About a month ago, Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award designer John Ward got in touch with me about cult TV series The Prisoner. He thought he might have the original ‘No 6’ badge which star Patrick McGoohan wore in the series. I wrote a blog about it.
John Ward wearing The Prisoner’s No 6 badge from MGM
I found the blog piece delightful and fascinating. What a story, and what a wonderful set of items to now own! Not heard of MGM sending actual artefacts before. Photos yes, artefacts no!
I personally think this is unlikely to be an original badge, and agree with one of your conclusions that this may have been something reproduced and sent to various folk who wrote to Patrick McGoohan / MGM. The reasons I believe it may not be genuine are as follows (and I’m not saying this to annoy or depress, but to help John Ward build an overall picture for these wonderful items):
a) Number Six only wore/used his badge for around 5 seconds, in a scene from the episode Arrival, where he is handed the badge outside of the Hospital in The Village (in reality, Castell Daedraeth in Portmeirion). He immediately tears off the badge and tosses it into a Village taxi. At no other point in the episode, or series, does he wear the badge (you may recall he defiantly states “I am Not a Number!” at the start of each episode). Because of this, the badge will not have been used in any beach scenes and therefore any ‘sand’ is likely to be coincidental.
b) The series’ propsman Mickey O’Toole, who was in charge of creating and organising the badges, when interviewed about the series, spoke at length regarding the re-use of the Number 6 badge. As extras from the series who appeared in Portmeirion when they shot the series from September 1966 were keeping their own numbered badges as souvenirs, the production crew found themselves short of numbered badges, so re-used the Number 6 badge by adding other digits, so there are 3 different Number 66 background characters in the first episode Arrival, for example, produced by simply stenciling another ‘6’ onto the existing ‘6’. Therefore, the original ‘6’ badge probably didn’t last beyond those first two weeks of filming, as it was modified to become a different number.
However, that’s not to say that other Number Six badges were created and not used – such items were not catalogued, so you’d be justified in arguing that other 6 badges could have been produced. However, filming and production on the series was completed in February 1968 and, as such, it’s highly unlikely that any aspect of the series’ production remained at the studio for 12+ months after that.
By mid-1968 the props were broken up (with a few taken home by members of the production crew earlier that year (See https://www.theunmutual.co.uk/propscostumes.htm for some examples) and the costume store at MGM moved to nearby ABPC Studios (now known as Elstree Film Studios) for use in other series. By the time your letter was sent from MGM in 1969, it’s therefore incredibly unlikely that any aspect of the series remained at MGM to be mailed to you as it had all moved a year or so before.
But there certainly cannot be any proof that this is NOT an original 6 badge used in production, as the design certainly 100% matches those used in the finished episodes.
The Sohemian Society billed last night’s event thus:
At the beginning of the sixties Barry Miles was at art school in Cheltenham; at the end he was running the Beatles’ Zapple label and living in New York’s legendary Chelsea Hotel. This is the story of what happened in between.
In the Sixties is a memoir by one of the key figures of the British counterculture. A friend of Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, Miles helped to organise the 1965 Albert Hall poetry reading. He co-founded and ran the Indica Bookshop, the command centre for the London underground scene, and he published Europe’s first underground newspaper, International Times (IT), from Indica’s basement.
Miles’s partners in Indica were John Dunbar, then married to Marianne Faithfull, and Peter Asher (brother of Jane Asher). Through Asher, Miles became closely involved with the Beatles, particularly Paul McCartney, and In the Sixties is full of intimate glimpses of the Beatles at work and play. Other musicians who appear include the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen and Frank Zappa. This is the real story of the 1960s, from the inside.
The old Foyles building at 111-119 Charing Cross Road, London (Photograph by Tarquin Binary)
One of Miles’ more inconsequential yet fascinating memories was of Foyles Bookshop in London and an enterprising person he knew.
The old Foyles building in Charing Cross Road was a labyrinthine collection of books, arranged not logically by subject but confusingly by publisher and there was a Byzantine system of buying a book (if you could find it) involving two, possibly three, separate members of staff in different locations, so punters were meandering all over the place, books in hand, with no check on what, where or why.
In addition to the bizarrely arranged publisher sections, there was a Second Hand Books section and a Rare Books section.
If you were enterprising, as Miles’ acquaintance was, you could pick up several books from the Second Hand section and take them to the Rare Books section and sell Foyles’ own books back to them, all without leaving the shop.
It is lateral thinking and enterprising amorality like this that built us an Empire and makes me proud to be British.
Micky Fawcett (left) and Freddie Foreman re-met recently (Photograph by Steve Wraith)
The Edinburgh Fringe is a bubble.
Outside, real life goes on.
Life is not all about comedians.
Here is a photo of Kray Twins associates Micky Fawcett and ‘Brown Bread’ Fred Foreman meeting recently in the Raddison Hotel in London’s Tottenham Court Road.
Apparently, they had not met since the 1960s.
That previous 1960s occasion is described in Micky’s book Krayzy Days.
This is the way he describes it.
At the meeting I agreed to every detail for the killing of Billy Stayton.
Freddie Foreman said he would put a car in a certain location. The boot was to hold a sawn-off shotgun. Billy was to be driven to a pub on Hackney Marshes and we would be assisted by Albert Donoghue, a fella who some have said was given an initiation by the twins.
You can read elsewhere that they shot him in the leg to see if he’d go to the police and when he didn’t he was accepted.
Whoever wrote that needs to be shot in their own leg. It’s complete rubbish.
He was shot for sticking up for Lenny Hamilton and just another reason why I find it so hard to read some of those books.
We left the meet and I got into Freddie’s Citroën. He showed me how the suspension could be moved up and down to compensate for weight.
“Fred,” I said, once we pulled off, “don’t bother to put that gun in the boot. In fact, don’t bother with the car because I’m going. I’m finished. I don’t want to know. I’m off the firm.”
“Hmm,” was all he said.
I said: ‘I don’t want to know. All them fucking people they’ve got round them, I don’t know them, I don’t know their backgrounds. They’ll be putting it on them all eventually. This is ridiculous! Leave me out of it. I won’t be turning up. Drop me off.”
I got out in Cable Street and I went home and I forgot about them.
(From left) Teddy Smith, Micky Fawcett, Johnny Davis, Reggie Kray, Freddie Mills, Ronnie Kray, Dicky Morgan & Sammt Lederman at Freddie Mills’ Nite Spot in the 1960s (Photo: Krayzy Days)
“This new one,” said Micky, “is by the same people who made The Fall of The Krays and the same two guys who played the Twins in that are playing them in this. They’re claiming the previous film made a lot of money, which it probably did. David Sullivan – the pornographer – is the backer of it all.
“What is this new one called?” I asked.
“At the moment, The Krays and The Mafia,” Micky told me.
“Well,” I said, “that is going to be a very short film.”
“Yes,” said Micky. “I’ll tell you their full connection with the Mafia. There was a club in London which was run by the Mafia – The Colony and Sporting Club – in Berkeley Square. This was in 1966/1967. The Hollywood actor George Raft was the front man.”
“He,” I said, “got banned from Britain by the Home Secretary, didn’t he?”
“Yeah,” said Micky. “They were doing OK, the Mafia.”
In his book, Freddie Foreman – The Godfather of British Crime, Freddie Foreman writes: “The Colony’s patrons included Frank Sinatra and Robert Ryan, Dino and Eddy Celini ran the casino and the real owner was the MD of American crime Meyer Lansky. The Colony went on for a couple of years and was a good earner. George Raft, who had Mafia connections, wanted us to keep a low profile, though. He didn’t want faces to frighten away guests. In those areas, it was not the done thing.”
I asked Micky Fawcett today: “The Krays were not actually involved in the club?”
“No,” he told me, “but the Krays were going in there and unsettling people. They didn’t do anything very much, but one example was when there was an argument among a Jewish family in the club and Ronnie Kray jumped up and was going to make an impression – he thought it would impress the Mafia. But they went: Ron, Ron, Ron. This is not how we do things.
George Raft (centre) with Ronnie (left) and Reggie Kray
“And, shortly afterwards, George Raft said: Reg, I can see you’re not doing very well and would like to make a small gift to you. I want to give you £300 a week. So they agreed this. What I’m going to do, George Raft told Reg, is I’m going to give you an advance of £3,000.
“I don’t think Reggie had ever seen £3,000 before. So he took the £3,000 and split it between Freddie Foreman – he gave him £1,000. He gave £1,000 to the Nash family. And that left him with £1,000 to split with his brothers Ronnie and Charlie. And, when he’d done that, that was the money gone.
“Then the fight happened at Mr Smith’s in Catford and the Americans all got out of the country quick and couldn’t get back in – George Raft was banned from re-entry by the Home Office because his continued presence in the United Kingdom would not be conducive to the public good – and that was the end of the story of the Mafia and the Krays.”
“Why,” I asked, “did the Mafia get out of he country quick?”
“Because they didn’t want to be associated with people shooting each other.”
“I don’t think he was there, but there was a guy called Richie Anderson. He was on the firm (the Krays’ gang) for a while; I got on very well with Richie. He was a bit scornful of… You know the two Scotsmen who were with Ronnie when he shot George Cornell in the Blind Beggar? One fired the gun up in the roof. They hadn’t been round for long; they were newcomers, but Richie Anderson was very scornful of them:. You know why?”
“Because they came from Edinburgh and he came from Glasgow.”
“That would do it,” I laughed. “Glasgow chaps think chaps from Edinburgh are ponces and wankers, not proper hard men.”
“I was friendly with quite a few Jocks in the Army,” said Micky. “In the five minutes I was there. There was John McDowell. To look at him, you would imagine he’d been brought up on deep-fried Mars Bars. He came from Maryhill…”
“Ooh,” I said. “Buffalo Bill from Maryhill. There are supposed to be lots of descendants of Red Indians around Maryhill.”
“… and there was a bloke who came from Govan,” Micky continued.
“You know all the best people,” I said.
“I like Scotland,” Micky told me. “In the Army, Scotsmen, Cockneys and Scousers all kind of had more in common. There was a good experience I had in Scotland. Me and another guy sold a feller a distillery.”
“Legitimately?” I asked. “Did you actually own it?”
“Anyway…,” said Micky. “We sold him the distillery. We had never seen a distillery. So we thought we’d better go and see one. We jumped on a plane and went to one of these little towns near Glasgow. All done. So we thought we’d go and have a drink in the Gorbals.”
“Oh good grief!” I said.
“I wanted to see it,” said Mickey. “I’m fascinated by that sort of thing. All the windows were bricked up.”
“Which year was this?”
“The early 1960s.”
“You’re lucky to have got out alive,” I told him. “An English accent in the Gorbals.”
“I’ve been up there since and the Gorbals has gone.”
“They’ve blown up the tower blocks,” I said.
“And I’ve been up Ben Nevis and around Loch Lomond,” said Micky. “I saw the Queen up there… On my first visit to Scotland in the 1950s, around 1958, I went to the Braemar Gathering and she was there in the distance.
Princess Margaret in 1965 (Photograph by Eric Koch/Anefo)
“I can’t remember where I stayed; I might have slept in the car in them days – I had a wooden shooting-brake. But, the next day, I’m driving around and I recognise Princess Margaret’s car, because it had been on the television – she had a Vauxhall Victor.
“I saw a couple of soldiers in their uniforms with rifles, just standing around talking and there was the Royal Family sitting on big blankets out on the grass. Just sitting around drinking out of vacuum flasks and eating sandwiches.”
“It was not,” I asked, “Princess Margaret you sold a distillery to?”
“No,” laughed Micky. “I can’t remember the details of the distillery. But we also sold La Discotheque in London.
“I was in the Kentucky Club (owned by the Kray Twins) and there was a feller who had run dance halls. Do you remember Lennie Peters?”
“Yeah. and because this feller was in the dance hall business, the Twins thought that was exactly the same as being in the music business. It was confused in their minds. So Reggie asked this feller: Can you do anything for Lennie Peters? The feller said: No, I can’t do anything.
“So the feller came over to us – me and another guy who were standing around just having a drink – and said: Make you fucking laugh, don’t they? He’s just asked me if I can do anything for Lennie Peters? How am I going to do anything for a fucking blind man?”
“Later, I said to Reggie: You asked him, did you? And Reggie says: Yeah. The usual thing. I’ll chin him.
“I said: No, no, hold it a minute. We can do something with him.”
“We?” I asked.
“Me and the guy I was working with. I had a partner for a long, long time. We worked well together. So we talked to this guy and found out how his dance halls worked and how they didn’t work and said: We can do something for you. Would you like to run La Discotheque? It was the first discotheque in the West End. A feller called Raymond Nash owned it, a Lebanese…”
“Nash?” I asked.
“Yeah. Not the Nash family. He was a Lebanese guy, a top criminal.”
“Lebanese criminal?” I asked.
“Yeah. But in England. He died not long ago and there were big articles in the papers about him. His daughter got caught by Japanese and – oh – if someone wanted to make a good story, that really would be a good story.”
Raymond Nash had also been an associate of slum landlord Peter Rachman.
“So,” Micky continued, “we approached Raymond Nash and said: Listen, we got a feller we wanna do a bit of business with, if you could make all your staff just salute us and give us the run of the place for a night…
“He said: Alright, you got it.”
“He got cut-in for a percentage?” I asked.
“No. No money for him. He just wanted to be friendly with The Twins…
Krayzy Days – Micky Fawcett’s memoir
“So we went back to this feller – Ron Kingsnorth his name was – he had a dance hall in Romford – and we said to him: Listen, we can do something here. We’ve put the frighteners on that Raymond Nash and we can take over La Discotheque. We’ll take you up there, have a look round, see if you fancy it.
“And I forget the figure we got out of him – but it was a few grand.”
“So he bought it?” I asked.
“He bought the running of it from us and then Raymond Nash came along and said to him: What are you doing here? Fuck off!
“The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band started in 1962,” I said, “and ended in 1970. Sir Henry was created by Vivian Stanshall after that.”
“Yes,” said Michael. “After the Bonzos finished, Viv was at a loose end and so he sat in for John Peel (the BBC Radio DJ) in 1971 when he had a month off. Viv did four shows called Radio Flasheswhich featured comedy sketches with him and Keith Moon (of The Who rock group) as Colonel Knutt and Lemmy.”
“Those two must have taken some controlling.” I suggested.
Keith Moon (left) and Vivian Stanshall were far from uniform
“There is a story,” said Michael, of a bierkeller here in Soho and Viv Stanshall and Keith Moon walk in – Viv is dressed as an SS officer and Moonie’s dressed as Hitler. There’s photos of him and Moon with the map of Europe open and the riding crop.
“Anyway, after Radio Flashes, Viv got asked in to the BBC to do more John Peel sessions and what Viv chose to do was a thing called Rawlinson End which was essentially a long, rambling monologue about this crumbling stately home with the heroically drunk Sir Henry and all the people who inhabited the environs. And, as a result, the mailbag was full of: What is this? Where can I get it?
“So John Peel’s producer John Walters used to go round to Viv’s house and literally drag him out and take him to Broadcasting House to record this thing and I suppose, by 1978, the momentum was so large they turned it into an LP.
“In Sir Henry, there are so many lines lifted from so many things, but Viv has placed them forensically in there, like with tweezers – like Joe Orton defacing a library book – and you don’t notice them because they’re seamless.
“There’s a line – I stumbled with all the assurance of a sleepwalker. Viv nicked that line from Mein Kampf.”
Michael Livesley performing as Sir Henry
“That sounds unusually poetic of Hitler,” I said.
“Yes,” said Michael. “Viv puts the line – I stumbled with all the assurance of a sleepwalker – into the mouth of Hubert, his brother, crossing to the wind-up gramophone to put on some old popadoms which Sir Henry brought back from India.”
“I like the fact,” I told Michael, “that you mentioned Joe Orton and the library books.”
“Oh yes,” said Michael. “It’s like a pointless little act of rebellion that nobody may ever notice.”
“There is something oddly Joe Ortonish about it all,” I said.
“Yes,” said Michael, “They completely chew away at the foundations of all of our culture in this country and spit it out. We are talking about this, aren’t we, because you blogged about The Alberts.”
“Indeed,” I said. “How did you hear about the Alberts?”
Influential Evening of British Rubbish
“They did a year in the West End in London in 1963,” replied Michael, “with Ivor Cutler in a show called An Evening of British Rubbish. Neil Innes and the Bonzos went to see that show and thought: This is what we should be doing!”
“So it’s not bullshit,” I said, “to claim The Alberts and An Evening of British Rubbish influenced the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band?”
“Oh no,” said Michael, “And a line can be drawn directly from Spike Milligan and The Goon Show to The Alberts to the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band – Bruce Lacey doing the sound effects for The Goon Show and then performing with The Alberts, who influenced the Bonzos.
“I like to know every link in the chain – such as Joe Orton or The Alberts or knowing that Bertolt Brecht influenced Spike Milligan. It’s nice to know where all this stuff comes from. The Theatre of The Absurd and all that. Stuff does not just pop up out of the ground.”
I said: “The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band started in 1962 and ended in 1970. So they are a pure 1960s group.”
“Yes,” agreed Michael.
I never saw the Bonzo’s last London performance
“In my spare bedroom,” I said, “I have a poster for the Bonzo’s last London performance – at the Polytechnic in Regent Street – but I didn’t go. I did see Grimms. I remember Neil Innes singing How Sweet To Be an Idiot with a duck on his head.”
“It was a thing out of Woolworth’s,” replied Michael, “called a Quacksie with the wheels took off it.
“Viv got on stage at The Lyceum in London on 28th December 1969 to announce the band was ending. At the time, he was completely bald after getting up halfway through the family Christmas dinner and shaving off all his long hair. He returned to the table to resume eating with a bald head.
“They worked out their commitments for the next 3 months, including the Polytechnic gig on 21st February, and their very last gig was at Loughborough University on 14th March 1970. They had to do an LP in 1970 due to contractual obligations. And Viv’s LP of Rawlinson End was released in 1978.”
“When Lou Reed was contractually obliged to do an album,” I said. “he released a double album of just noise.”
“Yes,” said Michael. “In the mid-1960s, Brian Epstein was going to sell the Beatles to Robert Stigwood, who managed the Bee Gees and the Beatles said: If you do that then, for all the albums we owe you, we’re just gonna sing God Save The Queen for every track.”
“The 1960s and 1970s,” I said, “always seem to have culture-changing originality.”
“That,” said Michael, “is the crux of a lot of the radio documentary I’m currently making about Neil Innes – The Bonzos were the house band on ITV’s Do Not Adjust Your Setand that’s where they met Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Jones (later in Monty Python’s Flying Circus). Then, in the second series of Do Not Adjust Your Set, Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python) comes along doing the animations. When I talked to Terry Gilliam, it became self-evident to me just how different those times were and how mavericks like Tony Stratton-Smith were so important to that thing.”
“There’s a book – Bomb Culture by Jeff Nuttall – and, in that, he argues that young people were making art then because tomorrow they might be blown to smithereens. There was an immediacy to art in the 1960s and 1970s when you were growing up with the threat of nuclear destruction over your head. You’re not going to have the same set of values. You’re not going to have the same application of deference. You’re just going to do stuff because you might not be here tomorrow.
Arty Bomb Culture by Jeff Nuttall
“I think within Bomb Culture there’s a lot of explanation for the 1960s and 1970s – that immediacy, that explosion of culture in the 1960s and 1970s. There were people like Brian Epstein and Robert Stigwood and Tony Stratton-Smith who had money and said: Just go do it. We’ll worry about it later…
“Tony Stratton-Smith – BOF! Go make Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Here’s money. Go make it. He wasn’t worried about getting his money back and, in the short term he lost a lot of money. But that attitude means you can just create.
“You don’t get that now – it’s all about making money – though now there’s a democratisation about the tools of creating. You’ve got a recording studio in your pocket.”
“And you get to work with whoever you want,” I said.
“I am the luckiest fan there is,” said Michael, “to be working with all these people. I love every aspect of creating, like everybody does in this game. I’ve been asked to sing with the Bonzos at the Coco in Camden Town on 17th April. That’s even madder. To be asked to sing with them.
“And I sang the Bonzo’s number Sport (The Odd Boy) – with Stephen Fry at the Old Vic in January, which was a real Pinch myself moment.”
“Is Stephen Fry a fan of Vivian Stanshall?” I asked.
“Oh, massive. He’s a huge fan. He indulged Viv an awful lot while he was alive. He helped him put on shows. He bankrolled Stinkfootat the Bloomsbury Theatre.”
“You yourself don’t have that sort of Medici figure,” I said.
“But I’m happy to be at the mercy of market forces,” Michael told me.” There’s got to be some satisfaction in this work. It’s no good going playing to your mates every week and them telling you you’re wonderful.”
“The worst thing,” I agreed, “is to be on your death bed and wonder What if?”
“It is,” said Michael, “like that great philosopher Terry Venables said: I’d rather regret what I’ve done than what I’ve not done.”
“I am currently making a radio documentary about the career of Neil Innes.
There is a promo for the radio documentary – titled Innes 70th Year – on Soundcloud
So, obviously, we met and had a chat the next time Michael came down to London from Liverpool.
“I never actually saw The Alberts perform,” I told Michael, “but I went up to Norfolk to see them at home and Tony Gray was dressed as a cricketer for no apparent reason. I think he probably just generally dressed that way. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band – Vivian Stanshall and Neil Innes and all that lot – are a bit Albert-ish.”
Michael’s boyhood Fat Gang tribute band The Eatles
“When I was a teenager in the 1980s,” Michael told me, “I was aware of Neil Innes cos of The Innes Book of Recordsand when BBC TV repeated The Rutles. After that, me and me mates in school formed ‘The Fat Gang’ who were all the fat lads who used to wag it and go and do other stuff cos school was a bit boring.
“We started a thing called The Eatles in the shed in my back garden and we did daft songs about food, inspired by Beatles songs – Your Mother Should Eat and Magical Chippie Tour were a couple.
“I wasn’t aware of who Vivian Stanshall or The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band were until I got into what I suppose are called ‘art school’ bands when I was at art school myself. It was only about twelve months later, but that seems like years when you’re a kid.”
“We did Sir Henry at Rawlinson End with Stephen Fry at the Old Vic two months ago,” said Michael. “Aardman filmed it – not in stop/start or we would have been there all year. It was me, Stephen Fry, Ronnie Golden, Neil Innes and Rod Slater out of the Bonzos.”
“You’re like a fan who struck gold,” I said.
“When I first started doing Sir Henry at Rawlinson End,” said Michael, “it was cos I loved it. I wanted to see it performed. And partially also because I was sick of people saying: Who is Vivian Stanshall? People shouldn’t be allowed to forget.
Vivian Stanshall’s original Sir Henry at Rawlinson End LP
“I was cycling all the time, trying to get fit and listening to it – the record. But I wanted to see it performed. It sounded like the best Jackanorystory you’d ever heard. It had been filmed but, when you have different actors playing all the parts, it takes away from one storyteller doing all the voices.
“The 1978 LP was all as a result of this amazing guy called Tony Stratton-Smith, who was a maverick in the 1970s and who threw money at the likes of Monty Python and Vivian Stanshall and Genesis. He founded the Charisma record label after he had been a sports journalist. He described himself as a gentleman and adventurer.”
“When you decided to do the show,” I asked, “you had to get the family’s permission?”
“What was Vivian Stanshall’s father like?”
“He’s dead now, of course,” said Michael. “They all lived in Walthamstow and, before World War II, it was all East End geezer accents there but then his dad went away to the RAF in the War and came back speaking posh and made his lads speak like that. Viv said about the posh accent that it was literally punched into him.”
“Any eccentricity in the family?” I asked.
“His dad,” replied Michael, “was born Vivian and changed his name to Victor Stanshall and then Vivian was born Victor and changed his name to Vivian Stanshall.
“And his dad used to roller-skate all the way from the East End to the City of London in his pinstripe suit. He used to tell Vivian: With a good haircut and clean fingernails, one can literally roller-skate to the top.”
“Vivian has a son?” I asked.
Vivian’s son Rupert’s Handyman site
“Rupert,” said Michael. “He’s got watfordhandyman.com He does building work. I think if your father is Vivian Stanshall, your rebellion is to become ‘normal’ for want of a better word.”
“What do you yourself do?” I asked Michael.
“I’ve thrown away all the fall-backs,” he told me. “all the safety nets. It was a year to the day the other day since I walked out on me last job teaching drama.”
“To be a promoter/performer?” I asked.
“A performer,” Michael replied. “Being a promoter is a necessity these days, really.”
“So you were cycling around,” I said, “and decided you wanted to see Sir Henry at Rawlinson End performed on stage. So what did you do?”
“I got a band together,” Michael told me, “and hired the Unity Theatre in Liverpool for two nights. I got a good theatre director called Paul Carmichael, totally versed in Shakespeare and absolutely obsessed with classic British TV comedy. I knew he would know all the right cultural signposts.
Michael in the Liverpool Unity premiere on 22nd June 2010
“The reviews were great and the next morning the guy who ran the theatre rang and asked me to do it again. Then it started building up a momentum and it was when I was in Paris for about a month, bored, drinking all the time that, one afternoon I thought: I need to put this on in London.
“So I got on the internet and hired the Lion & Unicorn – just a room above a pub in Camden – and staged it there one Friday night in October 2012 and Neil Innes came to see it. And Ade Edmondson and Nigel from EastEnders.
“Afterwards, Neil Innes gave me this massive hug and a guy from Mojo music magazine was there and reviewed it which helped. The show was on the Friday and then, on the Monday morning, Neil Innes rang me up and just said: Hi, Mike. What can I do to help?
(L-R) Rick Wakeman, Michael Livesley, Jonny Hase and Danny Baker at the Bloomsbury Theatre after the show
“So then we did some more shows and I did a couple of shows with Neil at the Epstein Theatre in Liverpool and then in 2013, when Viv would have been 70, we ended up at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London and all the Bonzos bar Roger were able to appear and the next thing was Rick Wakeman and John Otway both said they’d do it too. And that went really well. Danny Baker came along to watch. It was madness. It’s been nearly six years of work now and the first three were very difficult in terms of getting traction.”
Fubar Radio today – Paul Gannon raising Comic Relief money
This blog is being posted very late today because, basically, I slept all morning. Pure laziness. Then I went to a 27-hour Comic Relief live podcast being run at Fubar Radio by Geekatorium podcaster Paul Gannon. There was a smell in the studio of stale Red Bull intermingled with under-arm deodorant.
I was not there for 27 hours. The live show had started at 8.00pm last night and ends at 11.00pm tonight. I was there for about an hour.
But still, as a result of all that, today’s blog is an irrelevant, partially-mistaken memory.
I have a terrible memory. I always have.
Sometimes people think I have an excellent memory. But that is because I write appointments and events in a diary.
If I remember to.
I am the perfect audience for comedians. I hear jokes, like them and, five minutes after leaving the venue, I have forgotten them.
I am usually the oldest person in a comedy club.
It stands to reason.
Though I think reason is much over-rated.
I was saying to someone last night that, inside, no matter how old they are, everyone feels they are around 26 years old.
But, even when I really was around 26 years old, I had the memory of a 126-year-old. And what follows happened well before I was 26.
David Bowie in 1967, the so-called Summer of Love
When I talked to musician Clifford Slapper recently for an upcoming blog, I mentioned I had never seen David Bowie perform music live, but I had seen him perform live as a mime artist under the name Davy (or it might have been David) Jones at, I thought, the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. David Jones was, I said, supporting Tyrannosaurus Rex, the (much better) hippie precursor to rock/pop band T-Rex.
That was all I remembered – and part of that was wrong.
Today, Clifford told me he had managed to piece together the actual facts.
The gig I remembered apparently took place on 3rd June 1968 at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
I should have known this, because I actually mentioned it in a blog in 2011, which I had forgotten.
David Jones did indeed support Tyrannosaurus Rex on a bill which also included Roy Harper and Stefan Grossman, both of whom deserve to be, but are not, widely remembered. Ha! I say remembered. They are still around.
I remember David Bowie being introduced as David Jones – yet ‘David Bowie’ is clearly billed as such in this ad for the gig
“He did a 12-minute mime performance,” Clifford tried to remind me of David Jones/David Bowie. “His mime piece was called Yet-San And The Eagle with a backing track made by Bowie and Tony Visconti.”
I had mentioned to Clifford that Tony Visconti had turned up at a rather odd series of weekly philosophy lectures which I attended around that time. All I remember is that he wore a black velvet jacket and had a very attractive girlfriend.
I remember nothing about the David Jones mime at the Tyrannosaurus Rex gig. I had gone along to see Tyrannosaurus Rex. And I tend to go along with the late comedian Malcolm Hardee’s opinion of mime as a tragic waste of time.
“The backing track to the mime piece,” Clifford reminded me, “aimed to sound Tibetan but used a Moroccan stringed instrument from Portobello Road and sound effects with saucepans rather than cymbals. The compere was BBC’s John Peel.”
I remember none of this.
Tyrannosaurus Rex: My people were fair and had sky in their hair… But now they’re content to wear stars on their brows
“Marc Bolan of Tyrannosaurus Rex,” Clifford tells me, “was fiercely competitive and allowed Bowie on the bill only on condition that he mimed but did not sing. The piece was about the invasion of Tibet by China and some Maoists had got wind of it and turned up to heckle the mime. One voice shouted out Stop the propaganda!”
I remember none of this.
“Bolan,” Clifford tells me, “was delighted by the heckle, but Bowie later said: I was trembling with anger and went home sulking.”
All I remember is seeing David Bowie perform as David Jones or maybe Davy Jones.
David Bowie has gone through Ch-ch-ch-changes
This happened on 3rd June 1968.
I guess I knew David Jones was also David Bowie, because Bowie had apparently released his single The Laughing Gnome (under his David Bowie name) in April 1967.
According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), the single was not a success. I rather remember it being quite widely played and thought I remembered it being a success.
But history is whatever is written down and read, not the possibly faulty memories of those who were actually there.
I feel I have turned into a cliché character. I was there, but clearly I cannot remember the 1960s.
And I did not take drugs. Fuck knows what the people who were drugged out of their skulls don’t remember.
Faces of the 1960s. (From left) Teddy Smith, Micky Fawcett, Johnny Davis, Reggie Kray, Freddie Mills, Ronnie Kray, Dicky Morgan and Sammy Lederman at Freddie Mills’ Nite Spot. (Photograph from Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days)
“a psychopathic homosexual rumoured to have had affairs with Ronnie Kray and Tom Driberg, the former Labour MP. He disappeared the day after an argument with the Krays in 1967.”
The Kray Twins – gangsters Ronnie and Reggie – are iconic figures of the 1960s.
They were arrested in 1968, the year after ‘the summer of love’. Their associates included Micky Fawcett and ‘Mad’ Teddy Smith.
When I chatted to Micky Fawcett in June 2013, I mentioned it had been widely reported over the last 40 years that Teddy Smith was killed by the Krays. A very good article in the Daily Mail in August 2010 headlined SEX, LIES, DOWNING STREET AND THE COVER-UP THAT LEFT THE KRAYS FREE TO KILL repeated the story that the Kray Twins had killed him.
“No,” Micky told me in 2013, “I would think he’s in Australia or somewhere like that.”
Micky Fawcett (left) with son Michael Fawcett at The Ritz
I had another chat with Micky Fawcett and his son Michael Fawcett this week.
“When Reggie Kray was on his deathbed,” Micky told me, “he was asked if he had been involved in any unknown-of killings and he couldn’t miss the chance, knowing it was the end, of saying: Well, there was one other… and that was all he said.
“Then Nipper Read (the Scotland Yard detective who arrested The Krays) told the Daily Telegraph: Yes, we know all about it – It was Teddy Smith they killed and they buried him down at Steeple Bay (in Essex).
“But,” Micky told me this week, “there is this bloke who’s very interested in Teddy Smith – he’s got a sort of bee in his bonnet about him – and he had a chat with us and he finished up going to Australia and found Teddy Smith had died from natural causes in 2006.”
“How did he track him down?” I asked.
“We had pictures,” said Micky, “and he went out to Australia. Teddy Smith was quite a character. He used to walk around and he had a little tiny dog and a long cigarette holder.”
Teddy Smith in the 1960s, shortly before he did not die
“Was he gay?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” said Micky. “He considered himself to be a playwright and he did write a play once for the BBC.”
“It was,” said Michael Fawcett, “the first TV play to be broadcast in colour on the BBC. It was called The Top Bunk. Something to do with prisons.”
The Top Bunk was transmitted by BBC TV on 30th October 1967 in their Thirty Minute Theatre series. Teddy was credited as Ted Smith and, according to the BBC synopsis:
“Two old lags who share the same cell have got prison life down to a fine art. They are upset when an outsider, a public school type and a first timer, is made to live with them and bowled over when he reveals a sinister side to his nature, which makes him their natural leader, entitled to the position of prestige – the top bunk.”
“He was put in Broadmoor,” said Micky. “Mad Teddy Smith was. He was certified insane. He used to be very confident.
“I was talking to him one day in the house in Vallance Road (where The Krays lived with their mum) and, as we walked out, he said: Oh, they get on my nerves. They drive me mad – talking about violence all the time. If only people knew what I did to get myself certified and into Broadmoor…”
“What did he do?” I asked.
“I never found out,” sad Micky. “He was an interesting character, though. This gay bloke with this dog and this cigarette holder.
“On another occasion, Ronnie said: Do us a favour, Mick, there’s a fellah called Cholmondley – he was one of Ronnie’s young ‘friends’ – I’m sending Teddy Smith to get hold of him for me. Can you go with Teddy and keep an eye on Teddy for me? So I went with Teddy Smith to Soho. I thought I knew Soho, but Teddy took me to two or three different unlicensed bars above clip joints and whatever.
Francis Bacon, acquaintance of Mad Teddy Smith (Photograph by Jane Bown)
“We went in one and there were all these men in hacking jackets like you’d expect to find at a golf club or somewhere like that. They were obviously all gay and one of them was the painter Francis Bacon, who knew Teddy because that was his sort of style.
“Yeah. Lenny Bruce had been in there. There was a box office with a little grille. Teddy Smith said I just want to go in and have a look for a friend and the fellah said You can’t come in without a ticket.
“So Teddy Smith was getting a bit annoyed and said Could you come round here? I want to have a word with you and I thought Awww… Fuck off, I’m going to get involved in a murder here or something. But a fellah came from behind in a brown smock and with a bit of a black eye and he said: I’m Detective Sergeant Challenor. Can I help you?”
“Woo-hoo!” I said.
“You know about Challenor?” Micky asked me.
“Oh yes,” I said. “Was it Challenor?”
“Yes,” said Micky. “So I was out the door with Teddy Smith as quick as I could. At the time, I was living in fear of Challenor. I didn’t want to cross his path. He would have set me up and I’ve been set up a few times by the Old Bill.”
Richard Attenborough (moustache) was Truscott in Loot film
“Truscott of The Yard,” said Michael Fawcett. “Truscott in Joe Orton’s play Loot was modelled on Challenor.”
“They put him in a mental home,” Micky said to me. “Challenor. You know – Bongo Bongo? He had a war against crime in Soho, going round punching people.”
Challenor was posted to the notoriously corrupt West End Central Police Station in 1962. It policed the Soho area. At one point, Challenor had a record of over 100 arrests in seven months. He eventually totalled 600 arrests and received 18 commendations. He achieved this by using what were, at that time, by no means unusual techniques.
Various people claimed to have been beaten up or to have had evidence planted on them by Challenor, but they were still convicted.
On 11 July 1963, though, he arrested Donald Rooum, a cartoonist for Peace News, who was demonstrating outside Claridge’s Hotel against Queen Frederica of Greece.
Challenor reportedly told Rooum: You’re fucking nicked, my beauty. Boo the Queen, would you? and hit him on the head. Going through Rooum’s possessions, Challenor added a half-brick, saying: There you are, me old darling. Carrying an offensive weapon. You can get two years for that.
‘Mad’ Harold Challenor – upholder of the law in 1960s Soho
Rooum, a member of the National Council for Civil Liberties, handed his clothes to his solicitor for testing. No brick dust or appropriate wear-and-tear were found and Rooum was acquitted, although other people Challenor arrested at the demonstration were still convicted on his evidence.
By the time Challenor appeared at the Old Bailey in 1964, charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, he was deemed to be unfit to plead
“They chucked him out of the police,” said Micky, “and said he’d had a mental breakdown.”
He was sent to Netherne mental hospital in Surrey and was said to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
A total of 26 innocent men were charged during Challenor’s activities. Of these, 13 were imprisoned. On his release from hospital, Challoner worked for the firm of solicitors which had defended him during his trial.
Since then, “doing a Challenor” has become police slang for avoiding punishment and prosecution by retiring sick.
Welcome to the wonderful world of British policing.
Before 1963, Britain was basically still living in the early 1950s or in the mid-1930s… 1963 was a social earthquake that rumbled on.
And then, in 1967, there was Flower Power and the Summer of Love which only really lasted about six months. I tried wearing a floral shirt, not wearing a watch and going around without shoes, but gritty pavements and dog shit soon scuppered that idealistic experiment.
1967 was immediately followed in 1968 by student unrest and the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in Grosvenor Square. They were riots, really – uprooted metal railings against police horses. Classmates from my school were at one and told me about police over-reaction, though I think there may be two sides to that story.
So 1967-1968 quickly switched from flower power, peace and love to student revolt and potentially worse in the course of a year.
It was like that in London, anyway.
The other changes I remember were sights and sounds and smells.
Somewhere around that time, someone invented a way to clean soot-black buildings with (I think) high-pressure water. British cities like London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow had been black. Just black stone and brick smelling of soot. Slowly, they were cleaned and architectural details appeared.
Somewhere around then, too, sodium street lamps came in.
Before then, in back streets at night, you walked carefully in darkness between pools of light from not-very-strong white street lights. When sodium lighting came, it flooded the streets with an orange light.
And, somewhere around that time, rubber-soled shoes came in.
Before that, you heard everyone walking behind and beside you in clip-clop-clip leather-soled shoes. With rubber-soled shoes, you did not hear people behind you. At the time, I felt this was a bit unsettling.
But that was a long time ago.
If anyone remembers things differently, another blog on this may follow.