1 Adrift in Notting Hill and A Blues for Shindig
2 Alex Trocchi’s Invisible Insurrection
3 Longhair Times: Hoppy and Miles
4 Rolling Stones on the Portobello Road
5 Michael X on the Black Beat in the Ghetto
6 Ladbroke Grove Roots

Adrift in Notting Hill and A Blues for Shindig

After Wyndham Lewis, the Notting Hill literary pub scene moved north down Portobello Road to the Earl of Lonsdale (formerly a Finch’s pub and then Henekey’s). The literary outsider title passed to the two Colins; the Inside Outsider MacInnes, who didn’t live in the area, and The Outsider in Literature author Wilson, who briefly lived on Chepstow Villas with other ‘angry young men’ including John Room at the Top Braine, Bill Hopkins, and a bevy of beat girls. The Notting Hill existentialist scene in the 50s was re-enacted in Colin Wilson’s play The Metal Flower Blossom, which became his first novel Adrift in Soho. Mo Foster’s A Blues for Shindig novel from 2006, set in 1956/57, features local scenes in Notting Dale and the proto-beatnik drug culture that revolved around the Joe Lyons cornerhouse café at Notting Hill Gate.

El Rio Cafe
As re-enacted in Scandal by John Hurt (who also played Timothy Evans in 10 Rillington Place), Stephen Ward took Christine Keeler on a slumming expedition with Lord d’Laslo, building Notting Hill up like it was a real American-style black ghetto. On finding their regular restaurant (Fiesta One) deserted, they moved on to ‘an even seedier-looking place’ where they were met by hostile indifference from the entirely black clientele. This was Frank Crichlow’s legendary El Rio café at 127 Westbourne Park Road (now incorporated into Tom Conran’s Lucky Seven Margarita lounge and Mexican restaurant, after a spell as the Bossanova Portuguese restaurant).

In the early 60s, as the Rio became the hub of the West Indian scene, the espresso coffee bar decorated with fishing nets was the pivotal venue in both local history and national politics through the Profumo affair. At 127 Westbourne Park Road hustlers like Michael de Freitas, Lucky Gordon and Darcus Howe co-habited with Bohemian beats like Colin MacInnes, the Guinness heir Tara Browne, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, the jazz journalist Max Jones, and slumming swingers like Stephen Ward and Christine Keeler. As defined by Frank in Tony Gould’s MacInnes biography Inside Outsider, the Rio was a “school or university” for hustlers, “it attracted people who were rebellious and a bit smart, those with street intelligence, those for whom the factory was not their speed.”

West Eleven
1963, the year of the Profumo affair and Rachman revelations, saw the release of the film West Eleven – a gritty North Kensington kitchen-sink melodrama adapted by Michael Winner from The Furnished Room novel by the long-standing Portobello market trader Laura del Rivo. The film stars Alfred Lynch as the archetypal Notting Hill outsider anti-hero ‘Joe Beck’ who is offered £10,000 to commit a murder. His bedsit is on Colville Terrace, down from the future Performance house on Powis Square. The West Eleven cast also includes a young David Hemmings as a local hooligan, three years before he appeared in Blow Up in Notting Dale, and Diana Dors as a beat girl. The local director’s third feature film has been described as a Death Wish prototype, and was dismissed by Halliwell as a ‘dingy but not very convincing ‘realist’ melodrama with jazzy style which induces weariness.’ The West Eleven theme is by Acker Bilk.

Henekey’s beat bar
In Len Deighton’s 1964 spy novel The Berlin Memorandum (the follow up to The Ipcress File) ‘Harry Palmer’ was in Henekey’s (previously ‘top’ Finch’s, now the Earl of Lonsdale) at 277-81 Westbourne Grove, but unfortunately not in the 1967 Guy Hamilton film version Funeral in Berlin. As he watched the glamorous Mossad spy ‘Samantha Steele’ greet ‘about a dozen poets, painters, writers and occasionally a model or photographer’, Palmer (Michael Caine in the film) overhears an artist at the bar extolling the benefits of Marijuana use. The swinging 60s Henekey’s clientele included beatnik poets, kitchen-sink playwrights, the pop artist Peter Blake, Julie Christie and Terence Stamp.

Christopher Logue wrote in Prince Charming of the Denbigh Close mews in the 60s, when the antiques market was becoming ‘all the rage’, art students earned a living painting battles of Porto Bello, and old characters like Mad John, Harry Dust and Eric the mews transvestite were succeeded by the next beat generation of Notting Hill eccentrics. In the late 60s Michael Caine as ‘Charlie Croker’ held court round the back of Alice’s Antiques shop, in the Bohemian Denbigh Close pad of his girlfriend ‘Laura’, whilst planning The Italian Job, Tom Courtenay as Otley walked by the mews on his way down Portobello to Henekey’s, and Yul Brynner was in the antiques market in The File of the Golden Goose. As Alfie in 1966 Michael Caine’s somewhat less groovy bedsit with Jane Asher (Paul McCartney’s beatnik girlfriend) was in the former Rachman slum St Stephen’s Gardens.

Michael Horovitz’s New Departures and the Linden Gardens beat pad
When Michael Horovitz, the editor of the beat/bop poetry mag New Departures, moved into the area in the early 60s, he recalls the scene consisting of the legendary Linden Gardens beat pad of Johnny Byrne and Spike Hawkins at Notting Hill Gate (featured in Jenny Fabian’s Groupie novel), David Hockney on Powis Terrace, the four Johns; Arden, Hopkins, Latham and Michell, Harry and Ruth Fainlight, Christopher Logue, Allan Sillitoe (who wrote Saturday Night and Sunday Morning), Alex Trocchi, Heathcote Williams, and some Royal College of Art students from a Bohemian outpost down Lancaster Road.

read on - part 2: Alex Trocchi’s Invisible Insurrection




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