Next year, at least two movies are going to be released about British gangsters The Kray Twins – Reggie and Ronnie.
Higher profile is Legend, starring Tom Hardy as both Kray brothers and written/directed by Brian Helgeland who won an Oscar for scripting L.A.Confidential. It is based on John Pearson’s book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins, but the movie focusses mostly on Reggie Kray.
Apparently, in Legend, there is a scene in which Reggie Kray climbs up a drainpipe to his future wife Frances’ window with a bunch of flowers in his hands, like some latter-day Romeo courting his Juliet.
“I can’t think of no-one in the world less likely to do that sort of thing,” Micky Fawcett told me when we chatted at the May Fair Hotel in London’s West End.
Mickey, as readers of previous blogs will know, has done that rare thing – written a realistic and unglamourised insider’s view of what life with the Krays was like – in his book Krayzy Days.
“I was surprised,” I said, “when I first heard Reggie was bisexual. I thought he was totally straight and Ronnie was the gay one.”
“Apparently,” said Micky, choosing his words carefully, “before I knew him, as a younger man, he indulged in bisexual activities but, by the time I knew him, he was trying to leave that behind him and he weren’t particularly sexually motivated at all. He didn’t want to be known as a gay – though the word ‘gay’ wasn’t common at that time. He didn’t want to be known as a poof.”
“Ronnie was openly gay,” I said.
“But Ronnie didn’t care,” said Micky. “He was in and out of prison and open about it all. I didn’t know that Reggie was until a fellah I was with said: You know, they’re queer, them two? I said: What? They can’t be. Are you sure? Nah!
“He said: I’m telling you. They are! You’ve only gotta watch. You know. Them young boys around the billiard hall…
“Reggie was trying to get on with his life and then he met Frances (his future wife). Apparently he met her cos he went round to her house to speak to her brother on some unimportant business and she opened the door. She was fifteen and wearing a gymslip and Reggie… fell in love with her… as it were.
“He had an ambition to open a flower shop because the American gangster Dean O’Banion had had one and it was also the done thing to have a beautiful woman on your arm if you were a gangster. He didn’t have one and Frances fitted the bill. He wanted… eye candy, I guess.
“Being a possessive type of person, he wanted to possess her and that got worse and worse and worse. He put her on a pedestal. All he wanted to do was buy her things and make a fuss of her while she wanted to live a life with things that women and young girls normally want – such as children and sex.
“Once Reggie and Frances were married, he couldn’t adjust to that type of normal life. Normal to him was get up in the morning, have something to eat, go out blagging people round the various car sites, getting on with ‘business’ and then, in the evening, go home, freshen up, go out and carry on the same kind of thing but in drinking clubs and nightclubs.
“One day, Reggie said to me: I’m going to have a night in tonight. I’m not looking forward to it, but I gotta have a night in.
“Next day, I asked him: How was the night in?
“Oh, he said, I wondered where everybody was. I wondered what you were doing. It was driving me mad. He told me about the list of things he’d bought. He’d bought himself bags of crisps and bottles of lemonade and anything he thought normal people got for something to do in the night-time.
“It was like an experiment for him. I’d never ever known him to have a night in.
“Ronnie would have nights in, but surrounded by young boys and anything else he could think of. He took a shine to singing. Ronnie liked tenors. He liked listening to them. So he’d get people round and listen to tenors and people would be sitting there listening, frightened to look this way or that way and say: Very nice, Ron. Very nice.
“I walked in there one day when he was playing his music. He said Very good, innit, Mick? and I said Yeah. Who is it, Ron? Mario Lanza?
“No, he said. Harry Secombe.” (One of The Goons comedy group.)
“So Ronnie liked to sit and listen to opera?” I asked.
“Yeah,” said Micky, “But Reggie never had nights in. That one night he did have in, Frances would have been sat there and Reggie would have been sat there and they would have been just looking at each other.”
“They didn’t have long conversations?” I asked.
“Nah!” said Micky. “She wasn’t very talkative. I never knew her to hardly talk to anybody. She just looked around wide-eyed, maybe doing her nails.”
“People were justifiably frightened of The Krays,” I said.
“One night,” Micky said, “Reggie and me was sitting in the Grave Maurice pub in Whitechapel – before he married Frances – and Reg said: Mick, can I have a word with you? He said: I was sitting outside Frances’ in me car last night and a car came round the corner and somebody’s dropped her home. I’ve got Johnny Hutton to HPI it (Hire Purchase Investigation – to find out whose car it is) and I’ve got the fellah’s name and address. Can we do something about it?
“I said: Let me check it out first, Reg, eh? and I went home.
“So, about 5 o’clock the next morning, there was a tapping on my window. It was Reggie and he said: Can we do something about it tonight? I must find out. I can’t sleep. He was in a terrible state. It was that possessive thing I mentioned. I said: I’ll go round there and see what can be done. But I can’t go now; it’s 5 o’clock in the morning.
“So we drove around for about an hour or more, talking, with me calming him down. I told him: My mate Stevie Tucker lives down the other end of the road. I’ll drop you off there.
“So Reggie went in and sat with Lou, Stevie’s wife. I got in Stevie’s car and we had a drive round to where the fellah lived.
“I knocked on his door and the fellah came out all cocky – it’s Sunday morning; he’s got no shirt on – What d’ya want, mate? he says.
“I told him: You were seen with Reggie Kray’s girlfriend last night.
“He went: Whaatt!!!???? and he run indoors, shut the door – this is the truth – opened the letter box and said: Speak through here!
“I said: I don’t want your wife to hear.
“He says: I don’t care if me wife hears! Anything you like! I don’t mind! I don’t mind!
“Eventually, I got him to open the door again and he came out and he was crying. I’m sorry, he was saying. I dunno; I dunno.
“Alright, I said. Calm down. Calm down. You’ve been fucking warned and you’re getting away with it for the moment. Behave yourself.
“And he was crying and crying and went back in the house.
“I went back to pick up Reggie and said: What’s happened… That fellah was a friend of her father’s. She’d been round her father’s house and he dropped her off.
“Then Reggie said a strange thing. He said: She ain’t pregnant, is she, Mick?
“I said: How can she be fucking pregnant? He just give her a lift from her dad’s.
“Alright, alright, Reggie says. You sure about that, though, ain’t you?
“The end of it was the fellah’s wife said to somebody else in Upton Park: I’m going to stab that Micky if I see him. Just because my husband got drunk in one of their clubs and made himself a bit of a nuisance, he come round on Sunday morning and started on him.
Ronnie Kray died of a heart attack in prison in 1995.
Reggie Kray died in 2000 shortly after being released from prison on medical grounds (an inoperable bladder cancer).
Reggie’s wife Frances committed suicide in 1967.
So it goes.