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Meeting the Family Behind London’s Last Porn Cinema

The husband, wife, and father-in-law who run Club 487 are keeping London's libertine spirit alive.

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

"He's a porn connoisseur—he knows every film we've ever shown here and at the old cinema. But he hates playing them more than once; he doesn't want to let the customers down. He also knows the names of all the regulars, and their membership numbers," says Deborah of her husband Roger, owner of London's only porn cinema.

From what she says, Roger's brain seems to be constructed like a giant porn computer. Instead of bits and bytes however, obscure flicks like American Fur Pie and Charlie's Anus III are neatly ordered within his cranium, ensuring that his customers experience only the freshest jerk-matter on the market.

It's Monday night, and Deborah has welcomed me in the large, windowless, converted front room of Club 487 in Deptford. The Victorian property is still piled high with aging and disconcertingly grubby velvet cinema seats, as well as tools, paint buckets, and more evidence of the on-going renovation work to the building.

Roger isn't around but Deborah, who works here part-time, seems happy to let me in and show me what a typical day in Club 487 is like. She is an attractive, intelligent woman who looks a little like a schoolteacher.

"This is an unusual job, right?" I comment.

"Everyone has their own thing," she replies. "I never go downstairs when it's open—only before to make sure the place is clean. But they're a nice bunch, the guys that come here."

Has there ever been any trouble?

"Never from the regulars—they're good as gold. There was talk of people loitering outside the old place [Mr B's in Islington] but it wasn't true. We have CCTV, and you can see for yourself that there's no one outside. We had a couple of dodgy-looking locals down here the other night, so I had to knock them back, but apart from that it's been fine."

Deborah introduces me to a genial man in a blue polo shirt and white beard, who she calls Bill. Bill—it turns out—is her dad. He's here helping out with the renovations.

"We just stick on the films and change them when they finish," he says. "We don't watch."

"Don't write that we sit here watching porn together all day, because we don't!" says Deborah.

It's true—they don't. A small black and white TV with the sound turned down shows what is playing in the bowels of the cinema. Meanwhile, Bill and Deborah kick back and relax, playing games on their iPhones, or watching Netflix.

It still must be a bit weird working here, no? Deborah shrugs: "It's a job, isn't it? I'd rather be at home, but what can you do?"

"She can handle the customers right enough. Doesn't take any crap," says Bill looking over at his daughter fondly.

There's a pleasant, familial atmosphere here. Bill and Deborah are friendly people. I like talking to them. It's all strangely at odds with the melodramatic music coming from the German fuck-fest playing downstairs.

The cinema has been open for a little over a month and so far the neighborhood seems either oblivious or perfectly OK with it. "The girls in the African hair shop next door have been great. Everyone just keeps themselves to themselves. What people get up to in their own time is their business, isn't it?"

It's a hard sentiment to refute. With Boris Johnson coming out in support of the "Save Soho" campaign recently, perhaps the tide is turning on the puritanism wrought by gentrification. Maybe it's with more venues like Club 487 that London can finally rediscover its libertine spirit.

I walk down the staircase into the subterranean gloom of the cinema. Danny, the other manager, has put up a sign saying "CUSTOMERS are re-minded That Cleanliness is Next To Godliness." Deborah isn't sure about the sign. I tell her it adds character to the place.

As usual, the corridor—lit only by the dim glow of the main screen and two auxiliary ones in the "private" cabins—is populated with lurkers. There is a sharp smell of sweat pulsing like a heartbeat: it's hard to locate its provenance but it appears to be triggered by movement.

One man is dressed in worn jeans and a shapeless Adidas hoodie. Another, wearing a three-piece suit, has the greying temples, chummy superiority, and oddly distended chin of a mutant Piers Morgan. A third, a guy in his late 30s—tall, wiry and jittery, bouncing from one foot to the other—rocks a pair of skinny jeans and a checked shirt. They scan anyone passing through the corridor with the severe attention of the addict. They are all looking for something.

An Asian guy in an elegant but short red evening dress teamed with a prominent pearl choker stands at the bottom of the stairs. He has a prim look, as though acknowledging that the scene around him is distasteful, but that he is drawn to it anyway. He wears glasses and has careful, conscientious eyes, as though somewhere far away from here, in the real world, he heads up accounts for a data management company. He is talking to a Scouser in a checked shirt.

"It all used to go off at the Sunset [a defunct adult cinema in Soho] before it closed," the Scouser says. "You'd get all sorts in there. Politicians, the lot. This rich guy used to go—loaded, he was. One time he came in with a beautiful girl. They went to the front, she stripped naked, and he put trash bags on the floor. She laid down, and he got all the guys in the auditorium to cum on her."

"Ah," says the guy in the dress.

They pause to process the mental image.

"Some girls like acting out a fantasy," the Scouser elucidates. "After all, in a place like this, no one's going to call you a slut the next day."

"No."

"Someone died in the Sunset once. Just keeled over. Natural causes," the Scouser continues.

The guy in the dress looks shocked. "Isn't it awful to think you might die in a porn cinema?" he says.

There is a pause.

"I dunno. It could be worse. At least you'd die having fun," says the Scouser.

It's an existential moment, but it passes quickly. A few moments later, the Scouser moves to the main room, his laser eyes boring into the other punters. On screen, My Best Friend's Wetting is playing, punctuated by the grunts and groans of an audience entertaining themselves to it in the only way they know best.

It's 8 PM at Club 487, London's last remaining porn cinema, and there's still another two hours of fun left to go tonight.