Meet The Gatsby Girls

The Gatsby Girls and Guys are a 1920s act that will transport you to the ultimate era of sophistication, glitz and glamour. They’ll take you back to the Jazz Age, delighting your senses with the flapper fun and frolics of the speakeasy.

Paige, Jen and Emily founded The Gatsby Girls back in 2013 and they now have over 30 Gatsby Girls and Guys who work for the company.

Vintage lovers through and through, they were instinctively drawn to the period. Their love and fascination for the era continues to grow year after year and they love nothing more than to share their knowledge and passion with others. 

They pride themselves on their authenticity. All of their dance moves, costumes and music tracks are pulled directly from the 1920s. When they are looking for or making new costumes, selecting music and choreographing dance routines, they really do their research and gather inspiration using books, old photographs, advertisements, articles, footage, movies and more. This goes for their hair and make-up as well—all of their girls style themselves carefully before an event, ensuring a truly authentic 1920s look. 

Screen Shot 2019-09-08 at 20.19.11.png

They’ve performed all over the world, with highlights including The Savoy in London, Glastonbury Festival, Wilderness Festival and the Dorchester.

They are Candlelight Club favourites, having performed for us regularly since 2013—catching them at our forthcoming Halloween Ball as well as our New Year’s Eve party. They also hold workshops and teach guests steps at tonnes of public and private events,

 

"You were all truly fantastic! Our client was overjoyed with how it all went and we couldn’t be happier." — New Year's Eve, Brasserie Zedel, London

"A BIG BIG thank you for providing the most glamorous entertainment."
— Bridelux - The Savoy, London

They have small series on YouTube teaching dance steps from you 20s:

Special discount for vintage fashionistas

Being a Candlelight Clubber brings benefits beyond fabulous nights out. Over the years we’ve filled our online directory with details of many vintage and vintage-inspired fashion outlets—some web-only, others resolutely bricks-and-mortar. Not only is this a handy (free) resource but some of the sellers offer our customers some serious discounts.

Latest to join the gang is Zapaka, an online purveyor of vintage-inspired womenswear, mostly in the form of 1950s-style dresses, but they also have some beaded flapper dresses. They appear to be based in China but deliver all over the world. The story goes that founder Mary Wang started haunting fleamarkets looking for retro chic back in 1968, founded Zapaka as a way to offer timeless elegance to likeminded shoppers and has been doing so throughout the ensuing decades. I’m not sure if Mary is still involved (she would be in her seventies by now) but the website does reflect on recent revivals of 1960s and 1970s styles as things that the business witnessed the first time round.

Candlelight Club customers can get a 20% discount by using the code CLUB20

zapaka flapper dress.jpg

All the fun of the fair

We found ourselves at Firle Vintage Fair last week, mainly to watch The Chap magazine’s annual Chap Olympics, a celebration of silly games and sporting ineptitude perpetrated by well-dressed vintage enthusiasts. It’s usually held in London but this time had decamped to the southwestwards. The fair itself turned out to be mostly about retail, with endless stalls selling vintage clothing, furniture and homewares, vintage-inspired fashions, “upcycled” goods, plus some performances—including by our good friends and Candlelight regulars the Gatsby Girls. There was also a vintage funfair and an entire field was given over to vintage vehicles. More photos on our Flickr account, with a separate album for the cars here.

A fitting summer send-off

Thanks to all who braved the temperatures and sloped along to our last party before we take a summer break. We had live music from the Lucky Dog Dance Band, who take their inspiration from the great dance bands of the late 1920s and early days of Hollywood. They are the house band of the Lucky Dog Picturehouse, which screens silent movies with live musical accompaniment—as they would have been enjoyed back when they were first seen. The name comes from the Laurel and Hardy classic 'The Lucky Dog', and on the night we projected a programme of classic shorts (including 'The Lucky Dog'), curated by the band.

Running the show, singing songs and keeping everyone in order was strict mistress of the Weimar cabaret, Eva Von Schnippisch, with vintage DJing from Baroness JoJo of the Bee’s Knees. There was a great vibe in the room and several people who had been to a number of our parties said it was the most enjoyable yet.

More photos and high-res downloads in the album on our Flickr account.

We’ll return with our back-to-school first party of the new season on 14th September—don’t forget to get your tickets, as at the time of writing there are just 40 left.

Make mine a Mojito

Everyone likes rum. It’s probably the least divisive spirit, so it’s no surprise that rum-based drinks are so popular: a 2016 survey by CGA Strategy found that the Mojito is the UK’s favourite cocktail. We’ll be serving a version of this zingy, aromatic, summery beverage at our party on Saturday, but what is the secret of its universal appeal?

A Mojito has four ingredients: rum, lime juice, sugar and soda water. It shot to fame during Prohibition, when thirsty Americans realised it was only a short hop to Cuba where they could get a legal drink: overnight Havana became a party town for booze-tourists, unemployed US bartenders went there for work and the bars and hotels quickly developed a rum-based cocktail tradition. Some say the Mojito is simply a Mint Julep made with rum instead of bourbon, but a Julep has no lime juice, and in fact there is evidence of the drink being much older than that.

The long, cool classic that is the Mojito

The long, cool classic that is the Mojito

One theory traces it back to “El Draque”, a drink supposedly named after Sir Francis Drake: the story goes that after raiding Cartagena and San Domingo Drake’s crew fell ill and he stopped at Cuba to seek medicine. The shore party came back with aguardiente (a crude sugar cane spirit), sugar cane juice, lime juice and hierbabuena, a local mint. The lime would have helped with scurvy and there’s reason to believe that by Elizabethan times mint was known as a good stomach medicine. Whether the story is true or not, aguardiente-based stomach tonics called Draque, Drague, Drac, etc, became known in parts of Venezuela, Colombia and Puerto Rico where Drake had raided.

Life Havana number.jpg

Prohibition-era magazine cover tantalising with the delights of a holiday in Cuba—note all the cocktail glasses on the fan

But the combination of rum, lime, sugar and mint does not appear in recipe books till 1910 and the name Mojito only crops up in the 1930s—it could be a Spanish diminutive for the African word mojo, meaning a charm or lucky spell. The recipe as we know it could have been invented at Sloppy Joe’s or La Floridita, two of the most famous Havana bars, but it really came to fame at La Bodeguita del Medio, where they developed the practice of “muddling” the mint (essentially mashing it with a wooden stick). Legendary literary boozehound Ernest Hemingway is said to have announced, “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita.” It’s written out by hand and displayed on the wall of the bar, allegedly signed by Hemingway. You can see a Mojito being prepared there in the video below.

The version we’ll be serving on Saturday at our London speakeasy adds a hint of vanilla. Come along and see if you think it is an improvement!

The truth about not-so-silent movies

The band playing at our 20th July event are the Lucky Dog Dance Band, which was actually created from a project to show silent movies with live accompaniment—this was how movies were screened in the era before the Talkies.

“Silent movies were never actually silent,” says founder Emily O’Hara. “Before about 1910 there were no purpose-built cinemas and films were screened as novelty acts in circuses. The early French filmmaker Georges Méliès was introduced to the medium when he saw a film shown by the Lumière Brothers in a tent as a sideshow. These films would be accompanied by whatever musicians were available—it might be the lady who normally plays the organ in church. Later, as dedicated cinemas were built, you had full bands or even orchestras.”

As the popularity of the movies took off it meant a huge amount of work was available for musicians as demand outstripped supply. “Harpo Marx from the Marx Brothers was a great harp player but a fairly hopeless pianist,” Emily says, “yet he got work playing the piano in cinemas, not least because he looked identical to his brother Chico, who of course was a great pianist. Harpo only knew two tunes, and he pretty quickly got sacked, but such was the need for accompanists that he quickly got more work.”

Anna May Wong in  Piccadilly  (1929)

Anna May Wong in Piccadilly (1929)

Usually the musicians hadn’t seen the film before—they just played along with whatever music seemed appropriate to what was happening on screen. In time studios would send out scene lists, informing musicians what would happen in each scene and what mood they should be evoking. You could buy books of music with pieces simply labelled “Fight Scene” or “Chase Scene”.

Emily’s own journey started when she realised she had never actually seen a silent movie and became curious. She even bought an old projector on eBay. (I asked if she used it for screenings but she said that even if you can get prints of old movies, celluloid is famously flammable and not a great idea for an amateur to use with a vintage projector.)

Emily’s first silent screening was at Jamboree in Limehouse where they showed the early Laurel and Hardy short The Lucky Dog. (In fact it was a Stan Laurel film, with Oliver as a guest—Stan’s career was already established as a solo star before the two formed their partnership.) From this the project took its name, the Lucky Dog Picturehouse. That first showing had just piano accompaniment but then Emily’s partner, the drummer Nick Ball, brought some percussion along and the ensemble grew from there. Emily has even experimented with presenting the band with a film they have not seen before and letting them improvise in the old way.

1280px-Laurel_and_Hardy_in_Lucky_Dog.jpg

Eventually live accompaniment gave way to the Talkies. Early attempts at movie sound involved such things as gramophone records that had to be started at just the right point, and the sound frequently drifted out of sync (something lampooned in a scene in Singing in the Rain). Many people thought talking pictures were a fad that would soon fade, but when they caught on it meant the end of some stars’ career if they didn’t have what it took to be a speaking actor (Douglas Fairbanks apparently had rather silly voice, Emily tells me). It also meant the loss of a lot of work for musicians, and there were even protests.

But if you want to know what the not-so-silent silent movie experience was like, get yourself to one of the Lucky Dog screenings. Their next show is on 25th July, a chance to see the extraordinary Underground, a thriller indeed set on London’s underground train network, at the Brunel Museum in Bermondsey, with a live piano score, followed by a run of films at Wilton’s Music Hall in August:

Monday 5th August
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1922) plus shorts
Original score by Peter Coldham (piano)
Experience Lotte Reiniger's magical world of Prince Achmed and his flying horse in the world's oldest surviving animated feature film and the perfect silent movie for the whole family.

Tuesday 6th August
Buster Keaton in The General (1926) plus shorts
Original score by Emily O'Hara, performed by the Picturehouse quartet
Civil War era locomotive fun in one of America's greatest comedies, as Keaton attempts to win back his pride and the woman he adores.

Wednesday 7th August
Piccadilly (1929)
Original score by Andrew Oliver and Nicholas D. Ball (piano and percussion)
A pinnacle of British silent cinema, set in the seedy underbelly of 1920s London. Anna May Wong stars as Shosho, a scullery maid in a fashionable nightclub whose rise to fame brings jealousy, fear and passion as she becomes a West End sensation.

Friday 9th August
Harold Lloyd in Speedy (1929) plus shorts
World premiere of the score by Christopher Eldred (piano)
Mayhem in the Big Apple as baseball-mad Harold attempts to save the city's last horse-drawn trolley with help from sporting legend Babe Ruth.

As an extra treat, during our party on 20th July we’ll be screening a selection of silent movies curated by the band themselves.

Buster Keaton executes one of his trademark daredevil stunts in  The General  (1926)

Buster Keaton executes one of his trademark daredevil stunts in The General (1926)

Win tickets to 'Vita and Virginia'

Hitting cinemas on 5th July, Vita and Virginia tells the true story of the passionate affair between literary trailblazer Virginia Woolf (played by Elizabeth Debicki) and aristocratic socialite Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton). When the two first meet in 1922 Vita decides Virginia will be her next conquest, while Virginia is dazzled by the extrovert whose books at the time outsold her own. The film follows the pair through seduction, heartbreak and the inspiration Virginia takes from the relationship to outstrip Vita and achieve her literary peak.

We have a pair of tickets to give away to a special pre-release screening on 4th July, 6.15pm, at the Curzon Bloomsbury, followed by a Q&A session with director Chanya Button.

For a chance to win, email whowantstoknow@thecandlelightclub.com with your answer to this question: what is the name of Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel the main character of which, based on Vita, lives for centuries and changes sex?

The winner will be drawn from the correct answers on Monday 1st July.

vita-costumesF.jpg

If nothing else, check out the schmutter