Tube trib­ute to par­ty­ing ‘Prince’

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LIANNE KOLIRIN

THE JEWISH CLUB man­ager known as the “Prince of Soho” is be­ing com­mem­o­rated with a por­trait at a Lon­don tube sta­tion which will be seen by thou­sands of peo­ple.

Bernie Katz, the leg­endary front of house man­ager of the Grou­cho Club, passed away sud­denly last month, aged 49.

The por­trait, show­ing him do­ing what he loved best — par­ty­ing — is hang­ing on the walls of Re­gent’s Park un­der­ground sta­tion.

It was com­mis­sioned by Art Be­low, a Lon­don-based pub­lic art en­ter­prise, and cre­ated by artist and friend Nina Mae Fowler, whose other work has been ex­hib­ited at the Soho club which Mr Katz ran for more than 25 years.

A host of celebri­ties, in­clud­ing Si­enna Miller, Sadie Frost, Jaime Win­stone and Noel Field­ing, took to the streets of Soho last week to pay trib­ute to the larger-than-life char­ac­ter. True to form, the flam­boy­ant Mr Katz re­ceived a lav­ish send-off. His cof­fin passed through Soho Square and by the Grou­cho in a horse-drawn-car­riage, ac­com­pa­nied by a New Or­leans-style jazz band.

Printed as a poster, the por­trait went on dis­play on Mon­day and will re­main at the sta­tion for four weeks. Mean­while, the orig­i­nal draw­ing was un­veiled last Thurs­day at the Art Be­low pri­vate view at Le Dame Gallery in Re­gent’s Park. The pic­ture was then taken to Mr Katz’s funeral at Gold­ers Green Cre­ma­to­rium and later on to the Grou­cho for a “funeral wake”.

Nicknamed “the Prince of Soho” by Stephen Fry, Mr Katz made head­lines when he wrote a book called Soho So­ci­ety in 2008. It was a col­lec­tion of semi­fic­tion­alised ro­mans à clef de­tail­ing bo­hemian Lon­don life. Such was his in­flu­ence, that Mr Katz was able to call on Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Peter Blake to il­lus­trate his tales.

With a fear­some rep­u­ta­tion as a fixer and a keeper of celebrity se­crets, the five-foot tall Mr Katz was named as one of GQ’s 100 Most Con­nected Men in Bri­tain two years ago.

Ms Fowler, who lives and works in Nor­folk, has pre­vi­ously been nom­i­nated for the pres­ti­gious Por­trait Award for her paint­ing of the bal­let dancer Car­los Acosta.

Of her por­trait of Mr Katz, she said: “This draw­ing is a rare use of colour for me but black and white just would not do when it came to por­tray­ing Bernie. He was an avid sup­porter of artists and com­bined this with end­lessly rais­ing money for char­ity. This draw­ing shows him in a mo­ment of iso­lated ec­stasy on the dance floor at my best friend’s wed­ding. I loved him very much.”

Born in Ken­ning­ton in 1968, Mr Katz was the son of the no­to­ri­ous gang­ster Brian “Lit­tle Legs” Clif­ford. Though he once de­scribed his fa­ther Above: Bernie Katz as por­trayed by artist Nina Mae Fowler, and in real life

as a “real vil­lain with a heavy clout around south Lon­don”, he said his home was a largely happy one thanks to his “ar­che­typal Jewish mother” who was for­ever “clean­ing and mak­ing chicken soup”.

Pro­ceeds from the sale of the draw­ing and lim­ited edi­tion prints will be do­nated to an on­line fundrais­ing page to sup­port Mr Katz’s fam­ily in­clud­ing his mother Rhoda, and his se­verely autis­tic nephew Ethan.

PHOTO: NINA MAE FOWLER / ART BE­LOW

(left)

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

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