Only three minutes into the show, someone has already stripped on stage in front of over 1,000 people and the next contestant is waiting on the side-lines to do the same. The packed crowd is cheering as the strobe lights fill the busy room, the song changes and the next person takes the stage. There’s only one thing it could be: Porn Idol.
This might not be your average Thursday night, but at Heaven it’s the norm. Once a week at around 1am, the nightclub’s main attraction begins. Volunteers from the audience compete in a competition where members of the public get on stage and get completely naked for a cash prize.
As each contestant takes the stage, their performance dictates the mood of the audience. Those who use the pole throw the room into an uproar of cheers, even if their pole etiquette isn’t up to scratch. Others keep the energy levels high by taking pride in whatever dance moves they come up with, no matter how embarrassed they are that almost every audience member is probably posting it all over social media. Surprisingly, those that come with a routine planned and perfectly executed are the ones that elicit the least interest from those watching the event unfold. The night feels more about spontaneity and acceptance than about showing off how well you can dance.
The moment that leaves the crowd the most shocked and appalled, however, aren’t when they see the genitalia flailing around as someone throws themselves upside down on the pole or flings a bra into the audience; it’s when someone refuses to get completely naked.
Frustration unites the room in a solemn chant of boos when someone won’t lose their underwear. The night has seen participants do anything and everything to win the contest, so the audience becomes almost offended when someone who volunteered to get on stage refuses to fulfil their part. The venue becomes the only place where refusing to strip in front of over 1,000 people is unacceptable.
Celebrity judges rate those performing out of ten and are often the main attraction for most of the audience. The club usually boasts famous drag queens from ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ on social media campaigns and posters, but guests have also ranged from Gemma Collins to Katie Hopkins. Once the show is over, the night’s judge does a meet and greet in the smallest of the venue’s several rooms and audience members who choose to attend are able to get a photo with them. Be prepared to queue up though, you can wait as long as ninety minutes to get your picture.
But if you’re interested in seeing the show, get there by midnight at the latest. The queue to get into the venue often reaches Charing Cross underground station by that time, which is over 100 metres from the venue. You can be left lining up for several hours and whilst Porn Idol is the best Thursday night event in London, no nightclub is worth a line that long.
Once you get through the line and the airport-like security, the price of entry can be up to £15. But, stopping off at G-A-Y bar on Old Compton Street on your way to the club will get you a complimentary wristband that will give you either free or a heavily reduced entry fee, depending on the week. Drink prices at Heaven have a range like any London venue, but the easiest option is a double vodka with Red Bull which is only £5.20.
Once you get into the club, the best part is the feeling of acceptance that fills the space. Contestants are judged by their time on stage and ability to entertain as they get naked and not their sexuality, body or background. Those choosing to participate are members of the public after all and while it may be a gay themed venue, everyone is welcome on stage to embrace their bodies and have fun.
Thursday nights do not get better than Porn Idol. 5/5 stars.
Heaven is open from 11pm-4am every Thursday and is located at The Arches, Villiers St in Charing Cross.