CHAPTER SEVEN – CHINA WHITE

The Intern by Dillon Khan

CHINA WHITE

We got to Air Street on time to find it in chaos as traffic had come to a halt. Just by the entrance to the road, people were shouting at big burly men dressed in suits, as long queues snaked out behind them along Regent Street. The only female standing with them was holding a clipboard in one hand, smoking a cigarette with the other and ignoring the people talking to her. They were outside a single plain and unsigned doorway that lead to London’s hottest club, Chinawhite. Cameramen with powerful lenses were standing on the opposite side of the road, talking among themselves, fingers twitching and ready to snap at the first sign of anyone remotely famous.

We stood on the corner waiting for Max, spending our time looking at the two queues, which were moving pain- fully slowly. The drama that was ensuing with revellers and the traffic was a great advert for the place, giving the impression that this was a hotspot and very exclusive. The longer people waited, the more exclusive it was – treat them mean, keep them keen. The same people would turn up week after week to be treated the same way. Everyone in the queue probably wondered if it was really worth it, but looked around to see others clamouring to get in and figured surely all these people can’t be wrong, there must be something wonderful inside.

The smaller of the two queues was for the guest list. It was mainly made up of businessmen and models. The club’s PR company would email invites to all the top modelling agencies, and they’d send their girls (and boys) down for free. The girls inevitably got treated to free drinks and were discreetly provided with drugs all night, courtesy of the businessmen. In return the suits got to feel big among the other alpha males, getting the girls drunk enough to flirt with. And the club made sure there were beautiful girls and boys inside to be gawped at by the average folks. In this ménage à trois everyone was happy. If you had a club like this with dog- ugly people inside, it would be empty the following week and you’d be closed for good the week after.

In the other, less-exclusive, queue, similar agreements were being made. There was a mixture of average folk ranging from wannabe singers and dancers to tourists and students, all desperate to be at the hottest VIP spot in town. Groups of girls in the queue were fine, but groups of guys were not. So the boys would end up having to try to persuade girls to go in with them. The uglier they were, the more the girls negotiated on the amount of drinks they’d have to buy them later.

Annoyingly for everyone waiting outside, there was a third invisible queue. It consisted of people who had thevelvet rope lifted for them and walked straight through, without paying, and to whom the restriction of ‘no hats, no trainers’ did not apply. Famous people, friends of staff and rich regulars would hug the bouncer or kiss the doorgirl before disappearing inside.

It was approaching midnight and after my long day I was tired and fading fast. I wanted to call to see where Max was but didn’t want to seem like I couldn’t wait without panick- ing. But the never-ending rain and Pritz’s complaints made me realize it wasn’t so unreasonable. I dialled Max’s number.

He picked up and it sounded like he was still in his car, but then the line went dead.

‘Where is he?’ asked Pritz.

‘I think he’s still driving,’ I said, unsure.

‘Driving? That means by the time he parks up and gets here, it could be another twenty or thirty minutes.’

‘Yeah, I suppose . . .’ I said. ‘Let’s try and get in ourselves. I’ll blag us in. Once we’re downstairs, text him.’

I didn’t fancy standing in the cold and rain another minute so was open to ‘Plan P’ – sending in Pritz as last resort. He always rose to any challenge, thinking he could accomplish it with ease like he was The Wolf from Pulp Fiction. But his calm assurance now left me more worried than reassured.

We headed in the direction of the small guest-list queue, which was currently empty. Pritz walked with an air of confidence like his dad owned the club and not two dental practices in north-west London. I walked in his shadow like I was a fraudster going to claim benefits while working cash-in-hand.

The doorgirl with the clipboard had her back to us as we got there.

‘Hi there, we’re on the guest list,’ said Pritz in an unwavering and steely voice.

She turned around, looked him up and down.

‘What list?’ she bellowed for the street to hear.

‘Lehman Brothers. We’ve got a table here,’ Pritz said equally loudly, whipping out his business card.

She looked on her clipboard, turned several pages over and scanned up and down it. ‘Nope, nothing here,’ she replied as people started to look round at us.

‘Really, can you check one more time? My boss definitely got a table today. Short fat guy, laughs a lot, mainly at his own jokes. You must have seen him?’

‘There’ve been lots of those types today,’ she said, unimpressed.

‘Of course.’ Pritz laughed nervously, realizing he wasn’t getting through to her. The silence between them was deafening.

My hands got sweaty and I knew she was going to turf us humiliatingly from the queue. I was about to turn around and disappear into the shadows when Pritz got another idea.

‘OK, can you look for The Beat please?’

What the hell was he doing? Stop, stop! I thought. Too late.

‘The Beat? You said you worked at Lehman Brothers,’ she pointed out with obvious suspicion.

‘Yeah, I do, but my boy here works at The Beat,’ he said, like he’d just played his trump card.

By now the paparazzi were looking at us too. I couldn’t believe it, we could have all walked away from this perfectly unharmed yet Pritz had to go out in a blaze of glory. That’s the risk you take with a ‘Plan P’ – on the trading floor or outside, he just didn’t know when to stop gambling.

The woman peered around Pritz as he moved to the side so she could get a better look at me. I had my hands in my pockets and stood hunched, wearing the liquorice allsorts outfit I had hurriedly thrown on in a rush that morning.

She looked me up and down and sniggered, ‘I don’t think so.’

‘Yes, he does.’ Pritz turned to me. ‘Go on, show her your pass.’

I froze. ‘Go on,’ he egged me on again. Eventually I went to my back pocket. This really isn’t going to make a difference to this woman, I thought to myself but I didn’t want to get in the way of Pritz’s persistence. I got my multicoloured Benetton acrylic wallet out and undid the Velcro strap, which opened with the loudest noise, taking about ten years off my age. The paps were nudging each other and now we had an audience ready to laugh at our failed attempt to get in. Horror gripped me like I was watching The Blair Witch Project. I couldn’t find my pass.

I searched frantically then looked up at Pritz, holding out the wallet in despair, horrified I’d let him down. He stared back with a look that said: You had one line in this play, and you just fluffed it. The doorgirl had a look of happiness on her face like she’d solved the crime of the century. But, before she could even throw us shamefully out of the queue, the paps were clicking and their flashes engulfed the street.

Everyone was looking towards the club as two people carriers with tinted windows pulled up in front. Paps jock- eyed for position and ran on to the road to slow the vehicles down so they could get ready for whoever stepped out. There were enough flashes to cause an epileptic fit as the door slid open on the first Mercedes.

Seconds later a big bouncer wearing a XXXL Rocawear T-shirt stepped out, towering over everyone at the door. He quickly huddled Jay-Z past the lifted velvet rope and straight in, followed by his entourage and several girls with short skirts, all trying to avoid the falling rain.

Pritz turned round to me as I looked on equally energized.

‘We’ve definitely gotta get in now. I wanna party with S Dot Carter.’ He began to sing the incorrect words to a Jay-Z song and jig without a beat.

The other Mercedes was offloading the rest of Jay-Z’s entourage and some more girls. Among them I saw two figures I recognized. One was the TV promotions plugger for Jay-Z’s record label who I’d met in The Beat studios earlier that day, and the other was Max. So that’s where the cheeky bugger had been – in a car full of girls. They stepped out and I smiled at them, but, with the flashing cameras going off and all the bouncers in front of me, they didn’t see me. Before I could even call out his name he had gone inside.

I turned to Pritz. ‘That was Max at the end.’

‘Really? Max, your boss at The Beat?’ Pritz asked, straight-faced.

‘Yes,’ I replied.

‘Well, what are we still doing outside then? I see you’re both reeeal tight. He’s gone in and left you out here?’

‘He probably didn’t see me,’ I said, trying to defend him. ‘Call him then,’ Pritz challenged. ‘OK, I will.’ I got my phone out and dialled. It went straight to the answer machine. I was so embarrassed at being forgotten. I’d waited for what seemed like hours, standing in the rain with my friend who was now questioning if I really worked at The Beat or not. I was wet and wanted to get out of there. I turned to leave and started walking when a voice behind me shouted out.

‘Oi, where do you think you’re going, holmes?’ I turned round. It was Max. ‘I told you to wait, didn’t I?’

‘Yeah, but I –’

‘No buts, get in here. It’s about to go down,’ he said with a wry smile. ‘Bring your girlfriend too.’ He ushered Pritz over, who for once wisely kept his mouth shut but couldn’t resist flashing a wink at the clipboard queen on his way in.

Max put his arm round my shoulder and squeezed. ‘Laura darlin’, this is Jay. He’s part of The Beat family.’

After years of waiting in queues, not getting in because we didn’t have any girls with us, not knowing the head of security and generally being unknowns on the outside, the velvet rope had been lifted for us.

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