Tom Vague’s

From Absolute Beginners to Leo The Last, It Happened Here in West Eleven.

A psychogeographical journey through the streets of Hollywood W11.
Editor Jane Carroll Portobello Pirate TV London Psychogeography Vague 35 2005
> 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. (Portobello/Blenheim Crescent)

> 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 Bello Road’

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 of Wales)

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 Hill.’

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 trends.

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. (Bramley)

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. (antiques market)

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 Marx.
The Spy who came in from the Cold (Martin Ritt 1966) Starts on Westbourne Grove.
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 Tower. (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 headquarters.”

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 situation;

> “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’. (Lancaster West)

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. (Freston)

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.

(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.

(David Cronenberg 1996) The Westway features in the JG Ballard book.

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.

(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.

(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’ equivalent.

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.

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