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The Men Who Use a London Porn Cinema as a Social Club

"Men who drink together and wank together—they're closer."

by John Lucas
Mar 18 2015, 5:25pm

One of the new Club 487 membership cards

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

It's been a turbulent few weeks for Club 487, South London's temple for one-handed pleasure-seekers and the capital's only remaining porn cinema. After it was raided by the Metropolitan Police in February, stories about the club appeared in the Evening Standard and the Mirror, bringing disproportionate national attention to this otherwise discreet local business. But despite online chatter suggesting that the venue may be in danger of closure, the good news for hand party enthusiasts is that it's still going strong.

With their license application displayed prominently on the front door, new membership cards printed and signing-in required for anyone looking for a quick wrist workout, it's clear that Club 487 is toeing the line as a private members' club. So do they expect another raid?

"Nah," says Danny, the duty manager. "Someone trying to cause trouble told lies about us, so the police came down, checked us out and found nothing. They haven't been back since."

Far from heralding the club's demise, recent weeks have seen improvements to the premises. There are new lockers for patrons to leave their bags and coats in, and poppers and lube on sale from reception at the top of the staircase that leads down into the dark pornographic underworld below. Talk among the clientele now is of further innovations to the business once the council paperwork has been signed off.

"They're gonna put glory holes in upstairs," says Sam, a short, sparky Irish guy with slicked-back Elvis hair, who wears a winkle pickers and a golfing jumper. He's a veteran of the wank shack scene, having been a regular at Mr. B's (formerly Fantasy Video) on City Road back in the day, as well as the Sunset Cinema in Soho in the 90s. "Glory holes are where it's at. There's demand, and it's more cost-effective than getting another screen. It's a better business proposition."

It's 3 PM on a Sunday afternoon. Sam sits on the safe that forms a makeshift table in the little antechamber before Club 487's main screening room and its two toss-booths. The computer-processed cries of women faking orgasms provide a soundtrack to our conversation.

"They're also gonna make the booths private," he continues. "VIP. With doors. So couples can book them. Then, if they want a bit of fun, they can call others in."

Whether this is true or not is impossible to say, with rumors floating around Club 487 like condom wrappers on the wind. But what seems certain in that the owners are confident of appeasing the local authorities and that big plans are afoot. Right now, though, the booths are not private—both contain sleeping men in their fifties, one in a stained leather jacket, the other in a suit with a ragged jumper beneath. It seems a far cry from the shiny sex emporium that Sam depicts, but then the owners of Club 487 view the premises primarily as a social club rather than a sex venue.

Sam is a family man with two grown-up kids. Why does he spend his Sunday afternoons here?

"I started going to the Sunset in Soho when my wife Frieda died," he says.

He used to be a door-to-door salesman before he retired a few years ago.

"I sold windows. I'd come round your house at 8 PM and stay till 1:30 or two in the morning, 'til you signed that damn bit of paper. 'These windows cost us 20 grand, but I'll give them to you for five,' I used to say. I'd stay and get drunk with the customers. I walked out of one house half-cut with a green African parrot. Bloke didn't have enough money so he gave it me as part of the deal."

After he stopped working, his cinema visits became more frequent.

"I would go to Fantasy, and then Mr. B's when it changed owners. They're great places, the cinemas, as long as you watch out for the dippers. You can spend as long as you like, and they're warm, too. I've made loads of friends. Kevin, for one, who comes here most weekends. He's a lawyer. We send each other Christmas cards now. There's no way we would have met if it weren't for porn cinemas."

"Why would I? Men who drink together and wank together—they're closer."

It's a touching story, but as we walk into the main room and sit down the whole row vibrates as the man at the end enjoys himself vigorously to Fatal Erection, playing on the huge HD screen in front of us. I wonder whether the other patrons' activities ever put Sam off?

"Not at all," he says. "Everyone's got needs, ain't they? What's the problem with a few people getting together to watch a movie? There's far worse things going on out there. Close this place down and it'll just go underground."

How many times a week does he visit?

"Not so much now—I live north of the river and it takes me an hour on the bus each way. But before I'd be visiting the cinemas seven times a week, no problem."

Every day? Seriously?

"Why not? My mates go, you can bring a flask and there's naked girls getting done on screen. What more could you ask for?"

And he doesn't mind his mates being there while he enjoys the movies?

"Why would I? Men who drink together and wank together—they're closer, like."

It's an intriguing viewpoint, and one presumably shared by most of Club 487's growing fan base.

"She's so pretty. And she drinks it down," he says. "Drinks it down."

Later, the vibe switches up as an attractive woman in her twenties arrives with her partner. She sits naked in the front row. To the sound of Gregorian chant music from The Sexorcist, playing on the main screen, guys still wearing jackets and tracksuits take it in turns to mount her while others watch and show their appreciation manually. With bowed shoulders they amble over, wanking with deep concentration, each awaiting his turn. After a while the action moves to the floor. There is the sound of persistent panting. Finally, finished for now, the girl climbs back into her seat and nestles her head romantically on her partner's shoulder.

"I hope you guys had a good time," says Danny as I leave.

Does he ever go down to enjoy the fun himself?

"Me? Nah. I just sit here in the office, keep myself to myself and count the money. I'm a family man."

The Frenchman that follows me out has certainly made the most of it. Describing the girl downstairs, his face lights up in wonder.

"She's so pretty. And she drinks it down," he says. "Drinks it down," he repeats meditatively.

In spite of recent unrest, Club 487 is still thriving and, today at least, is clearly still both keeping London's swingers happy and providing a place for men like Sam to come and have a beer and a wank with their mates.

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