“I was born in Canvey on the coldest day of the year. Mum said I was steaming when I came out. She was a good woman, hands like iron files she had, teeth like crackling. My father was a Hodd Carrier. Silent as bread, big old boots, never said a word. Turns out he was having an affair with a chiropodist from Billericay. Mum found out and killed him. Literally. Eve of my sixteenth birthday and I was introduced to motherhood. Well, looking after our Wayne, he’s my little brother. Mum got life.
I had two mouths to feed. I left school. I weren’t learning nothing there anyways. Of course late 70’s down Canvey was a bleeding mecca. What with the disco The Goldmine, it was kicking off. Northern Soul was brining em all to our island and beautiful they was. So I got into selling em drugs. I’m not proud but I had responsibilities. Black Bombers, Purple hearts whatever you wanted I got. And they trusted me, I mean look at me, I’ve got a saintly aura. With time I got respect, I mean I’m a businesswoman, one of the first. I asked Ron and Cancer Barry to be my ‘weight’ and we had ourselves a firm. It was a success, I didn’t know what to do with all the money and it just kept on coming. I sent Wayne to a posh boarding school, I had the council flat stone clad, I had all the mod cons. We were the first on the estate to watch ‘Romancing the Stone’.
Well, people started to talk. I needed to get legitimate. So I opened my club ‘The Flick’. Next thing I know I’m a bleeding celebrity. I opened those doors as wide as I could. The gays, the straights, the Gary’s, the Punks, the Goths, the Yuppies, everyone was welcome down The Flick. Of course nowhere else would have em, It was underground and on Canvey you can do what you please. I was like a mother to em all, they called me ‘The Duchess’ and in some ways I see myself as royalty.
We didn’t half get popular; of course the minute you’re turning people away its starts a buzz. Then the celebrities come. Then the press come to catch the celebrities; before you know it you got the bleeding world on your doorstep. One week I’ve got Jason Donavan swinging off a light fitting, the next week Roy Walkers got barred for getting Jagger in a headlock. It got Silly in the end. I was on the cover of magazines, in the news, even released me own album. I was a bleeding house old name.
Of course no one could have predicted it would all end quite as spectacularly as it did. I wish I had time to tell you it all my babe, but I’ve got to sign on.”
Transcription of Diane Chorley in conversation, June 2013