By Judith Frankland
Luciano (Cirelli, my husband at the time, bless him) and I moved to Milan in 1987, and naturally, headed straight for the legendary club Plastic. Still going strong, it was and still is run by the charming and handsome rascal Nicola Guiducci, a legend of Milan nightlife. Aldo Lanzini, a fabulous artist and designer, was the first person we met and he guided us. It became clear that the people on the "scene" were friendly, enthusiastic and ready with open arms to embrace new creative energy.
Upstarts that we were, we decided to host our own weekly night that would allow folk to express their creativity and be as OTT as they wished, without any hassle. Our door policy was vital to the ambience we wished to create but was not intended to be pretentious, and I think we succeeded. We would tell certain "hmmm..." types that they would just not like it if we thought they may be looking for trouble.
Our first success was Chocolate City, done in collaboration with a group of people known collectively as Primo Piano. It was two floors of fun. Upstairs it was shows, installations and LA DJ Victor Rodriguez spinning wonderful old classics. Downstairs a flashing Saturday Night Fever style dance floor dominated and DJ Marco Sanseverino would at first try to coax the crowd into the new style house music which was spreading from the States and London. Leigh Bowery and Malcolm Duffy were flown over to co-host and DJ. However, Leigh arrived wearing two pairs of shoes at the same time, and as he had consumed copious amounts of cocktails, was soon the Leaning Tower of Leigh, and after a brief visit had to be escorted back to my place. He did of course fascinate our regulars and inspire some. What a character and visual genius, sadly gone but never forgotten. We went on to do a number of other clubs under different names until an English friend suggested "Pussy Galore's " - and it stuck!
At Pussy's we had many DJs, all great characters themselves. Claudy-o (now an artist and much loved DJ), Giammy (Gianmarco Cattaneo who now has a PR agency called Avenue) Claudio Coccoluto (now world famous) - oh my, so many guests from Italy and all over the world. Our resident video maker Giuseppe Capotondi has gone on to be a successful very respected director. The most memorable visits were by London's Kinky Gerlinky, the club run by legends of London, Gerlinde and Michael Costiff. They brought their "girls " along and DJs Martin Confusion, Princess Julia and Rachel Auburn, who would later become regular visitors.
The first night, the club owner stood mouth open as the decadent scene erupted into a crazy, colourful, outrageous affair that has never, in my view, been equaled by another group of people. We also took the Kinky Show to Bologna and Riccione where their exploits were hilarious and we all had a blast! The crowd loved them. From New York we brought the fantastic and adorable Lahoma Van Zandt along with the brilliant DJ Larry Tee and a rather sedate RuPaul. Lahoma was resplendent in leopard print and we had so much fun when we also went to Bologna, she was one of my favourites.
Collaborations with record companies, particularly Bruno Pasini at WEA then Sony, became regular. We put on showcases for upcoming bands and solo artists such as Deee-Lite, Right Said Fred, 808 State, Stereo MCs to name a few. But the most amazing for me was Seal, I was such a huge admirer. He played a fantastic acoustic set and stayed all night, chatting and charming us - a truly gracious guy oozing talent. I went home with a life size cardboard cutout of him and he went home and became a global superstar and into the arms of Heidi Klum, lucky gal! We arranged fashion shows and parties on a regular basis for Emilio Cavallini, on one occasion bringing over from Barcelona the exotic and lovely actress Rossy De Palma to model. MTV Europe had a huge do and I relished in having dinner with them and getting the lowdown on the pop world. I had to ask - remember this was the early 90s - who was the most difficult to deal with and the easiest? Madonna and Phil Collins respectively, no surprise there, ha!
Events on the Italian Riviera with Rachel Auburn and the Pleased Women were fab. Jon Pleased Wimmin reminded me how I would not only change my outfit for the after hours daytime club but also spray my gold shoes silver, happy days! From trapeze artists to fire eaters and indoor markets, we tried everything with a fabulous group of friends including the brilliant Sam Rey, who is just finishing a rather wonderful exhibition called Bark in Berlin. A party was concocted at the funfair in the center of the citta. We took away the mini dodgems and created a dancefloor and scattered bars around the Luna Park which had a small but hair-raising roller coaster. Employees of Armani, Versace, Dolce Gabbana, Vogue etc. whizzed down the huge slide and braved the ghost train and just let loose - what a night! We took over a bowling alley for a night and then had an outdoor club complete with "stay clear of Judith, taffeta and water do not agree" pools. I made up the rap for the club: "Fresh and fruity, shake your booty, come on down to Tutti Frutti". My great friend Jimmy "Tarzan Boy" Baltimora, was a regular and has also sadly left us. Many famous faces would pop in to our events without fanfare or hassle and have a darn good time.
Ultimately, and to my utter delight, style icon Anna Piaggi paid us the compliment of visiting. In my eyes, Signora Piaggi was then and still is the most gloriously creative, stylish woman in the world. Again my life was made for a few days. Oh Milan oh!
Header photo of Judith Frankland: Denise Grayson @ The Swelle Life