Have you ever had one of those life experiences that renders you utterly speechless? Read on and let me know if anything I’m about to tell you leaves you as astonished as it did when it happened to me.
Picture it – Earl’s Court, London, 1988, the height of the summer, and me working as a part-time barman in one of the coolest gay bars in the city.
In the bar, the biggest catch in town. And it seemed he had his eyes on me. He’d been showing some interest in me for weeks, or so I thought.
Sometimes, when I caught him looking at me, I’d blush so much that my face resembled a sun-dried tomato. At the same time, my heart would skip a few beats while the butterflies in my stomach felt like they were rioting.
Neville, my best friend, made a bet with me that if ‘catch’ (as we’d nicknamed him) asked me out on a date, he’d do all my washing for the rest of the year. How could I decline a bet like that?
At six-foot-tall, mid-thirties, with a stocky build, short dark hair, moustache, piercing brown eyes, and always wearing the tightest of Levi 501 jeans, it wasn’t my washing that needed a cold wash. It was me!
He was what I called a ‘man’s man’, and nobody would have ever guessed that he was gay had they seen him walking down the street or standing on the terraces at Stamford Bridge.
Nobody knew much about him. Not even his name.
He always stood on his own, and nobody ever approached him. He ordered one drink that lasted the whole evening and always left the bar on his own.
I didn’t want to make the first move. I hated rejection, but the prospect of having my washing done for the rest of the year was tempting.
The other barmen had noticed that ‘Catch’ was giving me a little too much attention. Make the first move, they told me, but I couldn’t.
Then, in the early hours of an unusually warm and humid Sunday morning, having just finished my shift, I left the bar and started to make the short trip home.
“Hi” came a deep voice from behind me. “I’ve been watching you for weeks and wondered if you fancied coming back to my place for a coffee?”
As I span around, the butterflies in my stomach rioted again as my eyes were met by ‘Catch’ smiling at me. For some reason, it took what seemed like ages for me to accept his invitation.
Jumping into a taxi with him, I felt as if I was floating on cloud nine. We sat silent like two lovebirds, just looking into each others eyes.
As soon we reached his apartment, I’d hardly given ‘Catch’ time to close the front door before grabbing him and forcing him to do some tongue dancing with me.
What happened after the tongue dancing didn’t seem to last long, but neither of us seemed to care very much. There was still time for rounds two, three and four.
I had the feeling that he was the one and that we’d be doing lots more of what had just happened, only at a much slower pace.
“Would you like a beer, Peachy?” were his first words to me since we got to his apartment. Peachy? Was he talking to me? Well, that’s another story, but the cold beers helped cool us down while we continued to look into each others eyes.
After rounds two and three, we were both exhausted, and he asked if I wanted to stay the rest of the night.
As much as I wanted to stay, I had to get home because I couldn’t wait to see Neville and tell him what had happened.
While quickly freshening myself up, ‘Catch’ made us some coffee.
Grabbing my clothes and walking to the kitchen (because I didn’t want to miss another second of being with him), I realised I still didn’t know ‘Catch’s’ real name. Should I ask, or should I wait until he asked me for mine? After all, he couldn’t know me as ‘Peachy’ when we went on our first proper date.
Having convinced myself that it wasn’t me doing the chasing in this relationship, I decided to wait until he introduced himself to me.
While the coffee went cold, our tongues had another long dance.
“Would you like to make this a regular thing?” ‘Catch’ asked me, as he came up for some air.
I had a fleeting vision of Neville doing my washing, so didn’t take long to respond.
“What? You bet!”
“Good, I was hoping you’d say that.”
After a little more tongue dancing, it was time for us to part and ‘Catch’ escorted me to the front door.
However, suddenly stoping, ‘Catch’ told me to wait, and off he wandered (while muttering something about having forgotten something). I watched as the man of my dreams disappeared back into the bedroom. Surly not round five, I thought.
With my heart playing the drums in my chest, I was positive I could feel those first dewdrops of love welling up inside of me. He was probably writing down his phone number for me.
Then it all started to go wrong. Very wrong!
I couldn’t take my eyes off ‘Catch’ as he walked towards me. “Here you go,” he said, thrusting a wad of ten-pound notes into my hand. “You forgot to ask for your fee. I’ve deducted a little for the beer and coffee you had.”
Shocked, my jaw hit the floor, and for the first time in my life, I was speechless; completely speechless! And, before you ask, no, not because he’d made a deduction for beer and coffee.
‘Catch’ had mistaken me for a rent-boy.
Still openmouthed and unable to speak, I walked out, turned around and, as ‘Catch’ closed the front door, heard him say he’d recommend me to anyone looking for the same kind of fun.
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64 thoughts on “True Stories: Gay Memories – First Date – Memories From Gay London During the 1980s #LGBTQI #LGBT”
Oh Hugh, to have your hopes dashed in that way must have been so sharp and I understand your silence. It takes courage to share stories that cut deep and I applaud you and your beautiful writing. x
At the time, I was so ashamed and embarrassed by what had happened, Jane. However, over the last few years, I started seeing the story as rather humorous, although it’s not the kind of information I’d tell at a dinner party.
Thank you so much for reading the post and leaving a comment.
Oh yes Hugh, time and distance lend a softer view. It was Paul, from his post yesterday on your blog, that commented on this post of yours. It was one I had missed, so I was grateful to Paul. x
Paul’s guest post is a brilliant read, Jane. I’m so pleased he accepted my invitation to write a guest post.
Like your fiction writing – a story with a twist! I didn’t see the end coming, Hugh, and while shocking and humiliating at the time, it does make for an incredible story (maybe not so much memory) now! I think you should have kept the money, although that might have made you feel like a real rent boy. I do understand why you slid the money back and never told your best friend about it.
I kept this story to myself for many years, Liesbet. I was so embarrassed by what had happened. Nobody ever knew I’d gone back with ‘Catch.’ Fortunately, he disappeared into the Twilight Zone he’d come from. I’m pleased to say that I can now look and laugh about what happened that night.
Hugh, I don’t know whether jaw-dropping, heart breaking, humiliating, shocking or deeply depressing but I love how you write about it. This shows your “real”! And that is what your Mr. Right recognized!! I am in awe.
Thank you so much, Luzahn.
I’m pleased to say that although I was horrified by what happened for many years after the event, I can now look back at it and laugh. I think I had a rather lucky escape.
I’m enjoying your blog very much, please do keep writing!!
Thankyou for sharing this, shame about the outcome.
Oh, I’m not so sure, Victoria. I think I had a lucky escape.
Oye! I can’t even imagine the humiliation. Well written Hugh! xx
If the ground had opened in front of me that early morning, I would have jumped in, Debby. At least I can now laugh about what happened. Even John thinks it’s a funny story and couldn’t stop laughing about it.
Oye, is all I can say. I totally understand the huge humiliating slap! ❤ Thank goodness you've moved on and made a wonderful life ❤
Oh my that must have been weird. Did it count as a date so did Neville do the washing?
No and no. I never told anyone what happened, and ‘Catch’ disappeared back into the Twilight Zone he’d come from. I’m glad to say that I can now back and laugh at what happened.
It’s a corking story. Oh to have seen your expression as the tenners were handed over!
I’d thought I’d won the lottery. But it seems I only got two numbers, so a lucky-dip.
When the wheels stop at a line of lemons, make cheesecake!
Was the wad of notes sufficient to compensate for how you were feeling, Hugh? I’ve got to say, my initial reaction was to laugh, but the more I thought about, the more I realised I’d have been mortified in a similar situation.
The ground could have swallowed me up when it happened, Graeme. I kept this story a big secret for many years. I’m glad to say that I now back at it and laugh.
Glad you can laugh about it now, Hugh, but it must have felt like a real kick in the teeth at the time.
If the ground had opened up in front of me, I probably would have jumped in, Mary.
A very unexpected ending Hugh. I hope you picked yourself up and met a good catch that appreciated you.
I did, Brigid. Although I had to wait until 1993 to meet Mr Right, we’ve been together for 27 years this Sept.
Lovely. I am so glad.
I definitely did not see that ending coming. I’m glad to hear that he went back to the Twilight Zone!
Yes, he disappeared, and never crossed my path again, Donna. Just as well, because I’ve no idea how I would have reacted had I seen him again.
Happy Pride Month, Hugh! My brother went through some strange dates, but nothing like that. Catch was not a catch!
I’d like to know some more about your brother’s strange dates, Terri. I had a few more back then, which I may share details about one day. For some reason, back then, I seem to attract some of the strange ones.
Oh my goodness Hugh. That is some true life story! I didn’t see that coming. How mortifying, but you deserve much better than Catch, who was not such a catch after all!
It’s a story I can now laugh about, Marje. Horrible when it happened, and I kept it to myself for a long time. Not even Neville (my best friend) knew about it.
Yes with time we are better able to look back and laugh Hugh. We all have skeletons in our closets from the past! Some more than others! Lol. I makes you even more endearing. 🙂
Great story. I never got mistaken as a boy toy (rent boy). I did stalk a pretty young thing for months, and one evening I talked him into coming home with me. After I took him to his home hours later, I discovered he had stolen my watch and some cash. When I shared my story with my friends, they said, “You did what? Didn’t you know he was a prostitute?” It was a lesson learned, and I was more careful who I invited home after that. I hope you’re having a safe summer. Here in Florida, our numbers are getting worse. I stay at home and only go out to the grocery store. HUGS
I’m sorry to hear about the encounter you had with the thief, Chuck. I knew a guy who we nicknamed ‘family silver George’ because he stole from people who had taken him home. He wasn’t ‘rent’, just very good looking and fit. He knew how to use both. I often saw him doing community work after his convictions. Many of his victims did not listen to the warnings to leave him alone. I wonder whatever happened to him?
I heard about the numbers in part of the world. You do the right thing by staying at home as much as possible. I’ve been doing the same for the last three months and only went out on my first long walk yesterday.
Take care of yourself.
Shocked indeed! I didn’t forsee that ending to the evening 😳
Me neither, Cathy. It certainly wasn’t a happy ending.
Gobsmacked! I can just imagine your face. What a great story 🙂
A backhanded compliment, him thinking you were attractive enough to be a rent boy 🙂
I can’t believe he charged you for the beer and coffee; no wonder he was always alone!
Nor could I. I wonder if he’d charged me if he hadn’t thought I was rent? I’m glad he never stuck around for me to find out.
Oh, my God! I would be horrified. Did you ever run into him again?
No, he went back to the Twilight Zone he’d travelled from Susie. I’m glad he decided to take that trip.
Thank God. That is so humiliating.
Well now Hugh, that’s a story that I’ll remember lol. I hope you took the wad of £10 notes. I’d have stood with my hands out and asked for more, the cheeky devil 😉
Now I think about it, I wished I had done so, Caz. I ended up posting the cash through the letterbox of his front door. Of course, I never told Neville what had happened. And ‘Catch’ never crossed our paths ever again.
Not such a catch after all… poor Hugh! 😦
No. Thank goodness I was able to throw him back into the Twilight Zone he came from, Ruth,
Yes my jaw certainly dropped, no wonder you were speechless!
And it’s not often that anyone can say I’m speechless.
Oh no!! Opened mouth shock, horror here at reading this!! Oh Hugh that must have been so horrible in so many ways. Very brave to write about this too! Happy Pride! 🙂
I now look back and laugh about it, Sam. I think growing older does that to you.
What an amazing story. Happy Lockdown Pride!
Happy Pride, Christoph. I can’t believe Pride is almost over for another year. It’s been good to see it’s been kept going online, though.
Oh! What an awful end to what you thought was the best night of your life! I can feel that kick in the gut you must of felt! Did you ever see him again, did you put him right 💜…did your heart mend? Did Neville do your washing 💜
No, no, no and no, Willow. ‘Catch’ was never seen again (thank goodness). I like to think that this story was all in my imagination, but sadly it isn’t.
I very rarely say nasty things Hugh but he was a really rude Bastard, you had a luck escape there 💜💜💜
I did, Willow. It’s a night I’ll never forget. At least I can now laugh about it.
Hugh it was for the best wasn’t it , he is what would of been known as a cad!! You were way too good for him 😉💜
Oh my! How embarrassing and how rude ..I hope you never spoke to him again
Our paths never crossed again, Alison. He melted away into what was left of 1988.
A good job too, I hope you were lucky the next time you set eyes on someone
That, as they say, is another story, but his name was Henry. Not his real name, but one that was given to him by Neville and me.
Good writing! Happy Pride Month!