Londoner's Diary: Fond farewell to Bernie Katz, the gatekeeper of The Groucho Club

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Soho went dark last night as sad news emerged from The Groucho Club: Bernie Katz, the legendary doorkeeper of the yellow-doored institution, has died. Katz had worked at the Groucho for  27 years but retired from his post in March, with a party attended by well-wishers including actors Neil Morrissey and Tamzin Outhwaite and food critic Tom Parker Bowles. He had been the club’s cornerstone and regaled guests with stories of his adventures with Hollywood chums Jessica Lange and Daryl Hannah.

Word of his passing spread quickly last night and mourners began to show up at the club to share their memories, with Great British Bake Off’s Noel Fielding among the throng. Soon, tributes poured in on Twitter and Instagram. “Farewell, Bernie Katz, Prince of Soho,” Stephen Fry wrote. “Five foot nothing and a heart twice the size of Soho Square.” Actress Sadie Frost added: “Broken-hearted.  Love you, Bernie. He was loved by everyone.” Laurence Fox called him “the kindest and most generous man”,  while Anna Friel lamented on Instagram: “That old saying ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone’ rings loudly.” Matthew Hobbs, managing director of The Groucho Club, says they are “heartbroken”.

Comedian Helen Lederer, recently out of the Big Brother house, shared her memories of the colourful character with us this morning. “I am devastated,” she said. “Whatever people think about elitist clubs, the Groucho is not that. And that’s because of Bernie. He was very empathetic, very generous and not afraid to be crazy. He did shape our lives, the sad old f**kers that we are.”

Soho will never be the same again.

Brigitte Macron is one Elle of a political wife

WHO said the French didn’t like Brigitte Macron? The wife of President Emmanuel Macron — don’t call her First Lady — wasn’t too popular last month after reports that she might be given a formal role. But it seems she still has appeal: figures reveal that the latest issue of French Elle, with Brigitte on  the cover, sold three million copies worldwide, its highest-selling edition for a decade. But can she sort out hubby’s sinking approval ratings?

For the second time in a fortnight we’ve strolled into The Ritz, only to be asked to change shoes. Last night The Londoner — in this case a woman — arrived in discreet black lace-up pumps, only to be told no Bollinger was on offer unless she changed her shoes — the cloakroom could provide a new pair. Rules state that “trainers or sportswear are not permitted”. The Londoner noted that the replacement shoes didn’t match up with the Ritz’s snobbishness: plastic Primark ballet shoes were offered. If you are going to charge £24 for a glass of Bollinger, surely you can manage more than a fiver on shoes.

Quote of the Day

“My daughters are on the board but can’t work for the company and will never run it. I’m very much opposed to nepotism.”

Former New York Mayor and media mogul Michael Bloomberg practises tough love on his daughters.

Brooklyn Beckham’s gun show did not entertain his followers (Instagram/Damon Baker)

Gun Law, according to Brooklyn

Brooklyn Beckham may be named after a New York district but that doesn’t mean he has a grasp of what’s appropriate in the US. The budding photographer, studying in Manhattan, posted this image this morning taken by Damon Baker. It was a toy gun but his followers were not impressed. “Don’t play the artistic card to justify the use of guns,” one person commented.  A source close to Brooklyn told The Londoner today that the teenager “does not condone the use of guns and in retrospect it was an immature impulsive thing to do.” The gun show’s over.

Diana’s red light tribute

Courtesans love Diana (Getty)

YESTERDAY marked 20 years since the death of Princess Diana, with many coming forward to recall how they paid tribute to their Queen of Hearts.  But The Londoner was reminded of the day of  her funeral: as people lined the streets to pay their respects, journalist Alex Webb remembers a particular tribute made by the courtesans of London. 

“I was working for GMTV’s Sunday Programme,” Webb recalls. “That afternoon I was near Tottenham Court Road and had to call back to the programme on a public phone box. While  I spoke on the phone I noticed there were no prostitutes’ cards in the phone box, just a single hand-written card with a red rose pinned to it, saying, ‘as a tribute to our princess, the working girls of London are not advertising today’.” Film writer Michael Brooke recalled a similar incident down in Soho, where many of the sex shops sported notices saying they were closed out of respect.  “It did strike me as a rather moving tribute,” Webb says. We’re sure Diana would have appreciated it.

Idea of the day: Jim Pickard of the Financial Times proposes that we name hurricanes after well-known climate-change sceptics. Hurricane Nigel?

Neema is worth it

Neelam Gill perfects her pout with L’Oréal Paris and (Dave Benett /Getty Images)

L’Oréal and Balmain celebrated  their latest collaboration at Harvey Nichols last night with Neelam Gill, L’Oréal’s ambassador. But she didn’t always feel worth it. “I’d be friends with some of those girls,” she once said. “But I was always their ugly sidekick who’d boost their confidence.”

Tweet of the Day

“The only all-female reboot I need is the one of this presidency.”

After TV executives announce a Lord of the Flies adaptation featuring a group of girls, writer Maris Kreizman has a better idea.


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