Inside wild A-list nightclub Annabel's where cheeky celeb flogged a snog for £60k and Princess Diana gatecrashed stag do | The Sun

WHEN legendary London nightclub Annabel’s opened its doors six decades ago, its owner insisted it must “smell of exclusivity and sex”.

The fancy private members club, located at 44 Berkeley Square, in Mayfair, became a favourite of celebrities, wealthy businessmen and even members of the Royal Family… including Queen Elizabeth. 

From Princess Diana to Mick Jagger and Frank Sinatra, it was the place to be and described as “sophisticated, comfortable and quietly rather sexy”.

It became a private party ground for the rich due to only allowing members – who are believed to pay £3,250 annually today – and their guests.

Annabel’s also operated a strict “no photography” policy, which allowed celebrities a chance to let their hair down without any pictures appearing in the press.

After The Sun last week explored the fate of Tramp nightclub, here we look back at the wild heyday of another legendary London venue – including the shocking “drunken” behaviour of one Hollywood legend. 



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Royal regulars

Annabel’s was said to be a firm favourite of the late Princess Diana, who savoured time away from the public eye in the venue.

“I have fond memories of Diana, when she was young and happy, shoes off, dancing the night away at the club,” interior designer Nicky Haslam told the Daily Mail.

It’s also claimed that she and Sarah Ferguson sneaked into the venue “disguised as giggling policewomen” after they “failed to gatecrash Prince Andrew’s stag do” in 1986.

The royals being allowed into the venue may have shocked some due to the club having a strict smart and evening wear policy.

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Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew at Annabel’s nightclub in 1995Credit: Alpha Press
The old bar in Annabel'sCredit: Rex

When they were offered a drink, Diana was said to have teasingly replied: “Sorry, we never drink on duty.”

According to royal biographer Andrew Morton, they “drank champagne and orange juice” before heading back to Buckingham Palace.

However, on the The Kelly Clarkson Show, Fergie recalled the waiter approached them and said: "Excuse me, this is a members club and it's for fun. We don't serve police officers here."

Annabel’s is also said to be the only nightclub ever visited by Queen Elizabeth II, who attended the 70th birthday of Lady of the Bedchamber, Virginia Ogilvy.

It’s reported that our late monarch sipped a gin martini, without lemon. 

Drunk Hollywood legend

Tom Cruise, Bradley Cooper, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep and countless other actors were said to have walked through Annabel’s doors – but few have behaved as badly as one Hollywood A-lister.

Famously, western film legend John Wayne was said to be “already blearily intoxicated” when he headed to the bar to order whisky. 

It has been claimed that while drunkenly attempting to light his cigar his “mighty hands… crushed three” of them.

It was also alleged that John “twiddled the right nipple of a lady at the bar as though tuning a radio” on that fateful night.

Shortly after he stumbled into the bathroom, where duty manager Eddie Wetton went to check in on him and had an amusing encounter.

According to the Independent, the filmstar spotted the Annabel’s worker and proclaimed: "Now yuh (sic) can tell all your buddies yuh hung out with John Wayne."

Music legends turned away

The club, originally opened by Mark Birley in 1963, was entered – or not if turned away by security – through an orange-striped sentry box.

Down the stairs, was a luxuriously decorated basement with a dancefloor and plenty of secluded spots with sofas. 

Historically, visitors to Annabel had to abide by their strict smart dress code and no one, regardless of their fame or status, could bypass it. 

It was reported that Eric Clapton was turned away for showing up without a tie and The Beatles couldn’t enter due to not wearing smart shoes. 

Rolling Stones legend Mick Jagger managed to get around the “old-fashioned” dress code after he “borrowed [a tie] from the doorman”.

One of Annabel’s first members was said to be Frank Sinatra, who duty manager Eddie says once tipped £100 for helping to fasten his cufflinks.

The crooner reportedly once called ahead of time to ask if there was “somewhere to change his clothes” because he “planned to come straight from a concert at the Albert Hall”.

Louis Emanuelli, who was the Maitre d of Annabel’s for many years, famously banned Shirley Bassey for assaulting him.

Peter Stringfellow was also banned after trying to bribe Louis with £100 after he had been turned away for a non-disclosed reason.

Gaga snub

In the early days, Annabel’s owner insisted American dance music must be sent from Sam Goody’s record store, in New York, every single week.

At one point, samba musicians and Dixieland jazz were a regular fixture, and during special Brazilian carnival events there were topless dancers.

At the height of its popularity, musicians including Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald and Tina Turner all played there.

Nicky described the venue as having “superb live music”. However, in 2016, he told the Daily Mail about an cheeky putdown from Lady Gaga. 

Far from keeping a Poker Face about her thoughts of the venue, she opened an acoustic set with the words: “Hello rich people.”

Not all stars are so dismissive – Harry Styles is believed to be a regular visitor and at a 2014 event, Kate Moss spun tracks on the decks with DJ Fat Tony.

Upper crust

Nicky described Annabel’s as being the venue where “film stars, rock stars, heads of state and upper-crust crooks rubbed shoulders”.

Explaining the variety of visitors, he wrote: “Staff remember the evening when the Shah of Iran and two other Middle Eastern potentates nodded at each other by the bar.”

He also said the venue had a “ticker tape” installed in the men’s bathrooms at one point so that businessmen could “check their share prices after taking a pee”.

It was also popular among politicians too – Nicky especially recalls the day that Magaret Thatcher was elected prime minister in 1979.

He said: “You couldn't move in Annabel's for Tory MPs and business grandees ordering vintage Champagne.”

Nicky admits the venue did have its “fair share of offbeat moments too” including a 2006 charity auction in which Kate Moss “sold a kiss for £60,000” to the retail mogul Philip Green. 

Philip reportedly allowed screenwriter Jemima Khan to take the “60-second smacker” instead of him.

Strict rules

In 2018, Annabel’s moved two doors down from the original venue as part of a £55million refurbishment.

The plush venue now has a cigar salon, two private dining rooms, four restaurants, and a nightclub spread across multiple rooms. 

It’s still known to be frequented by celebrities including the likes of Idris Elba, Harry Styles and Kate Moss.

Annabel’s still has a rather strict dress code but appears to be considerably more relaxed than in previous years. 

Among the “Don’ts” listed on their website are shorts, ripped jeans, sports or gym wear, flip-flops and “excessive displays of skin”.

Gaining access to Annabel’s has never been an easy feat – and often requires sitting on a waiting list.

Back in 1963, when the club opened, there were 500 members and they paid an annual subscription of five guineas. 

But 10 years later, due to the venue’s immense popularity, there were 2,000 people on the waiting list.

As of 2018, when Annabel’s reopened, there were 1,000 members and 14,000 on the waiting list and 100 people with lifetime memberships. 

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Nowadays, prospective members have to apply online and submit a letter of recommendation from a current member.

As of last year, membership fees were £3,250 per year plus a £1,750 joining fee.

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