Peter Stringfellow: Nightclub owner dies aged 77

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Peter StringfellowImage source, Shutterstock

Nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow has died at the age of 77, a spokesman has said.

The businessman, who had cancer which he had kept private, died in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The so-called King of Clubs opened many venues around the world and his eponymous club in London's West End became a magnet for celebrities.

The Beatles, The Kinks and Jimi Hendrix were among those he booked in his six decades in the industry.

His family have asked for privacy. He leaves behind his wife, Bella, and four children.

His publicist, Matt Glass said: "It's very sad news. He passed away in the early hours of this morning. It was kept very private, he didn't want to tell. He wanted to keep it a secret."

He added that the Stringfellows club in Covent Garden will continue to operate "as normal".

'One of Sheffield's finest'

Former boxing champion Frank Bruno was among those to pay tribute, describing him as "a great guy and king of the discos".

Novelist and journalist Tony Parsons shared a picture of Stringfellow alongside American singers Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, calling them "three legends".

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BBC Radio presenter Tony Blackburn tweeted: "He was a terrific guy who lived life to the full and was a wonderful person to be with. He was always full of fun and, to me, was a big part of the 60s and 70s."

Singer Boy George described him as a character who was "one of Sheffield's finest", adding he was "a big part of our lives".

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Comedian David Baddiel shared a story from a meeting with Stringfellow, writing: "He had a sense of humour beyond the haircut. I asked him what he'd be doing if he hadn't ended up running strip clubs. He said: 'Two words: benefit fraud'."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
American singer Sheila Ferguson, who stood alongside Stringfellow at the Prince's ball, paid tribute to her "lifelong mate"

Comedy actress Su Pollard, who worked with him, said he was "a fantastic role model for other entrepreneurs", adding that she liked him because "he was always warm".

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Former rugby player Brian Moore said he had spoken with Stringfellow at a Cambridge Union debate and he was "very good company".

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Stringfellow underwent treatment for lung cancer after being diagnosed in 2008.

However, he only told family and close friends and kept the diagnosis a secret for nearly six years - until it was leaked in 2015.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Peter Stringfellow at the Bacardi London Club and Bar Awards in 2001

Son of a Sheffield steelworker, Stringfellow started in the night-time trade in the early 1960s and he initially held normal music nights in his home city.

In 1980 he opened Stringfellows in Covent Garden, describing it as the world's premier gentleman's club.

The Upper St Martin's Lane venue was an immediate success, frequented by international film and music stars, and he went on to launch venues in New York, Miami, Beverly Hills and Paris.

He explained how a trip to the United States was behind his change in direction. "I went to a strip club in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the 80s and loved it," he said. "I then immediately opened up Stringfellows New York and it became a great success as I changed it to a strip club."

The Stringfellow brand became known for its topless girls in the 1990s and he later opened an adult entertainment club - Angels - in Soho, London, in 2006.

Media caption,

Peter Stringfellow tells 5 live: "The girls have always been very clever"

The strip club pioneer said his clubs had hosted stars including Prince, Rod Stewart, Marvin Gaye and Tom Jones - while Professor Stephen Hawking also joined him for dinner at one of the venues.

However, his success didn't come without any pitfalls. His clubs in Miami and Los Angles were a disaster and put him in huge debt.

Stringfellow's memorable quotes:

  • My favourite guest was Stephen Hawking. I was so excited when he came in and I wanted to talk to him about the universe. But when I asked him what he wanted he just said, 'Girls'. (Evening Standard in 2011)
  • I don't want anyone coming into my clubs thinking they are going to get a sexual encounter. Of course it's sexually stimulating, but so is a disco, so is a pretty girl. So is David Beckham with his gear on. So are the Chippendales (BBC in 2008)
  • It's been a positive force in terms of our sexual attitudes. These clubs broke down the fear a lot of people have about sex (BBC in 2012)
  • It's a nice feeling having the success I have, but I have spent a lifetime getting here. I didn't just win X-Factor!
  • (Joking) I am wonderful, with a perfect physique, very charming, rich and look like Jude Law (Metro, 2009)
  • The majority of people who say they are having the best sex in the world are usually lying and some nights that goes for me

He was known as a ladies' man but would neither confirm nor deny claims that he had slept with more than 3,000 women.

His behaviour, often described as outrageous, earned him critics and in 2003 he was voted by Channel 4 viewers as the 18th worst Briton.

Media caption,

Peter Stringfellow and Mary Beard talk feminism

Born in Sheffield in 1940, Stringfellow was the eldest of four boys and they were raised by the women in his family after the men went to war.

He left school at the age of 15 and ended up in the British Merchant Navy, travelling the world aged 17.

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Image caption,
Stringfellow was a long time Conservative supporter until recently

In 1962 he served a brief prison sentence for selling stolen carpets, which he said was a sharp lesson that put him on the straight and narrow.

In an article for the Guardian in 2012 he attributed his entrepreneurial spirit to his "feisty" mother.

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Image caption,
Peter Stringfellow and wife Bella, who was a dancer with the Royal Ballet

However, he didn't describe himself as a businessman. "First of all I'm not a businessman, I'm just a bloody good club owner. I'm very autocratic and have a very good team but ultimately I make the final decision."

Married three times and a grandfather four times over, Stringfellow married former Royal Ballet dancer Bella - 41 years his junior - in 2009.

The pair's two children - Rosabella and Angelo - were born when he was in his 70s.

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Last year, he held his children's naming ceremony at his London club. He told Hello! magazine he had turned down Westminster Cathedral.

"It would have felt hypocritical," he said. "None of that religious stuff sits well with me."