Mr Pussy’s Cafe de Luxe

‘What do you think about the coffee pots?’ Gavin says pointing at the mural. Mr Pussy, long legs in suspenders, flanked by rows of phallic pots. We’re in Gavin’s new café, Mr Pussy’s Café de Luxe shortly before its opening. The vibe is designer kitsch, reds and golds and purples, trashy photos, kitschy pictures. There’s a stage: ‘I got my flying mickeys immortalised at last’. A ‘royal box’ for guests. ‘We’re making fun of all these VIP rooms you have in places here in Dublin. Anyone can sit in our royal box.’

Gavin and I are in Tosca’s where we’d agreed to have a coffee a few days after a chance meeting in the street (he just off the plane from London, me just off the bus from Donegal, both a little bleary-eyed. ). He hasn’t shaved since, a ginger stubble on his chin. His curls are growing out of a dark red dye. We speak in between countless interruptions: ‘Gavin look at this, Gavin sign this contract, Gavin when you’re ready, Gavin meet so and so…’ He rolls his eyes at me when he’s introduced to a vending-machine salesman.

He talks about his new venture as if it were his album or a painting and he raves about Mr Pussy, the female impersonator who is the star of this show: ‘He’s 58 but he looks amazing. He’s camp, but sweet, not bitchy. Sort of like: ‘How’ye doing, get that aul’ sausage in ya!”

He is working on his third solo album, ‘one day in my house, one day in Maurice’s’, and tells tales of doing press for In The Name of the Father: ‘This journalist from Australia asked me what’s it like living in a warzone!’ It’s a breathless account of what’s going on in his life: his mother and vegetarian diets (‘we’re not the kind of people that eat grass and bananas!’), producing Naomi’s album, enticing Sinead to do her vocals for Thief of Your Heart, the ‘lovely’ Tim Simenon who is producing his record and the state of the world we live in: ‘We were out on the town and two girls, E-d out of their heads, come up and tell us all these details about their sex-lives. Yeah, great, but what’re you telling me for? Sex is beautiful, but keep it to yourself. If I see one more pierced dick or nipple, I’m gonna be sick.’ He’s written a song about it: ‘Shag Tobacco’. ‘You know how moralistic I am underneath it all,’ he smiles. I didn’t, but I’d guessed.

Is he not afraid this new café will tie him down? ‘It’s not my place,’ he says. Bono and Jim Sheridan pay the bills. Gavin is chairman of the board. Our coffees finished, we go next door for a look at the new café. The builders are busy, it doesn’t look anywhere near finished. ‘When are you leaving? Saturday? It won’t be open by then.’

A few weeks later I talk to Gavin on the phone. I’d heard the chips in Pussy’s were terrible, there’s been reports of a police raid in the first week of opening for serving alcohol after hours and having (male) nude entertainment. Perhaps Dublin isn’t ready for a place like Pussy’s smack in the middle of town. Gavin says there’s a problem with the license, the place doesn’t come alive until 3 am and, every inch and Irishman, complains at length about potato crops.

When I finally make it to Pussy’s, it’s three months later. There’s a nice relaxed feel in the café. Good coffee, good chips, disgusting veggie burger. Pleasant staff that sit down next to you to take your order. The cherry vodka’s are divine. In the day time it is rather quiet, the only noise coming from the continuous – eventually irritating – groups of friends of staff that come in to say hello. The TV is on all the time, showing the Wizard of Oz and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Whatever happened to Baby Jane, or – tackiest of all – highlights of the Oscar ceremonies.

I had scorned the city’s sudden infatuation with Europe. ‘All these new places, Chez Jules, Café en Seine, what’s the point?’ I say. To which Herr Friday said: ‘They’re just bullshit, *we* will make this city European!’