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Peter Stringfellow


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Sheffield History

PETER STRINGFELLOW

pictured at the penthouse nightclub

A few years ago, Peter Stringfellow's nightclub empire was in a parlous state. His New York club had recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, his Miami club was just months away from the same fate and, although Stringfellows Los Angeles was yet to open, the flamboyant impresario had gambled everything, including his flagship London establishment, on the success of the new venture.

Sitting alone and depressed one night in his empty Miami club, Stringfellow reluctantly gave in to the appeals of his friend, Carlos, that they go out for the night. When Stringfellow got into Carlos' limousine and learned they were going to a strip-joint he was, some would be surprised to learn, less than impressed.

�I peered inside, expecting to see a typical strip club,� Stringfellow wrote in his autobiography. �It was nothing like I'd imagined. It was more like an upmarket disco with a stage instead of a dance floor.

�On stage were two beautiful girls, dancing in a very erotic way. By the time the girls had taken off their clothes, I'd fallen in love. What I saw that night took my breath away.�

Stringfellow knew then that he had found an answer to his problems in New York. What he didn't realise was that he had also discovered something that would not only save his business, but also provide the platform for its growth in the future.

Stringfellow, born in a poor area of Sheffield in 1940,was the first of four sons.

His father worked at the local steelworks and Peter, an unexceptional student, was expected to follow in his father's footsteps.

To his father's great disappointment, but as with many of the jobs he had turned his hand to, he quickly grew bored of the steelworks and left.

After a short spell in the merchant navy, including a brief visit to New York that would ignite a lifelong fascination with the US, Stringfellow returned to Sheffield and the pattern of on-again-off-again work.

Through one of these jobs, he met and married his first love, Norma, in December 1960, and subsequently made every attempt to settle down. His undoubted ability as a salesman saw him employed with a reputable local carpet company and quickly promoted to sales manager.

In 1962, Stringfellow claims he learned his most valuable lesson in life when, after stealing carpets and selling them on the side, he was arrested and charged with fraud. With Norma expecting their first child, he was sentenced to three months in prison.

Despite having begun what would become a lifetime of philandering before he went to prison, as soon as he was released, Stringfellow was determined to provide for Norma and his daughter, Karen, who was born soon after his release. When his criminal record made it difficult for him to find regular work, a conversation with a friend who worked as a driver for a band gave him the idea of starting his own business.

In August 1962, Stringfellow hired a band, the Pursuers, to play at the venue which locals knew as St Aiden's Church Hall, but which he had renamed the Black Cat .He lost �25 on the night, but the excitement the business engendered in him, as well as the opportunities it presented to meet women, meant Stringfellow had found his new career.

Stringfellow's business had already started making money when, in February 1963, he booked a then up-and-coming band from Merseyside, the Beatles. The sheer number of tickets he sold forced him to move the show from the former church hall to a much larger venue on the outskirts of Sheffield. His appetite for expansion was well and truly whetted, and he booked the venue long-term as the home for his second club, Mojo.

While Mojo was hosting sell-out shows by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Ike and Tina Turner and Little Stevie Wonder, Stringfellow's marriage was falling apart.

In 1965, he and Norma divorced. In 1966, his long-time mistress, Coral, gave birth to his son, Scott. Stringfellow married Coral in 1967 and, despite his continued philandering, their partnership lasted until 1989.

The other essential partnership in Stringfellow's life was with his brother, Geoffrey. While Peter was the flashy frontman, Geoffrey worked behind the scenes administering their escalating business and in the evenings enjoyed the social lifestyle of a nightclub owner.

In 1969, they opened their first club with a liquor licence, the Penthouse. In 1970, having sold their Sheffield clubs they opened Cinderella's in Leeds, and to complement it, built Rockafella's next door.

The Stringfellows were financially secure for the first time, but they were by no means finished. They opened the hugely successful Millionaire's Club in Manchester in the mid-1970s and, after selling their interests in Leeds, decided it was now time to conquer London.

A number of factors nearly cost Stringfellow everything; his massively over-budget Covent Garden nightclub, for one thing.

Moreover, his brother's alcoholism was damaging the business to the point where he would have to buy him out. But when Stringfellows opened in London in August 1980, it attained immediate and spectacular success.

�I was tired, more tired than I'd ever felt in my life,� Stringfellow says of the time.

�Stringfellows was successful, but the pressure of success is often greater than the pressure of failure. With failure you can put up your hand and walk away.

�Success you have to deal with.�

Stringfellow dealt with success the only way he knew how: by immersing himself in sex, which along with vodka and champagne, he cites as �my only drugs'�, and by taking another monstrous gamble with his business.

At a cost of stg�3.5 million, the Hippodrome in Leicester Square was hugely expensive. Its lighting and sound systems were on a scale and of a type that had never been heard or seen before.

Accordingly, they didn't work properly for months after the club's official opening in 1983, but despite this and the fact that it left Stringfellowstg�2 million in debt, it was again enormously successful.

Throughout his career, Stringfellow had managed to be at the forefront of changes in the entertainment industry, from booking the Beatles in 1963 to the move from live music to DJs and then on to discos. He learned to deliver what people wanted, rather than what he believed they wanted.

At the Hippodrome, he pioneered the promotion of *** nights, which have now become a staple of nightclubs all over the world.

Flushed with the success of his two London clubs, he decided it was time to take on New York. Whether it was a case of bad timing or simply naivety on Stringfellow's part, his American experience is the one glaring blot on his otherwise successful career.

Stringfellows New York opened in 1986 and, although it enjoyed limited success, it never reached the heights of his British clubs. Despite this and the deteriorating economic conditions towards the end of the 1980s, he opened another nightspot in Miami in 1989 - after selling the Hippodrome to finance both it and his divorce from Coral.

In 1990, he was lured by the prestigious Beverly Hills address, and against his better judgment, to open another one in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles club also enjoyed limited success, but nowhere near enough to support Stringfellow's other faltering interests. After his Miami experience, and with the financial backing of Irishman Ronnie Riley, he reopened New York as a lap-dancing club called Stringfellow Presents Pure Platinum. Interestingly, Riley had first contacted Stringfellow with the idea of opening a franchise of Stringfellows in Dublin.

By 1993, the parent company, Stringfellow Enterprises, had loaned out so much money that it was facing liquidation. The three American operations were bankrupt and, although London was still financially viable, it was struggling and badly in need of renovation.

Luckily for Stringfellow, however, the recession ensured that when the liquidator offered his club for sale, no one except him had the money to buy it. His bank had loaned him the money on the basis that he guarantee that his flirtation with America was over and, within six months, he had sold all of his remaining interests there.

After a refurbishment and a successful application in 1996 for London's first table-side dancing licence, Stringfellow opened his Cabaret of Angels for three days a week at his existing premises. Its success soon saw it extended to the full seven days, and in 2002 he opened Stringfellows in Paris.

This week, after his lawyers assured a court in Dublin that irrespective of the friction with the local community, there would be no �application of friction'� between dancers and clients, his business is coming to Dublin 15 years after the idea was first mooted.

Stringfellow wanted a local with leisure industry experience to drive the project and, having struck up a close friendship with Dublin businessman Tom Butler during his many visits to Ireland, he knew just who he wanted.

Butler, best known for building up the Q-Zar interactive tag game, which at its peak in 1996 was valued atUS$109 million, has also been involved with a number of restaurant and bar franchises, including TGI Friday Down Under and the Hard Rock Cafe.

The Dubliner brought some financial expertise on board in the guise of Alan McEvoy, a prominent entertainment accountant. McEvoy jumped at the chance to become a company director. As business manager and financial counsel to a host of Irish celebrities, including Westlife, Ronan Keating, Samantha Mumba and the Cranberries, he also provides the club with direct access to the top names in Irish music.

�Stringfellow is a very charming man,� McEvoy told this newspaper last November. �He is very interested in what you have to say. He is by no means full of himself or anything like that. To be honest, it is very difficult not to like him.�

Which is just as well, because sources said Stringfellow would be the public face of the club, while Butler and McEvoy would work in an advisory capacity.

The �joint venture' between the three men is further evidence, if anyone needed it, that despite turning 65 last October, Stringfellow has no intention of slowing down. He does claim that his days of infidelity are over, announcing his intention to settle down with his 22-year-old fiancee, Bella, but there are certainly no plans for retirement.

�If I was a steelworker like my dad was, of course. If I was a miner like a lot of my friends were, of course. But come on. To retire from this, I'd be a fool,� he recently told reporters. �And retire to what? My job is my lifestyle.�

See also our sections on Sheffield nightclubs of the past

The Mojo Club - http://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/forums/i...p?showtopic=215

The Penthouse Club - http://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/forums/i...p?showtopic=202

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  • 2 weeks later...

Comments about the two photos above.

The top photo is not Peter Stringfellow in the Penthouse Club. The guy is one of the band in the photo featured on this websites Penthouse Club thread. This guy and his band are indeed playing on the Penthouse stage, but Peter is the person who is stood just behind him!

The second photo is of Peter outside one of his London clubs, sitting in a small car. This was the same (pink) car he later brought up to Sheffield and auctioned for charity at one of the Mojo reunion nights at the Leadmill. See this sites Leadmill Club thread.

Peace and Love

Paul Norton

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  • 1 year later...
Guest leemcdonald

My mother was brought up on andover street, pitsmoor and swore blind peter used to live a couple of doors up the hill from her.

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  • 1 month later...
Guest Brendan R Owen

My mother was brought up on andover street, pitsmoor and swore blind peter used to live a couple of doors up the hill from her.

Hi Lee,

Peter and his brothers, Paul, Geoff and Terry were all brought up in the Pitsmoor area and did live around the Andover street area with their parents so your mother is telling the truth!!

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  • 5 months later...
Guest Old Canny Street Kid

Hi Lee,

Peter and his brothers, Paul, Geoff and Terry were all brought up in the Pitsmoor area and did live around the Andover street area with their parents so your mother is telling the truth!!

He definitely went to Pye Bank School. One of the woman teachers from that era (she died a few years ago) once told me that Peter was "a very difficult boy to deal with"!

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