BOOK REVIEW: A Boy From Primrose Hill by Jeremy Goodchild
Jeremy Goodchild , former boss of the Rottingdean Club, pianist to the incomparable Maisie Trollette, and many many other jobs in life , has written an intriguing memoir of gay lives and loves in the Brighton and London of the 1970’s and up to today.
It’s a dense, rapidly moving , but fascinating glimpse into a past that some of us know well but others under 40 may have only heard snatches of gossip about.
Born in 1960, it charts his early idyllic childhood days in Primrose Hill and Camden, rubbing shoulders with the rising singing star Cilla Black, with playwright Alan Bennett and Miss Shepherd the famous “ lady in the van “ outside Bennett’s house, the wonderful shops and family life of the area.
It seems Jeremy was always destined to be in the spotlight – appearing as a very young boy in both the Daily Mirror and in a BBC TV documentary film. The neighbourhood was teeming with theatricals, tv stars and singers . But it was also the time of crooked landlords who forced unwanted tenants out by putting sex workers plying their trade into adjoining rooms .
Music became more and more important in the youngster’s life and he was accomplished both in singing and in playing various instruments . Piano playing would certainly become useful later in life and earn him a supplementary income.
The scene changes in 1974 to Cuckfield where his parents took a pub and Jeremy intermittently worked.
Bullying at school and other issues led to the teenager being put on tranquillisers . He writes candidly: “ This started a long life of taking prescription drugs and mood changers “
Leaving school at not quite 16, Jeremy journeyed to London and sought work – ambitiously – at the Hilton Park Lane and Claridges. What he eventually landed was job as a commis chef at Brighton’s Old Ship Hotel.
He describes the kitchen as “ noisy, manic and the swearing !” His afternoons between shifts were spent at the 42 Club – the first gay private drinking club in Brighton, above a rock shop on the seafront.
And so the memoir goes on- through many a romance and heartache – with much older men – his first gay fling being with a 42-year-old. It’s a fascinating look into a sometimes shady hidden pre-Aids world, where young men sought illegal fun in anyway they could.
Fast forward many pages and many years and Jeremy’s parents hand over running the Rottingdean Club to him after establishing it as a great venue.
One highlight of the book – and there are many – is Jeremy’s work with the first Brighton Aids \HIV charity Brighton Aid – which established a fund-raising venture of enormous scale, based at Tracy and John Davenport’s Queens Arms .
The group raised funds to buy patients at the Royal Sussex, electric razors , kettles , TV sets and other things to make life easier. Eventually the residue of funds were handed to a new group Brighton Cares, which established the Sussex Beacon. Jeremy describes the hospital doors which carried skull and crossbones and signs “ Stay out “
As he puts it: “ the fear was extraordinary …but understandable “
If you want to find out what Bette Davis was doing in Rottingdean, about super film star Cary Grant’s ghost , or Colin Bradshaw the 40-year-long love of Jeremy’s life, then get the book. It’s a revelation to some and fond memories to the rest of us.
For more info or to buy a copy or download for kindle see the website here:
You must be logged in to post a comment.