Bee Season

There’s more to London’s nightlife than musicals and plays. After you see a show in the West End, why not step into Soho, where you’ll find some of the trendiest hotspots in London. Just around the corner from The Palace Theatre, you’ll find Kettners where you can enjoy some bubbly at the champagne bar or relax and listen to the pianist in this lavish lounge…”

I had a paid gig for the London Tourist Board to promote local businesses to theatre goers who would receive a short DVD when they booked tickets. Of course it wasn’t really a tour of hotspots, because the hotspots don’t need the extra P.R. But I didn’t mind, it was a good gig and it only took two days to shoot. By the end, I knew every street in Soho – no small feat. Besides, I got some good on-camera experience, even if it wasn’t really acting. It’s hard to give an emotional delivery of lines like “With its trendy clothes shops and hip record stores, Soho is the center of urban cool.” Plus it was weird looking straight into the camera when I’d always been taught not to. We shot during the day – I don’t think the tourist board really wanted to promote some of the more interesting late night sights, and they conveniently left Peter Street off their tour.

Later that week, Marcus called and asked if I wanted to get together, so feeling like an expert I suggested Nanobyte, one of the bars I’d passed by while doing the gig. I’d only seen it in daytime when it was empty, so I was taking a chance on what the crowd would be like, but it looked cool enough. “Wardour Street has long been associated with the film industry – it was the home for early innovations in color films,” I resisted saying. I didn’t want to turn into Cliff Clavin, spewing useless knowledge of Soho to anyone who would listen.

Marcus said he wanted to grab a bite and suggested Hummus Brothers instead. Now I like hummus just as much as the next gal, but probably not enough to make a night of it. Luckily, their menu was more extensive than the name suggests. Marcus apologized for canceling on me the last time and I pretended it was no big deal. He gave me the lowdown on his projects in development, the problems he was having getting funding and a grant for which he’d applied. I was reminded just how long it takes to get things done in this business. It took Salma Hayek 10 years to get Frida made. But I didn’t have 10 years. There’s only so long a person can live in this limbo. I decided then I’d give it two more years.

“Lucy… Lucy?” Marcus had caught me not listening. “Let’s get out of here. You up for a bit of a walk? I don’t want to stick around Soho.”

I couldn’t have agreed more. There was something about all those self-important media people buzzing about – especially in summer. At times, it was energizing, but on the wrong day, it was just a reminder that you could get stung.

“How about Long Bar at The Sanderson,” he suggested.

There are eyes drawn on the backs of the chairs so that even if it’s empty, you still get the sense of being ogled.

“You know what, I changed my mind. Let’s stay in Soho. Follow me.” I took him to the least trendy place, the place least likely to be in a promotional DVD: Garlic and Shots. It was a dive bar with goths and bikers and I think I saw a fake (I hope) coffin in the corner. We had a blast and made some new friends who showed us their tattoos and piercings. We were still laughing when we stumbled out onto Frith Street at 2 a.m.

“Did you know that television was invented in the top floor rooms above what is now Bar Italia on Frith Street,” my inner Cliff Clavin couldn’t resist. I could sense Marcus wanted to shut me up, which he did by kissing me.