RETRO: Sheffield nightclub gold card was the passport to glitz and glamour in the 1970s
Josephine’s injected another level of glitz to Sheffield’s nightscene when it opened in the mid-1970s.
Neil Anderson explains in his ‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1970s book’:
He says: “When you weighed up the tens of thousands of pounds commanded by the global acts performing at Sheffield’s Club Fiesta cabaret club – then the biggest nightclub in Europe - against the cost of a DJ who could pack a discotheque, it didn’t take a mathematical genius to work out where the future was.”
Sheffield-based entrepreneur Dave Allen mapped things out for the next quarter of a century when he opened Josephine’s in 1976.
He also brought in much of the glitz of cabaret clubs and then some. Whilst most nightclubs played at food, he offered haute cuisine and top class service. He installed air conditioning, bought in ice machines and the champagne corks popped from day one.
Dave Allen, who had already opened Napoleons Casino on Ecclesall Road the year before, said: “I wanted to open a place that people would dress up to come in.
“The Penny Farthing was the club of the day, but you didn’t get ice in your drinks. There was no air conditioning and it was all hot and sweaty.
“I think it was well known that if you were going to Josephine’s you had to get dressed up as if you were going to a wedding.
“I used to say that anyone who was anyone used to come into Josephine’s.
“Anyone that used to play The Fiesta or Sheffield City Hall all came into us afterwards: Johnny Mathis, Tommy Cooper, Ronnie Corbett, Ronnie Barker – you name them and they were there.
“When we used to have the snooker ball – which welcomed the stars of the World Snooker Championships on their annual Sheffield visit, which started in the late 1970s - we’d have the likes of racing driver James Hunt turning up.
“If you wanted to book to get into the restaurant, you’d have to book three or four weeks in advance. It was the best restaurant in town, bar none.”
You did not dress down at Josephine’s. Dress codes were adhered to and gents with long hair were sent packing – Sheffield wrestling star Alan Kilby was a regular doorman.
Peter McNerney remembers: “You knew you’d made it in Sheffield when you acquired a Josephine’s Gold Card. It was a passport to glitz and glamour. Well, more of passport to the front of the queue. And an invitation to those VIP Josie’s birthday nights with the big buffet and the prawn mountain.
“I’m not quite sure who exactly qualified for a gold card, but it sat in my wallet right alongside debit and credit cards, a vital part of the clubbing scene. It was of course important to look cool and trendy.
“That’s why I went to Top Man and invested in a heavily discounted powder blue jacket. With the sleeves rolled up I resembled Crockett, or was it Tubbs, from Miami Vice. From the neck down at least.
“This special offer had struck a chord with the young, single men of Sheffield, because at least another half a dozen in Josie’s were wearing the same jacket.
“But all this is the ‘high end’ of Sheffield nightlife.
“Let’s go back to the 1970s and the Penthouse on Dixon Lane. How did they make the floor that sticky? And how come a bunch of sixth formers, most not 18, were able to book it for a disco party. And how come the endless stairs up to The Penthouse were so narrow. And what was that strange smell? Today’s young people...they don’t know what they missed.”
Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1970s Sheffield is available from dirtystopouts.com for £13.95.