The White Room was a bar and café off Shaftesbury Avenue, not exclusively gay, which flourished in the 1930s and 1940s, and especially during the Second World War.
Described by Noel Coward as the haunt of ‘the seedier West End chorus boys’,1 it was also a place for American servicemen to enter gay life and to latch on to some dizzying gay gossip. Edward Field noted in his autobiographical fragment:
- "In the White Room I started to hear gossip for the first time, true or not I had no way of knowing, about various English aristocrats who meant nothing to me then, among them Prince Philip, the future Prince Consort. He seems to have followed a similar pattern to many Brits, who, like the novelist Evelyn Waugh, graduate to a ‘straight’ life after a gay youth spent in Public Schools and at Oxford and Cambridge. Or they are openly gay on ships at sea. I was told that nobody could graduate Sandhurst, the West Point of Britain, without putting out for the higher officers. And barracks where the soldiers and sailors held orgies every night. And country life where all the farm boys were available to the gentry…. All this, whether exaggerated or not, was heady stuff, and I suppose it’s true that wartime liberates you from convention.
- "The only time I went home with anyone from the White Room was with a handsome, fair-haired British officer with a handlebar moustache like in the movies, who had an apartment. I don’t know what I expected, but when he stripped in a matter-of fact way, he was wearing regulation wool long johns that gaped open to reveal a huge tool like a horse cock, that unaccountably repelled me, and to his astonishment I grabbed my coat and left.".
- Edward Field, Gay in the Army (2007), cited in David B Feinberg, Gay American Autobiography (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009) pages 195–196.