The Independent London Newspaper

Letters

Farewell to Maurice Huggett who ‘was like a carnival’

Maurice Huggett

Published: 6 January, 2012
by PAVAN AMARA

IN life, he seemed every inch the flamboyant West End host, and in death he looks set to be no dif­ferent.

Tributes have been paid to Maurice Huggett, legendary proprietor of the Phoenix Artist Club, by close friends including world famous crime writer Martina Cole.

The sparkling host of the Charing Cross Road club, who died shortly before Christmas, aged 66, led a remarkable life mixing with some of London’s biggest stage stars including Jude Law and Keira Knightley.

In keeping with Mr Huggett’s wishes, show tunes will be played and the dress code will be strictly theatrical at his funeral next week.

A notice on the Phoenix Artist Club’s website states: “The service follows the wishes of Maurice and will have singers and music. Maurice instructed that everyone should applaud as appropriate. We are equally sure that Maurice would be amused to make his final entrance and exit to a standing ovation. He wanted the day to be one of joy.”

Ms Cole, who along with the likes of Angela Rippon and John Hurt was a regular at the club, said: “Out of all the people I’ve met in the world, Maurice Huggett was one of my top two. He was the West End personified; his personality was like a carnival. I wanted to write a musical with him – that would have been wonderful – but we ran out of time.”

Mr Huggett took over the Phoenix Artist Club a decade ago.

It had previously been known as Shuttleworths.

With no jukebox and a strict karaoke ban, tunes from the big musicals greeted customers. Instead of football matches, musical films were shown on the club’s screens.

Mr Huggett learned his craft at a string of other venues including The Players Theatre, The Cross Keys in Endell Street and the Old English Gentleman Pub in Edgware Road.

Born in Kent, he moved to London and joined the Keith Prowse ticket empire in 1969 at their Dorchester Hotel branch.

After a spell looking after VIP passengers for PanAm, he went to pre-revolution Tehran handling incoming tours for Air Express.

There he became an eyewitness to history. One night he looked out from his room to see the streets running red with what he thought was blood.

He called the BBC and gave them a dramatic account. Only after he’d put the phone down did he discover the truth.

The first targets of the fundamentalists had been wine cellars, and the streets were soaked in red wine.

Mr Huggett was always keen to give new stars their first break, and for his long-running series of live shows he assembled a stellar judging panel.

But, a stickler for house rules, he once threw out the Arctic Monkeys – who at the time were top of the charts – reportedly because they looked scruffy.

• The funeral will take place on January 13 from noon to 1pm at Golders Green Crematorium. Afterwards there will be a get-together of those who knew Mr Huggett at the Phoenix Artist Club and Molly Moggs across the road.

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