In The Beginning

I met Eckhardt in August 1988, at a club called Der Putsch. He was a young man with a moped, and I was a young man with nowhere to live. Some months later, I asked if I could borrow his floor to sleep on. I liked it so much it was about two years before I found a flat of my own.

The Scene was a very small place back at the end of the 80s, and the opportunities for single men were pretty limited. The choice seemed to be between standing on the periphery at Der Putsch, waiting for an opportunity to be noticed, or paying a huge fee to attend one of the 'Spanking Parties' that my then girlfriend told us about. On balance, Der Putsch was definitely the better bet, but the 'getting noticed' bit could be a bit of a trial, even for good looking young men. If being one of the gang was such uphill work, we reasoned, maybe we should start a gang of our own.

After dallying with the name 'Submissives Against the Bomb', we settled on 'The Firm' because it sounded scarier and had all the right overtones of gangster chic. We wanted to sound as if we had big cars, brief cases full of used notes, and legions of molls.

We started an assiduous recruiting drive, compiling a list of addresses. In a relatively short time, we were ready for our first outing.

A man called Terry was opening a new club in Kidderminster (the first British SM club outside London) and on Saturday 25th of February 1989, The Firm arrived, costumed as characters from the 1930s Berlin Kitkat Club. There were four of us.

Gauging the success of this sort of self-publicity is really a matter of waiting for the propaganda to get repeated back. By summer, we had turned up team-handed at a number of events, including the Der Putsch Boat Party, and I got the first whisper that we were doing it right.

A dominatrix named Shane was recounting a party in Clapton that had turned ugly when the family upstairs had threatened to beat us up. Shane explained that while a huge man (named Tiny) held off the bad guys with a milk crate, 'The Firm got everybody out'. It is always very pleasant to be lionised by lovely women - especially ones with thigh boots and whips - but 'The Firm' that night had been Eckhardt, Zabrowcki, Me and Slave George, and all that we had really done was organise the retreat, yet here we were being described like the heroes of Entebbe.

(Clapton is still the best place in London to get murdered, by the way. The stretch of highway between the top of Hackney to the Texaco garage has been tagged The Murder Mile. In fact, the only other time that being an SMer has nearly got me lynched was in a Lea Bridge Road pub, not far away. Come to think of it, Kitty Churchill (aka Sharon Kelly), a writer who slagged the whole Scene off once, lives there - I can't think why anybody else does) In August, we held our first big party, at a private house avec dungeon, near Reading. We dressed up as we first had at Kidderminster, with me as President, and Eckhardt as First Lady. It was a great night, and is still talked about in some circles.

The other thing we did that year was go on adventures, one to deepest rural Wales (where we crashed the car), and one to Lyme Regis. Both were great fun, and you can read about the Welsh episode in Freewealin'.

As autumn drew on, we offered The Firm's capacity for hard work to The Sex Maniacs' Ball (and it was hard work). We recruited a great number of volunteers, even co-opting the formidable Madam Clare to take the part of a Roman matron in a play.

So it was with no little satisfaction that Eckhardt and I swaggered into Putsch in October 1989 - in less than a year, we had staged a superb party, practically produced The Sex Maniacs' Ball, rescued a bevy of pretty dominatrices from bottle-hurling psychopaths, and invaded Wales: We were the mutt's nuts, and wanted as many people as possible to realise it.

Sadly, the one person who seemed oblivious to the fact was the woman who had been the apple of my eye for months. There she was, snogging another woman, and I felt thoroughly deflated.

The Scene was changing, and growing fast. Club Submission had started, and it wasn't long before Torture Garden opened its gates. Severin's Kiss began in 1991, and we played eminence grise, lending a black-gloved hand to all of them in their early days. Der Putsch conversely, was waning, its day as the only SM club was long over. In 1993, eclipsed by the new Club Whiplash, it closed.

This left us with a puzzle: the jewel in the Der Putsch crown had been the Boat Party, and with their demise, it lay in the dust. The opportunity lay open for another promoter to take up the oars, but which one?

Considering the options, a boat didn't seem to lend itself to what we perceived as the agendas of Submission or Torture Garden, and Severin's Kiss, while brilliant, was not particularly big; the choice seemed to lie between Club Whiplash and The Firm. It was hardly a painful decision.

The first Firm Boat party sailed on June 23rd 1994. We had finally taken the step that we had never had any ambition to, and become promoters.

It was too much fun to give up.

Quo vix attinget Foederati punire possumus!