All the Lazy Dykes

All the Lazy Dykes

‘Ere quick! Go on! Get a photo of it!’ I’d just jumped off the bus and was heading into work, swinging my Pentax and nonchalently strolling across Portland Street preparing for another night of picking up empty glasses. The manager of Saturdays Nightclub, a diminutive tyrant called Alan Legend was on the front door with Arnie and another bouncer. He indicated a high-heeled Jerry Hall look-a-like who had just sauntered past the hotel, in a blaze of fur, heels and big attitude. Thinking this was a famous supermodel and seizing my papparazzi moment, I chased after her and got a quick blurry snap. The subject of my attention, at least six foot, two inches tall, turned and sneered at me in disgust, and in a very deep and most unladylike voice, issued a withering profanity and teetered off in the direction of The Thompsons Arms. Legend and his tuxedoed cronies fell about guffawing. He was a bit like the crazed mafiosa played by Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, a sadist who liked to prey on those he consider weaker. He referred to me as ‘The Lazy Article’ because I worked so hard but I’m just thankful that unlike poor Spider he didn’t shoot me. In the fifties and sixties, this area near the coach station around Canal and Sackville Street was a dark and decrepit mulch of decaying warehouses. It had become a notorious run-down shadowland populated by rent boys and prostitutes, ideal for dimly-lit cruising and prowling. It was still finding its feet when I was there but the seeds of what was to come were being sown and over the next thirty years it transformed itself into one of Europe’s premier league gay villages. A late night coach from wherever would pull into Chorlton Street and the first sound anyone alighting would hear would be pumping-thumping hi-energy Hazell Dean drifting out of New York, New York. Pubs like The Rembrandt, The Union and Napoleons were friendly, lively joints and certainly not no-go zones. A wide range of ages seemed to go into these places and for a while a few of us slipped out of the hotel during our tea-break for a quick drink in the Thompsons which had one of the first video jukeboxes in town. Others had no windows and firmly bolted uninviting doors. The security was understandable, because in 1982 the gay community was under attack. What my Jerry Hall friend had to put up with was nothing. Role models were starting to emerge but this was still a few years before Colin the graphic designer popped up on East Enders – there was AIDS, Chief Constable Anderton and Section 28 to deal with. These were difficult times. Fortunate then that Manchester Polytechnic Students Union promoted a positive and highly-visible gay and lesbian scene which opened the eyes of people like me. Straight outta the South Tyrone bible-belt, and thrust into this highly-sexualised urban jungle, I’m surprised it didn’t shake me up a bit more. Maybe I felt a bit of an outsider myself and could see kindred spirits. Debbie, the President of MPSU was a hard-core dyke right off the Greenham Common frontline. But respect to her, she was at the top of the tree of student politics and when I saw her lead the charge at the Battle of the NCC on Oxford Road, I wanted to be one of her foot-soldiers.

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