Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Quirky Trawl through Some Fascinating Facets of Our City

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Quirky Trawl through Some Fascinating Facets of Our City

Article excerpt


CURIOCITY: IN PURSUIT OF LONDON by Henry Eliot and Matt Lloyd-Rose (Particular Books, PS30) WARTIME Soho, with its steamed-up caffs, hookers and other chancers, was known for its dodgy goings-on but the area's sex industry sprung up pink and perky in the Seventies under the Maltese vice barons. One such, a brisket of beef known as "Big Frank" Mifsud, began life in Malta as a traffic cop before emerging as the undisputed king of the Soho clip-joints and peep-shows.

So-called "hostess bars" (darkened rooms, wipe-clean seats) continue to minister to the sad, momentary pleasures of men but the London sex scene has become rather more furtive now that the brothels have given way to Albanian-run escort agencies.

Curiocity, an endlessly fascinating guide to London in all its mongrel, mixed-up polyglot variety, dilates knowledgeably on the capital's teeming sex life. Alfred Gilbert's Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus, unveiled in 1893, was modelled on a 16-yearold Italian adonis named Angelo Colarossi, who posed nude in the homosexual sculptor's Turnham Green studio. Victorians were disconcerted by the eight-foot cast but that did not stop it from becoming the Evening Standard's masthead-logo.

Compiled by the bibliophile social researchers Henry Eliot and Matt Lloyd-Rose, Curiocity is an illustrated dictionary-encyclopaedia fashioned as an A-Z. It encompasses all contemporary London from "Atlas" (maps, charts) to "Zones" (the Tube's outlying districts). A heroic enterprise, it began life in 2009 as a six-issue magazine, with foldable maps, cartoons and contributions from assorted London writers. Since then it has swelled into an eccentric lexical juggernaut.

The 26 chapters are fortified by a subversive irony and jolly, pen-andink sketches of various aspects of the capital. In "Knowledge", the Wellcome Institute's reading room is billed as the only place in London where "you can relax on Freud's couch while wearing a straitjacket". …

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