Sunday, 18 December 2011

Maurice of the Phoenix, RIP

Maurice of the Phoenix has died.

I never knew his surname - it turns out to have been Huggett.

And I only once saw him outside of the Soho club he managed, having a coffee in some street cafe on Dean Street.

But I will miss him, though I hardly knew him.

The Phoenix Artist Club - it goes by other similar names - is one of the few places left around Charing Cross Road with any genuine character.

Snug under the Phoenix theatre, it is friendly, rather than exclusive; any person at the reception desk welcomes you, rather than thinking of an excuse to turn you away.

It is packed with odd paraphernalia and theatre lore, but none of it contrived or self-congratulatory.

And it is relaxed and without tiresome pretension; if there are ever famous faces, nobody really cares.

It is one of the nicest places to be in London.

And Maurice was usually there.

If he was, he then put every effort to be make you at ease.

His campness was not that of the person insisting that you take them on their terms; instead, his whole concern was always to make you feel special.

It mattered not a dam who you were.

Many will tell of his kindnesses; but my special happy memory is him agreeing that Phoenix could host my 40th birthday party in the club's backroom.

And here he is - presenting the gift of pink-labelled club champagne to the birthday boy.

Rest in peace, Maurice.


Spectacled Bear said...

The Phoenix is indeed a great place and his joie de vivre will be greatly missed.

Robbie Moffat said...

Maurice was a wonderfully kind man. He once gave me the typescript of a film that was written by his lately deceased partner. The story was a little dated and there was no much I could do with it, and I returned it. However, thereafter I always made a special effort to speak with Maurice whenever I was in the Pheonix. His soft gentle voice I will never forget and with his passing we lose a friend of showbiz.