When George Melly visited The Cromwellian club in 1965 he found quite a few wrestlers at the bar, what was no coincidence as the club was owned by four of them.
Paul Lincoln, arrived in the mid-fifties from Sydney and single-handedly build a British wrestling emporium and that without the aid of television. As Dr Death he was the most famous masked heavyweight wrestler of the early sixties and numerous (masked but untalented) copycats wrestled under the same name trying to cash in on his success.
Here was a man who could use blindside skulduggery and torment his opponents with punishing nerve holds to bring the fans to a frenzy. (Source: Wrestling Heritage.)
In 1962 Paul Lincoln, as wrestling promoter, arranged a legendary fight 'to the finish' between the villainous Dr Death (in other words: himself) and another masked 'identity unknown' wrestler nicknamed The White Angel. Three thousand fans witnessed how the Doctor beat the Angel and the losing party was obliged to shamefully reveal his identity.
At the end of the contest, a no rounds fight to the finish which had ended by a knock-out, the defeated wrestler shook hands with the victor and dramatically removed his mask. The White Angel was Judo Al Hayes, a successful heavyweight who had recently left the Joint Promotions camp to work for Paul Lincoln and other independent promoters. (Source: Wrestling Heritage, password protected members area.)
Update August 2011: Paul Lincoln, better known as Doctor Death, sadly passed away in January 2011 (RIP Paul Lincoln). In July 2011 he was awarded The Number One Masked Man of the Heritage Years by the Wrestling Heritage website.
But Paul Lincoln not only staged wrestling matches, his name is also linked to the British rock scene. In April of 1956 he and fellow-wrestler Ray Hunter (who apparently had a fling with Sophia Loren) took over premises at 59 Old Compton Street, London and baptised it the 2I's coffee bar.
Wally Whyton of The Vipers:
We went inside for a coffee and asked Paul Lincoln (…) if we could do a bit of busking. (…) We started playing, and suddenly the place had come to life. it seemed to work well and Paul asked us to make it a regular stopover. Within a short time the place was jumping; in a few months they were queuing around the block.
The club is known in rock history as the place where Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard and many others were discovered. Even Ritchie Blackmore's (from Deep Purple and Rainbow fame) musical training started at 2I's.
Paul Lincoln's entrepreneurial skills were not limited to the 2'I's coffee bar alone, he also opened an Italian restaurant in Soho and together with Ray Hunter, Bob Anthony (for his looks baptised the wrestling Beatle) and Al 'The White Angel' Hayes he purchased The Cromwellian. A fifth partner - who was sold out by the wrestlers a couple of years later - was Tony Mitchell, rumoured to have underworld connections, and the owner of The Blue Shark club at Bridgend.
Update Januari 2011: Paul Lincoln, the man who was the Doctor
Death, passed away on Tuesday 11th January 2011: RIP
Update April 2011: In an exclusive interview for the Church, Bob 'Anthony' Archer has told the Church that Paul Lincoln's Italian restaurant 'Trattoria del buon vivitore' was just a couple of blocks away from the 2I's coffee bar. It was located at 36 Old Compton Street, the first floor had the Paul Lincoln Management offices (see advertisement above): The Wrestling Beatle.
The Cromwellian was not only a bar and restaurant but also a casino. Initially the tables had been at ground-floor but in the autumn of 1965 the craps table was badly damaged by a Molotov cocktail thrown through the window, probably by racketeers or by slightly covetous competitors. The owners quickly decided to move the casino to a higher floor and to barricade the building with iron security grades.
Randy Steed, who was a croupier at The Crom, has written down some of his memories in The Private Gambling Clubs of 1960s London. It is an enjoyable piece to read, filled with funny anecdotes, but in this article we will off course only cite Crom related parts.
The Cromwellian had only five tables, but possessed a faded, hip elegance which attracted the show business and rock star elite of those times; on any given night you’d be dealing across the tables to the likes’ of Brian Epstein; the Beatles first manager, and numerous other luminaries of the exploding sixties, music scene.
Stars such as Tom Jones, Lulu, and Eric Burden of the Animals, and Jonathan King were regulars and could be found hanging out downstairs most nights, in the restaurant-disco where the Long John Baldry Band, featuring Reginald Dwight aka Elton John on keyboards held sway.
NME, in its Cromwellian pic-visit, wrote that 'there was a night that Omar Sharif lost £400 on the tables and the other occasion when Lee Marvin after being down £400 left the club by £2000'. Randy Steed, as a young croupier, also happened to be there:
One memorable night the American film actor, Lee Marvin wandered, more like staggered into the club (…) and started playing Pontoon. (…) Mr. Marvin kept writing checks on his Beverly Hills Bank till he finally wised-up and unsteadily navigated his way to the poker game. (…)
This particular game attracted many of London’s better behaved villains who were quite happy to have this inebriated American actor sit down at their table. As fate would have it Marvin nailed a full house on this first and only hand to out-draw the rest of the table. He gave it a brief moment’s thought and gathered his winning chips into his arms (yes his arms, these were French style 'jettons’ which were rather slippery and unwieldy) and calmly but wobbly made his way to the cashier’s cage. There was dead silence in the room as the faces’ at the poker table stared in amazed disbelief at their easy-money walking away…not a word was said, just stunned silence.
Carmen from Fame
Another memorable night at The Crom was held on the 8th of January 1967 when Carmen Jimenez turned 21. Now who was Carmen Jimenez and why did most of The Beatles and Brian Epstein (dressed as a clown) turned up at her party?
Not a lot can be said about Carmen Jimenez. The only interview she gave (to James Dawn) appeared in NME 1054 of 8 April 1967. Titled: Glamour? I’m the Target for All the Lies and Digs, Carmen Jimenez disclosed (reluctantly) what it was like to be Georgie Fame’s fiancée, but unfortunately the interview can't be located on the web.
We do know for sure that Georgie Fame threw her a fancy dress birthday party in January 1967. Several pictures were taken on that night and these can be found dispersed all over the net, but a good place to start is the Georgie Fame (unofficial) website and Getty Images. These show Georgie Fame with a priest (John Lennon), a US soldier (Paul McCartney) and an Arab Sheik (Ringo Starr).
however has taken the immediate interest of the Holy Church of Iggy the
Inuit. It depicts John Lennon, but standing behind him could be a
vaguely familiar figure (see left side image). In the only interview
she has ever given Ig (Evelyn) has told that she met The Beatles and the
Fame-Jimenez party could have been an excellent opportunity.
Update 2011.02.19: Iggy has confirmed that it is indeed her on the picture: "Yes, this is a picture of me." The Church will look further into the matter.
Rod the Mod
Another famous person Ig has met was Rod Stewart. Interestingly it was at the same Cromwellian club in February 1967 that Jeff Beck, who had just been kicked out of The Yardbirds, recruited Rod Stewart for his new band the Jeff Beck Group (featuring Ron Wood). Douglas J. Noble asked Jeff Beck in 1993:
DJN: Is it true that you met Rod Stewart when he was watching Peter Green in a pub?
JB: Yeah - no, it was in the Cromwellian club which is now gone, I think, opposite the Exhibition Road. That was our hangout - our watering hole. And this particular day or evening, rather, he was somewhat worse for wear through drink and I just thought there's the guy - the one guy - I would like to play with. Have him sing in my band. And I was pretty down as well - totally out of the Yardbirds, nothing going, no money. I hadn't got anything to lose so I asked him if he would be interested and he said, 'Yup!' Amazing! Next day we met up and the rest is, uhh, on record [laughs].
Sources (other than the above internet links):
Bacon, Tony: London Live, Balafon Books, London, 1999, p. 8.
♥ Iggy ♥ (2011 02 19).
Platt, John: London’s Rock Routes, Fourth Estate, London, 1985, p.10-12.
Many thanks to the Wrestling Heritage website. Grazie mille Gianna!