Pete Shaw is the producer of Chinese Whispers at the Greenwich Theatre who once flew to San Francisco to party for one night, drinks at the George and Dragon, and would love to have met Quentin Crisp.
Where are you from originally?
West London. I was born in West Middlesex Hospital and grew up on the borders of Greater London and Surrey near Heathrow Airport. My father worked for British Airways so I was – and still am – a total geek for planes. I draw the line at plane spotting though; sitting in them and jetting off will do just fine, thanks.
And where do you live now?
St John’s in Southeast London. Technically the postcode is Brockley, but it’s closer to Deptford. I’ve been there about seven years and spend most of my time in neighbouring Greenwich. It’s a great area of London.
What do you love about London?
Its diversity – a melting pot of cultures. And London has history around every corner. I can geek out for hours looking at old maps of London learning how the city has developed.
First gay venue you visited?
My first gay ‘venue’ wasn’t really a venue. I’d just started working at Your Spectrum magazine in Soho and found a meeting of Hyde Park Gays & Sapphics in Time Out. I figured that would be a safe place to meet other people since if I didn’t like the look of them, I could just wander off. As it happens, I loved it and ended up at Stallions (long since gone) for a Sunday afternoon tea dance with mugs of tea and fairy cakes.
Favourite club/bar/venue in London and why?
Probably the George & Dragon in Greenwich as it’s my local (and The Duchess would probably give me a wallop if I didn’t say it was my favourite). But my favourite of all time, yet sadly no longer open, would have to be Madame JoJo’s and The Piano Bar above – I worked in both during the 80s where my alter ego, Gloria Passage, was born.
Apart from Greenwich Theatre, what’s your favourite theatre in London?
I’m torn between LOST Theatre in Battersea and Southwark Playhouse – I love them both, but for different reasons. LOST productions have constantly surprised me with new and exciting work. Southwark has delighted me, particularly since Danielle Tarento has proved you can do full-scale musical productions on a fringe stage.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Pot Noodle. It’s the veggie equivalent of a dirty kebab.
If you could go back in time which year would you choose and why?
Why would you want to go back? Romantic nostalgia for the good old days of poor nutrition and limited lifespan seems overrated. I’m far more excited by the future; looking back over just the last 50 years makes me wonder what the world will look like in 50 years time (assuming we haven’t destroyed our planet by then).
A proper beer fridge. Not that it’s the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought, but because having a double-width glass fronted cooler that ought to be in a pub at home is a little unnecessary for someone who barely drinks unless I’m out. But I liked it, so I got one.
My dad bought me a ZX81 for Christmas, fully expecting me to discard it by Boxing Day, as was the normal pattern for little Pete. But I fell in love with it and it kicked off a career of book-writing and journalism.
What has been the highlight of your career so far and why?
Working with Sir Tim Rice on a revival of his musical Blondel back in 2006. It was a financial flop, but Tim was incredibly generous and I worked with a hugely talented team of actors and crew, most of whom I’m still in contact with.
Apart from Edmund Backhouse, which other ‘outrageous homosexuals’ from history would you like to meet?
Quentin Crisp, although I was fortunate to see him when he did An Audience with… at the Hippodrome many years ago. Such a fascinating character who had sparked my imagination ever since I’d watched the John Hurt portrayal in The Naked Civil Servant. And I recommend you catch Mark Farrelly’s interpretation in the stage show Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope.
Best party you’ve ever been to?
I once flew to San Francisco for just one night to attend a Digital Queers party at the Moscone Center. That was one hell of a commitment to having a night out, and boy did I make sure I enjoyed it. Not the first time I’ve gone a long distance for entertainment though, I also did a one-night trip to New York so I could watch The Producers on Broadway.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t slag off your ex-boyfriends.
Who is your LGBT hero and why?
Stephen Fry – a genuinely brilliant human.
Where in the world would you like to visit before you die and why?
Barnsley. No, really – my father’s family came from the area and I’ve never been even though I once spent months researching the family tree back to 1612. Writing this reminds me to get something done about that.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
Supersonic travel wasn’t going to be around forever.
Chinese Whispers runs from this Thursday (13 Jul) until next Sunday (23 Jul) at the Greenwich Theatre, Crooms Hill, London, SE10 8ES. Book tickets via greenwichtheatre.org.uk.