“The Tories must do a deal with UKIP,” he says
He’s strutted his stuff in a thong, entertained everyone from Madonna to Margaret Thatcher, gone bankrupt and dealt with the New York mafia. Say hello to Peter Stringfellow, the “king of clubs” who has completed 50 years in show business.
In 1962, he paid a mere £65 to book the Beatles in his first club, the Black Cat Club in Sheffield.
In 1966, Jimi Hendrix happily put on a performance in his second club, Mojo, for £50.
Today, the 72-year-old runs adult entertainment clubs Angels, in Covent Garden, and Stringfellows, in Soho.
Living up to his leopard-skin-loving lothario image, Stringfellow has posed with nude girls in the bathtub and has never been shy about discussing the number of women he’s bedded. (According to media reports, the count is 2,000.)
But now he’s turning the tempo down on his playboy image. All the frivolity and flamboyancy are restricted to the clubs.
The new girl in his life is Rosabella, his three-month-old daughter with third wife and former Royal Ballet dancer Bella, 31. He has two other children, from previous marriages: Karen, 50, and Scott, 46.
Bella received a bouquet of flowers in hospital from Prince William. She is convinced her and Stringfellow’s daughter will marry Prince George.
The Stringfellows divide their time between a villa in Majorca and an apartment in London on the Albert Embankment overlooking the Thames.
Stringfellow zooms around Soho in a Maranello electric car. “Helps me dodge in and out of traffic and park anwhere,”he says. He had to let go of his Porsche 911 Carrera 4S because “you can’t put a baby in a Porsche”. But the “teenager in him” is now eyeing a Jaguar F-type.
I speak to Stringfellow on a rather dull Tuesday afternoon, and he charges me up.
He gives me quotable quotes at galloping speed. His favourite topic? Topless girls, you’d think. It’s actually politics.
He thinks the LibDems are “a waste of time”, that Dianne Abbott is the most annoying politician, and that Boris Johnson is mayor “who talks more, does less”. But we’ll come to that later.
First, let’s get some sneak peeks into what a night in one of his clubs is like.
Inside the clubs – just don’t call them “strippers”
I am the most lovable person on earth but Dianne Abbott really, really, really dislikes me
Go to Stringfellow’s clubs and you’ll find girls stripping, lap-dancing and gyrating around poles. In the VIP rooms you’ll find topless girls on red velvet and leopard-print sofas.
The food in his clubs, according to him, the “best of any gentleman’s club in the world”. But don’t worry – the club operates a “discreet billing system” so the name of the club does not appear on your credit card slips.
Basically, what happens in Stringfellow’s clubs stays in Stringfellow’s clubs.
Call Stringfellow’s girls “hot”, “sexy”, or whatever you fancy, but do not call them lap dancers or strippers.
“My girls are entertainers, they are not strippers. Strippers work for other clubs, not me,” he says gravely.
“Any club can put a few poles up where girls can stand and take their clothes off, but there’s more to us. We’re a gentleman’s club.
“It might sound chauvinistic but the clubs are for a man’s entertainment. And I tell you, my clubs are best in the world.”
From mafia run-ins and bankruptcy to bounce-back London success
Stringfellow calls his clubs “the best in the world” many times during our conversation, but there was a time where his clubs weren’t as rocking.
He opened clubs in New York, Miami and LA in the early 1990s but ended up being bankrupt.
“Oh! Being bankrupt was a traumatic experience and I thought my world had ended. All I knew was how to talk over the microphone, so I thought: I can either be a maître d’ or a radio DJ.”
During the time he also had a run in with the mafia in New York, who “machine-gunned” one of his club entrances after he changed a laundry contract.
What did he do?
“Being a man of principle I am, I gave them the contract back,” he chuckles.
After his string of flops, Stringfellow came back to London and bought the lease of the original Stringfellows from receivers.
He built Stringfellows and Angels to become party haunts in the capital.
In 2002, he became the first club owner to secure a fully-nude licence from Westminster Council.
“Unlike a lot of people in business, I have no ego. I wouldn’t say that going bankrupt is what every businessman should look forward to, but it’s something to be proud of.
“Only a fool will say they’ve never been bankrupt or have never been nearly bankrupt.
“Sometimes Branson makes it look like a lot easier than it actually is but he’s had a lot of failures. Look at the chefs. Gordon Ramsay, how many restaurants has he closed? His career’s been up and down like a yo-yo.”
Stringfellows, celebrities, and a visit from Margaret Thatcher
Russell Brand hosted his stag do at one of Stringfellow’s clubs.
Simon Cowell splashed out £4,000 on his dancers.
Even Stephen Hawking’s made a visit.
But one of Stringfellow’s most memorable guests remains ex-PM Margaret Thatcher, who came to the club for a Conservative Party fundraiser.
“‘Where are your girls?’ Thatcher asked me. I said: ‘Well ma’am, I was told not to bring them in tonight because of you’.
“She said: ‘That’s absolute rubbish! Next time make sure they’re here.’ She was lovely, I had a photo taken with her,” he says.
With that, we come to the nightclub boss’ favourite topic: politics.
Stringfellow gets political
First up, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.
I tell him about how Lord Sugar called Clegg “an idiot” and branded him “an embarrassment to the Coalition” recently, and Stringfellow gives a hearty laugh.
“I agree [with Sugar] for many reasons. I think the LibDems are a waste of time anyway, and Nick Clegg bangs on about making rich people pay more taxes.
“When he’s left politics 10 years from now and is earning millions around the world, I’d be happy to hear his views then on taxing the rich – because he’s one of them. He’s mega, mega rich.
Stringfellow thinks the Tories should make Boris Johnson deputy prime minister and “do a deal with UKIP leader Nigel Farage”
“I would like to know if he would make a promise now that in 15 years’ time he will pay all his taxes in Great Britain on whatever he earns in around the world.
“The answer is of course he won’t, and if he does, I don’t know anybody who’d believe him. Certainly not me.”
Then he moves on to Tony Blair’s tax affairs: “I actually have sneaking respect for Tony Blair. He is earning millions around the world and he keeps his mouth shut – no wonder.”
Being the “true Conservative supporter” that he is, the last thing Stringfellow wants to see is the Tories in a coalition because he thinks they’re doing great damage to the brand name.
His solution? Make Boris Johnson deputy prime minister and “do a deal with UKIP leader Nigel Farage”.
“To win the next election, David Cameron should help Boris get a safe seat and make him deputy PM. He should then do a deal with Nigel Farage, bring him into the cabinet and give him one or two areas f
or UKIP MPs.
“But Farage needs to promise that he is not a racist in any shape or form, and once he signs up for that, a lot of other people would have a lot more respect for him,” he says.
But isn’t BoJo doing a good job as Mayor? I ask.
“Well, the one good thing that Boris has proved is that the less you do as the Mayor of London, the better you are,” Stringfellow chortles.
“I can’t think of anything he’s done apart from the bicycles.”
He goes on: “I think Boris is superbly intelligent. I’ve read his books, and we all know his education level, but the man hides behind the buffoonery. I think he will make a deputy PM, and maybe when Cameron has had enough, he may take over.”
Ask him who the most annoying politician is and he’s quick to point to Labour MP Diane Abbott, who was recently sacked as shadow public health minister.
“She’s says don’t put children into private schools – I find that pretty hypocritical for Labour. All Labour politicians want to put their children into private schools, but they somehow don’t want it for other people. That annoys me.
“And I I’ve been with her on TV a couple of times and she’s about the only person I know who doesn’t like me. I am the most lovable person on earth but Dianne really, really, really dislikes me. That makes me laugh.”
With all his political musings, and the clubs already “being the best in the world”, why doesn’t Stringfellow throw his own hat in the political ring?
After all, he did once hint that he might stand against Clegg for deputy PM – what happened to that?
“Nah! I talk a lot, I always have all the answers, but I am never prepared to go and get myself elected,” he admits. “Plus, I am very happy being a nightclub owner, that’s what I am born to do.”
The one person Stringfellow would like to see enter politics is Playboy chief Hugh Hefner. Why?
“At his age, seeing him in his dressing gown with different women is a bit embarrassing. The only time someone sees me in my dressing gown is my wife.
“It may be leopard skin, but that’s another story,” he laughs.
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