Watching capitalist corporations fail is a groove sensation, and it takes me right back to everything from the three day week to the ‘winter of discontent’ in the 1970s. All those who love power cuts will recall that the mid-1970s was a real peak for this type of fun in London. As a long-term fan of this great anti-tradition, you can’t keep me out of shops that are closing down. The last 12 months has been a real bonanza for entertainments of this type: first there was the closure of Woolworths, then there was Zavvi, now there is Borders (UK)! Okay, so the flagship Borders store in Oxford Street has already gone, but the sense of chaos and anti-climax in the still just hanging-on-by-a-thread Charing Cross Road branch really gives me the horn. The stock is in disarray, with books and DVDs spilling off half-empty shelves, the toilets (for me what was once the main attraction in the shop) are closed, and there are mugs and other breakable crap – rather than bestsellers – at the front of the shop. The place looks like the set for a disaster movie, which is why for as long as it remains open I’ll continue to goof around in this wrecked ‘retail’ space…
That said, now Borders is closing I only go for the ambiance (rather than ‘Toilet Love’), and to laugh at those buying goods that after being marked up to more than twice their market value are currently being sold at between 20% and 50% ‘discount’. One of the things that caused me to chuckle on the ground floor of Borders while I was enjoying the chaos there on Friday was a display of Redemption DVDs. These were priced at £7.99 minus 30% discount (i.e. £5.60), and there were some Eurosleaze classics among them including a whole bunch of Jean Rollin lesbian vampire movies… But you can buy many of these on Amazon Market Place for around £4 (including postage), or if you can’t wait for them to arrive by mail, all the titles in Borders and many more are sold in Lovejoys a couple of minutes walk down Charing Cross Road at £6.99 each or 2 for £12 (i.e. £6 each when you buy two – not greatly more than the Borders sale price). Likewise I’ve seen these Redemption titles around in secondhand shops at about £3. Which means, of course, that even in the Borders sale, these items (like most of their discounted stock) still pan out as being more expensive than picking them up elsewhere. So don’t bother with the sale, just dig the collapse…. or go in dressed in an over-sized coat….
And talking of Redemption, I read a truly bizarre story by Lucy Tobin about this company in The Evening Standard on Thursday 10 December, entitled Film firm that made Koo a star collapses: “The cult movie empire whose back catalogue includes the risqué films of Prince Andrew’s former lover Koo Stark has collapsed into administration. Redemption Films, based in Wigmore Street, Soho, was set up by Nigel Wingrove, Britain’s answer to Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. Administrators were called in today at the distributor of gothic horror movies, whose past titles range from Sinful Nuns Of St Valentine to Ms Stark’s cult 1977 hit The Marquis De Sade’s Justine….”
There is a lot of misinformation to unpack in this story, but let’s start with the headline, since Redemption Films did not make Koo Stark a star. Redemption was set up in the 1990s and Stark became a minor starlet on the back of a couple of mid-seventies movies - Emily (1976) and Cruel Passion AKA De Sade’s Justine (1977) – and then briefly a media celebrity in the 1980s when she dated inbred British royal brat Prince Andrew (“The Duke of York”). All Redemption did was acquire some of Stark’s back catalogue as a film actress and issue it on VHS tape and then DVD long after she’d become a household name in the UK.
Likewise, I find the idea of Redemption being a soft porn ‘empire’ on the same scale as Larry Flynt’s American Hustler operation risible (it is about on a par with suggesting that ‘Boris Johnson is Britain’s answer to Barack Obama’). During the 1990s my friend Nik Houghton worked for Nigel Wingrove and I went into their office on the odd occasion; at that time the business consisted of Wingrove and his part-time assistant Nik in a moderately sized room. Wingrove’s operation may have grown a bit since then, and it has definitely moved to a slightly more upmarket address, but it is still closer to a cult-film one-man band than a porn empire! However, as ever with The Standard, the point of the piece seems to be to pack in as much gossip as possible, rather than to report news. Therefore it should surprise no one that Wingrove’s professional involvement with Georgina Baillie – ‘the granddaughter of Andrew Sachs who was at the centre of the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand telephone scandal’ – gets a passing mention too.
For anyone who has looked into the ways cult films and music are milked for profits, I’d see Redemption going into administration as business as usual within this sector of the culture industry. Cult means niche and there are usually very few buyers for operations in really specialist areas like Oi! music or Eurosleaze films; therefore a businessman (or woman) who knows their way around one of these ‘cult’ areas will often run their limited liability company into bankruptcy while paying themselves a hefty salary. This is a way of writing off debts, because the ‘former’ owner can buy up the assets of the concern they’ve deliberately run down for less than a song: they use another company they’ve set up for this purpose and then proceed to do the same thing again, and again, and again! And what’s more, given that we live in a capitalist society, this is more or less legal! It is precisely the sort of thing so called ‘wealth generators’ do for ‘a living’ and illustrates why businessmen and bankers should not be allowed to reward themselves with anything above an average workers’ wage, let alone ‘bonuses’. I don’t know if this is how Nigel Wingrove operates, but I am familiar with other individuals working in the cult sector of the culture industry who do business this way.
If Wingrove was planning to write off his debts by buying himself out, The Standard story could be bad news for him, since it might stir up interest from other ‘wealth generators’. That said, Wingrove is also a film-maker himself, so perhaps he just wants out…. Moving on, if you believe what you read in The Standard, you may well have been hoaxed into thinking I wrote the Belle de Jour blog and books, so it isn’t exactly surprising their Nigel Wingrove and Redemption Films story is so inaccurate!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!