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Keith Campbell

Keith Campbell, born 1949


Keith Campbell was a leading figure on the citiy's commercial scene from the late 1960s through to the 1980s., Along with his partner John Walters, he ran two successful gay venues called Guys Limited and the Grosvenor House Hotel. In his interview he talks about coming out onto the gay scene in the 1960s and setting up and running those two venues. He talks in detail about the gay scene in the 1960s and its personalities, celebrity clients at his venues and mentions 'It's a Knockout' which was a precursor to the current Pride events. He also talks about women's access to his clubs.


The Imperial - 10
The Trocadero - 10
Gay Bars in the 1960s - 10
Gay Clubs in the 1960s - 40, 290
Cafes in the 1960s - 30 35
Khardoma Coffee Bar - 35
Pantheon Coffee Bar - 31
The Mexicana Coffee Bar - 32
Guys Limited - 70 - 75 80, 85, 90 , 93, 94
Grosvenor House - 100-103 110 115 110 120 125 130 140 150, 290, 155
Fashion 20
Wolverhampton Gay Bars - 62 270
Laurie Williams & The Jug - 40 190 190 195 200
Police Raids - 40 90 - 91
Spartacus - 90
Mr Hardware - Mr Gay UK - 135
Nightingale - 120
Five Days of Fun / It's a Knockout - 140
Partners and Love Affairs - 50 160 180
HIV - 170
Women's access to bars - 80, 85 200
Drugs and poppers - 130
Thoughts on the scene - 210
Aunty's Bar Walsall - 63
Licencing Laws - 40 62 73 103 190
Being in the Armed Forces 50 71
Stratford upon Avon gay bars 60
1967 Act / Legalisation 93
Dancing 93
Celebrity gays 101 150
Clone Zone 135
Pride 140
John Walters 40 61 71 72 73 91 160
Transsexuals 200
Sport - 94

10 First Gay bar 1962 The Imperial

"I first went to my first gay bar, the Imperial Hotel, in Temple Street when I was 13, in 1962. There was one opposite, called the Trocadero. If you were a smart queen you went to the Imperial, if you wanted a bit of rough you went over the road to the 'Troc'".

20 How people dressed

"Everyone wore suits in those days (1960s), I think I bought a rolled up umbrella to look a bit older (than 13) - but I looked old for my age."

30 Cafés 1960s

31 "When the bars shut at 10.30 p.m., which they did in those days, (1960s) we used to go to the Pantheon on Smallbrook Ringway and fill it up with gays. It's still there under a different name, next door to the keep fit place on the corner.

32 "There was also a café-bar right in the middle of Holloway Head, called the Mexicana, which was a bit rough." (1960s)

35 Khardoma Cafe

"There weren't cafes just the Pantheon, the gays used to congregate on a Saturday morning, lunchtime,in the Khardoma Café in New Street, down in the basement, don't know what it is now, think it is a Ted Baker, and Muji, nice old building with all the old stonework, and that was the sort of meeting place for gays on a Saturday morning, while you're shopping, now it's Tesco's on a Sunday afternoon while you're shopping. It takes me three hours to get a loaf of bread I see so many people I know from the past".

40 Going to Laurie Williams' club in Handsworth 1963

"I remember the first club I ever went to, which was in Lozells, off Villa Road, run by Laurie Williams, I would probably have been about 14 and you used to go up to this entry and through this turnstile, and there would be Lionel on the door selling tickets for whichever drink you wanted. No money passed over the bar, you bought a different coloured raffle ticket for whichever drink you wanted. That would be 1963ish, when homosexuality was still well illegal. There were no (police) raids, it was tolerated."

50 Meeting John Walters in 1963

"I met John when I was about 14, at a New Year's Eve party in Handsworth, where he spilt a drink all over me, and took me out to dinner, so I was very impressed at 14, being taken out to dinner. So we developed a friendship, not sexual. "I joined the Navy at 16 (1965). At this time I had three what you would probably call 'sugar-daddies' including somebody who's now dead, and John Walters., I used to come home (from the Navy) most weekends, so John and I would go out partying, there was always a party somewhere so I used to get invites." John eventually put up the money for the first 'Guys', but eventually died in a tragic car accident in Portugal,

60 Bars in Stratford and Wolverhampton - 1960s

61 "John (Walters) lived in Kidderminster, he would pick me up at the station and we'd go, maybe over to Stratford on Avon, where there was a bar there called the Red Lion, which eventually moved to the Queen's Head, which is still there, but not gay anymore. That was a sort of Saturday night jaunt." (1965 - 67)

62 "There was another club, in Wolverhampton, which was illegal, which was like an asbestos roofed tin hut, called the 'Gay Flamingo' and funnily enough, if you weren't in the doors by ten o clock, they wouldn't let you in, thought they had no bloody licence anyway. I daresay some of the Wolverhampton queens would know about that!" (1965 - 7)

63 'Aunty's Bar' (The Fountain Inn), Walsall

"The very first gay bar I went to outside Birmingham was Aunty's Bar in Walsall in Bott Lane. She was an old girl off the music hall, one bar, very small, lesbians dressed in suits, and it was a real fun place, Michael and I used to go there on the Midland Red bus and get the last bus home, some of my old friends remember Aunty's bar. Bott Lane is still there, it was a small pub called the Fountain Inn, it had been going for years before I went, which was about 1963. It finished when Auntie died. All that was in Birmingham at that time was the Troc(adero) and the Imperial, but to go somewhere different on a Saturday night, see different people, not many people had cars then, we went there on the bus".

70 Guys Nightclub, Bromosgrove Street, 1966 - 1972

71 "In 1966 John (Walters) found some premises in the old Bull Ring, down the bottom of Bromsgrove St, where the fruit and vegetable market is now, which was a beatnik café. (The walls) were papier mache to make them look like caves".

72 "I was 17 then and John wanted me to come out the Navy to run that, with him. The other sugar daddy also offered to buy me out the navy so I came out the Navy at 17, having just done a year there, mind you I was always sea sick!"

73 "We opened 'Guys Limited' in 1966 and the first Saturday night we had about nine people, the second Saturday we had about 25 - 30 and then it just grew and grew. When it opened I was behind the bar and John was on the door, and a few weeks later, I went on the door, and John mingled, and then we got busier and busier, and I mingled as well. It was all word of mouth."

74 "Guys had a 10.30p.m. licence although we used to serve coffees till 2.00 a.m. with 'something in them'."

75 "Then the premises came up for lease next door, so my father knocked through the basement and we built another bar in there and made it twice as big."

80 Lesbians picket 'Guys' for equal access

"It was called Guys Limited and meant just that - John and I wanted it to be limited to just guys! To be honest, we couldn't be doing with women and lesbians, because all the trouble we'd found, especially at the Gay Flamingo in Wolverhampton, was caused by lesbians letting off fire extinguishers, and fighting and everything."


"One Saturday night, about 11 o clock - it was very quiet, there was about 20 or 30 people there whereas we normally used to get a couple of hundred people plus, they used to start arriving about 8.30 or 9.o'clock, and someone came in and said, 'Do you know, there's some girls outside, picketing'. There was a load of lesbians outside picketing the club, stopping them coming in, cos I wouldn't let them (women) in. So I went out, had a meeting with them and came to an agreement, that they could have a Tuesday night, so Tuesday nights then became very very busy, the girls came, and so did the boys, so that carried on to the Grosvenor and became the busiest night of the week, a Tuesday. But we still called it Guys Limited, meaning limited to men".

90 Guys 'Mr Spartacus' event raided by the Police

"In 1967, homosexuality was still illegal, but Guys was only raided once, "Spartacus Magazine had just come out, (not the guide) owned by John Stanford, and he contacted us to see if he could put an exhibition on (at Guys) so I went round Birmingham for a few weeks and got about twenty entrants for Mr Spartacus. These guys all came and showed themselves, introduced by Laurie Williams. They were going to appear naked the next time, so I've got them all on the stairs, naked, waiting to come on, when all of a sudden, the double doors at the top were chopped down, and we were raided. So I got them all up the stairs, got them dressed and they (the Police) took away things like the statue of David, and various magazines which they described as pornographic. There were no cocks or anything shown in those days, but apparently, the police get every publication going, and they'd seen that this was going on at Guys, so they were told by the Chief Inspector to raid us. After they'd gone, John said to me 'Well what do you think?' They were all on the stairs waiting, so I got them all stripped again, when the Police Inspectorcame back again to apologise and to tell us he had nothing to do with it. So nobody ever saw that, I had to cancel it, and the place was absolutely packed!"

Keith said that the only time Guys or The Grosvenor was ever raided was because of Spartacus. "Spartacus was a very small magazine. John Stanford, who was from London, then went on to produce the Spartacus Guide and then he ran away to Holland, because it turned out he was a paedophile".

93 Dancing together

Homosexuality was legalised in 1967 during the time Keith and John still ran Guys. "When it did become legal, I think I was the first person in the country to allow two people, two guys, to dance close together in a club. In those days people used to go and ask people to dance whereas now they just get on the dance floor and just do it."
Guys shut in 1972.

94 Football Match

There was something going on all the time and of course at Guys we had a football match against the Red Lion in Stratford one Sunday afternoon - I think I put our team in pink shorts or pink tops and we played on a field by the river, in Stratford.

100 The Grosvenor Hotel, Hagley Road, 1971 and celebrity customers

"In 1971 we still had Guys and then we got the premises on the Bearwood end of the Hagley Road, the Grosvenor House Hotel, which was the original name and we kept it. There were two bars, very large gardens, a nice restaurant that seated 40+ people, 14 bedrooms.

101 We used to get lots of companies stay there, like the Royal Ballet, Ballet Rambert, Doyle Carte, Welsh National Opera, pantomime season we were always full from the gay people such as Anna Campbell from 'On the buses' who I'm still friendly with. Lots of famous people, Charles Hawtree - his favourite trick was, there used to be a pillar in the small bar and he used to hide behind it, and people standing at the bar, he used to pinch their arse, hide behind the pillar and look for their reaction, he was always pissed, he was an alcoholic. He'd see their reaction and get turned on by that and run away tittering and screaming to himself. Jimmy Edwards, Joan Turner, Wayne Sleep, who I evicted because he came back from the theatre (he'll probably sue me if he reads this, but it's true!) paying £6/7/6d a night and he expected room service - well we didn't do room service, 'if you want something, go and order it at the bar and I'll see if the night porter will do you something'. Anyway he was giving me a load of stick so I said 'I tell you what I'll do for you', I said, 'I'll make two phone calls for you, one will be to the Albany and the other for a taxi, so I suggest you go upstairs, pack your bags and go!' So he did! Supercilious queens, I don't care who they are! I didn't give a shit".

103 "I had a reputation of being very arrogant, but that was because, when you are running gay premises, and licensed premises, we were licensed till 2.00 a.m. then but being a hotel, sometimes I would leave the bar open to whenever, for residents, some of the residents had a lot of friends!. They were good times, they used to go hunting round the bedrooms at 3 or 4 o clock in the morning, and go swimming in the swimming pool in the summer."

110 Parties at the Grosvenor

"In about '73 we built an open air swimming pool, half moon shape, not small, about average size, and obviously that became popular, then in the winter we used to put a bubble over it so it could be used in the winter, but we had the heating on and queens were going in there at night, and because it was like a f****ing sauna, and because no-one could see, they were having sex in there, and when they started falling in the pool, we had to take it off and stop it!!! It became quite well known for its parties."

120 Competition from the Nightingale

"The Nightingale, which was in Camp Hill then (1969), moved to outside the Villa Ground, by the Holt pub (in 1975), for years, then (in 1981) they moved to Thorp St, so I had to decide what I would have to do to keep the punters coming out of town. So, in the Grosvenor, I painted the disco black, put up iron bars like grills, and turned it into a seedy place for the leather guys, put a dark room in the back with shutters, so there was a gap".

125 "One story is that one Saturday night I was standing by the disco console by the shutters, and about fifty people had gone through there, and I was thinking, it must be f****ing packed in there, so I went in, and it was empty! Someone had found the door to the gardens, and everybody was shagging down in the gardens, leant across the swimming pool, swimming in the pool, all in the bushes down the bottom of the garden!"

130 Drugs and Poppers

There weren't as many drugs then, I introduced poppers to Birmingham then, via the Grosvenor, they were banned in the Nightingale, they used to smoke (weed) but never in the bars or the clubs, not that we banned it, they just didn't do it, if they smoked weed they did it in their own home, it wasn't a big thing in those days, people didn't need any stimulants, I certainly didn't, I might need the odd Viagra now but that's because of my age, dear!

135 Mr Hardware, precursor to Mr Gay UK run by Clone Zone

"The very first Mr Gay UK was in fact Mr Hardware, sponsored by Hardware Poppers, alias Clone Zone, Mike McCann, who used to own Clone Zone, and the very first winner was the barman from Legends, which was another club, at Holloway Head owned by my mate James, and he won the heat at Grosvenor, and in those days, when Clone Zone didn't have a shop, they went and set up stall in the different clubs and things, and the various places all round the country, they got the winners, and people who had entered there, that one weekend we were running our heat, we had all these people coming from all over the country to enter, anyway the final took place in Subway, Leicester Square, (which was where I encountered my very first dark room, just below the cinema), and he won it, he won the whole thing. So then Mr Hardware went on for a few years then became Mr Gay UK, but that was run by Clone Zone, then they started getting shops.

140 Five Days of Fun / It's a knockout

"Birmingham's "Five Days of Fun" originated in the Grosvenor. It was the Grosvenor against the Nightingale, I think when that happened, the Nightingale was still in Aston (pre-1981). This became the precursor to Pride, so Grosvenor started Birmingham Pride off in our gardens, in the mid seventies, then Nightingale took it over from us when John and I sold the Grosvenor in 1983/4, they were in Thorp St by then and they used the back of what is now Glamourous, in the car park, that's where they used to hold the games".

150 Grosvenor Shows and membership

Entry to the Grosvenor was by membership, members could sign guests in.
"The members put on a show every year, 'Little Mary Sunshine', 'Trial by Queen's Court', 'The Boyfriend', they were quite professionally done, they practiced for months, and Peter Harris, (TV director who did the Muppets) helped. Audrey from the Hippodrome, did the choreography. In actual fact, one of the episodes from Tiswas was filmed one morning at the Grosvenor, which included Lenny Henry and Chris Tarrant. I daresay ITV as it was then, has still got that in the archive, it would be worth asking! "

155 Motivations for opening the clubs

"In those days, remember it wasn't run by committees and bar owners, John owned Guys but it wasn't profiteering, neither was Laurie Williams, was never profiteering or else he wouldn't have died penniless, we were doing it for the gay community, because we'd been so mistreated, where we'd been to other places that were gay, and always went up a back alley, whichever town we went into and felt we were sort of hiding, I know it was illegal, so it was mine and John's main aim for gays to walk off a main street somewhere (which was the Hagley Road) and be proud of where they went into, into a nice building, and it was".

160 Leaving the country, coming back, death of John Walters and retirement

By then Keith and John had left the country, going on Bonfire Night, 1983. "We bought a six berth caravan and toured France and ended up in Spain, where I was for another eighteen months, just outside Benidorm, and got bored, and came back to England (in 1987) when I was 38, I was 34/35 when we left. I had a year in London and came back to Birmingham in 1988, I got a job with a German wine grower, had my first heart attack at about 39, then another one and sort of retired then. unless you call being involved in my ex's hair salon that I helped him with, I've not been involved in any gay businesses since then. When I left Spain, John moved onto Portugal, after about two years he had a car smash and was killed instantly."

170 HIV epidemic

"When I came back to England, in 1987,I can remember the HIV epidemic starting then, I used to go to my mother's every Sunday for lunch and she'd cut articles out the newspapers telling me to beware of AIDS".

180 Affair with Long John Bawldry

(In the 1990s) "There was a nightclub that a lot of gays went to, the Dolce Vita, it's now another club, opposite what used to be the Powerhouse opposite the keep fit place, that was a cabaret club, where I met Long John Bawldry and had a year's affair with him, he had a couple of number one hits, died last year (2006) in Vancouver and in fact , the year before that he was appearing at Symphony Hall, and stayed with me while he was here, but he had emphysema bad, he used to smoke very heavily."

190 Licensing laws and Laurie Williams

(In the 1960s and 1970s) "Bars had licences till 10.30p.m., but most Saturdays there was a party somewhere, mainly held by Laurie Williams and a guy called Mike Stanley who had the nickname Queenie, who now has a B&B in Blackpool. I saw Laurie Williams the day before she {sic} died, I went to visit her." {sic}

195 Laurie Williams gambling

"There's another interesting story about Laurie (Williams), she {sic} tried to open up another club in her factory in the jewellery quarter, that's going back, there was another place that was straight that turned gay, by a guy called Barry Parker, who was a big rent boy on the town, and there was a roulette wheel in there and Laurie used to play roulette and I can remember every time John and I used to arrive there, probably from Stratford, he (Laurie) was broke, and could we lend him five shillings to have another bet, anyway he put a roulette wheel in this club in the jewellery quarter, and he was the only croupier that's ever been known to have lost money, and there was a woman called Amy who was bank-rolling him! His profits over the bar were paying for his roulette, the only decent thing Laurie ever did was have a café in Hill Street, a greasy spoon, that did quite well, I don't suppose anyone's mentioned that, they've knocked it down and built on it now, by what was Staki's casino, that's now gone. He had that for a few years, that was very successful".

200 Thoughts on the Jug

"The Jug was OK - Laurie (Williams) was a fool to himself, if he didn't like someone he wouldn't let them in and he'd suddenly - I'm talking not about the Jug in Albert Street, where he could be very funny, he was never funny with me, 'cos we were great friends, but one night he'd just let transsexuals in, another night he'd just let lesbians in and then another night he'd just let gays in - he was never consistent!"

210 Thoughts on the scene now

"A hell of a lot of people, lots of my friends, a hell of a lot of people who used to come to Grosvenor, and Guys, are still alive now but don't go to the scene now. Grosvenor was more like a social club, to be honest, far more friendly than the scene is today, and people used to interact with each other, not with any thought of sex, probably at the back of their minds, but people spoke to each other in those days, people can be quite rude now, especially if they don't fancy you, it's sexually oriented now, it wasn't in my day, mind you some of my friends might say that's different about me, and they're probably quite right!"


1 He originally said 1981 but this appears to be corrected later to 1971, and other dates have been changed to match.