Brighton publishing group, QueenSpark Books’ latest project is a graphic novel based on the history of Brighton and Hove and the people who have helped put the city on the map. My story revolves around David Raven (Maisie Trollette), Dave Lynn (Dave Lynn) and Stephen Richards (Lola Lasagne) as Brighton Angels; (think 1970’s Charlie’s Angels, but with bigger hair and a hell of lot more make up). The script takes the reader through three different tales of the city, which will be brought to life by graphic artist, Emilie Rose, more of which to follow. In the meantime I’d like to shine a spot light on the three protagonists, first up, David Raven.
David Raven has always had a passion for entertaining others, particularly when it comes to singing. In his late teens and earlytwenties David found an outlet for his passion by singing in his local Co-Op choir in Norfolk, but the urge to sing from a different songbook led him to up sticks and moving to London where he worked in Selfridges Delicatessen Department during the day, and sort out the elusive gay bars at night.
At the time there was no open gay scene, with many of the pubs and clubs being ‘underground’ and only accessible through word of mouth. One such pub was the Union Tavern, where the likes of, Mark Fleming, Mrs. Shufflewick and Danny La Rue would regularly entertain. It was here that David was also told about the Cricketers pub in Battersea where two older ladies called, Winnie and Marnie ran the ‘sing-along/ open mike session at the pub. During one evening at the Cricketers, David noticed a good-looking guy called Jimmy who was one of the regulars who would get up and sing.
Back then the mikes where on a lead, so the singers could only wander off as far as the front row. Jimmy clocked me while singing Irving Kahal’s, When I Take My Sugar to Tea and put the mike in front of my face. To his surprise I sang the next few lines perfectly, Jimmy went to take the mike away, but I just grabbed it and said, ‘I haven’t finished yet!’ which got a huge laugh from the crowd as I finished off the song. David Raven.
This camply charged encounter led to David and Jimmy teaming up as a duo and creating the,Trollettes.
The first time we both got dragged up Jimmy’s partner said, ‘You two look like a couple of trolls!’ All girl bands, like the Ronettes where huge at the time so we called ourselves the Trollettes. David Raven.
Jimmy and David entered the Black Cap’s weekly drag competition, brought the house down and from there the legend of the Trollettes were born. Both David and Jimmy became firm fixtures on the gay cabaret scene, particularly in London and Brighton.
As well as the pub and clubs, David has also has also tread the boards in a production of Mart Crowley’s, Boys in the Band, playing the part of Harold and continues to be a firm fixture on the panto scene. Over the years David has played alongside the likes of, Peter Davidson, Colin Baker, Wendy Richard, Hugh Lloyd, Susan Maughan, Maureen Nolan, and Wendy Craig; appeared at the World Trade Centre in Dubai, while never missing the opportunity to be part of Brian Ralfe’s alternative Brighton pantos.
It was during Panto season, when David was playing in Tunbridge Wells that he was looking for a place to stay and opted for Roland Guest House in Brighton. While there the owner was saying that he was looking to sell the guest house. Lady luck served a helping hand to David when he had a major win on the football pools, giving both him and his partner, Don the chance to buy Roland House, allowing them both to settle down In Brighton.
After a very successful period of working together Jimmy and David went their own ways, this led to David teaming up with the legendry and much missed Phil Star as Arsenic and Old Lace, and most recently teamed up with the Brilliant Miss Jason as Two’s Company, delivering shows packed with classic cabaret songs, their unique blend of patter and bawdy jokes.
Over the years David has seen many changers to the gay scene, from the days when all the windows of the gay bars where blacked out and most of the gay clubs including The Curtain Club, Rickie’s, Secrets and the Beacon Royal (club and Hotel) were discrete affairs, hidden mainly from view. The early 80’s saw a small surge in the gay scene with clubs like Manhattans, Beverley Hills and the Pink coconut, to the present day where it would be unthinkable that a gay pub or club had to be discreet about its clientele. Clubs come and go and audience’s change, but the one thing that stays the same is people’s desire to be entertained, even if some of David’s song choices need a little explaining.
When there’s a young crowd in I have to say, ‘Now, do you know who Lisa Minnelli is? Right, well this song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, was made famous by her mum, Judy Garland. David Raven.
It is without doubt that David Raven helped pave the way for other cabaret artist to make their name on Brighton’s gay scene and is always on hand to give a word of advice. He has also helped raise thousands of pounds for the Martlett Hospice, Thais for life and the Sussex Beacon, of which he is a parton.
David’s main passion has always stayed the same and that is to entertain with a joke, an anecdote and a song while accompanied by the ever smiling Josh on keyboard. Brighton is blessed that David decided to call Brighton his home with both him and his alter ego, Maisie, being an integral part of Brighton as much as fish and chips, squawking seagulls and Brighton rock.