The West London enclave between suburban Fulham and the Zone 1 razzle of Sloane Square has always been a by-word for privilege, power and wealth, but the area's been in the news more than usual recently. For all the aspirational estuary glitz of The Only Way Is Essex, Channel 4's rival series Made In Chelsea is busy teaching us povvos the harsh lesson that, while some people have money, other people just are money.
Last week, the (presumably ironically named) nightclub Public was shut down by the local council for bringing a little bit of Ancient Rome to SW10, fed-up residents complaining about sex, drugs and all sorts of blue-blooded bally-hoo. The Evening Standard picked up on this, scribing a solemn tribute to the poor darlings who were bemoaning the death of their favourite place to drink their expensive etiquette lessons away. ("Tonight, a few hundred of London's wealthiest twentysomethings will be feeling somewhat bereft..." PUKE.)
With this in mind, I set out to discover if the fact that I was Made In Kingston would prevent me from entering this decadent demi-monde.
This place was the first watering hole we saw, but sadly our shoes, cameras and general air of middle-class poverty meant we'd have to observe from the gutter. That was until the bouncers said there was a "no photos" permit in the area, which sounds like bullshit, but how could I argue with a man who spoke like a diplomat but looked like a bear-wrestler? The door muscle in this part of town aren't your usual needle-pricked gym freaks, they're gentlemen hit-men. We wandered off before we got curb stomped.
One of the first things you notice about the area is just how fucking happy everyone is. The rich possess a natural confidence and inherent joviality that is actually kind of infectious. They seem to drink to celebrate their many successes in life, rather than to forget their failures, and in that sense they actually have more in common with rappers than your streetwear hipsters who claim to be hustling every day. The rich hustle the world every day.
I guess there's no need for a weapon dog when you spend your days brokering arms deals with tinpot dictators, you'll never see anyone trying to strengthen their dog's bite on a child's swing in Chelsea.
The first club we rocked up to was called JuJu, and after my disappointment that it had nothing to do with American nervous-breakdown-core merchants Xiu Xiu, I got settled into the vibe. Decor-wise, it looked like the inside of a chocolate bar; all deep mahogany, gold rims and chrome you can see your stubble in. It felt like I was in a really nice toilet in a really nice restaurant.
The thing about straight vodka is that only three types of people drink it. Really rich people, really poor people and Russians. And seeing as this was full of really rich Russians, having a gallon of it on the bar was probably a good shout.
However, I decided to go for something a bit more subtle than a tumbler full of transparent firewater and ice, and opted for this curio: a watermelon Martini, apparently. Like Watermelons in general, it looked much more exciting than it actually tasted. Which was a bit like drinking the condensation from the bottom of a salad bowl. Barman, the next one is a Green King IPA.
So, what do you reckon the DJ is playing? I'll give you one second. Give up? It was "Calabria", of course. People that go to places like this fucking love that song. And if, by way of some kind of terrible polo accident, it's Prince Harry rather than William who ends up as King, it will no doubt become our national anthem. Altogether now: Da-Da! Da! Da! Da-Da! Da! Da! Tune.
Posh people don't really dance, or at least not in any way that the rest of us do. They sort of throw their arms about and shout "Woooo!" a lot; it's more like a sarcastic impression of somebody having fun, rather than anything resembling the actual process. And how many of these girls are called Henrietta, you ask? The answer is: all of them.
The guy on the right needs to take some tips in relaxation from his hombres. While they chill in their shirts sipping their restaurant beers, blazer man looks like he thinks the camera's about to steal his soul.
I wasn't going around asking people to pose in this manner by the way, it just seems the done thing to pose in a strange, platonic ménage à trois at places like this. I'm not sure who these guys were, but they look like they should be famous, right? However, the only people still rocking the blazer over T-shirt combo in 2012 are bad stand-up comedians. Which I sincerely doubt they are.
I'm not sure if this man was an actual posh person, or a James Bond strip-o-gram waiting to get his cab fare home. Either way, I always heard that the aristocracy don't carry cash. Which I can assume is problematic when they need to buy drugs, and by the length of the toilet queues up and down the King's, they must have been buying wholesale. A while back, I spent time with some Uni Lads in Newcastle, and the lack of a drug culture there was kind of fascinating. Whereas in Chelsea, the whole postcode's either got a bad case of man flu, or a bad case of the Bobby Brown flu.
If there's anything you can learn from hospital wards and shopping centre baby changing rooms, it's that pink bin bags are used to disguise the most vile of refuse. What's in here, do you reckon? The surgically removed ex-body parts of the cast of MIC? Seems weird to me that rich people love plastic surgery so much, all those generations spent meticulously weeding the poverty out of your bloodline, then you go and dump all your privileged DNA on the curb.
The next joint we ventured to was another place on the King's Road, coincedentally called King's. Going up to the bouncers at these places it was easy to feel like a Big Issue seller who's lost his magazines, but a couple of codewords like "press pass" and "spoke to Bobby" and you're treated like a Sheikh who's hired the place out for his birthday. The club owner reminded me of Al Pacino in Carlito's Way, a nightclub boss who's simultaneously personable and terrifying. Like, he'd offer you a free round of sambuca after breaking your fingers with a hammer in a back room.
What is it about up-market clubs and funky house? What is it about funky house and people trying to play along to it with drums? I think it's something about funky house being the least offensive type of electronic music. It's not as heavy as dubstep, as euphoric as house, as black as jungle, or as white as minimal techno. It's precisely the kind of music that a man in an ironed shirt can nod his head to without some sweaty, pilled up northerner trying to hug him.
"Oooh, who's this sexy guy with his half-full Tropicana?"... is what I assume the girl on the right is saying. It takes a real baller to order Tropicana in the club, and she's not accepting any substitutes. A word of warning to anybody who wants to charm this chick: Robinsons Squash with a blast of tepid tap water will not suffice.
Ladies and gentlemen, what you are now witnessing is the birth of "toffstep". To be fair, it's probably the perfect genre for the Chelsea raving crew. It's ripe for describing with Boris Johnson-esque adjectives like "wubba dubby", and these days it's mostly made by the kids these guys were tormenting in the changing rooms after rugger PE lessons.
The male demographic at places like King's seems to be made up of two kinds of people: chinless, Tory Party scandals-in-waiting, and dodgy geezers like these. Guys who you wouldn't trust running your country, and guys you wouldn't leave your girlfriend's drink with.
I know it's been going on for a while now, but when exactly did squat-punk hairdos become the done thing for douchebags? I guess this is what that weird stage when you stop liking Jason Derulo and start listening to Crass looks like.
I met these girls on the roof terrace (which was a bit more Ground Force than Chateau Marmont), and instantly I was worried for them. They were so vulnerable, like a troupe of Brownies who'd won what they thought was a competition to Disneyland Paris, but had ended up surrounded by people who may or may not have wanted to do terrible things to them in the toilets. I wanted to lead them to safety like a heroic UN warzone peacekeeper, but sadly I had another free drink token.
You don't get that at Romford Yates's, do you? A barman (or "molecular mixologist/ close-up magician" as his website describes him) doing a trick for me, before getting back to making me another free cocktail, which is what I really wanted. I admired his skills, but couldn't help but think there'd been some kind of mix-up and he thought I was a TV producer or a high-ranking member of The Magic Circle.
It seems that the great and the good are now taking their entertainment ideas from "alternative lifestyle" festivals. Must be a strange job this, one minute you're risking a scorched oesophagus for The Prince Of Taiwan, the next you're getting wolf-whistled by a bloke with a Prince Albert piercing called "Bodge" in a field in Suffolk.
And I'm sorry to take it into Nuts territory here, but there were a few girls who, to quote Raymond Chandler, "could make a Bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window". This is the kinda girl that Lenny Kravitz, Tom Petty and Dave Navarro write songs about. A completely unobtainable siren who lives on a diet of Evian, cocaine and gossip.
Think this looks cool and/ or glamorous? You're wrong. In the flesh it's actually a bit disturbing, a slow and grim procession across the dancefloor, like a Balkan funeral tradition or some kind of ritualistic dance before a public execution in a rogue state. It was at this point where I began to think about getting the fuck out of here before I got sold into white slavery.
Aiming for: Death Row album cover circa 1996; getting: recently deceased pensioner, slowly rotting in an electricty-less council house in Bootle. God knows why they decided to decorate this room like a provincial satanist's bedsit.
What you see in the (very blurry) photo above, is a couple of hundred years of very different breeding choices. Posh people often get accused of being in-bred, but I'd take a circular family tree for a body like that. Even if he does look like an Old Compton St Chris Jericho.
After an hour so, my free drinks privileges were suddenly revoked. Some kind of booze middle-man working between the customers and the boss had rumbled me. I kept him showing him Bobby's card, but he wasn't buying my story any more. He wanted me to find Bobby, but I can only assume he was upstairs drinking scotch with the chief of police, clinking glasses whilst the funky house thudded away beneath. Forlorn, I headed off, back to the wrong side of Oxford Circus.
But of course, being a fan of the local football team, I found myself back in the area the next night. The quality's pretty crappy because I only had an iPhone, but I think you should at least be able to make out that the clientele was a little different.
Thanks Chelsea, you were great!
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive
Photos: Josh Jasper