Rebecca Zephyr Thomas takes the Number 243 bus with HRH Princess Julia and Barney the Party Dog ahead of Princess Julia’s show at The Glory tonight.
Rebecca Zephyr Thomas and Princess Julia go way back. Creating a book inspired by Princess herself entitled What Would Julia Do? last year, you could say that Rebecca is our resident Princess Julia expert. So, ahead of Princess Julia’s upcoming shows at The Glory, the only logical thing for Wonderland to do was ask Rebecca to chat to our favourite princess ahead of her theatrical memoir about London’s counter-culture. The performance ‘An Audience With Princess Julia’ is a spoken word piece taken from her memoirs and supported by short films by the similarly long-standing member of the club scene – from Blitz- kids to now – Jeffrey Hinton. Princess Julia has enlisted the inimitable drag personality Jacqui Potato to create a performance inspired by her life with special guests, fashion by the likes of Stephen Jones and Ryan Lo and it’s set to be one night you will never forget.
With Princess Julia known for her presence on the London nightlife scene (she’s DJ-ed and danced her way through all the best nights the city has to offer since the eighties) and her penchant for always doing things a bit differently, Rebecca took the 243 bus with Julia around East London with Barney the party dog to pick up a hat from her favourite milliner, Stephen Jones. As the duo passed all of Princess Julia’s fave haunts, they chatted fashion, nightlife and of course, Princess’ upcoming show. With it’s first instalment this evening, head to The Glory tonight, with Princess Julia’s motto in mind, ‘If in doubt, go out!’
Rebecca: Would you mind telling me what inspired you to do the show at the Glory? What gave you that idea?
Princess Julia: My show is going to be about counter culture but put forward in a theatrical and entertaining way, rather than just me getting on a panel or just sitting on a stage reading monologues. I decided to do it because one the favorite questions that people ask me is how does it compare: now and then.
Fashion, art, music…
Exactly. How do things compare on the creative scene… I wanted to put forward an idea of how everything is inter-connected and there is a thread of creativity running through everything. There can be a core energy of expressing yourself, whether it’s through how you look or what you do, it’s about energy. Especially in London I find, the city is just as strong and exciting now. I wanted to put on a show that made that very apparent.
I’m collaborating with a few different people on this, my director is Jonny Woo, set design by Gary Card, Jeffery Hinton doing music and visuals, Jackie Potato aka Julian J Smith doing an interpretative performance and my wardrobe is by Ed Marler and Ryan Lo. So, there’s lots going on and it’s basically the Julia show. I’ll have a little Q and A, a little chitchat with a celebrity guest. Hahah all my friends are celebrities really in my mind, so I have Stephen Jones, Ian R Webb and Judy Blame. Three shows and a different person every week.
So Princess Julia with her stately homos?
Well I hope it appeals to quite a wide demographic of different people, but yes, it will be camp. I’m hoping that the audience will be people from the era, that want to re cant our journey together via me… and then people that are fascinated by it, and really young people who are just starting out and don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. I’m going to be quite explanatory. I don’t want to just reel things off. If you don’t get anything out of it, it will still be entertaining. I’m going to dot it up with my personal words of wisdom. It’s not going to just be a ramble, I want to involve the audience and have a positive air about things. I think that’s how we learn in life, I know it’s a bit of cliché, but sometimes making mistakes isn’t bad, it’s good.
I wanted to ask you a little bit about your wardrobe for the show. You have a very Julia mix of established, very fabulous Stephen Jones and you have really young, new designers.
I’ve got Stephen Jones as a guest, I will wear one (of the hats). I will won’t I? It would be rude not to. Sometimes I’m out somewhere and I’ve got somebody else’s hat on and I bump into Stephen Jones.
(Rebecca wags her finger jokingly)
He doesn’t actually wag a finger at me, he gives me that look like owww, it’s really, really funny. I don’t like to trouble people, because I know he’s a busy man. I had this moment in the early eighties when I was kind of a model of sorts. I did get modelling jobs, and I went to Tokyo for a while to be a model, but I’m really too short to be a model… so I never really did catwalk. I did photographic modelling, and when Stephen left college and set up his own millinery salon, straight away he was very focused and industrious, and we had little soirees and I was one of the house models. The salon models and I used to love it, you know. I should only really wear Stephen Jones. I hate to say that I share the love and wear a few different people. I really feel that Stephen Jones made millinery a real thing, he studied to be a fashion designer and he went into the millinery thing and before him nobody was really doing it in the way that he was and he really did inspire people to revisit millinery but also go forward with it. He’s such a nice man, I adore him.
How did you pick the two other designers, Ryan Lo and Ed Marler?
I like to keep a key eye on new designers and both of those designers actually came out of Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East and that’s when I became more aware of them. I’m quite interested in the way she creates a platform for new designers, to sort of have a real fashion experience, because it’s a really tough industry to break into when you leave fashion college. To get a foot in the door you have to be quite special…. and I always love her choices, they’ve been choices in the past and now they’ve flown the nest. I like both those designers, they’re both really young. I like them for different reasons.
You’re a real pillar of the community Julia, how is having the Glory right on your door step?
I know, lucky me, lucky me. I know I have the tag of being out every night for thirty years, but actually I haven’t. You can thank Tim Blanks for that. It’s a slight exaggeration. But I am active, socially, on the different scenes,
And you wear heels. Always in heels.
That comes from when I started experiementing with my image, creating my own personal style, I always thought I was a bit short. One of my most pivotal looks was the old behive, so I thought high hair and heels. I always wanted heels anyway, I remember begging my mother for a pair when I was eight. Can I have some stillettos then mother? It’s sort of ingrained in me. I was told once that I should wear resting shoes! Resting shoes!
What are resting shoes?
Flats! I had about two months of experimenting with flats and I hated it, I used to go out in flats but take a pair of high heels with me. I think it’s important to present yourself even if you’re having an off day, it can just really perk you up even if you’re not really going anywhere. Put the make up on, that’s what I say. Because you just don’t know what’s going to happen. You have to be prepared for anything to happen. You just need to be looking your best. Someone might come round who you haven’t seen for years. You might meet the love of your life walking down the street. You know, feel comfortable, I’m not saying everyone should wear make up… In fact I’m really jealous of people who don’t have to wear it, I’ve always been a fan of the feral looking woman, what’s her name? Patti, Patti Smith. LOVE. I’d like to be like that. And inside of me there is a feral woman.
Itching to get out…
She’s in there! It’s what you feel comfortable at the end of the day, if you feel comfortable in a casual look, earth shoes or what ever, I’m not saying that’s wrong, I’m saying that’s a look. It’s all drag to me. It’s a strong look and you can work it and be empowered, but for me personally I’d just feel like an old rat bag. I veer off towards a little bit more of a done up look. But all looks count. And everything you wear is drag. To my mind. The act of putting on clothes is dragging up. Even if it’s casual drag. I had this conversation with Jonny (Woo) even if you’re not really doing anything, your day look is sort of the same as your evening look. Where as for me, for him, getting dressed up if part of his performance. So maybe in a way my outlook is that I’m always performing. The street is my catwalk. It’s sort of a bit of a Joan Collins philosophy. I don’t know where I get it from, probably my grandmother. I just think if you take a few minutes to consider how you’re presenting yourself it makes such a difference. You’ve learnt that from me, haven’t you Rebecca?
Well, I don’t always put it into practice! One of your famous lines is… “If In Doubt Go Out!”
Ohh! I forgot about that! I could do a meme of that. Well, Jeffrey (Hinton) said that to me once. I was feeling rather down and miserable.
So this is borrowed from Jeffrey Hinton?
Yeah, I nick things and then I own them. There’s nothing wrong with that! So I was a bit down about something, all oh my life is so vacuous and hollow, urghhhh what a drudge. We all have those moments, you know. What would life be without them. And I shared a flat with Jeffery for years, in Camden… And I was kind of like umming and ahhing and he was like ‘if in doubt, go out’. I was like ‘You’re right. I’m going’. If I’m umming and arhhing, I pull myself together and those words come back to me.
Haunted by Jeffrey Hinton. If you don’t go out what do you like to do…?
I don’t go out that much really! I might be a sort of workaholic, I catch up with all the bits that I’ve meant to have done, a bit of writing or something, watching Coronation street. I like that sort of mundanity of life, you know, cleaning out the cat litter tray… That’s not one of my favourite jobs.
Hahah keeps you humble.
Oh I like doing water colours and painting, I really enjoy that, that’s a hobby, but it’s a hobby that’s lead on to other things, I did some illustrations for Peter Jensen and for Martel.
And you have your own show?
Yes! I’ve never had my own show before… I’ve been in group shows.
We have to get off the bus!
WORDS: Rebecca Zephyr Thomas
MAKE UP: Andrew Gallimore for NARS
MILLINERY: Stephen Jones