Tasty’s life reads rather like clubland’s history itself and telling it in its entirety would require a book at least the size of the Holy Bible, only with more entertainment value. He likes calling himself the original gender-bender-offender, having served as token “ornament” to myriad club nights since the dawn of the ’80s.
Born and raised in the “garden of England”, which sounds better in his mind than Tunbridge Wells, Tim wound up on London’s dancefloors literally fresh out of his school uniform.
By no means the intellectual or political type, he nevertheless knows how to impress with a mean, self-depreciating sense of humour and, of course, the distinctive aura that people within the scene quickly learned to love.
I have, over the years, photographed and written about him for countless publications from New York to Berlin and plenty more in between. Needless to say, my forthcoming clubland book will be peppered with some of his more infamous shenanigans.
Let’s go right back to Tasty’s wild teenage dream about swishing around the world’s discos, wearing gigantic wigs, lashings of glitter, powergloss and very little else, shall we? It undoubtedly materialised beyond all expectation. Alas, an early spanner in the work in an otherwise promising path proved to be his brief crack at pop stardom which ended abruptly when the brace of singles he got signed for sank without a trace. Neither a pointless (his own admission) cover of Sugar Sugar, the inane late 60s bubblegum ditty, nor its marginally better B-side revolving around Gary Glitter’s platform boots, had a subject likely to be trending in the early 80s’ fast-moving fashion and momentous music climate. As for its even less significant follow-up, I’m afraid it doesn’t warrant a mention. In retrospect, it seems rather a shame as it possibly would’ve just taken half a decent original track for him to break into the charts, even if only its lower reaches. The floodgates to androgynous performers, regardless of whether they could sing or not, were already wide open by then and he certainly looked gorgeous and had a likeable attitude to boot. Still, if you can’t be a pop starlet, there’s always the disco diva thang to fall back on and Tim had no qualms about throwing himself in at the deep end, taking to nightlife like an overexcited duckling to water. As he puts it himself, “that spelt the beginning of the end for me.”
Bear in mind that, like in any society, the club scene has institutionalised, untold rules which one must abide by in order to rise within its hierarchical system. First and foremost, the only altar to worship at is Sharess’s, the enticing deity of hedonism. Just as crucially, one should really brush aside mere considerations of sincerity or integrity in favour of unashamed glory hunting, expansive air-kissing and greeting prominent or on-trend folk with backhanded compliments, the likes of “You’re on fire, gurrrl!” or “Lookin’ gorge, dahlin’!”, even if they appear to have worked their look in pitch darkness and if their make-up has already spread all over the club.
Naturally, this simplistic description of the shallow night-clubbing world that we know and love needs to be taken with a good pinch of salt. However, I don’t know many connoisseurs who would argue that it pretty much sums it up. If he’s perfectly honest, Tim will agree that he embraced the etiquette himself as well whenever it suited him. He also championed what is generally perceived as the impeccable “textbook disco attitude”. That largely explains his continued popularity within the club circuit he was eager to be part of right from the start. The reality is, as a newbie, he more than likely took it for granted that the prevalent frivolity and artifice came with the territory, therefore had to be applied regardless. Furthermore, the scene’s demimonde and sycophants who’ve continually latched on to him – more often than not encouraged by him – were just as affected themselves to tell him otherwise. It has to be said that Tasty’s well-oiled ability to fit right in with clubland’s every nook and cranny partly accounts for his gobsmaking longevity. That is a trait he evidently shares with La Julia, the milieu‘s ubiquitous and ostensibly indestructible staple who’s acted as his disco buddy virtually from the word go.
Tim’s DJ début took place at the happening Cha Cha @ Soundshaft, an intimate venue located at the back of Heaven. Its main asset was being hosted by Scarlett, the celebrated face du jour, who moved on shortly afterwards to the Camden Palace. It also proved to be the place where other fresher Leigh Bowery showed up socially for the very first time (it wasn’t The Blitz, as some misinformed hacks often claim). That’s when Leigh still had a job flipping burgers at a nearby Burger King. Oooh, the glamour of it all!!!
Soon afterwards, Tasty moved on to Philip Sallon’s popular Mud Club which, after a couple of venue changes went through the roof at Busby’s on Charing Cross Road. The memorable, if short-lived Club For Dolphins, followed, as well as The Asylum at Heaven, Kinky Gerlinky and Beyond at Turnmills, to name but a few of the now-considered emblematic hotspots where TT grabbed with both hands the opportunity to earn the stripes and raise his profile.
A subsequent lengthy spell as door whore at NYC’s Disco 2000, The Limelight’s legendary Wednesday club night where the vibrant Party Monster scene of the ’90s peaked, prompted him to return to Blighty in order to DJ again and even take a stab at studio production with the T-Total project. He befriended producer Robert Michael while working at Kinky and they decided to put a record out together. It got radio airplay and entered the dance charts, so they followed it up with a string of EPs and remixes for Boy George, The Pet Shop Boys, etc. Robert was basically twiddling the knobs while Tim lounged on the studio sofa, discussing hair products (sic). It went on rather swimmingly until Robert alas passed away and Tasty never found someone to work with he liked so much again and that basically was the end of that. Anyhow, it felt as though Tim landed directly from NYC onto the DJ booth of Heaven’s main floor, with a DJ bag brimming with funky house beats direct from the USA. Gigs at DTPM, Trade, Crash and many more ensued. That’s when our little twitterer – rather than chatting, he’s indeed partial to a spot of twittering and I don’t mean on Twitter – got hooked on the prevalent electro scene. He was then enjoying, alongside Julia and Mark Moore, a seemingly endless weekly run at The Cock, the dingy and sweaty beast that hid behind the Astoria Theatre, until some ruthless Crossrail bulldozers eventually exterminated it once and for all.
Equally noteworthy, Tasty played out at the popular Trannyshack @ Madame JoJo for what also felt like an eternity – actually 10 years – in the delectable company of his “twisted sisters”, Dusty O and Essex glamour puss Lady Lloyd. When Westminster Council revoked the club’s licence, following a random fracas outside the venue, it effectively meant the Shack’s instant closure and prompted Dusty’s unceremonious retirement from the club scene and his decision to grow a beard to make a point. Incidentally there are rumours that Soho Estates, the venue’s proprietors, are considering rebuilding and reopening the historic site. Meanwhile, Tim keeps himself busy promoting the weekly tranny-static Bombshell, as well as playing his guest sets here, there and everywhere.
What clearly transpires from my shots of Tasty is that he never lost his trump card, i.e. the exquisite maquillage and sartorial savvy. Having said that, no one’s perfect and, in the heat of the night, stick-on eyebrows inevitably come unstuck around the edges, eyes redden and faces can easily shine like glow worms’ heads, even though he doesn’t have oily skin. That naturally means time-consuming retouching duties for conscientious photographers (such as myself) who make sure that their models look as flawless as can be, even if they know full well that their images will inexorably be shared uncredited. Arghhh!
Still, I always pay my dues and, regardless of the thoughtlessness (and the notorious sharp tongue), avoiding Naughty Tim would be quite unfathomable. He still scores points for sprucing himself up time and time again and for showing that he’s quite capable of having a blast playing out. Not to mention that he does make an effort to be totally charming when he wants to be – at least, needless to say, face to face.
I do realise how extraordinary it is that the guy’s been on the scene for donkey’s years and that never even seems to be an issue either to himself or anyone else. Would that simply be because he appears to love playing music so much?
To be fair, they hardly come – disco-damaged or not – any more seasoned than that, do they?!?
I love him really and I do take my hat off to him for all his achievements.
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