Burton as the market trader ‘Johnny Porter’.
Peeping Tom (Michael Powell 1959) A film focus puller becomes another
local murderer in Holland Park.
Scandal (Michael Caton-Jones 1989) From the ’58 riot the history
of Notting Hill moved seamlessly into the Profumo affair of ’63,
with its accompanying Rachman revelations – starring his girlfriends
Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies – and the subsequent fall
of Tory government. The 60s started swinging when Christine Keeler met
Lucky Gordon at Frank Crichlow’s legendary El Rio cafe, at 127 Westbourne
Park Road. The Profumo scandal was subsequently launched by another of
her West Indian boyfriends, Johnny Edgecombe, firing shots at her Marylebone
flat door. On the 25th anniversary of the affair these incidents were
re-enacted in the film ‘Scandal’, the latter by Roland Gift
(the singer of the Fine Young Cannibals), and put into song by Dusty Springfield
and the Pet Shop Boys.
The L-Shaped Room (Bryan Forbes 1962) The seedy scene in the Rachman slums
was captured, at the time, in the film of Lynne Reid-Banks’ kitchen-sink
melodrama starring Leslie Caron as a pregnant French girl, sharing 4 St
Luke’s Road with a jazz musician, lesbian actress, prostitutes and
an unpublished writer.
West Eleven (Michael Winner 1963) The year of the Profumo affair, ‘The
Furnished Room’ play by Laura del Rivo (who’s still a Portobello
market trader) was adapted by the local director Michael Winner as the
film ‘West Eleven’; his ‘Death Wish’ prototype,
with a Colville backdrop including the Duke of Wellington Finch’s
pub on Portobello.
Funeral In Berlin (Guy Hamilton 1967) In Len Deighton’s 1964 spy
novel ‘The Berlin Memorandum’ ‘Harry Palmer’ was
on Portobello in Henekey’s, now the Earl of Lonsdale, but unfortunately
not in the film version ‘Funeral in Berlin’, starring Michael
Caine. At the end of the decade Caine was in Denbigh Mews in ‘The
Italian Job’, and as ‘Alfie’ in ’66 his somewhat
less arty abode was in the former Rachman slum St Stephen’s Gardens.
A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester 1964) As the Beatles inaugurated
Swinging London in 1964, All Saints Road was founded as a pop site (some
years before the reggae scene appeared) by Ringo Starr running from screaming
girls, round the north-east corner of Lancaster Road into a secondhand
shop. Ringo’s ‘parading’ sequence eventually concludes
in Notting Dale, with all the moptops running in and out of the police
station (the old St John’s church hall) on Clarendon Road, and along
Heathfield Street. In ‘Backbeat’ the Hamburg club scenes were
filmed here. (All Saints Road/Clarendon Road)
The Knack (and how to get it) (Richard Lester 1965) As well as ‘Absolute
Beginners’, Roger Mayne’s Southam Street photographs provided
the backdrop for a play by his wife Ann Jellicoe, in which it appears
as ‘Northam Street’. This in turn became Richard Lester’s
1965 film ‘The Knack (and how to get it)’; in which a scene
cut from ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, where the Beatles ran
through the old Portland Arms, from Portland Road to Penzance Place, was
re-enacted. Michael Crawford stars as a teacher-landlord, who lets rooms
in his house on Pottery Lane to the half-Ted/half-mod Casanova Ray Brooks,
and wacky Irishman on the verge of a mime artist Donal Donnelly. Then
Rita Tushingham appears from up north, and a silly bedstead chase sequence
ensues. (Pottery Lane)
Quadrophenia (Franc Roddam 1979) The late 70s mod revival film of the
Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ album features a Freston Road scene;
where the mod’s scooter breaks down and the rockers beat him up,
on ‘The Lavender Hill Mob’ crash site. (Freston)
Blow Up (Michaelangelo Antonioni 1966) After mod began with ‘Absolute
Beginners’ on Southam Street in ’58, it ended with ‘Blow
Up’ on Princedale Road in ’66. Like ‘Absolute Beginners’,
‘10 Rillington Place’ and ‘Peeping Tom’, Antonioni’s
definitive ‘Swinging London’ film is about a photographer
in psychogeographical difficulty in Notting Hill. David Hemmings, as David
Bailey/Terence Donovan, used Johnny Cowan’s studio on Prince’s
Place to photograph Vanessa Redgrave and co, and drove out of Notting
Dale in a generally swinging 60s manner. (Princedale)
Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (Karel Reisz 1966) The 60s carry
on swinging with David Warner as another resident of Nutting Hill, embroiled
in a marital farce with Vanessa Redgrave again. The scene at Karl Marx’s
tomb in Highgate cemetery was shot at Kensal Green with a plastercast
The Spy who came in from the Cold (Martin Ritt 1966) Starts on Westbourne
The File of the Golden Goose (Sam Wanamaker 1969) Yul Brynner appears
in the antiques market.
Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton 1964) In the local 007 link Ian Fleming named
the Bond film – and the accompanying Shirley Bassey song –after
his Hampstead neighbour Erno Goldfinger, the Hungarian architect of Trellick
Bedazzled (Stanley Donen 1967) Back on Southam Street, Pete Cook and Dudley
Moore appear, shortly before Trellick Tower, in the 1967 film ‘Bedazzled’
(recently re-made with Liz Hurley in the Pete Cook devil role). > Dud:
“Where are we? Is this hell?” Pete: “Just my London
Performance (Donald Cammell/Nic Roeg 1970) Shortly after the Powis Square
gardens were liberated from private landlord control – after a series
of demos – the location was chosen as the setting of ‘Turner’s
house’ in ‘Performance’. The Notting Hill film, defining
both Heaven W11 and Notting Hell, was made – in 1968, not ’98
– by Donald Cammell and Nic Roeg, starring the most notorious local
film address – apart from 10 Rillington Place – ‘81
Powis Square’ (really 25). Leading the supporting cast, Mick Jagger
sold his soul to satin as the jaded rock star ‘Turner’; basically
playing himself, or a Stones amalgam of himself, Keith and Brian, with
traces of Michael X and Syd Barrett.
His gangster alter-ego ‘Chas’, played by James Fox (after
Marlon Brando turned down the role), has to do a runner from his Ronnie
Kray-stroke-Rachmanesque boss, ‘Harry Flowers’ (played by
the boxer Johnny Shannon), after killing his former friend ‘Joey
Maddocks’ (Anthony Valentine). At which point Cammell and Roeg insert
a cut-up scene of bombsite boys fighting on a doorstep from ‘The
Blue Lamp’. In a station canteen (filmed at Kensington Olympia),
Chas overhears ‘Noel’ telling his mother about his housing
> “I told him, I said Turner, you are my landlord to which I
owe £41 back rent, which I will send to you from Liverpool pretty
soon. He said Yeah? So I said listen, listen baby, all my things, all
my gear, all my sounds, my big horn, everything, my whole life stays right
here at 81 Powis Square, in this little basement room.” Then Noel’s
mother introduces Jagger’s character; “That Turner, drug addict…
He’s peculiar. He’s a hermit. He can’t face reality…”
In the next scene Chas arrives on the west corner of Colville Terrace,
to Ry Cooder’s ‘Powis Square’ Wild West 11 cajun-blues
theme (which went on to ‘Paris Texas’). Chas introduces himself
to ‘Therber’ (Anita Pallenberg) as an old friend of Noel’s,
“in the entertainment business”, and prophetically takes the
place of the Hendrix lookalike, in a Notting Hill house with a Germanic
girl. After Chas enters ‘Turner’s house’ it’s
no longer 25 Powis Square but 15 Lowndes Square, in Knightsbridge, the
house of the rogue Tory MP Leonard Plugge.
> “What a freakshow.” Tony: “Well, where are you
then?” Chas: “Oh, you know, out on the left, it’s a
right pisshole, long hair, beatniks, druggers, free love, foreigners.
But I’m not bothered, Tone, I’m well in and you couldn’t
find a better little hidey-hole.”
> Turner: “Look, there’s been a mistake, you can’t
have the room… Why don’t you go to a hotel?” Chas: “A
hotel, you must be joking. Look, I need a… I need a bohemian atmosphere,
Mr Turner. I’m an artist, Mr Turner, like yourself.”…
Turner: “You can’t stay here, old man, I’m not in the
mood.” Chas, beginning to perform: “Why don’t you play
us a tune pal?” Turner: “I don’t like music.”
Chas: “Comical little geezer, you’ll look funny when you’re
50.” (Powis Square)
Otley (Ian La Frenais/Dick Clement 1968) Tom Courtenay as the market trader
Otley, another local drifter caught up in a spy caper, walks down Portobello
in the opening continuous long shot. After calling in at Henekey’s
(the Earl of Lonsdale) he goes on to join a Black Power march, and is
held at gunpoint by Leonard Rossiter in Notting Hill Gate station. (Portobello)
The Italian Job (Peter Collinson 1969) Michael Caine, as ‘Charlie
Croker’, holds court in his girlfriend Laura’s pad in the
Denbigh Close (Mews), whilst planning the job. (Denbigh Close)
Leo The Last (John Boorman 1969) Marcel Mastroianni (from ‘La Dolce
Vita’) stars as Leo, an alienated aristocrat who brings about a
‘firework revolution’, in which his façade house across
Testerton Street (on the site of the Lancaster West Estate) is destroyed.
The black hero ‘Roscoe’, Calvin Lockhart, wears a Clash style
leather jacket; and Brinsley Forde of Aswad is the lead black kid, ‘Bip’.
Withnail And I (Bruce Robinson 1987) Richard E Grant and Paul McGann,
as ‘Withnail And I’, appear on Freston Road, after being chased
out of the old Tavistock Hotel pub on Tavistock Crescent, towards the
footbridge under the Westway and Trellick Tower. The pub is named the
Mother Black Cap in the film, and now in reality; after spells as the
first Frog & Firkin and a Babushka bar. (Tavistock Crescent)
Secret Ceremony (Joseph Losey 1969) Liz Taylor stars as mad prostitute
mothering Mia Farrow in Holland Park.
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (Alan Gibson 1973) In the States ‘Dracula
Is Alive And Well And Living In London’) features a property speculator
vampire and actual hells angel Satanic bikers kidnapping a girl on Bard
Road, off Freston Road. (Freston)
Steptoe & Son/Ride Again (Cliff Owen 1972/3) Based on the local rag
and bone men, the Arnolds, who frequented the old Freston Road scrapyard
(on the site of the Chrysalis ‘Frestonia’ building) which
also appeared in ‘The Sweeney’ and ‘Minder’.
The Tamarind Seed (Blake Edwards 1974) Another spy caper starring Julie
Andrews and Omar Sharif, featuring the recently departed Barnett’s
toyshop, on the corner of Kensington Park Road and Elgin Crescent.
The Passenger (Michaelangelo Antonioni 1975) Jack Nicholson’s flat
is on Lansdowne Crescent, where Jimi Hendrix died in 1970.
The Final Conflict (Graham Baker 1979) Lansdowne Rise stars in the ‘Omen’
3 film, as the location of the runaway pram scene.
Pressure (Horace Ove/Sam Selvon 1975) After Horace Ove acted in ‘Cleopatra’
he joined forces with Sam Selvon, ‘The Lonely Londoners’ author,
to make the mid 70s Notting Hill film ‘Pressure’. Focusing
on the second generation black British identity crisis. The reggae soundtrack
captured the 70s change in consciousness from US-style Black Power to
Afro-Caribbean roots militancy; Ram John Holder appeared again as ‘Brother
John’, and Norman Beaton as ‘Preacher’. Ram John also
has a ‘Notting Hill Landlord’ track, and recently appeared
under the Westway in ‘Maisey Raine’.
The Squeeze (Michael Apted 1977) In the punk period Notting Hill film
(nothing to do with the Jools Holland group), Stacey Keech and Freddie
Starr search the area for a kidnapped girl: This turns into an extended
pub crawl featuring the militant reggae Apollo on All Saints Road, the
Bevington Arms (now the Carnival Films production office), the Bramley
Arms on Freston Road (also in ‘The Lavender Hill Mob’, ‘Sid
and Nancy’, etc, and now part of the Chrysalis Building) –
outside of which the shoot-out finalé takes place – and the
early stages of the ’76 Carnival.
Don Letts’ Punk Rock Movie/DOA (Don Letts 1978/Lech Kowalski 1981)
The Westway, Trellick Tower and their environs star as the punk wastelandscape.
The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle (Julien Temple 1980) ‘Performance’
homage Sex Pistols docu-drama which founded Virgin Films on Kensal Road
from the old Virgin HQ in Vernon Yard on Portobello. Back in ’68
Tom Courtenay, as the Portobello market trader ‘Otley’, shouts
“It’s a swindle”, and “God save the Queen.”
Sid And Nancy (Alex Cox 1986) Gary Oldman as Sid headbutts what is now
the Heart FM building on Freston Road, while ‘The Old Mahon’
pub scenes in the Bramley Arms recreated the punk Earl of Lonsdale on
Portobello (then Henekey’s).
Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam 1981) After Latimer Road was cut in half by
the Westway roundabout, the southern end became a squatted enclave known
as the Free and Independent Republic of Frestonia. As the squatters appealed
to the UN for assistance, ‘Passport to Pimlico’ and film of
the Sex Pistols was shown at the People’s Hall, and the ‘Time
Bandits’ star David Rappaport was the minister for foreign affairs.
Rude Boy (Jack Hazan/David Mingay 1980)/Babylon (Franco Rosso 1980) As
the cutting edge of London psychogeography shifted to Brixton, the Clash
and Aswad went south of the river in their films: Aswad’s Brinsley
Forde stars as the Ital Lion DJ ‘Blue’, in a sound-system
clash with Jah Shaka and Thatcher’s Britain, to a soundtrack of
Aswad’s militant classic ‘Warrior Charge’. At the time,
Brinsley was interviewed in his flat ‘off Portobello’, but
like Joe Strummer he later left Babylondon for the west country.
After the Clash appeared in Scorsese’s ‘King of Comedy’
in ’82 and Joe Strummer’s gangster home-movie ‘Hell
W10’ in ’83, Joe appeared in Alex Cox’s ‘Sid and
Nancy’ follow-up, the punk western ‘Straight to Hell’,
Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Mystery Train’, and Cox’s ‘Walker’.
In the mid 80s Mick Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite with Don Letts, the
director of the ‘Punk Rock Movie’, videos of the Clash, PIL,
etc, the Clash retrospective film ‘Westway to the World’ and
most recently ‘Dancehall Queen’. BAD’s second single
‘E=MC_’ was a beatbox homage to Nic Roeg’s ‘insanity
bohemian style’, featuring ‘Performance’ lines and Sergio
Leone western samples.
Radio On (Chris Petit 1979) The poster for features
a Ballardian view from the Westway, of the British Rail maintenance depot
at Paddington (now the Monsoon HQ).
Breaking Glass (Brian Gibson 1980) Dodi Fayed produced
film, starring Hazel O’Connor as a troubled pop icon, has a scene
where skinheads attack an Anti-Nazi League-style ‘Rock Against 1984’
march, on Acklam Road.
Silver Dream Racer (David Wickes 1980) David Essex goes
down the Westway on his ‘Silver Dream Racer’, from Ladbroke
Grove garageland to Thruxton.
1984 (Mike Radford 1984) After the Clash started out
with a ‘1984’ prole rebel look, Virgin established the George
Orwell Portobello connection by financing the third film version of ‘1984’
in the actual year. The following year Virgin and Goldcrest co-financed
Nik Powell’s Palace Pictures’ ‘Absolute Beginners’.
National Lampoon’s European Vacation (Amy Heckerling
1985) Chevy Chase has a wrong side of the road cartrouble scene on Addison
Avenue by St James’s church.
A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton 1988) Michael
Palin appears in Rasta disguise in Kensal Green Cemetery.
Half Moon Street (Bob Swain 1986) Sigourney Weaver plays
a post-modern Christine Keeler, at one point saying “I want a riot
of my own.”
Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (Stephen Frears 1987) starring
Roland Gift of the Fine Young Cannibals (and later ‘Scandal’),
features an obligatory riot scene and hippies abseiling from the Westway.
I Hired A Contract Killer (Aki Kaurismaki 1990) Into
the 90s, as ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Interview With The Vampire’
paid homage to ‘Performance’, Aki Kaurismaki captured the
downbeat vibe of ‘The Blue Lamp’ and ’10 Rillington
Place’, featuring The Warwick Castle pub at 225 Portobello Road,
in all its former Hogarthian glory. The subject was explored further in
JB’s ‘Portobello Pirate TV’.
London Kills Me (Hanif Kureishi 1991) The Notting Hill
acid-house film fails as a ‘Performance’ homage but accurately
depicts the local rave scene; around the market, under the Westway, in
Portfolio on Golborne, and the Ground Floor bar (then the Colville Rose).
The Chepstow Villas acid-house squat was a former property of the Tory
MP Michael Heseltine, between residences of Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits
and Jason Donovan. At the time of his tabloid drugs scandal, the latter
also had squatter neighbours to contend with: After Hanif Kureishi used
the property to re-enact the e-dealing antics of the ‘88 summer
of love posse, pop life imitated dubious art when the house was really
squatted by anarcho-ravers. It’s since been occupied by Salman Rushdie.
Kureishi returned to Golborne in ‘Buddha of Suburbia’, for
a suitably glam 70s vibe.
The Punk And The Princess (Mike Sarne 1993) Adapted from
‘The Punk’ pulp novel of a punk/Ted Romeo and Juliet affair
in the early 90s, nobody was quite sure why. Also in Notting Hill in the
early 90s, Michael Kamen co-wrote ‘Everything I Do’ with Bryan
Adams and Mutt Lange, for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Crimetime (1995) Britpop serial killer movie in which Sadie Frost
shags Stephen Baldwin down the Electric alley.
Jack And Sarah (Tim Sullivan 1995) Richard E Grant makes another
local appearance, at the Powis Terrace cornershop.
Crash (David Cronenberg 1996) The Westway features in the JG
Martha Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence (Nick Hamm 1998) More
local romantic comedy.
Sliding Doors (1998) Yet more. The theme, ‘Living In The
City’ (credited to the group called Blair), contains the line ‘living
on the corner of Portobello Road.’
Twice Upon A Yesterday (Maria Ripoli 1998)/Respect captured the
lovely girl rent-a-dread times.
Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer 2000) Another ‘Performance’
homage; Ray Winstone ends up under the Westway at Paddington; James Fox
gets shot at the end again; and the Absolute Beginner Eddie O’Connell
gets in on the job.
Revelation (Stuart Urban 2001) Holy Grail conspiracy featuring
Trellick Tower and Heathcote Williams of local hippy previous.
Lava (Joe Tucker 2002) Lads yardie coke dealing revenge
comedyset during the Carnival.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (Sharon Maguire (2002) The mains
media girlpowerpoint was 192 Kensington Park Road: The bar-restaurant
much resorted to by Bridget Jones and her creator Helen Fielding. In Madonna’s
first attempt to become a local, on marrying Guy Ritchie (the
Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels film director stepson of the
local Conservative Association chair), her million quid bid for the old
phone exchange at the beginning of Portobello was gazumped.
Honest (Dave Stewart 2001)/The Beach (Danny Boyle 2001) All Saints
minus Shaznay star as swinging 60s sibling bank robbers. Somewhat more
successfully, on the soundtrack of ‘The Beach’, Danny Boyle’s
‘Apocalypse Now’ for the rave generation, All Saints’
‘Pure Shores’ appears as the Doors’ ‘The End’
London Fields (?) All Saints’ local, according
to the Sun, the Market Bar – back in pub reality, the Golden Cross
– was the inspiration for ‘The Black Cross’ in Martin
Amis’s ‘London Fields’; for some time now, about to
be filmed by David Cronenberg. In turn, Amis’s second novel in his
local trilogy (between ‘Money’ and ‘The Information’)
inspired Blur’s ‘Parklife’ album. As the old pub was
converted into the Market Bar, ‘the first of London’s new
bohemian bars’, more or less the opposite of what Amis imagined
in his millenarian tale of market white trash and a media femme fatale.
In the mid 90s the Market Bar was owned by the 60s pop star/actor John
Leyton, who sang ‘Johnny Remember Me’ and appeared in ‘The
Great Escape’ as one of the POWs who made a home run.
Damon Albarn’s Kensington Park Road life began at the Portobello
Hotel, working behind the bar as Blur recorded their first demo. In the
later 90s he resided down the road in the house of his girlfriend Justine
Frischmann of Elastica. The end of the ‘regal serendipity up Notting
Hill way’ of the king and queen of Britpop came after Justine gave
Blur’s ‘The Great Escape’ LP an unfavourable review.
Notting Hill (Roger Michell 1999) In ’95 the Standard
joked that we’d had ‘Notting Hill’ the book and the
album – ‘London Fields’ and ‘Parklife’ –
but didn’t predict ‘Notting Hill’ the movie quite right,
with Jason Donovan starring as Amis and Damon as himself; though even
that sounds better than the Richard Curtis effort.
In the run-up to the 1995 Carnival, Mas Café (the former Mangrove)
on All Saints Road was the scene of a scuffle involving Hugh Grant, in
which the actor was ridiculed over the Divine Brown affair and generally
roughed up. An onlooker said; “It all happened so fast. Hugh went
pale and was frightened. He was OK but he had a bit of blood on him. I
don’t think he’ll be back.”
In Bret Easton Ellis’s supermodel terrorist novel ‘Glamorama’,
as well as having a Bono lookalike blown up in the ‘street in Notting
Hill’ scene, the American Psychogeographer provided a more accurate
and funny take on 90s Notting Hill than Curtis and co. But ‘Notting
Hill’ the movie captured the times accurately enough, and it’s
not as bad as ‘Twice Upon A Yesterday’. The Westbourne Park
Road blue door flat of ‘William Thacker’, opposite the Warwick
(censored out of the film and then from history as the Castle), was previously
occupied by one of Transvision Vamp and raver squatters.
‘WASP’ (Woody Allen 2005) Woody Allen’s
aptly initialled summer project working title, featuring Scarlet Johansson
on Golborne Road, at the time of the arrests of the local failed suicide-bombings
suspects who frequented the Golborne Lisboa café.