In 1968 and thereabouts, when I wanted drugs, a coffee, sexual or intellectual companionship, to see an exhibition or a play, or to watch a movie on the mattress-covered floor (often of people sleeping or the Empire State Building standing stately), I’d pop down the road from where I lived in Long Acre to the Arts Lab in Drury Lane. It was open day and night, a great facility for wild young people feeling clubbable. It was started and run by Jim Haynes, an American entrepreneur of the world of Happenings.
He hung around the place, a little older than many of us. Long-hair, beard, droopy moustache. Much like everyone else, but with an avuncular proprietorial air. He was hosting the day-and-night party-and-recovery site that was the Arts Lab. It closed after a year or so and Jim Haynes went off to Paris as the forces of oppression and festivals of light in England started to get themselves in shape for the oncoming 1970s and the dreadful 1980s. Haynes produced Suck Magazine in Paris, a sexually rampant mag that depicted the kind of free, polymorphously perverse sex we could all aspire to simply by the shedding of our clothes and inhibitions. I heard he had parties every Sunday in his Paris flat where anyone could turn up and meet anyone else. Then he drifted off my sat nav.
This moment of nostalgia is prompted by watching television the other day and suddenly seeing Jim Haynes on my screen. He was telling us about his famous parties in Paris, which he still has, where he still lives. ‘I’m Jim Haynes,’ he says. Who, apart from a few dopeheads remaining alive, could know or care what that means? Still, I do. Bloody hell, there’s Jim Haynes, on the telly. And it is, I see. Long-hair, beard, droopy moustache, an avuncular, proprietorial air. Older, but then he always was. And he’s telling us how everybody and anybody drops in to his Sunday evening dos, and how they have such a good time, knowing and not knowing each other, that it goes on and on. People ask him how he gets his guests to leave. Well, he’s never been very good at that, he says with what can only be called a chuckle. Yes, they’re having such fun. They’re young and old, and now you see that they’re playing a game. A dark brown square is on Jim’s forehead, and on many of his guests’ foreheads, and they’re jiggling it down, carefully, so it doesn’t drop, inching it towards their mouths, until their lips and tongue can capture it. Yes, indeed, it’s an After Eight Mint. The secret to Jim’s late night soirées. I’m watching an After Eight advertisement. Why not? Must be Santa. Must be Jim.