Fearless, unstoppable, fame-obsessed, immaculately turned-out, in-ya-face outfits, huge hair and lips, even bigger attitude … Jodie is to most people the definition of the bang-on-trend tranny.
As cliché as it may sound, you’ve got to give it to her for strutting her stuff on the scene since the early noughties and still managing to turn heads. Or would that simply be the gravity-defying wigs she wears? Only kidding!
She claims bagging a degree in fashion journalism, presumably in an earlier life when she was still known as Mister Jay Clarke from Canterbury. Should that be the case, you may wonder why on earth she didn’t pursue a career in that field?!? More importantly, that’s the time she gave the eyebrows a good plucking, the lallies a thorough waxing and, just like in the song, he became a she … well, not quite.
Time to spring forth, armed with a clear game plan; act like a Hollywood A-lister (on a budget); make an ostentatious splash both in clubland and on social media; get acquainted with anyone who’s anyone on the scene and set about conquering even more territory than Attila the Hun. “Go on my son, get in; ‘ave it,” as Danny Dyer would say!
At times, she does come across as an alien amongst the rest of us, ahem, mere mortals. The world is her oyster and she wouldn’t have it any other way, while making everything she organises look perfectly effortless in her own inimitable, astute fashion.
I took her out for dinner one night to a Michelin-starred restaurant in Knightsbridge to see whether I could make light of the rather contrived character she embodies, try and uncover the real (no artifice) Jodie and, who knows, perhaps even click with her. Chance would be a fine thing; she seemed more interested to talk about Lady Gaga!
Away from the clubs and public functions, Queen Bee leads a closely guarded life and few people actually know what she gets up to in private. I daren’t think! She never let on about herself, expressed an opinion (apart from babbling about Madonna, her role model) or even had any social media interaction except, surely for tactical reasons, with the odd celeb or prominent fashionista. Never mind courtesy, she certainly never even acknowledged by a mere Like click the fact that I regularly took the time to edit (i.e. made her look her best) and tagged her some of the portraits I took of her, as well as posting certain articles I’d written about her. None of it ever appeared on her timeline or website, even though she subsequently admitted to my face that she actually really liked them. I believe Sigmund Freud would’ve had a field day with her. I’m convinced he would’ve felt inspired enough to add another classic book to his oeuvre, something along the lines of “The Theory of Machiavellianism in Modernistic Society”.
With Jodie at the helm, club promotion can easily resemble a military mission seemingly devised with clockwork precision. Being a law unto herself, it’s no surprise that the word impossible simply doesn’t exist in her vocabulary. And given her meteoric rise within the microcosm that is clubland, you know that she has no intention of looking it up anytime soon.
Another mind-boggling trait of hers is that, considering her quite modest background, she paradoxically always displayed a fiercely elitist and sometimes frankly patronising streak – others would say snobbish. She also soon acquired a widespread reputation for latching on to as many celebrities as it is “humanly possible” … or at least acting as if.
Circus, Harsh’s first club venture, launched in April 2006 and it took no time establishing itself as one of Soho’s hotspots where the golden youth of the day flocked and partied hard. She would naturally book celebs weekly to have a go in the DJ box, often under her watchful eye, especially when some of them acted as though they’d never seen a mixing deck before. They, as well as the gaggle of paparazzi who mobbed them, added extra oomph to the proceedings.
After 2½ years of rather smooth sailing, Jodie was sharp enough to forecast the imminent closure of the club’s stunning rococo-kitsch venue – Soho Revue Bar, later to be refit as The Box. She clicked her heels just before the end of 2008 and moved Circus (which had actually become pretty tired by then) to Shoreditch’s Last Days of Decadence for a while. Relocating East from Camden herself, she confessed being happy living anywhere that has enough space to accommodate her collection of designer outfits, shoes, wigs, handbags and jewellery, which looks humongous enough to provide clothing to an entire third-world country. She then spread her hairnet further afield. More memorable residencies and one-off gigs soon followed: Paramount (atop Centre Point), Ghost, The Bloomsbury Ballroom, Circus Endell Street in Covent Garden, Café de Paris and even Pacha in Ibiza.
However, JH eventually put Circus on the back burner in 2011 as she rightly felt it’d run its course. She didn’t let that dent her confidence and she bounced back with the arrival of a new baby named Room Service. The Thursday club night marked her proper comeback in Soho and quickly became popular with muscle Marys and fashionistas. If anything, it proved to be a lucrative career move, not to mention that it spawned occasional/regular offshoots in Paris, NYC, SF, Hollywood, Tel Aviv, Sydney, Amsterdam, Madrid, etc. Founding her music label namesake yielded the production and remixes of a bunch of artists the likes of, erm, Melanie C. I know, they’re still kicking about and La Harsh (being an old-fashioned gal at heart really) is indeed one of them, i.e. The Spice Girls’ die-hard fans’ society! I’m told that an album featuring such-like guest vocalists is – actually has been for ages – in the offing.
Presently still sought-after by other promoters, Jodie plays out at an array of clubs and parties here and abroad. She evidently brings a distinctive pizazz to her undertakings, which has not only acted as a magnet to nighthawks but, beside everything else, has so far largely explained her consistent staying power. However, the club scene has changed dramatically and never more so than in this decade. The all-important question now is, how much longer can she possibly ride the gravy train? She briefly promoted UltraViolet, her own Wednesday club at Soho’s Shadow Lounge, which didn’t exactly make waves in 2015, before mainly concentrating on occasional one-offs. One of them, Spotlight, which took place at Piccadilly Circus’ Electric Carousel at the end of May 2015, showed promise but remained just that … a one-off. As for The Love Club, which launched at the same venue (henceforth rebranded Rah Rah Room) at the end of October of that year, it only survived a mere three nights. Ouch! But she’s never one to hide her light under a bushel and she reappeared last September with the launch of Dollar Baby, her Friday club at Metropolis, Cambridge Heath’s notorious strip joint. She dragged Lady Gaga there one night while she was in London desperately trying to flog her dead horse, I mean her new album. Anyhow, I’ve had mixed reports about DB and we shall see how long she manages to keep it going.
I must admit I’ve always enjoyed photographing Jodie, whether at her clubs or at other events. The problem is, she never gave me enough time to take anymore than 2 or 3 quick shots before she’d suddenly fob me off with an abrupt “aw’ right?” and trot off somewhere else obviously far more important to her. However one night at Room Service, she turned ’round and politely said to me that, even though I was quite welcome to come and “enjoy myself” at the club anytime, she’d appreciate it if I didn’t bring cameras anymore, the reason being that she would rather stick exclusively to her in-house snapper who takes “cartoon-like shots”. I can only assume what she meant by that is shots so grossly photoshopped, they make everyone look like window dummies, much in the way elementary photography students who’ve only just discovered the stamp tool would do. No dramas, it’s her club and she runs it the way she wants. Still, given that her exhibitionistic punters go there primarily to strike a pose for the photographers in attendance and regularly swamp the web with the quite unflattering snaps they take with their own camera phones, doesn’t that rather defeat the object?
That was just another faux pas that Matron Harsh made with me. It baffled me a bit considering that clued-up promoters usually go out of their way to get me into their clubs, knowing that my work always features in all manner of publications and exhibitions. Also, given that I previously gave her so much support and positive press coverage, you’d think she’d know better. It’s common knowledge that, just like Scary Madge, she doesn’t believe in making apologies and I certainly wouldn’t expect one from her. On that basis, I consequently joined the arm-long list of “ex-regulars” who decided not to set foot in her clubs. It’s her loss and it’s precisely the sort of attitude she’ll come to regret when things are no longer going so smoothly. As for me, no hard feelings or skin off my nose. I thankfully have bigger (and more appreciative) fish to fry.
Moving on swiftly and, additionally to her regular hectic self-promotion schedule, ahem, I mean club promotion schedule, JH has her mind obviously very much set on branching out to a TV & film career. And why not indeed, but will she ever rack up the panel slot on Drag Race UK that she apparently so longs for? The Jonathan Ross project has been kept under wraps for an age but the word on the street is that, for the time being at least, it looks pretty much dead in the water. Still, it’s not all bad news as she got the opportunity to show her face in “Ab Fab The Movie”, so do try not to blink!
Jodie has had previous TV experience, even if her early flash-in-the-pan dabbles with fashion reporting on Channel 4 and MTV didn’t exactly get her anywhere fast. But she can categorically fight her corner and a 2014 one-off guest spot on London Live’s Drag Queens of London, as well as her own Drag Queen Problems, a World of Wonder-produced online series, both made her look significantly more digestible. However low-key they may have come across, these clips indicated that her on-screen prospects might bode well after all. In the latter, she played a tongue-in-cheek potty mouth-cum-dragony-aunt. It looks very much as though JH has been advised to leave the ego at the door, loosen up a bit and engage with the people. She unmistakably made an effort to ditch the customary ice maiden façade in favour of a rarely-seen sense of humour, certainly one I never had the privilege to sample in all the years I’ve known her. She managed to work the camera, cracked a smile and, shockingly enough, laughed out loud. Hurrah!
Well, whad’ya know, she might even step off her imaginary pedestal and try and be nice next?
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