Home / News / Council manages where Hitler unsuccessful as ancestral strip bar The Windmill loses its looseness after clandestine probe

Council manages where Hitler unsuccessful as ancestral strip bar The Windmill loses its looseness after clandestine probe

NOTORIOUS Soho strip bar The Windmill boasted it was “never closed” during The Blitz – but now it could be close down for good.

On Thursday, Westminster Council succeeded where the Luftwaffe unsuccessful after stripping the venue of its licence.

 Laura Henderson bought the building and non-stop The Windmill Theatre in 1931
Laura Henderson bought the building and non-stop The Windmill Theatre in 1931

Undercover detectives operative for an unknown women’s rights organisation found the Windmill’s dancers flouted its “no touching” manners and witnessed “intimate touching and sex acts”.

The bar has 21 days to appeal.

The Windmill is a vestige of the area’s decrepit past — its neon “table dancing” sign a sign of the once-sordid block mile in the heart of London.

Nowadays there are only around 5 adult party venues left in the West End neighbourhood, and the biggest queues are not to see bare girlie shows but to get into hip restaurants such as Bao and Polpo.

 The Windmill, way past its heyday, is a vestige of Soho's decrepit past
The Windmill, way past its heyday, is a vestige of Soho’s decrepit past

The Sun visited The Windmill this week to find its excellence days are prolonged gone. Low lighting hides stained carpets and scuffed leather seats. On the stage, Eastern European dancers lean moodily to music.

A private dance costs £40, a bottle of Becks drink will set you back £8.

One punter said: “I review about the closure so wanted to come and see it on the last night.

“It’s a piece of history. I’d like to contend I’m here for the history, but I’m really here for the boobs.”

 Bruce Forsyth, shown above, is one the British entertainers who got their mangle doing stand-up comedy between bare shows
Bruce Forsyth, shown above, is one the British entertainers who got their mangle doing stand-up comedy between bare shows
 Benny Hill also got his start at The Windmill
Benny Hill also got his start at The Windmill

This famous house of sin, immortalised in 2005 Judi Dench film Mrs Henderson Presents, started life as The Windmill Theatre in 1931.

Bored widow Laura Henderson bought it to show wordless films and after scandalised high multitude by introducing nakedness to the stage.

She and entertainment impresario Vivian Van Damm directed to obey the success of the Moulin Rouge in Paris and the Ziegfeld Follies in New York.

At the time it was deemed that “if it moves, it’s rude” so to get around the manners the unprotected girls stood as still as statues as they recreated artistic poses.

 Today, a private dance with one of the Windmill girls will cost you 40
Today, a private dance with one of the Windmill girls will cost you £40
 The bar has 21 days to interest the council's decision, after which it would have to close
The bar has 21 days to interest the council’s decision, after which it would have to close

The Windmill Girls, who had an normal age of 19, were not even allowed to sing in case complicated respirating done their chests move.

They would do 6 shows a day and whenever a front quarrel chair became accessible there would be a bolt over the chairs behind to strech it, a materialisation famous as the Windmill Steeplechase.

By the finish of the decade The Windmill was famous via the country, but it was during World War Two that its celebrity soared.

In 1940 German planes began a year-long barrage of London. The Blitz forced many businesses and theatres to shut, but not The Windmill. “We Never Closed” was the theatre’s sign — infrequently jokingly changed to “We Never Clothed”.

 Van Damm hands out the Windmill Girl of the Year prize to Sandra Peters and Sally Crowe
Van Damm hands out the Windmill Girl of the Year prize to Sandra Peters and Sally Crowe
 The famous Mrs Henderson was recently the theme of a film, in which she was portrayed by Judi Dench
The famous Mrs Henderson was recently the theme of a film, in which she was portrayed by Judi Dench

Van Damm and Mrs Henderson even saw their venue as contributing to the fight effort.

Former Windmill Girl Margaret McGrath, aka the Blonde Bombshell of The Blitz, pronounced the girls all pitched in to boost morale.

She said: “The fight years at The Windmill were the best of my life, and child have we had a life. If we could have that time again I’d do it like a shot. It was a payoff to be there. We’d hear the buzzing of the Doodlebugs overhead, but we carried on.”

Troops would line the street, unfortunate for a glimpse of the girls, who had been towering to inhabitant value standing after appearing in newsreel footage.

 During the early days, the normal age of the Windmill girls was just 19
During the early days, the normal age of the Windmill girls was just 19

Yet censors still watched the venue like hawks.

Rules introduced in 1940, clearly directed directly at The Windmill, settled that theatre-owners must contention photographs of any designed bare poses. They also had to send in scripts detailing performances by dressed singers, dancers and comics.

But machiavellian Mrs Henderson and Van Damm had ways of getting around the inspectors. Officials would tip them off when the comparison examiner — the aptly-named George Titman — was on his way.

And if any of the girls had no time to cover up Van Damm would censure any scandalously unprotected strength on bad wartime elastic.

 In the 1940s, the bar seemed to be the aim for new, stricter regulations
In the 1940s, the bar seemed to be the aim for new, stricter regulations

Mrs Henderson died in 1944, leaving the entertainment to Van Damm. He continued to support the fight bid and even let servicemen by its doors free on VE Day.

Post-war the venue launched the careers of some of the nation’s best-loved comedians.

Stars who got their big break, doing 15-minute comedy sets between the bare shows, enclosed Peter Sellers, Benny Hill, Tommy Cooper, Bruce Forsyth and Tony Hancock. The throng was notoriously difficult. Morecambe and Wise got sacked after just a week for unwell to control the hecklers.

And Sir Bruce once said: “They were the toughest assembly in the universe — if you came on your own, but any girls, they hated you.”

 When Henderson bought The Windmill, she envisioned it as a London chronicle of Moulin Rouge
When Henderson bought The Windmill, she envisioned it as a London chronicle of Moulin Rouge

Des O’Connor once dusty up on entertainment there, totally forgetful what his next fun was until one unchanging yelled: “You tell the one about the parrot next.”

Van Damm died in 1960 aged 71, flitting the entertainment to his daughter Sheila, a convene driver.

However, the Swinging Sixties had ushered in a horde of private members’ clubs where the shows were distant some-more explicit.

The Windmill seemed tame in a community which had grown seedier over the decades and it fell out of favour.

 By the 60s, the bar became too tame for the neighbourhood's crowd
By the 60s, the bar became too tame for the neighbourhood’s crowd
 In 1964, the bar sealed and became a cinema for the next decade
In 1964, the bar sealed and became a cinema for the next decade

It sealed in 1964, after some-more than 30 years of bare shows and spent a decade as a cinema. Then, in 1974, erotica businessman Paul Raymond bought it.

Raymond, famous as The King of Soho, owned several strip clubs in the area. He incited it back into a venue for bare shows, putting on titillating plays with titles such as Let’s Get Laid.

In 1994, after a brief spell as a TV studio, the venue was bought by Oscar Owide. He reopened it as a lapdancing club, The Windmill International, it’s benefaction name.

Refusing to have anything to do with its anniversary celebrations, former dancer Jill Shapiro explained: “The Windmill Theatre is now used for such a opposite purpose that we Windmill Girls have been suggested not to concede the ‘naughty but nice’ rational good name by holding partial in broadside for it.”

Oscar died last month aged 85 and the business upheld to his son Daniel, now battling to keep it open.

Daniel, 57, said: “As Mrs Henderson used to say, ‘It’s business as common and the Windmill will never close’.

“We will fight to keep this going. We will arrange it out. We’re carefree the interest will be successful.

“The Windmill will be back on the map like it was in the good old days — universe famous.”

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