There was never a nicer girl on the scene than Nicola. She loved dressing up, which soon prompted her to move to London from her native Hampshire to “live and breathe” the way she really wanted to look. She’d bury her head under various bathing caps and a school teacher’s hat, adorned with a green hair piece and diamante Dame Edna glasses, clad in a 1940s printed swimsuit and a pleated skirt. That’s the typical look she worked on her early visits to Taboo.
She had a bit more pocket money than usual one week, so she decided to give Pyramid (her regular Wednesday haunt) a miss to try out Taboo, the brand new Thursday hotspot run by one Leigh Bowery, the flyer of which was handed to her. She had a boyfriend in tow, but ruthless door whore Marc Vaultier denied him entry as he thought he didn’t have the right look. Undeterred and still resolute not to miss the opportunity, she ditched him and went in alone. As it turned out, it might’ve been the best decision she made in her life.
At first glance, the place looked virtually empty. She immediately spotted Leigh mincing around ostentatiously, with a can of Pils in his hand. He saw Nicola and not having anyone else to talk at that moment, he laughingly knelt on his knee to introduce himself and wrote his phone number on a flyer using her lipstick. Little did she know that that brief encounter was about to change her life forever.
The problem is, when she did ring him, he typically pretended not to know who she was. She ignored the humiliation though when he asked her to pop in again on the guest list. “It was a long courtship,” she laments, as if still exasperated, “but I was determined to be part of his life.”
When Leigh found himself short of a companion to tag him along to a Bodymap show (something that happens to the best of us), he rang her at the eleventh hour and she was over to his place like a rat up a drain pipe. She subsequently didn’t hear from him for six months until, that is, he remembered that the keen provincial girl was studying printed textile design at Middlesex Poly. He asked her to come over and do some work for him. She did a sterling job and that led to more work not only for Bowery, but for some other members of his clique, the likes of Rachel Auburn, Mr Pearl, Michael Clark and Matthew Hawkins. Nicola couldn’t believe her luck as she was not only actually working, but could at last be close to Leigh. “We had a mutual interest,” she laughs, “HIMSELF”.
Did they get it on, you might wonder? “Yes, we did – possibly just to get the issue out of the way,” she reveals candidly, “and the fling lasted about a month. He then chucked me like a soiled glove and I was quite hurt, but the friendship survived as he had the knack to keep me amused. Being both skint, we’d get home on the night bus after the clubs and Leigh would pull his wig back, saying embarrassing things out loud like “pull your knickers up Nicola!”, just to shock people. One night, he dumped me in a rubbish bin in Piccadilly Circus, just for a giggle. Everything was a game to him. He loved scheming and misleading people. He was often rude, especially to Philip Sallon. They antagonised each other. I always had to apologise for him.
Still, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I loved Leigh with all my heart and I think he was loyal to me as he involved me in everything he did. He chose me very wisely,” she ponders – jokingly.
Nowadays, Nicola lives in Brighton, has two offsprings and manages Bowery’s estate.
Scroll down and click if images don’t automatically roll out to the bottom of the page. Click on any image to enlarge.