Madame JoJos, London, W1F
There has been a nightclub on this spot in Brewer Street since at least the early 1950s, when Soho was London's most famous red-light district, populated by the sleazy, scar-faced underworld gang leaders who had thrived in the post-war era. It is believed the club acquired the famous name of Madame Jojo's some time in the 1960s. In that decade it was bought by Paul Raymond, who can be said to have preserved much of Soho as we know it today, simply by buying most of it and leaving it alone, so that it remains largely untouched by the brutality of modern re-development.
One of Raymond's most famous properties was the Whitehall Theatre, built in 1930, the golden age of Art Deco. Its interior was rich with typical Deco motifs such as geometric shapes, zigzags, birds, fountains and conch-shells. Decades later, many of its fittings and decorations were removed and rehoused in a tiny nightclub next to the Raymond Revuebar. This little place, Madame Jojo’s, was by now part of the Raymond empire. The Whitehall’s geometric railings and light fittings, its ‘theatre-curtain’ plaster mouldings and Deco fountains, were in perfect harmony with Madame Jojo’s red plush velvet and gilt ambience. Soaked in showbiz legend, they found their ideal home.
In the 1960s the thriving Madame Jojo’s was next-door neighbour to a famous Chinese restaurant called Mr Harry’s, which later became the Piano Bar. The Piano Bar and Madame Jojo’s together made Brewer Street the hub of the Sixties Soho buzz. Through the decades, girls had twirled their tassels on the tiny stage. By the 1980s Madame Jojo’s was highly celebrated as a cabaret and burlesque venue. This was a golden era for drag performance, with shows every night at Madame Jojo’s, featuring such legendary drag artistes as Ruby Venzuela, Lily Savage, Adrella and Regina Fong. Through the 80s and 90s, Madame Jojo’s became a forum for alternative cabaret.
The 1990s brought the boom in DJ culture. Madame Jojo’s embraced the clubbing era with open arms, becoming home to many world-famous club nights, such as Electrogogo, Deep Funk, Groove Sanctuary and White Heat. The peculiar chemistry between this little Soho club, and hordes of young music-lovers, has never been recreated in any other venue. New visitors invariably fall in love with its unique atmosphere, finding it the perfect place to enjoy an eclectic range of musical genres and live bands.
Nowadays, cabaret has come full circle. Burlesque and variety are back in a big way, with new audiences discovering the pleasure of watching live entertainment on stage, skilled artists performing in their natural habitat, the classic, intimate West End nightclub. Still going strong after 50 years, Madame Jojo’s is the jewel in Soho’s crown - its place in West End history is assured.
Gay / Nightclub / Party