I’m sure you’ve seen her before. With that long, angular face of androgyny, varying degrees of a bleach blond buzzcut and no eyebrows, Scarlett Cannon is one of the most recognizable figures in the early 80s London club scene. She has graced the cover of i-D Magazine and hosted the game-changing Cha-Cha Club. Cannon’s face is almost as iconic as Steve Strange, Marilyn or Boy George, yet her name is not as well known despite her notoriety as a model, host and fashionista of the Blitz Kids.
With a name like Scarlett Cannon (also under the name Scarlett Napoleon Bordello – equally as dramatic), how could she not be a fashion icon of the Blitz Kids? Flashy and fearless – and at the same time quite feminine and beautiful – she had all the makings of the New Romantic scene. The New Romantics (interchangeably called the Blitz Kids thanks to Steve Strange’s club, the Blitz Club) became a short-lived subcultural movement from about 1979-1981, a time known as the “Pose Age.” It was a backlash to the aggressiveness of punk’s grit and aggressiveness as the Blitz Kids created lavish characters and costumes to foray into the clubs despite their impoverished “real life” circumstances. The Romantics valued the glitz and glamour of 50s-era Hollywood (this would later be echoed in the Club Kid movement of the late 80s and early 90s as well), playing up fantasies and extremism in fashion and flamboyancy. Even though it only lasted roughly two years – the bubblegum music and pastel rainbow color palette had become a bit too much – the movement paved the way for one major aspect of the of the 1980s, known for its decadence and excess.
The Cha-Cha Club was the place to be on Tuesday nights hosted by Scarlett and Michael Hardy aka Marie Malipasta. To attend, you had to go through the back alleyway, an opposite entrance than the main door to London’s quintessential gay club Heavens, adding to the exclusivity of Cha-Cha’s.
[Marie Malipasta] started the club with Judy Blame – “We had a job in the coatcheck at Heaven which became the most popular part of the club – so they asked us to do a one nighter. Later Judy went really Divatastique and stormed out – so I asked Scarlett.”
Scarlett took this position in stride, claiming that she spent the whole day getting ready for the Cha-Cha party, donning a new haircut each week. She even took in Leigh Bowery when he first entered the scene, embracing his fresh face and off-the-wall style – a talent she used when manning the door to curate a diverse crowd of club goers.
With its uber hip appeal and swarms of fashionable party goers, Cha-Cha’s catapulted Scarlett’s success in the scene. Because of her unique look, she got placed in the pages of i-D Magazine in 1981 before gracing its cover in October of 1982. From the pages of i-D:
Likes – money, jewels, Pernod [a liqueur] and blackcurrent – red ‘it’s my namesake isn’t it?’ and grey. Dislikes – pretentious people and being cold.
As it seems for the New Romantic scene, many of the women were overshadowed by the male-fronted fame of the Blitz Kids dandyesque superheroes with their bright makeup, wigs and eclectic style. Scarlett took the movement’s aesthetics and stripped it bare, working in a minimal fashion (in comparison) to demand a presence with her short coif, red lips and contour-ready face – a look that can’t easily be forgotten.
– Andi Harriman