Saturday 15 December 2018

Michael O'Doherty: 'The wild nights at Lillies are a thing of legend'

Bono and Guggi at Lillie's in 2006
Bono and Guggi at Lillie's in 2006
Singer Christina Aguilera spotted entering Lillies Bordello nightclub for an afterparty for her sold out concert in the Point Theatre in 2006
TV presenter Ant McPartlin and Lisa Armstrong attend Jonathan Wilkes' 26th Birthday Party at Lillie's Bordello nightclub on August 1, 2004 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by ShowBizIreland/Getty Images)

Michael O'Doherty

Lillies was like the '60s.

Not because of the decor, with particular emphasis on the carpet, velvet curtains and flock wallpaper, harked back to a time before good taste. But because, as that saying most associated with the 1960s goes, if you can remember it, then you properly weren't there.

When Lillies was in its pomp, about 20 years ago, its nights were a thing of wonder. And having shuffled into the morning light on Nassau Street at 5am, you'd wake up the next evening with a vague recollection of being in Lillies. But little memory of what you did.

Back in the day, Valerie Roe ran the club with military precision, clipboard in hand and a subtle nod to those in the know. And the manner in which Lillies treated your attempts to gain entry said everything you needed to know about your social standing.

“Ramdomers” wouldn't even breach the first line of defence. Some were allowed down the laneway, but promptly asked to pay an admission fee. Others gained free entry, but only to the “main bar.” To the chosen few, the VIP bar awaited, as with the parting of a red velvet curtain, you were ushered into an area comprising of plush seating, waitress service, and perhaps someone off the telly.

But of course, it didn't stop there. Because Lillies turned it up to 11.

Singer Christina Aguilera spotted entering Lillies Bordello nightclub for an afterparty for her sold out concert in the Point Theatre in 2006
Singer Christina Aguilera spotted entering Lillies Bordello nightclub for an afterparty for her sold out concert in the Point Theatre in 2006

For years, rumours of the famous “Library” were bandied about by common entrants in hushed tones.  It had a guy at the door, wood panelling on the walls made from fake book covers. The home for visiting movie and rock stars, you couldn't blag your way in for love nor money. Until, one day, I did.

It was after the Brown Thomas International Fashion Show, when some of the world's top supermodels came to Dublin in February 2000. Naomi Campbell, Yasmin Le Bon, Christy Turlington and Jerry Hall strode the catwalk. Keith Duffy modelled a woolen tank top and a skirt. I thought I'd imagined that, but found a photo in VIP to prove it. And the after show party was in Lillies.

The Rolling Stones were there. So was Bono and assorted supermodels. It was the night that Dublin welcomed the world's most glamorous stars. And Lillies provided the entertainment. But, to be honest, it all went a bit downhill after that.

Sure, the Library still remained a slightly elusive enclave. Paul Harrington tinkled away gamely on the piano, guaranteeing you a rendition of Rock n Roll Kids, but the occasional UK soap star, and Jim Corr, was about as much as you could hope for.

I was last there about six years ago. A few members of One Direction were in the VIP area, with a couple of heavies at the velvet curtain allowing fawning young women in one by one to greet them. It was all a bit low rent. And to be honest, it was a sign that Lillies was on the slide. 

Valerie has long gone, Bono and Colin Farrell haven't been there in years, but the carpet, curtains and wallpaper remained the same. And come January 19th, they too will be confined to the wastebin of history. 

The glory years of Lillies were before the days of camera phones. And as the first rule of Lillies' was that no-one wrote about what went on in Lillies, there is hardly any documentary evidence of the wild nights, fights and indiscretions that were a thing of legend.

So even if you can remember it, you've no way of proving you were there. Which, in hindsight, is probably for the best...

Online Editors

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