How it all started (a much edited and expanded history)
THERE ARE LOADS OF PICTURES TO ADD TO THIS PAGE IN COMING MONTHS – HAVE YOU GOT ANY TO ADD
I am gradually adding to this page – so you might like to come back from time to time to see how I am doing. I guess at some time I will write it all down and tell the whole story.
Back before WayOut before the Tranny Guide, I ( that is me Vicky Lee) was following up every night club listing that looked like it might be tranny friendly. It was during this time that I met many of the friends that I still enjoy seeing at WayOut nearly 20 years later. In 1993 Caroline Eggerton and I published the first ‘Tranny Guide’ book. Throughout the year we were selling the book that grew out of that lifestyle from our handbags. At the same time we were working on edition two with designer Dane on the cover. The WayOut Publishing company was created to publish this second edition. The book records that at that time in London we had Ron Stormes Travestie Extrordinaire which was monthly and Teds in North end Road which had just started a Thursday night at a very small predominantly lesbian and gay bar. Miss Kimberly had just started a Wednesday night at Heaven called the Powder Room. Madam Jo Jo’s still had a drag show and the Barbette waitresses Tuesday to Saturday. I was a regular at all these nights. The most incredible night was Sunday at ‘The Roof Gardens’ where I met Steffan who was hosting a table.
Steffan invited me to meet him one afternoon at Fortnum and Masons for tea. On that fateful afternoon we clicked and soon, we were promoting venues together. We worked for promoter Nicky Price for 14 weeks running ‘Bolts’ Sunday nights at the Hippodrome, Leicester Square. We never got paid but we learnt so much.
At the same time I was performing with Steffan’s ‘Dragmania’ team of four, performing a lypsync show. We rehearsed our show and made our costumes at Fraser’s sun bed shop in Charlotte St. One of our sun bed customers was Bar Manager, Lee Whitby the manager of a small wine bar just around the corner in Goodge Street. Lee came and saw our ‘Dragmania’ show (we were regulars at the Black Cap) and came to the Hippodrome. It was these visits that led her to ask us to promote her wine bar every Saturday. I knew from researching the ‘Tranny Guide’ book that the cross-dressing scene lacked a unique Saturday tranny night. The WayOut Wine Bar was born.
Jamisons Wine Bar in Goodge Street
We rose to the challenge and Jamisons Wine Bar in Goodge St was transformed into ‘The WayOut Wine Bar’ each week. Every street sign was changed. Every wall picture was changed to Hollywood heroines. The first night was a great success attracting 100 people and we have never had less than 100 since.
I would come in to town at 8pm from my house in Enfield, North London, to set up all the props and set up the sound system. We started off with tapes that I made up in the week. Meeting the Dragmania team around the corner in Charlotte St. Steffan and I were out around the city doing as many as two shows every Saturday. After which we would return to WayOut to do a short show on our four beer crate stage.
At six in the morning we would strip down our props and it would be sometimes 8am, after driving Steffan to Norwood in South London, before climbing into bed back in Enfield.
It was obvious from the planning stage that we needed help to run the door at the wine bar. The door which I had made a speaker system and a little, sliding, viewing window, like something out of ‘Bugsy Malone’. Caroline Eggerton was, like most of us at the time, unemployed and she was more than happy to look after the embryonic club while we were away.
So thorough was our makeover of the bar that many thought we had bought the bar, They would be amazed that they could not find the bar during the week. It appeared back every Saturday like it was spirited in from another dimension and then magically disappear at 6am every Sunday to once again become Jamisons on Monday morning.
In that first year at Goodge St Francis (Frantastics) strummed her guitar and played ‘American Pie’ on ouf four beer crate stage. We even had a rock band manage to play at the tiny venue. I remember the band had to stand on the bar. Beauty and the Bitch returned to play at The WayOut Club at our 10th birthday. They played again the “WayOut Wine Bar Song” that they wrote in 1993 to tell the story of the early days for the club.
It was our policy in those days not to take pictures of visitors to the club as many were deep in the closet – If YOU have pictures from these days that you would like to see on these pages please contact us.
After one year in Goodge St, manager Lee fell fowl of licencing laws and we lost our Jamisons venue. Without losing a night we moved The WayOut Wine Bar a mile to Maceys, opposite Miss Selfridge in Duke Street.
Maceys in Duke Street
This two floor venue held twice as many and gave us a stage space to play with in the basement. The basement had its own sound system and for me the set up was simple. We hired a DJ. We had a dressing room in the wine celler. We had Porche from Sydney Australia who introduced us to Priscilla Queen of the Desert ozy drag before the film was even made. She later played a cameo in the great movie and still works the Sydney stages. We had as many as 200 every Saturday at Maceys and the atmosphere was electric.
A change of ownership after a year at Maceys made us move again. I remember Steffan telling the new Australian owner how he would regret asking us to leave. This Australian was the guy who started “sports bars” in the UK just as Sky satellite was launching. I dont think he missed us – he made a fortune. I missed Maceys it was a great venue.
Circa in Berkley Square with Captain Jack
It was while we were at Maceys that we started the Wayout CLUB held monthly on Thursdays at Bar Circa, under the Satchi & Satchi building on Berkley Square. With wonderful manager Chris (I remember him to be like ‘Torchwood’s’ Captain Jack). I remember being impressed that Peter Stringfellow visited us at Circa and insisted that he pay for himself and his guest. I have followed n his footsteps ever since. We held our second birthday at Peters St Martins Lane ‘Stringfellows’ just before he turned it over to lap dancing.
The CLUB ran in parallel with the WINE BAR for a year.
Under the Scotch House in Knightsbridge
During the move from Maceys to a bigger venue in Knighstsbridge, under the Scotch House we merged the CLUB and the WINE BAR and from then on we always went under the name
‘The WayOut Club’.
CLICK HERE for a review from those Knightsbridge days.
The ‘Knightsbridge’ venue did not have a sound system so we bought our own, complete with vynel decks. These I had to deliver and set, strip down and return to home every week. The venue was a smart basement restaurant and had residents above it. We lived with the sound limiter that would cut the sound if we turned it up to loud. Very embarrassing if you were miming at the time. It was here that a Japanese telly company came and ran ‘The Drag Olympics’ an idea that we built on every year there after. After a year the whole restaurant was closed due to sound and licensing problems (possibly because I, Vicky Lee was the DJ) so once again The WayOut Club was on the move again.
We spent a short time under the theatre in Drury Lane which at the time was showing ‘Cats’. It was a very urban space and as we finished at 4am a team of Japanese DJs would take over.
Shorts at Great Titchfield Street
We next were made welcome in Great Titchfield Street at a two floor restaurant called ‘Shorts’. For six months many considered this to be one of our best venues. About the same layout and size as Maceys. Here again Vicky supplied the sound system each week and together with guest DJs spun the discs again. It was here that Miss Sarah Lloyd became a regular helper and ‘WayOut Girl’. On other nights the venue was used by a swingers club and cross fertilization led to swingers becoming regulars at WayOut.
The venue was closed down by the police as the venue had no licences and was staying open with various promotions every night of the week. It was the police who then showed us how to research the licensing to find a venue without being lied to.
The Tatty Bogle year
Steffan and I had been taking it in turn to host Wednesday nights at ‘The Tatty Bogle’ a Piano Bar under Kingly Court near Carnaby Street. With the loss of ‘Shorts’ for our Saturday night the WayOut Club was welcomed to ‘The Tatty Bogle’ as they did not have clientele on Saturday nights. This venue only held a hundred people and we ran on a one in one out basis for much longer than we should have done, but we were determined to search for a good stable venue with long term prospects. I spun the discs balancing decks on top of the piano. We still managed shows with as many as five people in the show. At this time I was doing live shows with Jezabell as ‘The Vampettes’ and Steffan was off out doing shows with ‘Total Recall’. Steffans boyfriend Tony would look after the door and Caroline would prop up the bar. Caroline was a very early adopter of the internet so WayOut was one of the early sites on line. This interest in the internet became a full time job for Caroline who then it became obvious had no time to maintain the WayOut site. Finally I learnt to run an alternative web site and have updated it ever since.
Our move to the Minories in the City
During our year of searching we passed over ‘Charlies’ in Crosswall as it did not have a sound and lights at the time. Instead we moved to ‘Hot Shots’ in Minories owned by the same person who owned Charlies, our now, good friend Tony Kiener. Compared with the ‘Tatty Bogle’ Hot Shots was enormouse. It was hard to fill it at first. We had so much space we would shut off areas for ad hoc photo shoots. Tony soon after changed the venues name to ‘Tiffanys’ and by now the venue was getting busy.
Some of our Saturday nights were linked with fetish magazine ‘Ritual’ and some of the fetish crowd cross fertilized and became WayOut regulars (from these nights Kim and Club Rub took the opportunities to use ‘Dukes’ another of Tony’s venues becoming for many years one of the most stable and largest fetish clubs in London). However we decided that WayOut should not hold “fetish nights” as the basis of our philosophy was “no dress code” and the fetish clubs and their visitors prefered “strict dress code”.
At this time Caroline’s time with the club came to a natural end as despite still sharing in the profits she had long ceased to do anything for the club, now totaly distracted with her internet business. At the same time I bought out WayOut Publishing and the Tranny Guide and continued the publishing alone.
It was at Tiffanys that after brain storming session for new ideas, I held the first ‘Tranny Guide awards’ presenting “headless oscars” to best shop, best dressing service etc. At this time everyone at WayOut would be familiar with ‘The Tranny Guide’ book. The internet was still a costly novelty on unreliable dial up connections. The Tranny Guide was still invaluable at a time when everyone on the tranny scene was finding their feet including our male admirers. People were looking for “like minded others”. Tranny Guide awards would be cheered with enthusiasm.
Steffan at this time was working up and down the UK and overseas with the ‘Total Recall’ show. He was at this time meeting and introducing to the club some fabulous performers like Miss Ambre from France. It was another short brain storming session that led to The WayOut Spice Girls. The Spice Girls were a growing phenomena and ripe for impersonating. Everyone borrowed each others “stuff” to get the look for a one off show. Next day the People newspaper had pictures and the ‘WayOut Spice Girls’ were known nationwide. Our Girls ended up in ‘Spice World’ the movie after an exciting year touring (two) WO Spice girl teams. When Gerry Halliwel left the group it was the WayOut Spice Girls she performed with on the stage at G.A.Y Steffan carried her onto the stage.
Round the corner to Charlies in Crosswall
Tiffany lease ran out and Tony offered us Charlie’s just around the corner in Crosswall which he had now equipped with sound and lights. Steffan enjoyed the stage area and intimate space that Charlie’s offered and weekly inspired crazy shows. At Charlies Steffan had us perform a tribute to every musical film and stage show there ever was.
Through ‘Star Search’ nights he inspired (ok bullied) many into trying the stage and many remember that encouragement and value the experience and his friendship.
Losing Steffan to cancer in 2005
In 2004 Steffan was diagnosed with bone cancer and died after a terrible year of struggle.
LICK HERE for our web pages that pay tribute to Steffan.
At this time my partner Lesley joined the team. She had always been in the background and was a good friend to Steffan and all the team. The a flow of visitors, for months, grieving Steffan, took a great toll on me. Without Lesley watching my back and running the club at this time I would have folded.
We recognise that WayOut has now evolved. Now many people visiting WayOut may not know the Tranny Guide book, and can’t remember a time without the internet and the confidence it has inspired. Many never met Steffan some may not know what he did for our community, though every year we hold a tribute show to his memory.
The leading transgender club in the World
In 2008 The WayOut Club was awarded one of the first ‘Sparkle’ TG awards for …. ‘Best Transgender Club’ …. However what really thrilled me was when Leah True who organised the awards told me that when the voting at sparkle.org was opened that The WayOut Club leapt into the lead. I was thrilled to hear that the votes came, not just from the UK, but also from countries all around the world reflecting the breadth of our visitors.The opportunity to visit The WayOut Club weekly since 1993 has allowed many (1000′s) to make their first steps, develop their dress style, confidence, social skills and networks. The whole tranny scene has become more confident, however I can assure you that however awesome looking those WayOut regulars may appear, they never forget their early steps and enjoy welcoming and helping others less confident come to the club. Some of our visitors take long breaks and then return to renew their link to the club. Others, including me, hardly miss a night at the club. Some have over this time transitioned from male to full time female. Some have found at the club partners both male and female. Some have in this time married (we have even hosted wedding receptions at the club). Many have made firm friendships meeting their new friends outside the club developing a fulfilling transgender lifestyle. Many have enjoyed the contests and opportunities to perform and some have become more regular entertainers at the club or gone on to entertain or enter other contests outside the club. When I am talking with those that are the most hard working, influential, role models and creative trannies I am always happy to be reminded that so many of these wonderful people took their first steps at The WayOut Club.
14 years at Charlie’s
We were with Lippy Laing in the City since 1997 and never missed a Saturday night (except for a few xmas saturdays). However all good things have to end and in June 2012 Lippy had to give the difficult news “We have lost all our licences you have 3 weeks notice”.
Six months and six laps around the Block
The Local police and City of London licencing officers were very helpful. Vicky Lee’s main aim was to stay in he same area to avoid losing friends and customers during this change. Three local venues looked after us while we struggled to match diaries every Saturday. Abbey Bar in Minories proved to be the most popular priding everything we were used to and a larger venue with room to grow.
The club now enjoys the most diverse mixed crowd that can be found in any club on any night. The WayOut team have always encouraged non – bigotted people to join Trannies of every flavour whilst also always being welcoming to new and inexperienced people. The very best nights have been the most mixed nights. Now WayOut is as much a diversity club as a transgender club. We believe this is why the club can be euphoric, spiritually uplifting. At the same time I understand that the club can also appear intimidating and awesome to some who are not yet confident with diversity.
We have tried various other promotions and other nights
While we were at Maceys we started the Wayout CLUB held monthly on Thursdays at Bar Circa, under the Satchi & Satchi building on Berkley Square. The CLUB ran in parallel with the WINE BAR for a year. When we moved the Saturday to Knightsbridge we stopped the Thursday. Steffan and I hosted The Tatty Bogle Club Wednesday under Carnaby Street off Kingly Court from 1994 to 1997. This was a very casual night allowing trannies to mix with a post theatre crowd who woul sing around the piano and cha cha til dawn. A Friday Night WayOut Wine Bar was breifly revisited in 2004 Following a constant flow of requests for a Friday night we responded with our original concept in a quality venue ‘TKs’ in Lovat lane. This night ran from April to July 2004 and was enjoyed by all tha visited. However numbers were not strong enough to support the Friday night and it was subsequently closed. Steffan also ran a separate Wednesday night called ‘House of Drag’ in an amazing venue in Mayfair. It was a great night but never managed to “balance the books”. The venue closed a year before we lost Steffan.
What are our old venues doing now?
Click Here to tour our old venues on a separate page