Fear and trembling in Bleeding Heart Yard: the wine world turns bawdy
- Friday 1 July 2005
In a night which few will forget, over £7000 was raised for the Prostate Cancer Charity with a ‘Full Monty’ strip tease by eminent wine professionals, and a silent auction.
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The evening began with a gathering of some 160 women, and a few nervous men, in the crypt of Bleeding Heart Yard in London.
No men were allowed – journalist Josie Butchart minded the door efficiently, but this correspondent and Harpers hack Jack Hibberd, the latter in full drag, managed to slip in.
The atmosphere was terrifyingly anticipatory. With Canard Duchene Champagne flowing, the throng of influential female wine professionals was bright-eyed, slightly predatory, and buzzing with excitement.
'It was like a cross between St Trinian's and Lord of the Flies,' one onlooker said - a image reinforced by the fact that three suckling pigs were being spitroast in the entrance.
Steven Spurrier introduced the show by describing, with some wit, his own battle with prostate cancer four years ago. Even close colleagues had been unaware of it.
The strip show itself took place in a side room. The audience – all with Champagne glass in hand – were within inches of the stage.
To the strains of Tom Jones’ Kiss (the music was literally drowned by the screams and catcalls) the strippers shimmied into the crowd and onto the stage. In keeping with the bawdy tone of the evening the dance troupe had called itself ‘The Semillons’.
Michael Cox (pictured, left) had not honoured his promise to tattoo his buttocks with the Wines of Chile logo, but the crowd was not disappointed otherwise.
Decanter’s Guy Woodward – having gyrated against his publishing director Sarah Kemp (‘I’ve never seen her look so bashful,’ he said later) – licked his lips and got into the rhythm.
Tim Atkin MW (pictured, centre) pranced manfully, his face contorted – whether with fear or pleasure it was difficult to tell.
Sharing the stage were Wines of Chile’s Cox, Thierry’s Wine Services md Peter Darbyshire, restaurateur Murray Harris, Richard Milsom, director of Charles Taylor Wines, Michael Palij MW and Andrew Shaw (pictured, right) of Stone Vine and Sun.
Each dancer had a stage name: "Tiger" Tim Atkin, "Chile Willy" Cox, Peter "The Pensioner" Darbyshire, "I Got Wood" Woodward, and so on.
In a five-minute professionally-choreographed routine they stripped down to Calvin Klein thongs, and snaked back through the insatiable audience, which was by now shrieking 'Off, off, off' - in reference to the men's briefs, naturally.
‘We were shouting so much we didn’t really notice what they were doing,’ said pr professional Bryony Wright afterwards. ‘But they were all looking pretty fit – not an ounce of fat in sight.’
Vicky Murray, 30, from Wimbledon, agreed. ‘I grabbed a bottom as it passed,’ she said. ‘It was very firm. Like a young grape.’
Dancer Andrew Shaw found the whole experience ‘fantastic – and the screaming helped. We couldn’t have done it without that.’
In an informal straw poll, deputy editor Woodward was voted ‘most fanciable’ with the burly Cox a close second. ‘I’d have dinner with him any day,’ one still-trembling audience member said.
The silent auction followed, with 23 lots including a 6-bottle vertical of Badia a Coltibuono Chianti going back to the 1947 vintage, a Methusaleh of Laurent Perrier, a Salamazar (9-litre bottle) of Kaapse Vonkel sparkling wine, dinner at 15, dinner for five at Berry Bros and Rudd, and a cooking masterclass for two at L'École de Cuisine d'Alain Ducasse, Paris.
The auction raised £4206. The total sum raised for the charity should be over £7000, organiser Christelle Guibert said.
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