Whilst a student at St. Martin’s I had to earn money for living expenses. The first job I got was working at ‘The Doll’s House’, a strip-joint in London’s renowned Soho district – before all the arty sorts decamped to Shoreditch.

pic of Carlisle street where the Dolls House was soho
Carlisle Street in Soho (pic by J.Wakeling)

The Doll’s House was at number 5, Carlisle Street – just a couple of doors down from the headquarters of Private Eye. Staff from the Eye would frequent the Toulouse Lautrec Rooms, a drinking club above the basement where all the dancing went on. They would often roll up at 11 am, as soon as doors opened. On more than one occasion Peter Cooke and Ian Hislop shuffled past me like a couple of naughty schoolboys in a sweet shop. At the age of nineteen I got to see a good deal more of everyday life in Soho than many of my compatriots.

the Dolls House Entrance to st. martins alan dedman
Entrance to what was once St. Martins School of Art

On one occasion, Adam the Polish tape operative, was ill with flu. The evenings entertainment was about to begin and of course – the show had to go on. It fell to me to run the tapes for the girls spots; I was suddenly at a tape deck, in a low ceilinged vault underneath Soho. The girls changed into their dancing gear in the same vault, so I was surrounded by attractive young women in various states of undress.

Showtime drew near and I was in the process of rehearsing a sequence with Angela – a Greek woman whose imaginative acts were very popular. The spot in question, involved her being seduced by the tree of life. My arms and hands were to be the branches of the tree. I donned a pair of long, white opera gloves and inserted my arms through holes in the scenic backdrop.

Swooning across the stage to some degenerate flute music, Angela collapsed into my arms in a complete trance. Just as things were beginning to look good and I was starting to believe it possible to be paid for doing something I liked – Adam turned up! – singing the praises of Lemsip. I thought: why couldn’t that workaholic Pole stay at home in bed? Why!!

the Doll's House catalogue colour image of a dancer in a spin painting by alan dedman
2 am: the Doll’s House

Nevertheless, not being one to waste an opportunity I got my pencil out (yes, pencil), and made some ‘notes’. This painting is of a dancer resting after her spot. She waits for a complimentary drink before going home. I set her figure against a spin painting, part of a recent and continuing series of work I’m doing to explore a gimmick Damien Hirst has popularized.

The explosion of paint behind the dancer suggests anarchic rage, echoing the ardour of my youth in that particular situation. I like the arbitrary distribution of colour and formless vortex the dancer sits before. The realist aspect of the painting has airs of Norman Rockwell about it but:- it is ‘2 am at the Doll’s House’, in London’s famous Soho district!

‘2am: the Doll’s House’ is a painting in acrylic and emulsion on stretched canvas, by Alan Dedman. The image area is approximately 30″ square.
Price: £5,750.00 gbp. 

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