This week’s news that Princess Diana was once smuggled into the RVT should come as no surprise to the Prime Minister. He was on stage that night.
Described in The Sun as “a notorious gay pub“, the nation’s favourite newspaper described in lurid detail this week how Princess Diana was sneaked into South London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern by celebrity chums Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett. The Sun’s article, based on Everett confederate Cleo Rocos’ book The Power of Positive Drinking, curiously omits a crucial part of that story: on stage that summer night was a young David Cameron.
Having finished his first year at Brasenose College, Oxford and interning by day at a City bank owned by a family friend, Cameron was gaining valuable stage experience that night as his creation The Iron Lady. In doing so, he chose to emulate one of his heroines, indeed perhaps his only heroine: the reigning Prime Minister of the day, Margaret Thatcher. Cameron’s fondness for “the grocer’s daughter” has been well-documented and been the subject of much snarking, not least when he famously asked by Jonathan Ross “did you or did you not have a wank thinking of Margaret Thatcher?”
No doubt part of an aborted plan to join the Oxford Revue (a counterpart to the Cambridge Footlights), Cameron will have wanted to get some solid stage experience behind him before applying. Unfortunately, not having an Equity card meant his options were limited. At that time, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern was one of a number of properties owned by the Duke of Westminster who would have been happy to lend a hand.
We tracked down Mark McInnes, a barman who worked in the RVT in the early 1980s and remembers Cameron’s appearances well. “He always appeared on stage with his hoodie-wearing jailbait sidekick who he called ‘Orrible George’. George was a right vicious bastard, threatening to cut people where they had never been cut before.” McInnes recalls that the only item on the pair’s rider was Coke. “I thought it was because one or both were underage but strangely I never saw them walking around with any drinks.”
Whether his turns on the Tavern’s stage coloured Cameron’s admittedly progressive views on gay rights (for a Conservative), we will never know. His performances may not have been classic but they have passed down into legend and inspired other cabaret artistes. One example is burlesque star Honey Wilde with her classic Lady Thatcher act. The identity or fate of “Orrible George” is less clear. Apparent sightings at the RVT’s Saturday night show Duckie remain unconfirmed.
Alas and alack, this was but an April Fool.