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Bob Mazzer’s Porn Pilgrimage

September 10, 2013
by the gentle author

Bob Mazzer outside Abcat Cinema Club in the Caledonian Rd

I met photographer Bob Mazzer at Kings Cross Station recently and we set out through the streets on a porn pilgrimage to discover the location of the sleazy cinema where he worked as a projectionist more than thirty years ago. Surveying the first terrace we came to in York Way, Bob speculated that the cinema he worked at might have been where the new shops are, but we decided to walk further to explore and, before long, we arrived at the Caledonian Rd.

Here we came across the Abcat Cine Club and Bob stopped in his tracks, shocked to realise that this was the cinema where he had worked. In spite of all the changes in Kings Cross, it still existed. A businessman walked past us and entered the discreet frontage and then, as we approached, the ticket seller from behind the front desk came out to enjoy the afternoon sun. A senior gentleman with cropped white hair and a pink face, he put his cup of tea down on the traffic bollard on the corner and lit a cigarette.

Introductions were made and we struck up a conversation with this amiable chap, who even remembered some of the people that Bob had worked with at the cinema, so many years ago. But then he interrupted our chat abruptly and ran off in a different direction, disappearing inside a shopfront labelled “Oscars” in a side street, and leaving his teacup on the bollard. Minutes later, he returned and apologised, revealing that Oscars was a gay cinema and it was his job to sell tickets for both the Abcat Cine Club and Oscars, hence the necessity to stand on the street corner where he could see people approaching either venue.

Naturally, once the famous Abcat Cine Club which was the object of Bob’s porn pilgrimage had been discovered, I was intrigued to learn more of his brief career in the sex industry and graciously he obliged by telling me the whole story.

“When I answered an advert in the Evening Standard for an 8mm film projectionist, I knew I wasn’t going to be working at the Odeon Leicester Sq but in some seedy joint. I was curious to know what that sleazy twilight world was like and I felt that my years at art school had been sufficient preparation for becoming a projectionist showing blue movies.

I had been living in rural Wales, but my mother died so I moved back to London to be with father in the flat at Woodberry Down and I needed a way to make a living. I was quite upfront with him about it and he didn’t seem to mind. As a result of my job at the Abcat Cinema Club, I was able to equip myself with a dark room and it ramped up my photography, giving me freedom to do what I wanted to do. What I liked about the job was the shifts, you either worked six until ten or two until six. The hours suited me and I must have been getting eighty pounds a week. I was very comfortable for a year and put money away to buy camera equipment. Up ’til then I had no money, but now I was paid cash in hand so I could to take my friends out for dinner and pay for their taxis home. Suddenly, I found I had a lot of friends who wanted to visit me at work and some were even feminists.

I remember it being quite a cosy little scene. I sat in the projectionist’s booth and there were two projectors, and you projected through a hole in the wall. The place held about fifty people, but I never looked through the hole in the wall, so I have no idea what went on. I can remember the first film I saw, it was Scandavian. It was an education for me because I had never seen anything like that before. I was staggered. It was a Swedish film about a mother and a daughter on a sexcapade in London, there were even shots of them in Trafalgar Sq and I’m sure someone cracked a joke about Nelson’s Column.

There were two people working at the cinema, the projectionist and the doorman – you were never there on your own in case there was a problem. It was relatively tame at Kings Cross and the year I worked there was uneventful, nothing ever happened. Then I was transferred to Paddington to the Office Cinema Club where I was much more on the front line, and I had to man the desk and project the films all on my own. Paddington was rougher than Kings Cross in a strange way.

There was no frontage, just a big sign saying the Office Cinema Club and you went through a doorway between two shops, up the stairs and along a passage, to where I sat at a desk in front of a window with a view down Praed St. From this desk, I could take the money and then step up onto a platform to work the projectors, and I had a TV to watch while the customers were watching the films. One day, a smart business man came in, wearing a pin stripe suit and with a buxom woman upon each arm, I don’t know what he was up to and I didn’t spy. Upstairs, there was a gay cinema than ran on a cassette system, so I rarely needed to go up there. Occasionally, I had to sweep up and discovered things I’d rather not see.

The place got raided by the police from Paddington Green Station every few months and the films would get confiscated. I’d ring the boss and say, ‘We’ve been raided again,’ and he’d bring round new films and open up again. We ended up in court where they projected the films in the courtroom in front of the jury. The barrister stood up and said, ‘This is insanity, it’s a club and it’s private,’ and we got off. It was nice to see the law made an ass of, even if it was little scary. The whole relationship between the police and the people who ran the cinema was a comedy.

I was sitting at my desk one day and the telephone rang, and it was a woman asking if her son was there. This young lad would shuffle up the stairs and, in those days, if anyone looked over eighteen you let them in. His mother was phoning up to find out if he was there and she was relieved when she knew where he was. She just wanted to know that he was safely at the Office Cinema, sitting watching blue movies. It happened a couple of times.

Then I got held up and that was it. I was sitting minding my own business when I heard the door go downstairs but I didn’t look up, and then I felt the cold steel of a gun at my head. I looked up and there were these two guys, a black guy and a white guy. It was obvious what was going on. The white guy set about taking money and projectors and films while I was led into the loo by the black guy who had a knife and he tied me up with blue garden twine. It was slippy and I could have undone it but I was scared. I thought, ‘Is this where I end my days, dead in the toilet of a blue movie cinema?’ Not a nice end, and I’d just met the girl of my dreams who is now my wife.

I can still see the knife in his hand. I looked at his face and I thought it was interesting face with streamlined features. They left me unharmed and I untied myself. I waited ten minutes and then I made a phone call. The boss came round, and he thought it was an inside job and he sacked me. The same police who had raided us were now called in to investigate, and the boss called up a week later and said, ‘Bob, do you want to come back?’ But when I got the sack I thought, ‘That’s fine by me.’”

You may also like to take a look at

Bob Mazzer on the Tube

More Bob Mazzer on the Tube

Bob Mazzer on the Tube Today

Bob Mazzer, Photographer

Bob Mazzer’s Street Photography

2 Responses leave one →
  1. September 10, 2013

    Great story.
    More Bob Mazzer photos please! My new favourite photographer!

  2. September 10, 2013

    I too really like Bob’s photos, they are so spontaneous and full of life. Nice to read about his early life ducking and diving. I wonder what Bob does now in Hastings, plenty to photograph there too.

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