Peter Stringfellow screws up his eyes against the October sun and murmurs “This island has got to be one of the most delightful places I’ve ever been to”. Peter Stringfellow has owned night-clubs in New York, Miami, and Beverly Hills, he now runs two clubs in London, one in Covent Garden and the other in Soho and has another place in Paris. Peter is King Of The Clubs, that’s what he does, that’s what he is known for, and that’s why he is instantly recognizable to most Brits.
As I sit opposite him, Peter is slightly different to what I expected, but I can‘t quite work out why. He shows no diva tendencies and is charm itself when our photographer try’s to get him to pose for the camera. But that’s not it;- I know what it is, Peter Stringfellow is a surprisingly good looking guy. Under his trademark mane of hair, he has a light tan, an uncomplicated but handsome face and looks like he may work out now and again, nothing too strenuous you understand, but certainly he looks after himself.
Stringfellow is a businessman first and foremost who loves and understands what he does. I asked him if he were ever tempted to open a club business in Mallorca “no never” he replied “although I spend an awful lot of time both here and in Ibiza, this is where I live and relax and I’m just not interested” He have been coming over here for the past seven years or so, initially staying at a friends Villa then living on his boat, five years ago he bought his own place in Bendinat. He and his fiance Bella Wright (a former Royal Ballet dancer) love the island and their boat and he tells a revealing story concerning Sir Peter Green the billionaire retailer. Green invited Peter and Bella onto his vast yacht named “Braveheart” our hero couldn’t understand why Green could get so much enjoyment out of the boat when he had a full time skipper and crew to cater for his every whim need, so in typical forthright Stringfellow fashion he told him as much. “I really couldn’t see the point in all that, the fun of my boat is that Bella and I can do everything ourselves, otherwise you could just as well be in a 5 star hotel ashore”.
Just as I was lining him up to ask some killer questions about the “nitty gritty” of running successful nightclubs he completely disarmed me by steering our conversation to politics. He tells me that he is a committed Conservative, not by class or tribe but by conviction, and when we talked about politics he smattered his conversation with revealing words such as “aspire” and “opportunity” to describe his personal philosophy on conservatism. I’m going to get into trouble with my editor I thought, here I am with the notorious Peter Stringfellow and I haven’t asked him one question yet about clubs, girls, and his party lifestyle!
Are you a frustrated politician Peter? “It was a serious idea of mine a few year ago to get involved in the campaign for Mayor of London” how did that happen? I asked with a doubtful look on my face. Boris Johnson MP broached the subject a few years ago when Stringfellow and Bella were at a lunch at Westminster with some Tory big wigs. It might well be that the enthusiastically heterosexual Johnson carried away by Bella’s considerable charms thought it might be a good idea to put Peter in the frame; but no, he was having none of that, “It was his clear suggestion that I should stand and be counted” my comment that Boris was just being flippant was rejected, “he and the others were serious, but of course that was before Boris became the candidate himself!”
When he was running a club in New York in 1990 the latest recession was hitting business very hard. On a visit to Fort Lauderdale Florida he entered a club called Platinum, it was crowded and absolutely jumping, a far cry from his place in New York. What that club had was girls; girls dancing- girls dancing for money. Stringfellow was impressed and “the light bulb came on in my head, just like in the cartoons” the adult entertainment industry was for him. A year later girls were dancing in his club and he “took off”. At this juncture in our conversation Peter leaned over the table and made direct eye contact with me, and as if he had read my thoughts, he said “Frank, my business was and is above board, and legal”. In the mid nineties he opened the first of his “girl clubs” in London and the British adult entertainment industry had a new champion; ” Stringfellow’s was a phenomenon”.
Peter is a strange mix, on one hand he finds nothing wrong with girls dancing for men for money, but when I raised the subject of drugs and drug taking in club life he was not amused. “I have never smoked or taken drugs in my life, and although my staff will not stop and search customers in my clubs, the fact is they are illegal, and I make sure that my places are not conducive to them”. At face value it might sound that Stringfellow was taking a pragmatic legal line, but I believed his ill concealed contempt for the culture of drugs and in particular celebrity druggies, a subject with which, I suspect he is very familiar.
Talking to him I was impressed how grounded he was, that is not to say that he doesn’t have a considerable ego, but he wears it lightly. Perhaps that’s because he left school at fifteen “at school I was good at nothing” and had to make his own way in life. He organized a band at a local church hall and sold tickets to local teenagers.
How did it go Peter, I enquired with a smirk – “I lost money on the first and second shows and made money on the third” we laughed at the absurdity of it all–”do you know, on that third night I stood in front of a hundred people, I loved it, I really loved it, and I‘ve lived the life from that moment on”. One of the most endearing of Stringfellows many traits is his good humoured accessibility. It is legend in the Portals area of the island that Peter will always have a smile or a pleasant word for tourists who approach him to just say hello or shake his hand, I asked him about this- “I don’t mind, and if they enjoy it that’s fine by me”.
I think that “Stringy” is in danger of becoming a British institution; slightly naughty modern Icon meets national treasure perhaps? However as party animals Peter and Bella are a real disappointment, in fact let’s face it, they should get out more.