Sometimes, the truth is stranger than fiction.
England’s first LGBTQ Historic Site is currently crowdfunding in order to keep its doors open past the pandemic. And in its time of need, the establishment has reminded everyone of two historic figures who partied within its walls.
We’re talking of the unknown tale of Freddie Mercury and Princess Diana in drag, as reported by Out Magazine. However, the story was originally told back in 2014. And the original storyteller? It was none other than British comedian Cleo Rocos. In 2014, Rocos released her autobiography. That autobiography was later serialized in the Sunday Times. Within that life story, Rocos recalled becoming friends with TV comic Kenny Everett. Through Everett, she became close to Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. And one night, she went barhopping with Mercury and Diana, the Princess of Wales.
According to Rocos’ retelling, Freddie convinced the princess to join him for a drink at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Rocos, of course, joined them. But to get Diana through the door and in the crowd unnoticed, the group decided to have Diana dress up as a man. They dressed the princess in an army coat, leather cap, and some of Freddie’s mirrored aviator shades.
“Scrutinising her in the half light we decided that the most famous icon of the modern world might just – just – pass for a rather eccentrically dressed gay male model,” Rocos wrote.
From there, it was all about getting inside and having fun!
“The place was full,” Rocos recalled. “It took an absolute eon to edge our way to the bar, with person after person cheerfully greeting us. It was fabulously outrageous and so bizarrely exciting. Our hearts pounded with every new leather-clad hairy body that approached, but no one, absolutely no-one, recognised Diana.”
Rocos then added that the moment felt exciting and fresh. The group was truly getting away with something.
“On we inched, through the leather throngs and thongs, until finally we reached the bar. We were nudging each other like naughty schoolchildren. Diana and Freddie were giggling, but she did order a white wine and a beer. Once the transaction was completed, we looked at one another, united in our triumphant quest. We did it!”
But, the group didn’t stay long, according to Rocos. They decided to get out while they still had the chance.
“Never has going to a bar been quite so exhilarating and fun,” she concluded. “We then made a swift exit, a cab was hailed and we whisked Diana back to Kensington Palace. The jolly queens queuing outside unknowingly waved back as their ‘queen of hearts’ waved goodbye. Not a single person ever found us out.”
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DONATION LINK IN BIO During the lockdown we have received many messages of support from performers, promoters and our loyal customers, many of whom have asked if they can donate to the upkeep and running costs and help to keep our much loved venue safe. The RVT is a family of talented artists, promoters, very loyal customers and invaluable staff. Over the last eight weeks we have worked hard to keep The RVT alive at the forefront of our community with social media streaming and virtual performances from many of our performers, DJs and promoters. We do not want to lose focus as London’s most iconic LGBT+ venue, listed in Time Out as one of London’s top 50 iconic locations. We are a small independent company that has gone from being a vibrant cabaret, performance and club venue to zero income overnight. Since 20 March the only financial support we have received from the Government, City Hall, Local Authority or our landlord is relief on business rates, and we do not qualify for the £25,000 grant that some smaller venues are eligible for. We are still paying all our other running costs including rent to our landlord, they will not consider any change to the rent structure. When we do reopen it is likely to be with severe restrictions on numbers, which means our income will be greatly reduced going forward. Therefore we have decided to set up a Go Fund Me page so that people who want to and are able to make a contribution, can now do so. All monies donated will be put towards our high operating costs and the fabric upkeep of the building. We want to continue to provide a truly diverse platform and range of LGBTQ+ events with all our wonderful associated artists. No donations will be used for staff wages as the staff have been furloughed under the government job retention scheme. James Lindsay, RVT CEO/Managing Director says: “The team here are determined to make sure that The RVT continues to be a safe space for every member of the LGBTQ+ community and a place that supports talent of every kind regardless of gender, race, ability, or age.”
Saving A Historic Site
This is just one of the many events and goings-on at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. As such, it was deemed England’s first LGBTQ Historic Site back in 2015. But like many other gay/queer establishments during the pandemic, the venue is facing the possibility of closure and eviction. Plus, the venue does not qualify for grants announced by the government and is expecting a reduced income once social distancing measures loosen. The RVT is now crowdfunding to raise £50,000 to help it stay afloat, according to Time Out.
“We have decided to set up a GoFundMe page so that people who want to and are able to make a contribution, can now do so,” the venue announced. “All monies donated will be put towards our high operating costs and the fabric upkeep of the building. We want to continue to provide a truly diverse platform and range of LGBTQ+ events with all our wonderful associated artists.”
Our thoughts are with the business and we hope that the legendary establishment pulls through in this difficult time.