Category Archives: Urban myths

Two men ‘killed’ by the Kray Twins who were never killed and are still alive

Micky Fawcett experienced Krayzy Days

Micky Fawcett experienced some Krayzy Days

Regular readers may find this hard to believe, but I do cut a lot out of my blogs to shorten them.

Yesterday’s blog was about a chat I had with Mickey Fawcett, an associate of those ever-iconic gangsters the Kray Twins.

I cut several pieces out of our conversation about his book Krayzy Days.

But the joy of writing a daily blog is that you can correct omissions.

Today’s blog takes up roughly where yesterday’s conversation finished…

“Reading all the rubbish that had been written, motivated me to write my book,” I quoted Micky as saying yesterday. “I wanted to write a book saying what idiots the Twins really were,” he added. “And how amusing.”

“Has it been cathartic, writing the book?” I then asked him.

“It’s enabled me to re-live it,” Micky told me. “You’d have to read the book to understand how amused I was by the Twins.”

“You said they were idiots,” I prompted him.

Monty Python and Michael Palin,” said Mickey, “did a brilliant… That nail-the-head-to-the-floor thing came from headlines in the Daily Mirror. But it was a foot that was nailed to the floor and it was the Richardsons. They did it with a knife to a feller. But the Krays were getting the blame for it.”

Arthur Thompson, ‘kind hearted' Glaswegian

Arthur Thompson had a ‘heart of gold’

I cut the rest of the conversation, but it went on:

“In Glasgow,” I said, “Arthur Thompson had a habit of crucifying people but he was said to have a heart of gold, because he once had a man nailed to the floor in front of the man’s wife, but left behind a claw hammer so she could take out the nails.”

“Oh,” said Micky, “Arthur Thompson. They came down to London once. I got on very well with the Scotsmen I met. And, in the Army, you find the Cockneys and the Scousers and the Jocks from Glasgow all seem to get on OK with each other.”

Micky then went back to talking about the legend of the Krays.

I mentioned that, in the ‘Revised and Updated’ 3rd Edition of John Pearson’s highly-respected book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins. it was implied that the Krays killed their driver Billy Frost in the 1960s.

Billy Frost - Dead men don’t drink tea

Billy Frost – Dead men don’t drink tea

In fact, I had tea with Billy Frost in 2009, during the filming of Killer Bitch and we have exchanged Christmas cards ever since. I think he was happily living at home in the East End of London when The Profession of Violence was first published in 1972.

There is a 2008 interview with Billy on YouTube and he was interviewed in a February 2010 issue of Spitalfields Life

In a blog in June 2011, I wrote: “It’s amazing how people allegedly killed by the Krays over forty years ago can be so lively.”

This came to mind when I chatted with Mickey Fawcett this week and I mentioned the fact that it was in print in various places that the Krays had killed Billy Frost in the 1960s, yet I had met him in the 2000s.

“That rumour didn’t half go around a lot,” said Micky, “and there’s Teddy Smith. Have you come across that one?”

I certainly had. It has 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 repeats the story that Teddy Smith “died at their hands”.

“I knew Teddy Smith quite well,” Micky Fawcett told me this week, “and I saw him in King’s Road.”

Teddy Smith in the 1960s, shortly before he did not die

Teddy Smith in the 1960s, shortly before he did not die

“When?” I asked.

“Since his death,” said Micky. “I think he’d just had enough. I would think he’s in Australia or somewhere like that.”

“Can I print that?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Micky.

“He might get uppity,” I said.

“Teddy Smith? No, he’s alright.”

“I suppose,” I said, “once you’ve been dead for over 40 years, it doesn’t matter much.”

And I suppose, unlike much written about the Kray Twins before Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days, that is true.

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Filed under Celebrity, Crime, Urban myths

I wanna tell you a meandering story which ends with a large sexual organ

No truth in obituaries

When the late comedian Malcolm Hardee died, the surprisingly voluminous obituaries quoted some of the many bizarre stories linked to him. But, often, the stories were slightly wrong. It was fairly obvious the obituarists had read Malcolm’s autobiography (which I wrote with him) but were slightly mis-remembering and mis-quoting the anecdotes.

One story involved his genitals getting painted in day-glo paint. It happened at the Glastonbury Festival but at least one obituary claimed he regularly did this at comedy clubs.

Now, because the mis-quoted and mis-remembered stories were printed, the myth will become fact.

Malcolm would have liked that.

Yesterday afternoon, I bumped into top rock fiddler Bobby Valentino in a street in Greenwich.

Somehow, the subject of calling people ‘Wally’ came up – as in “He’s a Wally,” meaning “He’s an idiot.”

I said: “I think that started at some rock festival in the West Country, didn’t it?”

Was it originally Wally from Essex or Wally from Wessex?

“No, Essex,” said Bobby Valentino. “There was a Weeley rock festival in Essex in 1971. I was still at school and a mate of mine, Barry Bartlett or Spot Hughes, came back from the Festival and said, Oh, I’m Wally from Weeley, and, from then on, everyone was called Wallies.”

“The story I heard,” I said, “was that an announcement kept being made Could Wally please contact the organisers about something and eventually people started to yell out Wally! as a term of derision and, when they left the festival and spread out to their homes across the country, the name spread all over the country too. That’s the story, isn’t it?”

“As far as I know,” said Bobby Valentino. (Update for regular readers of this blog: his dispute with PRS over royalties for past work continues.)

When I got home, I looked up Wikipedia, which currently reckons a Wally chant did develop over the course of the Weeley Festival weekend in 1971, but that it had been a continuation of the same behaviour at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.

I had heard the term ‘Wally’ had started in the West Country. This seems to have been because (again according to Wikipedia) in 1974, a group of New Age travellers encamped near Stonehenge were being evicted and, to hinder the eviction, they all gave their name as Wally of Wessex.

Stories take on their own life. And, you may have noticed, I have been quoting what is in Wikipedia as fact. Always a dubious thing to do. But people do.

Later yesterday, I got an e-mail from Bobby Valentino:

“After I saw you today,” it said, “I remembered an Edinburgh Festival story which I hope is true.

“Some years ago one of Kirk Douglas’s sons – the one who had the drink and drug problems – fancied himself as a comedian and booked himself a slot at the Festival. At one of his shows, he wasn’t going down at all well, brick-like in fact. He then said completely the wrong thing – Do you know who I am?… I’m Kirk Douglas’s son.

“A quick witted member of the audience immediately piped up: No, I’m Kirk Douglas’s son!  to be followed by another audience member… and another… and another.”

(For extraordinary people who have never seen the movie, this is a reference to the scene in Kirk Douglas’ Spartacus where, at the end, everyone in the hero’s army stands up and says I am Spartacus.)

“As far as I know,” I told Bobby Valentino, “the story is totally true, but it happened at the Comedy Store in London.”

I said this with some authority, having heard the story several times. But who knows if it is actually true?

“I think I might blog about stories tomorrow,” I told Bobby Valentino.

“If you do,” he said, “you should point out that there are two sorts of people who tell stories more than they actually do what they’re supposed to do – musicians and fishermen.

“John Sebastian wrote a song about it called Stories We Can TellThe Everly Brothers covered it and I played it with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.”

After all this, last night, I went to Vivienne and Martin Soan’s monthly Pull The Other One comedy club in Herne Hill, South London.

In May 2011, I posted a blog about a very weird night there which included, in the audience, a very large black man with one eye, a speech defect, a shaven head and a beard.

He was there again last night and sat right by the stage.

Michael Smiley and audience member last night

About a third of the way through the wonderful Northern Ireland comedian Michael Smiley’s act, which involved tales of coming to Great Britain 30 years ago, the very large black man with one eye, a speech defect, a shaven head and a beard asked in a conversational tone:

“Are you Scottish?”

“No,” replied Michael Smiley to loud laughter. “Are you Pakistani?” he added to louder laughter (including very loud laughter from the black gent).

When the laughter subsided, Michael asked: “Do you love people from Scotland?”

“I am the last king from Scotland,” the very large black man with one eye, a speech defect, a shaven head and a beard told Michael Smiley.

“You’re the last king of Scotland?” Michael Smiley said. “You’re not mate. Let me spread a few more rumours for you. What else have the voices been telling you?”

“You can get on with the show now,” the very large black man with one eye, a speech defect, a shaven head and a beard, said languidly.

“Well,” said Michael Smiley amiably, amid laughter, “if you’ll shut up, I will.”

“Alright,” said the very large black man with one eye, a speech defect, a shaven head and a beard.

“Thankyou,” said Michael Smiley.

The audience laughed and then added in a few ironic Owwwws of sympathy.

“Yeah, yeah,” said Michael Smiley, joining in, “He comes in, sits at the front, shouts out mad shit all the time, I try to get on with my shit, I try to get him to shut his shit up and I’m the feckin’ bad guy!”

The audience roared with laughter.

“I might have to stand up here and wank off a pig for you by the end of the show, just to weird the whole thing up just a little bit more. White middle class Herne Hill come out for a bit of weirdness!

“Just so you can say to your friends tomorrow: You shouldn’t have bothered your arsehole with that new restaurant down in Brixton Village. We were up in Herne Hill last night in the dark like a firecracker and there was a mad black bloke at the front and a really angry Northern Irish guy on stage. That was two stereotypes for the price of one! I couldn’t believe it! All we needed was a fuckin’ midget on a unicycle… There’s an angry lesbian poet on at the end. This is like shit time travelling. All you people who bought your squats in the 1980s are just flipping out now. When you get back to your house, there’ll be a re-run of Boys From The Black Stuff on TV and you’ll come in your pants!…”

The audience roared with laughter.

It was a very weird night

And that is without even mentioning the very attractive young girl Mina The Horse prancing around the stage with a tail sticking out of her bottom or Richard Vranch and Pippa The Ripper giving a chemistry lesson with hula hoops or George Egg producing a large bowling ball from a small suitcase and sharing with the audience the fact that, to encourage their greyhounds to win races, owners smear mustard on the dogs’ arseholes when they put them in the starting traps.

After the show, my eternally-un-named friend who used to work for the late comedian Malcolm Hardee told me: “He once asked me to get a large penis for him.”

This was at his Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich.

“I think he was being a bit… well, he might have actually wanted it but there was one somewhere – was it in the dressing room upstairs?” she asked me.

“Search me,” I said.

“Or maybe it was behind the upstairs bar,” she continued. “I think it was a prop.”

“You think it was a prop?” I asked. “But it might not have been?”

“You always ask me these things when I’m very tired,” my eternally-un-named friend complained. “It’s not fair. It was a prop. I don’t know what he was actually using it for at that point, because I hadn’t seen it in anything, but then I didn’t see the shows, did I, because I was in the box…”

“So did he…” I started to interrupt.

“…office,” she completed.

“So,” I continued, “did he suddenly just say Get me the giant penis?”

“It was after a show and everything was winding up,” my eternally-un-named friend explained, “and there was a large penis upstairs and I can’t remember now because I’m very tired, but I think it was a papier-mache one. Whether it was worn on the head or on another part of the body I don’t know. Maybe an act had had it and left it behind or whether Malcolm actually wanted it…”

“But you found it?” I asked.

“Well, he told me where it was,” she replied. “I think it was in the dressing room and there was a muddle of stuff up there, but it was obvious which one it was.”

“How giant was it?” I asked.

My eternally-un-named friend held her hands apart.

“That’s about 18 inches,” I said. “What colour?”

“I don’t remember,” she said. “It was the early 1990s and I’m very tired, but I think it was a life-likey thing. I can’t help thinking it might have been some sort of headgear…”

“For a dickhead?” I asked.

“…or a prop,” she continued. “To be honest, I don’t even remember if it was papier-mache. You know who might know? Martin Soan. He might say, Oh yes, there was a giant penis we used.”

“Were there a lot of dickheads around Up The Creek?” I prompted.

“You know what Malcolm was like,” said my eternally-un-named friend, ignoring me. “There was a point where he has this stuffed cat, which you could easily get from the Nautical Shop.”

“That’s where he got it,” I said. “I was there when he bought it.”

But that’s another story.

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Filed under Comedy, Rock music, Urban myths

The rules of being an Italian stereotype

Yesterday afternoon, I flew back to London from Milan. The English girl in the next seat on the Ryanair flight was at university in Italy. We were talking about the bureaucracy there. Italy is a good place to visit. Not a good place to live because of the bureaucracy.

“I’ve never known inefficiency like it,” the girl said. “I thought England was bad… but Italy…!

“It’s the lying,” she continued. “Constant lying. If they actually said something would take two months, I might be irritated. But they say it will take ten days, knowing it will take two months, then I’m just very, very angry. It’s like they enjoy it.”

That morning, on a motorway near Bergamo, I had been talking to my friend who lives near Milan about the cliché of Italians.

“They’re very conventional,” she said. “The way they dress, the colours of the cars they drive. The neatness of the way they dress. The women’s make-up. It’s like they obey the rules they think are expected of them.”

“What about the cliché of bad Italian drivers?” I asked. “I’ve never driven in Italy, but they never seem to me to be as bad as the stereotype. There’s a problem in Rome, but it’s because they have enormous wide-open street junctions and no traffic lights. The system’s haywire, not the driving.”

“I tell people who come here,” my friend said, “that the most dangerous thing on Italian roads is to drive slow. You have to drive fast because everyone else does. If you drive slow, they will go straight into the  back of you. You have to drive with confidence even if you don’t have any.”

“They drive far too close to the car in front,” I agreed. “No braking space if anything happens.”

“They ignore all the rules on the road,” my friend said. “It’s like they think they’re expected to disobey the rules of the road, so they all disobey the rules because that’s the rule. They weave in and out and use the hard shoulder. They tailgate like they have a death wish. I’ve been overtaken a hearse at traffic lights. He ran the red light at great speed, with the cross on the bonnet wobbling.”

“It’s the legacy of the Ben-Hur chariot race,” I suggested.

“Mmmm,” my friend said as we were overtaken on both sides by speeding trucks.

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Filed under Italy, Urban myths