I went to the Sohemian Society in London last night to hear about “Gay Hussar Nights”.
The evening was billed as two insiders’ journeys through Bollinger Bolshevism with the Rabelaisian Left: “Former Tribune editor and Labour Party National Executive member, turned Al Jazeera TV correspondent Mark Seddon and multi award-winning cartoonist Martin Rowson will chew the cud and spit it all out for your delectation in an evening of downright irreverence and much jocularity all laced through with a healthy contempt for the British political and media establishment.”
And so, indeed, it turned out.
The Gay Hussar is a famed Soho pub that, in pre-Blair days, was the haunt of left wing journalists and politicians. In the 1960s, the owner threw prominent Labour Party politician George Brown out of the building when, uninvited, he started to feel-up the woman sitting next to him – which was said last night to be “the only known case of a serving Foreign Secretary being thrown out for being drunk and disorderly”.
There were also stories about “the great left wing Labour MP and serial fellationist Tom Driberg” – a gay friend of gangsters the Kray Brothers and rumoured to be a Soviet agent via the Czech intelligence service.
“When Tom got very excited about the swinging sixties,” Martin Rowson said last night, “he tried to entice Mick Jagger to stand as a Labour MP and had dinner with him in the Gay Hussar. Everything was going swimmingly well until he started fondling Mick’s knee and rather blew it, as it were.”
There were two other people at that dinner: Mick’s girlfriend Marianne Faithfull and (the poet) W.H.Auden. While Tom and Mick were talking about Labour Party politics and the coming revolution, W.H.Auden asked Marianne:
“Tell me. Have you ever smuggled drugs into the country?”
To which Marianne mumbled a reply.
“Ever take them up the arse?” asked W.H.Auden
The evening broke up shortly afterwards.
Mark Seddon is a man who obviously shares my taste for the bizarre as, last night, he recommended people should take holidays in the people’s paradise that is North Korea – he has been there seven or eight times. He also told another story about George Brown.
The esteemed Labour politician was at a ball in Lima, Peru. With music playing and, having had quite a few drinks, George Brown was feeling ‘tired and emotional’ and went up to a vision of loveliness in a long gown, saying:
“Beautiful, beautiful lady in the red dress, can I have this next dance?”
To which the reply came: “Certainly not. This is the Peruvian national anthem… and I am the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima.”