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February 7, 2013 / Nick

J.J. Moon’s, Tooting


J.J. Moon's TootingAs a man in my early twenties, I have spent a number of evenings in the company of friends drinking inexpensive drinks in passable JD Wetherspoon’s pubs. From The Bright Helm in Brighton to The Diamond in Derry I have wet my whistle in numerous Wetherspoon’ses nationwide and while I wouldn’t count any of them as being the best example of Britain’s famous public houses, it is sometimes nice to know that you’re never far from a quiet, cheap drink.

One of the Wetherspoon’s pubs I have spent time in is a long and narrow boozer opposite Tooting Broadway tube station named J.J. Moon’s. I haven’t been in there since one time, while I was waiting for my friends, a drunken lady in her 50s came over to touch me on my face and tell me, apropos of nothing, that her son was apparently a helicopter pilot. I was sceptical and made a hasty exit as soon as possible.

Tim Martin - Wetherspoon's founder

Tim Martin – Wetherspoon’s founder

I tend to assume that Wetherspoon’s pubs are named with some kind of local significance and don’t really investigate their meanings very much. That was until I was on the complete opposite side of London on a bus going through Wembley when I happened to catch sight of a JDW pub also named ‘J.J. Moon’s’. ‘That’s strange’ I thought. ‘I’m sure there’s a J.J. Moon’s in Tooting as well. Who is J.J. Moon?’. And so began some amateur sleuthing with an unexpected outcome…

The 'JD' of JD Wetherspoon

The ‘JD’ of JD Wetherspoon

Some might be aware that JD Wetherspoon is not named after a person called JD Wetherspoon. The ‘JD’ is from “Boss” JD Hogg in The Dukes of Hazzard (right). Mr Wetherspoon was a teacher who told the company’s multi-millionaire founder, Tim Martin, that he would never amount to anything.

Naturally, the first place I looked for more information was the Wetherspoon’s website. This is where I was in for my first shock. There is not one, not two, but FIVE Wetherspoon’s pubs named ‘J.J. Moon’s’, located with no particular rhyme or reason in Tooting, Wembley, Ruislip Manor, Hornchurch and Kingsbury (mapped below).J.J. Moon's locations

Pubs with ‘local history’ sounding names have a ‘pub history section on the website that tells you more about the significance of the title. So for Charing Cross Road’s high-ceilinged watering hole The Montagu Pyke it says:

The main part of this Wetherspoon pub – fronting on to Charing Cross Road – was built in 1911 by Montagu Pyke, as his 16th, and last, cinema.

Fascinating. For Wimbledon’s double-entry, double-bar, double-loo pub The Wibbas Down Inn it says:

This Wetherspoon pub takes its name from an early spelling of the name Wimbledon. It was also recorded as ‘Wibbandune’, which is supposed to have been the scene of a battle, in AD568, between Ceawlin, King of Wessex, and Ethelbert, King of Kent, in which Ethelbert was defeated.

So now you know. And for my university’s local Spoon’s in Sheffield, The Swim Inn, it says:

The pub occupies part of the former Glossop Road Baths. Built in the early 19th century, the privately owned baths were later taken over by the council and extended.

So on, so forth. However, the five J.J. Moon’s pubs do not have these for some reason. To find the answer to the question ‘Who is J.J. Moon?’ I needed to dig deeper.

I quickly phoned Wetherspoon’s customer services with my interesting question.
“That’s an interesting question” said the customer services advisor, Jodie. “I don’t have the answer here but I can find out and get back to you by email”.
Minutes later I had the answer to the question in my inbox…

“J.J. Moon” is the name of a fictional surf star created by Surfer Magazine during the 1960s. J.J. would often be pictured riding a huge wave in Hawaii or riding the nose at Malibu.

I can confirm that this name was chosen by Tim Martin himself.

So there you have it. J.J. Moon is not a local hero in Tooting or a philanthropist from Hornchurch or even a small-time poet from Ruislip Manor.
He’s not even from Britain.
Heck, he’s not even a real person.

Or isn’t he..? Even more sleuthing (Googling) into the history of J.J. Moon found an article from the Orange County Register entitled ‘Remembering the legend that never was‘ which says that J.J. Moon WAS a real man.

J.J. Moon started life in the 1960s as a hoax pulled by Surfer Magazine (which I’m guessing is a magazine for surfboarders rather than a publication pre-empting the invention of the world wide web), who used photos of amateur surfer Ned Eckert in the magazine claiming he was one of the world’s best boarders.

Ned Eckert - The 'real' J.J. Moon

Ned Eckert – The ‘real’ J.J. Moon

The idea was hatched that it would be interesting to see if SURFER magazine could actually create a surf star out of an unknown, and truthfully not very good, surfer.

Then the magazine started using his name for every great unidentified picture it printed. The story was that Moon had 11 toes and was the only surfer on Earth who was capable of “hanging eleven.

Over the course of about a year or so J.J. Moon was featured in all kinds of press, a couple documentaries and was a “plays himself” character in a play about surfing. He was nominated for the SURFER POLL and actually got enough votes to make it into the top 20 in the world.
Corky Carroll – Orange County Register

There was even a two-page exposé in a 1966 edition of LIFE Magazine. It’s a remarkable, almost Catfish-like story of a fictionalised person becoming legend with a life of its own, and way more interesting than the fusty Victorian London politician that I imagined J.J. Moon would turn out to be.

The truth really is stranger than fiction.

So, where was I? Oh yes. J.J. Moon’s in Tooting…Yeah, it’s rubbish.

Review: A less than amazing pub with a more than amazing name.
3/10

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4 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. dgv@hotmail.co.uk / Feb 4 2014 12:52 pm

    write some more reviews you slag

  2. Vic Neal / Mar 3 2014 12:08 pm

    Brilliant journey of a read!

  3. Sean / Feb 18 2015 7:16 pm

    It’s better than the Spoons I’m currently sat in in Balham.

  4. Chris / Aug 29 2015 11:42 pm

    funny enough they have his name next to a bunch of quotes that are on a board of quotes in each pub behind the scenes. Weird to discover the bloke doesn’t actually exist!

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