He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy… [1989]

Heaven has been a part of London clubland for more than a generation – first opening as a roller disco in 1979 before evolving into arguably the most famous gay club in the world.

Not that its transition always ran smoothly, however. Entrepreneur Richard Branson‘s Virgin Group took over the club in 1982, with the opportunistic Branson being “one of the first to identify the burgeoning ‘pink pound'”, as the club’s Wikipedia page puts it.

Seven years later, however, amidst fears that acid house culture was poisoning Britain’s youth, Branson too fell foul of the gutter press, with the News of the World publishing an ‘exclusive’ report in 1989, claiming that Heaven was ‘A Drugs Hell’, with “evil dealers selling youngsters killer Ecstasy pills – under the noses of anti-drugs campaigner Branson’s security staff…”

“See me inside and I’ll see you alright,” a ‘denim-clad cockney’ is claimed to have uttered.

The reaction to the article, and those that followed in other papers, however, was not what the hacks may have bargained for, with gay rights campaigners accusing the paper of victimising the then mostly-underground LGBT scene in order to sell more papers.

Branson, meanwhile, held on to Heaven until 2003, eventually selling to a consortium that included the original club manager, David Inches.

[Image sourced from Class of 808]

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