Is there a dirtier, more grotesque part of London than Elephant and Asshole? Even the dirt and filth has seen better days. Good job then that I was going to the antidote, the nearby Cinema Museum, a rarefied building with high ceilings, beams, comfy sofas and reasonably priced ales and lagers. I was there to come face to face with my teenage self, lost for however long but about to find itself mirrored in the lined faces of the three remaining members from Pan’s People’s classic line up, the one featuring Babs, Dee Dee, Ruth, Louise and Cherry (not forgetting Flick of course). And there they all are on a giant screen playing clips from their heyday, from black and white 60s clips to glorious mid 1970’s technicolour jumpsuits, hotpants, mini skirts and mutts that refuse to ‘get down’. All too soon the dream was over; Pan’s People gave way to Pan’s People’s People (Leg’s & Co) who in turn begat Ruby Flipper before the world moved on and left these classically trained go go dancers in it’s wake.
I bought a beer, a coffee - and I bought the book that tells their story and Ruth and DeeDee both signed it. They were both very gracious and wrote lovely messages. DeeDee asked me where I was from and said she too had come from Bath, or a village nearby which I was unfamiliar with. For a reference point she asked if I knew Trowbridge, and remembering Morrison's I exclaimed 'it has a supermarket', thinking that the late middle aged woman in front of me probably liked nothing more than pushing a trolly round on her afternoons off from being a former lust object. At this point she must have read my mind because she lost interest and began chatting to someone else.
The talk began – it was all very genteel with inoffensive questioning and I sensed there probably wouldn’t be any exposes of former Radio 1 DJ’s leering down their youthful decolettages. In the interval I collared the iconic Babs and we exchanged a few pleasantries whilst the grandee of popular daytime dance held her glasses on with one hand whilst signing with the other. She then introduced me to a nearby chap as being the author of the book. I said that whilst I hadn’t read it I was sure it was a terrific read. What I should have done was ask him to sign it also but I was so overcome with long forgotten Thursday night feelings that all I could do was focus on lovely Babs. I feel bad that I didn’t but the deed is done.
But it took me back to a time when as a young teenager growing up in West Bromwich the highlight of the week was Top of the Pops, and more often than not the highlight of TOTP was Pan's People, and I shall forever be grateful for the splash of colour they brought to many a dull and uneventful Thursday evening in an unprepossessing Black Country town.