What does Holly Johnson get up to on his day off?
Well he potters around posh art galleries with his pals, he browses round the odd with-it clothes shop, and he has a spot of lunch!
“How absolutely terrific! Can I come ?” cries eager reporter Tom Doyle.
It’s 11.30 on a Thursday morning in the first week of July. It’s the height of summer and the sun should be splitting the pavements, but it’s not. The rain’s bucketing down. This doesn’t make Holly Johnson a very happy chap.
“I can’t handle it when it rains,” he moans. “On days like these I’d rather take it easy and not see anyone because it just puts me in a bad mood for the day when you wake up and it’s raining and the sky’s grey.”
But chance would be a fine thing because the Hits has decided to drag young Hollington out from beneath his cosy duvet and haul him around his favourite haunts of London.
“We were hoping to visit the wonderful Tate Gallery and take some photographs outside to give your readers some impression of the full splendour of the architecture of the building itself. But it’s much too rainy,” he snootles.
Holly explains that on nice days he and his friends usually take a taxi from his house in West London to the Tate (on the north bank of the Thames), visit the art gallery and then stroll the four miles back home.
“It’s really very pleasant,” he swizzles. “There’s lots of nice paintings to look at in there. I like walking around and going ‘Oooh, look at that one’ and ‘Oooh, who did that one?’ That’s the way the conversation usually goes. We don’t go in for pretentious conversation about depth and perspective and colour.”
He also likes to buy and collect paintings when he finds ones he likes and when he can afford them.
“I bought a painting last week by an artist called Mary Fedden. She’s very good and she’s still alive. She paints in a naive yet sophisticated style, y’know still life on tables like fish and fruit and lamps and bowls. What’s the most expensive painting I have? I don’t think we should really discuss money. It’s private. I don’t divulge information like that.”
Oh well. Perhaps he might care to “divulge” the name of our first destination on our jaunt around London with him…
In the wild and currazy days of the late ‘70s, Malcolm McLaren invented punk rock by becoming the manager of The Sex Pistols and opening a shop called Sex selling punk clothes on London’s trendy King’s Road.
“I wouldn’t say I buy a lot from here,” he points out while prancing in front of a mirror, checking how he looks in some loud stripy jacket.
“Oooh, I don’t know if this is quite me, is it? I usually just buy the occasional thing for a video or something. Y’know that outfit I wore in the video for ‘Love Train’? The lilac and blue one with the hat and the short trousers? That was from Worlds End. This shop’s very expensive, which is another reason why I don’t buy a lot from here.”
The shop is also rather unusually designed inside. The floorboards are slanted to one side which makes it difficult to walk and is supposed to give you the feeling you’re on a pirate ship. Outside there’s a huge clock “motif” which counts 13 hours instead of 12 while its hands whizz backwards depicting the end of the world (or something).
“All these outfits in the shop have been designed by Vivienne Westwood,” Holly explains as he guides us around. “I think she’s the most innovative designer Britain has had since the ‘60s. If you’re really interested in fashion and clothes and if you’re ever on a day trip to London, then you should visit this shop. They sell the tweed crowns you might have seen me wearing. I think probably this hat I’m wearing is my favourite thing I’ve bought here. It’s become known as The Holly Johnson Hat. There is a gypsy good luck charm in it here.
“Oh look! This shirt’s nice, isn’t it?” he squeals as he picks out a light blue “creation” with big white dots on it. “I like the black one with the stars on it but I can’t wear that because Craig from Bros has one. How much is this? £80? I get 15 per cent discount remember. Oooh, I think I’ll buy it. Pass me my wallet, will yer?”
“The King’s Road is a place where people go on Saturday to parade rather than shop,” Holly explains as we walk around the corner to one of his favourite shops, American Classics. “It’s like going to see a street fashion culture show. You see every conceivable type here on Saturdays—tourists from all over the world, prehistoric punk rockers still left over from the ‘70s. Shopwise it has its ups and downs, but this one is particularly nice because it’s full of super-friendly people.”
The shop is most famous for being the place where Bros buy their second-hand Levi jeans with holes in the knees plus their leather jackets and scarves. But Holly insists that he’s been visiting the shop a lot longer than the Goss twins have.
“You get loads of nice bits of ‘50s clothing, but you’ve got to come on a regular basis. Especially when they’ve just had a delivery. They get huge bales of jeans in from America. It’s a real drag if you arrive late and all the good stuff’s gone. I bought an original 1940s lieutenant’s flight jacket with a naked lady painting on the back from here. It’s fab. You get loads of brilliant ties and pots of hair grease and thing from here. It’s quite cheap too, which is nice.”
Holly begins rummaging through a big pile of jeans, finds a pair he likes, then whips his trousers off in front of everyone in the shops and tries them on.
“Oooh, now I do like these. I like that black shirt with the coloured bits on it as well. Ooh, I don’t half hate having my photograph taken in public. This outfit’s nice altogether, isn’t it? I think I’ll buy ‘em. I’m a devil, aren’t I?”
After all this carefree money-blowing japery, Holly has got a bit of a rumble in his belly. So he decides to take us along to one of his favourite eateries, The Blue Elephant, a Thai restaurant in Fulham Broadway.
“I started coming here about two years ago. Continue »
“We have nicknames for other pop groups. They are supposed to be affectionate names. We have Spazz, can you guess who that is? Bimbo Beyond. We like them very much. Transvision Tramp… and you can guess why. Athena Poppadopulus—
Aside from the attraction of all this mickey-taking revelry, Holly and his cronies actually do come here because the food’s quite good as well. He orders some Thai fish (“it’s just like the fish out of the chippie but with nice sauce in it”) and begins his critical appraisal of the restaurant’s decor:
“At night when it’s dark, all these lovely tapestries on the wall glisten in the candlelight. It’s really atmospheric. It’s not as nice as some restaurants I’ve been in though. There’s a great restaurant in Paris where they have star lights on the ceiling and there’s an aquarium with goldfish on the floor.”
But Holly doesn’t always eat out in fancy restaurants like this one:
“I mostly eat sandwiches actually but I’m quite a mean cook myself. I’m good at pasta. I also do mean fish dishes with sauté potatoes and mange tout (peas in their pods). I prefer cooking myself because I know exactly what’s gone into it. I do a good date and walnut cake.”
The management of the restaurant, realising they have a superstar on the premises, send a waiter over to the table with a large complimentary platter of summer fruits cut into posh little flower shapes especially for Holly. After this has been ritually devoured by everyone present, it’s time for Holly’s press officer lady to pay the bill and off we scarper.
“I think I’ll play around in the little studio I have in the basement of my house, for the rest of the afternoon,” Holly announces. “Being a pop star isn’t all about shopping for clothes and eating nice food, it’s more about writing songs. I reckon that’s my favourite place.”