Bianca Jagger rides a horse at Studio 54

5 of the greatest nights out of all time

Words: JJ Dunning
Images: Getty/Robin Platzer/Twin Images/Online USA, Inc.

To paraphrase Coolio, there ain’t no party like a party where you end up riding a horse. Here are five nights out we wish we’d been a part of.

Have you ever ridden a horse bare-back around an extremely fashionable nightclub?

Have you ever single-handedly tried to liberate a posh hotel from enemy troops?

Have you ever ridden the subway in the company of a llama?

If the answer to these three questions is ‘no’, then you’re going to have to try a lot harder to get on our list of the greatest nights out of all time.

  • Who was the woman riding a horse around Studio 54 in 1977?
  • Which 1966 bash was officially “the party of the century”?
  • What happened when some French teenagers borrowed a circus animal on a night out?

Bianca Jagger rides a horse around Studio 54, 1977

It’s your birthday. You decide to go for an evening out with your other half. Inevitably, you end up riding a white horse around a nightclub. 

This is what happened to Bianca Jagger in May 1977. She and her then-husband, Rolling Stones frontman Mick, visited the notoriously hedonistic Studio 54 nightclub in New York. A friend had seen a picture of Bianca riding a white horse and so, as a birthday treat, had arranged for a similar equine beast to be present. 

Literally not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, Bianca climbed onto the animal’s back and had her photo taken. The snap (above, with naked horse-hand) helped create the legend that she had arrived at the club in this manner, something she was at pains to deny in a letter to the Financial Times in 2015. 

“As an environmentalist and an animal rights defender I find the insinuation that I would ride a horse into a nightclub offensive,” she wrote. “I hope that you can understand the difference between ‘coming in’ on a horse and getting on one.”

If only Instagram had existed in 1977 – Bianca’s night out would have got more likes than most of us can dream of.

Truman Capote’s Black And White Ball, 1966

In 1966, Truman Capote was the toast of American high society. The author’s latest book, the non-fiction crime account In Cold Blood, was a smash hit.

To celebrate the success he threw a masked ball for his friend, the Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, at New York’s Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.

Because invites were limited to 540, the exclusivity of Capote’s Black And White Ball had socialites the world over desperate to be on the guestlist. (With good reason; it would later be dubbed “the party of the century” by Town & Country magazine.)

The chosen few were made up of politicians, stellar businesspeople, royalty, Hollywood A-listers and – to indicate Capote’s common touch – the doorman from the author’s apartment building. Here are just a few of the names: Frank Sinatra, Andy Warhol, Greta Garbo, Henry Fonda, Henry Ford, Lauren Bacall, Noël Coward, Marlene Dietrich, Mia Farrow, Jackie Kennedy.

Ernest Hemingway “liberates” the Paris Ritz, 1944

Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway: Willing to go to extreme lengths to defend his scatter cushions.

© Wikimedia Commons

Ernest Hemingway was the sort of man who would wrestle a bear before breakfast, clean-shave himself with a cutlass, then settle down to bash out a Nobel-prize-winning novel before tea.

During WWII, he was in France as a correspondent, reporting for Collier’s magazine. Embedded with the US 4th Division troops, whom he followed from the Normandy beaches to Paris, he allegedly remarked that he was on a one-man crusade to liberate the city’s Ritz bar from the Luftwaffe, who were using the hotel as their base.

As the apocryphal story goes, the Nazis had already vacated the Ritz by the time Hemingway arrived. Not realising that they were gone, however, the novelist strode into the lobby bearing a machine gun and declared his intentions. When the manager refused him entry with a weapon, he returned it to his vehicle, then re-entered the bar and drank his way through 51 dry Martinis.

Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.
Ernest Hemingway

Sex Pistols at Manchester Free Trade Hall, 1976

Tony Wilson, the co-founder of Factory Records, described seeing the Sex Pistols at Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall in June 1976 as “something like an epiphany”.

Wilson was one of the small crowd – believed to be less than 50 people – who witnessed the Pistols’ fire the punk movement in the UK. So the story goes, almost everyone who was there that night would go on to have an effect on the future of music. Here is a list of those who were present…

  • Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks, who booked the Pistols to play the gig
  • Sex Pistols, who delivered punk to the UK
  • Morrissey, who went on to form The Smiths
  • Mark E Smith, feted frontman of The Fall
  • Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook, soon of Joy Division and New Order
  • Tony Wilson, broadcaster, co-founder of Factory Records and The Haçienda nightclub
  • Paul Morley, influential NME journalist, writer and broadcaster

French teenagers go drinking with a llama, 2013

You wake up with a disgusting hangover. Your tongue feels like a slab of uncooked pork, your liver aches, and you smell like a circus llama.

Except – if you’re a teenager in Bordeaux – that last part has nothing to do with the booze you were drinking. It’s because you spent a large part of your evening escorting an actual circus llama around the city’s tram network. You even named him Serge.

Now, if we had wanted to hero drunkards, we could have written you an extra-long list. There are countless tales of boozy actors getting up to no good after a long lunch at the club. The legendary actor Peter O’Toole, for instance, once went for a quiet drink in Paris and woke up in Corsica. (On a session in Ireland, O’Toole also once came up with a novel way to extend his drinking session when last orders were called – he bought the pub.)

However, we’ve decided to include these five French teens and their preposterous tale because, well, with the right mix of mischief, alcohol and enthusiasm, it could happen to any of us. Isn’t that what great nights out are all about?

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10/2016 Red Bulletin

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