Chapter 13 "Making Music"
pp 307 Victor Caplin's aunt, Betty Passes, who ran Les Enfants Terribles coffee bar in Dean Street, was a pioneer of the disco. "She introduced dancing to records in the afternoons and evening in about 1957. She had the basement painted black, and put in a bar - just soft drinks. Behind the bar was a record player. You paid a shilling upstairs for a token that would get you into the basement and buy your first Coke or whatever."
Chapter 18 "The Criminal Element"
pp439 Another story I was told about the Krays was by Victor Caplin about his aunt Betty, who ran Les Enfants Terribles. "Her manager's dad ran a boxing gym in the West End and was a 'mate' of the Krays. At the time the twins were operating a protection racket in Soho, but never approached Betty as her manager's dad had put a word in for her as she was doing all right by her son."
Appendix "The Interviewees"
pp457 Victor Caplin was born in Rhyl, Wales, in 1946, and moved to Southend, where his familyhad a clothing shop, soon after. From a young age he was a frequent visitor to Soho, Where his aunt ran Les Enfants Terribles.
Hi Everyone, Savva here.
I used to be a regular in Les Enfants from about 1968 to about 1972. With a crowd, mostly Greeks, which included the two Andys, Big Al, Nick and Mick the DJ there for a number of years, the brothers Chris, Kyriakos, Adam etc, and many other. The girls, Sharon, Avril, Beverly, Pat, Michelle, Jo, and others.
Anyone remember me report back and maybe we can exchange some memories.
Good luck to the guys who set this up.
From: Adrian Stern
Sent: 12 August 2015 18:53
To: Mike Savva
Subject: RE: Les Enfants
Nice to hear from you but I really wonder if you've got the right place.
Although I can't claim to have known everyone who ever went to Les Enfants Terribles in those years I really do not recall any of the names, nor crowds of Greeks or Cypriots - though there were always some.
And there was never to my recollection a DJ called Mick. Georgina was in charge of the records for many years and allowed Paul to stand-in and eventually take over.
I even ran the place for a while in 1970.
93 Dean Street W1?
Contact items come only to me so no-one else has seen this yet. If you're sure you haven't made a mistake I'll post it in the Guest Book where everyone can see it.
From: Mike Savva
Sent: den 14 augusti 2015 11:35
To: 'Adrian Stern'
Subject: RE: Les Enfants
Please see attached 3 photos.
The first shows me with Victoria Mills and Andy (Rubber) in the back, the second me again with a girl (forgotten her name) and the third with Beverley Green and Nicos Nicolaou.
From: Adrian Stern
Sent: 14 August 2015 17:45
To: 'Mike Savva'
Subject: RE: Les Enfants
Sorry to keep questioning you but I doubt very much Doreen was ever in the club at night. Not once she had the kids. She’d come around fairly often in the afternoons when she’d been to her mother’s. Maybe it was a girl he was shagging? But a gun? Don’t believe it for a second – unless one of the mercenaries was telling stories and had let him hold one for a minute.
I don’t recognize anyone’s face nor name – nor the backgrounds to the pictures. One thing’s for sure though – they weren’t taken at Les Enfants Terribles! Downstairs always looked like a cellar. The ceiling and walls were brick and the plain wooden benches fixed to the walls never had cushions – ever. The second picture could almost have been taken at the Kilt except the coach stood on the floor so the wheel could never have been in that position. The Scotch also had a coach – but it too stood on the floor – though on the other hand it was yellow. But this is not Les Enfants Terribles.
If you really think you’re correct I’ll publish the pictures and your story and we’ll see what reactions we get – but I’m pretty sure you’re mistaken.
From: Mike Savva
Sent: den 17 augusti 2015 08:12
To: 'Adrian Stern'
Subject: RE: Les Enfants
We even had a reunion of Les Enfants Terribles at a mates house in Hadley Wood in 1998 where all the gang (except those who were no longer with us or abroad) came.
Anyway, please publish and see what transpires – nothing lost.
Many thanks for your time
Bonjour Adrian, Je te présente mes meilleurs voeux de bonheur et de prospérité pour l’année nouvelle. Que tous tes voeux puissent se réaliser. Afin de bien commencer l’an nouveau, j’ai le grand plaisir de t’envoyer ci-inclus une carte d’invitation gratuite d’une boîte de nuit branchée londonienne, à offrir à la créature féminine de ton choix. Le restaurant gastronomique, avec son excellente cuisine française, est à recommander vivement. La grande spécialité de la maison, sont les saucisses artisanales à la façon du chef, servies avec leur salade de pommes de terre aux fines herbes. A noter aussi que les couverts de table et la vaisselle sont d’une originalité tout à fait exceptionnelle. Keep the memory going ! Salut, Paul
J'ai une photo de 1968 á l'extérieur des Enfants ou on mimait une partie de ping pong, plus une copie d'une invitation. Je reconnais beaucoup de personnes sur le blog, malheureusement je n'ai pas beaucoup de souvenir des prénoms. Qui était au bar a l'époque? Un français du sud ( a cause de son accent).
Here's a link to the complete blog: Recollection: A New Year party to remember
For two years in a row my little French group also went to London at Christmas time. I ‘d stay with my English family for Christmas then would join my French friends for several days around New Year in a bed and breakfast close to theirs.
There were anywhere from 8 to 12 of us. We would go to record stores and listen to jazz for hours, and then would purchase some records to bring back to Paris. It was a lot cheaper to buy the Blue Note record label in London. I still have many 45 rpm records. In France, Maxim Saury signed a couple of them on the back cover, but it can hardly be seen now.
We went several times to listen to jazz at the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. It was in a basement in Soho – I think it opened in late 1959 in Gerrard Street.
I liked to be with my group of friends to go to Soho as it was a bit seedy then (and a bit naughty too.) I did not want to meet some rough “Teddy Boys” if alone on the street.
There were many jazz/coffee clubs in Soho at the time, some with even French names and French owned like La Poubelle, La Bastille, etc. One place was called Les Enfants Terribles, another Heaven and Hell and another Le Macabre – the tables were shaped like coffins and the gothic décor included bones, cobwebs and skeletons – they also recited beat poetry there. We would go to little Italian upstairs restaurants for a cheap meal.
Funnily enough I found Paul's restaurant - next door to Bar Italia of all places - I'd remembered it as being on the south side of Old Compton Street. Alzheimers anyone? Typically it had just finally closed down and the premises sold - I'd missed re-meeting Paul by a week or so. Another Soho institution bites the dust.
It all started when Lady Cordelia Crab-Walker, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Education, phoned me one morning and said: "Stefan darling, I need your help, - 0, yes, it's immensely important - as soon as you can, there's a good boy - no, no, not in my ofice, the thing is top secret - of course, you silly - no, not that sort of 'top secret' - do you know that little place in Soho called 'Les Enfants Terribles'? It's either Dean Street or Wardour Street, never remember which - of course you do - will you invite me there for a cup of coffee at six o'clock? - that will be lovely -you are a poppet - what? - no, I didn't say 'a poppet'. of course not, it must have been somebody on the line."
We were both five minutes late and. arriving from two opposite directions, met at exactly the same moment at the entrance to 'Les Enfants Terribles'. There were no more than three or four little tables in the cafe, but there was also a staircase leading down to the basement fiom which some psychedelic music was percolating upwards towards us. We stood at the top of the staircase, when the man behind the little coffee counter shook his dead disapprovingly.
"No?" I asked.
"No," he said.
"He doesn't want us to go down to the basement,'' I explained to Cordelia.
"Why?" she asked.
"Apartheid." I said.
"What!" she exclaimed.
"Well," I said. "Age apartheid. The generation gap. He's terrified we might meet our own children there. Or grand-children."
"So what if we do? I would like to. After all. I am the Ministry of Education. Good Lord!"
All the same, we didn't dive into the cellar, we sat politely in the comer by the window and ordered one cappuccino and one espresso.
"Well . . ." she looked straight into my eyes. Her eyes were wide open. They were green. With sparks of gold.
"Well." she said, "I want you to start something . . ."
I tried to find Paul's restaurant but couldn't - suppose that's gone too now. The only place that seems fairly untouched is Bar Italia - tried to get some history but the barista has only worked there since the 90's - wonder how to get in touch with the retired owner?
I haven't done much to the site although I always mean to - does no-one have any photos? Please? Or any more names - there must be hundreds more!
The coffee bar served espresso, capuccino, chocolate and tea from the Gaggia machine and originally the only soft drink was Coca Cola. At lunch times crescent rolls were on sale with ham, cheese or salami - the bar staff prepared the rolls and Camisa often forgot(?) to remove the skin from the salami which depending on who was making the rolls may or may not have been served. After some years Orange and eventually Lemon Fanta arrived. The premises were never licensed.
The discothèque was open every day from 8 pm(?) till midnight(?) as well as, in the 60's at least, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 3 to 6 pm. The primary disc jockey was Georgina who somehow alternated with Paul but I don't remember the system - however she had an infallible system for selecting records (45's of course). She created the first play-list by sorting the records into a pile in the correct sequence which meant a number of fast records followed by a number of slows - to which the lights were modestly dimmed of course. It was also the DJ's job to sell the bottles of coke (complete with one or two straws!) which were often warm as they were sold direct from the crate as the Coke cooler in the space behind the DJ was far too small and anyway not often refilled.
The first waitress I remember I think was Arlette, followed by Mayté and then Marianne. This may be way out because there was an Annick there somewhere. Davide worked with Arlette and I think even went out with her. Alain Féruch worked there too long before working at the Kilt. Jean-Claude was a waiter for quite a while before he too went to the Kilt and I'm really hard put to remember many more. Did Jean-Louis ever work there? Jean-Michel I know lived upstairs for a while; I think he may have worked there too. There were so many and I'm pretty sure I'd recognise most if not all of them if I were to see them again, or just hear a voice!
Marianne introduced me to Patricia who she thought needed looking after. Maria and Anna claimed to be Russian because of the reputation Swedish girls had at the time. Whenever there were all-nighters, Bastille Day and New Year's mostly, we really did dance all night. So obviously teenagers. Jean-Pierre and his buddies turned up most vacations as did Pierre from Belgium who drove a Simca.
Enzo the medical student who'd often fill his forearms with cloakroom pins to impress the girls, Michele in a dinner suit and shoulder weighed down by the power-pack to his flash-gun always taking photos everywhere - we really need his archive now. Fascino. What did he do? Where did he work? Marcus from Ghana known as Herbie. An architect. Phillipe with his lap-dog and gay ways, broken English and loved by all.
Guest Post by Mel Wright – January 2010
“It’s progress isn’t it?” the massive Nigerian security guard said, hovering over me in a kindly way on the corner of Dean Street and Diadem Court, Soho. “But my history is at stake,” I protested, pointing to the boarded up building behind him.
Les Enfants Terribles
Crossrail, the multi billion pound transport project are constructing a new high-capacity, high frequency London railway – east to west. But it comes with another cost – the demolition of some old Soho buildings including music venues. Already gone, The Astoria in Charing Cross Road and a block in north Soho will also soon vanish to make way for the shiny new Tottenham Court Road Station. The casualties will include number 93 Dean Street which in the Sixties housed a basement club called Les Enfants Terribles, a French student hang out- all Pepsi Cola and Johnny Hallyday. In 1967 I drummed there with Shakey Vick’s Big City Blues Band two nights a week. The French invented Disco and this club was buzzing with dancers chasing all the new stylish Mod moves to Green Onions, Mr Pitiful and The Midnight Hour. We would haul our equipment through the back door in Diadem Court and down into the basement dive to play the blues of Little Walter, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson et al. They loved it – things were changing – it was ’67 and a more free floating vibe was around – blues was back in. Alexis Korner and John Mayall were hip.
Shakey on Harmonica, Rod Price on guitar
“Shakey” they’d cry out above our raw down home sounds. But Shakey was more concerned about when we could nip out to the nearby Intrepid Fox for a pint! (the pub is also about to be demolished). At Les Enfants’ we all learnt to speak a bit of French. Our guitarist Rod Price even more so as he got very chatty with some au pairs who became regulars to our little weekly caper. Rather uncharacteristically Shakey saw this West End gig as an opportunity for the band to become more professional. He proclaimed that we smarten up and not sit on our speakers when we were playing. For a while we all took things rather seriously, after all he was the boss. But it didn’t last, thank goodness. Les Enfants’ did lead us to getting a residency at The Marquee in Wardour Street. So we felt that we were on our way, of sorts.
Leaning back now against the wall in Diadem Court eyeing the doomed building these hazy memories came flooding back. “Any chance of me popping down in the club before it goes, just to take a few photos?” I asked my friendly security guard. “Oh no, can’t do that, there’s cameras see. It’s all locked up. They’ve got squatters in the pub next door.” I looked up and sure enough above the boards I saw signs of life at the window. People grittily hanging on to accommodation in central London. I wondered about phoning Shakey to see if he fancied joining me in a squat at the old club but I reckoned he’d say that he’d prefer joining them at the pub .
The espresso was 1s 3d, frothy coffee or flat coffee 1s 6d and of course TIP NOT INCLUDED ! The "speciality" was the JB (Jean Bernard) cream at the bottom of the small cup and espresso on top. The cream came from the top of the milk bottles; Lucio would never have bought the cream. The waiter was paid 10s the rest had to be made up with tips. The Coffee Boy, as he was called, was paid £1 10s per session (10am to 6pm or 6pm to 12), this was later increased to £2.
The rent for a room at 9 Diadem Court was £7 a week, each room had a coin operated gas meter outside the door, electricity was included in the rent, but electric fires were not allowed.
Do you remember two English brothers; rather public school. Their mother was a lush at the Nelly Dean pub? One of them wanted a scar - Bonny & Clyde was a big film that year. He read that if one applied glue to the face and squeezed a scar line would appear, easy. He ended up with half of his face blistered and scabbed. Ah well folly of youth!
Je viens de penser à la copine de Marianne, Joëlle, dont je me souviens des petits détails car elle était très originelle – des cheveux en brosse, des bottes en caoutchouc parce qu’elle n’avait pas de quoi en acheter en cuir – et la bague à la merde qu’elle avait mise sur un doigt et n’arrivait plus à enlever et comment je l’ai emmenée à l’urgence où ils n’arrivaient pas à la découper car elle était fondue en bronze du canon ! Un génie s’est souvenu d’une méthode avec du fil de coton lié autour du doigt pour comprimer l’inflammation – et voilà !
A couple of doors along towards Oxford Street there was a "porno" shop. Jimmy, the owner, was a keen boxer and he transformed the cellar of his shop into a gym with punch bag, skipping rops etc.
One morning he came into Les Enfants and said: "Tonight I gotta have a fight in Mare Street, Hackney. Will you and Lucio come and support me?"
"Yeah, OK" I said and after having a word with Lucio we decided we'd go.
Once there we felt a bit intimidated as we realised we were the only two in the crowd cheering for Jimmy! The others, a couple of hundred cockneys, supported the other chap. While waiting in the ring for his opponent Jimmy started dancing and shadow boxing and looked very professional, the picture of a prize fighter.
As the fight started Jimmy began his dancing around but the other fellow stood almost still and after about 20 seconds of staring at Jimmy bouncing around the ring his opponent threw a punch, just one punch straight from the shoulder, one single punch and Jimmy was out for the count, gone, kaput, flat on his back.
The spectators erupted and started shouting the winner's name and Lucio and I made a discreet exit.
The next morning Jimmy came to Les Enfants wearing dark glasses and without even saying good morning he shouted "Did you see that, I nearly had 'im, he just took me by surprise, I would've had 'im!"
I said "Jimmy. He only landed one punch and you didn't even strech out an arm!
And from that day on he was known as "I Nearly Had 'im", no one called him Jimmy anymore.