We were going do a “please buy our t-shirts” article to go with the launch of our new range of designs, celebrating the great, lost, aspects of Wigan’s social scene but we decided to give you a real treat instead. If you enjoyed Tony Topping’s memories of Puffers the other week, then you’re going to love it as he walks us through the doors of another essential 1970s Wigan hangout…
Something exciting happened to the Wigan club scene back in the mid-seventies. No it had nothing to do with Wigan Casino or a Labour Club dream line up of Trevor Wallace, Harry Pemberton, Johnny Meadows and Copper Kettle. No this was a proper nightclub called Bluto’s and the youth of the day flocked to it. Prior to this there wasn’t much to get excited about for late night revellers. Puffers (later known as Pemps) was loved by many but not exactly state of the art and we had Rock Nights at the Casino. Of course if you were into Northern Soul then the Casino was also the place to be. The King of Clubs was off limits to me, my Mam said “You can go where you want but stay out of there” I’m sure she did the sign of the cross after saying it too.
The gang of lads I mixed with could be classed as laid back as far as fashion went. Of course we did have the odd Beau Brummell amongst our ranks and we all made an effort on New Year’s Eve for some strange reason going from duffel coats, Afghans and denim to velvet jackets of various shades (Yes Tony Lowe and Jem Ainscough I’m thinking of you)
So the rough and tough late night clubs suited (sic) our, ahem, casual attire but then along came Bluto’s…
Compared to the aforementioned clubs Bluto’s was a bit special. For a start it was clean and everything was brand new. It had four floors, bars, pool table, pinball machines and arcade games. My memory’s a bit vague about this but I think they also had a machine you could win packets of Polo’s from? Maybe not…
The top floor had the disco and dance floor with the DJ perched high up a spiral staircase. A very dangerous climb down when you had been up to request a record and you were full of lager. The place was always packed to the rafters at the weekend; to be honest they let too many people in and it was a health & safety nightmare but hey did we care?
Getting in wasn’t much of a problem though you had to queue if you left it until the pubs chucking out time. But to get in you had to walk through the meanest, toughest bunch of bouncers this town has ever assembled. I was scared to death of looking at them and I’d squeeze through them hoping I didn’t attract their attention by accidentally sneezing or breathing on my way in. Some of them wore sovereign rings and had one on every finger. Good investment I thought until it was pointed out to me that they were great knuckle dusters.
It was murder getting served at the bar but luckily two of the barmaids lived in our street so I got served quicker than most, thank you Shelagh and Eileen!
Fights broke out now and again, bound to do with so many people drinking in such a confined space. When a fight did start the bouncers sprang into action with glee knocking everyone in their path out of the way unceremoniously. One night I happened to be in the way of one the bouncers and he pushed me to the side resulting in me spilling my warm pint all over myself. Unfortunately I have a Popeye gene that leaps into action after too much alcohol intake and I shouted “Hey you idiot!” to the rampaging beast of a man enjoying himself scattering people, tables and girders out of the way.
You know when you’re watching a film and something nasty is hunting someone in the woods and they stand on a twig? That… The bouncer stopped, turned his head sharply to look at me and did that narrow eyes glint thing when the nasty monster knows where you are hiding. Before I go on to the next bit I must tell you that my Popeye gene lasts all of ten seconds before I revert back to my normal placid self. As he rushed towards me I had just enough time to utter “Sor..” before I was “scutched” by the neck and dragged down the stairs at breakneck speed.
Once we reached Bluto’s entrance (Oooer Missus!) I was thrown out into the cold night air. I landed somewhere near Woolies… Oooo now my mad was up! The Popeye theme tune actually came into my head as I rose from the floor “Derdiddley der der der, derdiddly der der der, derdiddily diddley diddley diddley diddley der to der!” As I rushed back towards Bluto’s a tattoo of a battleship appeared on my upper right arm and fired a shot across my chest to a battleship on my left arm which duly sank. I whirled my right arm like a dervish or a windmill in a gale and muttered away to myself occasionally laughing “Ack ack ack ack”
I was just about to reach the entrance when a bouncer popped out and Popeye disappeared to be replaced by mild mannered Tony Topping of the Daily Planet. I did a quick u turn and looked intently at a tailors dummy in Jackson’s window, stroking my chin and glancing at my non-existent watch whilst cleverly giving the impression I was waiting for the shop to open in just 32 hours’ time. It worked the bouncer went back in and I made my way to the Pacific Ocean, no not that one, the Chinese Restaurant on Market Street.
After a mixed grill (the most exotic thing I had back then was an extra portion of mushrooms) I made my way to the Taxi Rank at the side of Wallgate Station and settled down for the late night WBC* event. *Wigan Boxing Cretins. Who needs Sky box office?
Honourable mention to the gentlemen who worked at Bluto’s, you certainly were the hardest lads to work the doors anywhere and trouble was quickly dealt with. I hope I’ve caused no offence with this article but if I have let me know in writing then I’ll have enough time to move to the Outer Hebrides.
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This article first featured in Issue 50 of the Mudhuts Football Express. You can find the latest issue, full of excellent writing like this, in the usual locations around town and at mudhutter.co.uk
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