Tuesday, 25 February 2014


My Story. Part 4.

IT ALL KICKS OFF AT CLUB ELIZABETH


Now that my father refused to put up the money to build my club I needed to look elsewhere. I’d already named the discotheque Club Elizabeth but all I had was an empty basement, then I remembered a builder who was a family friend. I called him and explained my dilemma; he suggested I call his young nephew Ronnie Noble who was also a builder. So I called Ronnie and we agreed to meet up. All I needed to do now was to persuade him to build the club on credit. We met up and I told him my ideas and the way I wanted Cub Elizabeth to look; the dance area should be made up of a series of caves each alcove should house seating and tables and the restaurant in dark red with black furniture. Ronnie seemed excited with the whole concept and began to explained the process and difficulty of building the caves, they needed to be first set out in wood and chicken wire and then moulded with hard setting plaster. The dance floor needed to be professionally sprung and lighting etc needed to be imported. The kitchen would need commercial catering equipment including ovens, griddles, bain maries, fridges washing machines etc etc. Then of course there was the disco equipment. WOW! All this sounded very expensive and for someone with no funds somewhat impossible, that is until a light came on and I suggested we pay Ronnie off monthly, that I lease the kitchen equipment and put the furniture on an account in a Dublin store. Amazingly Ronnie agreed, the leasing on the equipment and furniture turned out relatively easy and by May 1969 Club Elizabeth’s was ready to open.


Photo shows Liz on the left and Barbara Willoughby, Liz’s sister, with me as we pretend to paint a prehistoric drawing on the cave walls for the press


The opening was spectacular and very glitzy affair thanks to my partner Liz and my parent’s wealthy friends. It was by any standards a spectacular launch party which saw the who’s who of Dublin society turning out in all their refinery. The press and magazines loved it. Club Elizabeth quickly established its self as THE place to be and be seen, it became the toast of Dublin’s society where the rich and famous began to hang out.
But all was far from perfect, there was one very important downside, the wine license only allowed serving up until 11pm and with a meal 11.30pm! Crazy as it seems now, that was the licensing laws back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in Ireland, which
meant that we were to all intense and purposes to become a speakeasy somewhat like the drinking clubs during the American prohibition in the 1920’s. In fact we even had a peep hole fitted in the door so we could keep an eye out for those shiny silver buttons that were the tell tale sign that the Garda (The Irish Police) were about to make a raid. Raids would happen regularly and looking back on it now it was very Keystone Cops ! I’ll explain how the police raids took place. Let me set the scene. The club was full practically every night up unto around three or four in the morning, everybody would be drinking the finest wines and champagne which at the time I charged the earth for the privilege. The Garda (Irish police)didn’t take long to find out what was going on, in fact with the top end cars parked outside the club until the early hours of the morning you would needed to be blind not to notice that late night activities were taking place on Leeson Street. The Garda would make regular visits Elizabeths after midnight. As I said we had a peep hole installed in the doors and when you spotted the silver buttons of the Garda uniform the doorman would flash a special light in the club warning us of the pending raid. The waiting staff would then go into action joined by many of the customers and would start hiding the wine bottles in the kitchens, toilets, under the stairs etc etc . After a prolonged wait I’d innocently greet the Garda and profusely apologise about the delay claiming I never heard the bell! After accepting my feeble excuse they would make a quick inspection and leave. I was always sure they knew exactly what was going on and turned a blind eye. After all how ridicules it must have looked, a full club with people sitting around empty tables with nothing but an ashtrays and the odd cup of coffee on them???.


I had amazing staff back then and I’m sure many of you who are reading this remember Paddy Warren as my manager, Pat Clark as manageress, The wonderful Patrick Kelly as head chef (Patrick was killed tragically in a motor car accident) Mrs Peckingham in prep, Inez headed up the bar staff and the extraordinary Ephraim as DJ. There weren’t many blacks working in Dublin at the time but Ephraim was one of the few and a brilliant and popular personality and DJ he was.


Unbelievably, this photograph is the only photo I have of Club Elizabeth. It was taken at the bar and shows myself with manager Paddy Warren and Pat Clark who are behind the bar and I think one of the Stylistics who were visiting Dublin as part of their world tour. I'm hoping someone who is reading this might have some more and would let me have copies?



Visiting celebrates to Dublin started to use Club Elizabeth regularly, they names such as Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris, Peter Sellers, Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. Many Irish politicians also stared to use the club regularly including Charley Haughey, who was to go one to become Irelands prime minister, Desmond O’Malley, George Collie and Michael O’Leary who were regulars, In fact UK’s Private Eye magazine reported that, ‘Charlie Haughey was spotted horizontal Jogging with Irish journalist Terry Kean in Maurice Bolands private office whilst enjoying a night out at the highly expensive nightclub Elizabeth’s!
As I said before my name was now regularly appearing in the gossip columns. A book about Ireland during this period called On Our Knees came out (Photo. Front Cover) by Rosita Sweetman. Each chapter was dedicated to famous Irish people of the time including, Desmond Guinness ( the Guinness family) Sean Mac Stíofáin , the then leader of the Provisional IRA, Charles Haughey and many more high profile Irish people. The entire first chapter was dedicating to Maurice Boland, yes me!




Wendy was continuing a very successful career in the modelling world with many front covers under her belt and was making regularly visited London and Paris to appear on the catwalk shows. (photo. Wendy at a modeling session)

After the first 12 months I had bought out Liz and now owned 100% of the Club. Wendy and I were christened Irelands golden couple by the press. Life couldn’t have been better. Then disaster struck, the Irish banks went on strike! At first I didn’t see the warnings; in fact the club seemed to get busier during the strike. A builder called Tom Hynes asked me if I could cash his cheques so he could pay his staff and seeing 80% of my business was cash then and Tom was one of my best customers I naively agreed. Unbelievable to think about it now but the strike last 6 months!!! Another business man and a friend of Hynes asked me also to cash his cheques so he too could pay his staff and again he was a good client and I readably agreed. Ss the strike deepened I was receiving less and less cash and more and more cheques. I’m sure a lot of you reading this story can see what I couldn’t see; the writing was on the wall!!! The strike which started in May 1970 finally ended November and I was delighted to proudly walk into my bank, The Ulster Bank, Lower Baggot Street, with a sack full of money, thousands of pounds, mostly in cheques to make a large deposit. Norman Murray, my dear long suffering bank manager, looked pleased but also concerned, “What’s up Norman?” I enquired, thinking he should be delighted with all this money. “Are you sure these cheques will cash?” he asked. “Of course they will, they are from some of my best and trusted customers”. I’m sure you all know what happened next??? Within a week Norman called to deliver the disastrous news, ALL but a few of the cheques bounced!!!! At first, although shocked, I felt confident that it was a mistake and Hynes would immediately reimburse me. This never happened, he and his friend both went bankrupt as did many Irish businesses at the time and left me as good as broke. I was eventually forced to sell 50% of the club to one of Dublin’s biggest cattle dealers, Frank Conway who saved the day or I would have gone under!

LETS BUY A HOTEL

Club Elizabeth continued to be Dublin’s favourite club for the rich and famous and at the time I was the undisputed king of clubs. I had many influential customers, one of them was Stanley Harris from London who became a regular at the club. One day he approached me with the idea of us both going into business together. He wasn’t sure of the type of business only that he would like to be a partner with me. He explained that his brother Fred a highly successful business man, could easily arrange considerable finance if the project was appealing to him. I took on board all he told me and pushed to the back of my mind until something suitable came along. I had in fact almost forgotten about the idea until one evening I was driving down Morhampton Road on my way into the club, when a green neon light of the Tamo Shanti Hotel and bar caught my eye. It was three 4 story terraced houses joined together, it reminded me of a boutique hotel called The Mountcalm that I stayed in, in London and always thought this style of hotel would work well in Dublin. The next day I took myself off to see if I could find out more about the Tamo Shanti. I pulled up outside and asked a workman up a ladder if he knew who the owner was. “It’s me” He replied. He introduced himself as Paddy Cosgrave from a well known family of Dundrum butchers. I got straight to the point and asked him if he would sell? “If the moneys right I’d sell me granny!” he replied “So How much would you take?” I asked and without hesitation he replied “ 100,000 would it” ( in today’s money it’s around one and half million) He obviously just bought it, the bar and hotel were in a very run down state and it look like he was doing the repairs and painting himself. I loved and felt this was to be my NEXT BIG THING!
I immediately got in touch with Stanley Harris, remembering how enthusiastic he was to go into business with me and brought him to have a look at the hotel, he also loved it and had his brother Fred fly over from UK to see if he liked the idea and could he put the money together. Thankfully, like Stan and myself, he loved it on first sight.
The price and purchase of the hotel was agreed and we took possession relatively quickly. The Harris’s employed top architects to firstly redesign the bar area and foyer so we could get it opened relatively quickly. I had come up originally with the name Sax Hotel which was approved by all. The designs were outstanding which included the bar area modelled on the old Irish pubs theme built using the finest mahogany, brass and mirrors and snugs place at intervals along the horseshoe shaped bar, it truly looked incredible. It was shortly before the opening that I in my wisdom had a change of heart and wanted to change the spelling of the name from Sax to Sachs, don’t ask me why but I did, I felt Sachs sounded classier and I remember as a kid my parents telling me about a German millionaire playboy called Günter Sachs who hung out in San Tropez after he married Bridget Bardot. Adding his name sounded very rich and glamorise exactly how I wanted the hotel to be viewed. Annoyingly all the signage, including printed headed paper, invoices, ashtrays, book matches, business cards etc had to be changed. Fred Harris wasn’t too happy but again thankfully he went along with the change.

By 1972 Sachs hotel (See Photo above) was opened and again the who’s who of Dublin society turned up for the opening party. The hotel was only about 10 minutes away from Club Elizabeth so by the closing time at Sachs the crowds would head off to spent the rest of the night at the club. It was a perfect set up.

BARBARELLA

By this time Lesson street had its second club, it was opened by Louis Murray, called the Pheasantry and although I wasn’t happy to have competition it really didn’t do any harm to the continued success of Elizabeth’s. Over time Louis and myself became friends and recognising the success of the much larger and younger cliental discotheques now opening in Dublin, especially Zhivago’s in Baggot lane ,we decided it was time to join forces and also open a large cub to attract Dublin’s younger set.
Unbelievably we found the perfect vacant premises, also in Baggot lane almost opposite Zhivagos, and immediately signed a long term lease. Louis had a friend in London called Louis Brown who owned some of London’s top Discotheques, in fact Louis Brown is the man who pioneered the clubs scene in London when he introduced the Scotch of St James where the Beatles, the Stones and many other well know celebrates hung out during the swinging 60’s. I had, of course, heard of Louis Brown he was a extreamly famous then and an Icon in our business, so you can imagine how surprised I was to receive a call from him one evening, Louis Brown calling little old me! I thought. At first I thought it was someone winding me up but quickly I realised it was in fact THE Louis Brown, he told me he was unhappy that his good friend and my new partner Louis Murray had been seen suspiciously hanging around is phenomenally successful London club La Valbonne asking questions of his manager, enquiring where furniture came from, where the skimpy uniforms of his staff were made etc etc . I explained that we were building a club in Dublin, which I now called Barbarellas after Liz Willoughbys sister Barbara, and that Louis suggested that we should model the design of his London club. Louis Brown wasn’t happy and said he wanted to buy into the project. In the end Louis Murray and I agreed having Louis Brown and the extra capital would be a great asset to the club. Bararellas opened 6 months later as an exact replica of La Valbonne including a swimming pool in the middle of the club where scantily dressed go go dancers would perform. Again this was a first for Ireland.

By this time Wendy and I were married and our first child was on his way. We had bought a stunning home on two acres in the Dublin Mountains. All on the face of it looked perfect. Then disaster struck for a second time.


To be continued ......

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for your wonderful comments. Here are a few that were posted on my Facebook:

    Sylvia Foster: Really enjoyed reading your blog better than anything I'm reading in my womens Mags can't wait for the next instalment which I think will be your move to Spain.

    Sharon Molins: Great Blog Maurice and can remember the Elizabeth and Barbarella nights as if they were yesterday. I remember my inlaws being in Elizabeths with your parents and Cynthia and Manny, thinking how old they were to be in a nightclub, yet they were far younger than we are now ! Also remember hiding the glasses of wine under the tables during the raids. The raids were fun I might add for such a young girl at the time. Like scenes from a movie . Look forward to the next instalment and presumably will remember more as I must have been at least 19 by the time you moved on from Elizabeths. !

    Tracy Clarke: Hi Maurice my mum Pat Clarke wanted you to know that you were the best boss ever ( now don't get a big head ). She had great times there. She hopes all is well.

    I was so happy to hear from Tracy Clark , Pat's daughter (you can see her mum Pat Clark in the photo behind the bar in Club Elizabeth) and have replied to her hoping I can get in touch with her mum who I haven't heard from for over 35 years! Pat was my trusted manageress.

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