Tag Archives: boxing

Arthur Smith: the singing comedian is obsessed with an amateur boxer-poet

Arthur Smith is singing as the dead Leonard Cohen – again

Comic Arthur Smith, an Edinburgh Fringe regular spanning two centuries, is only going up for three days this year, to perform his legendary Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen show – re-titled Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen – The Final Tribute.

“Why did you originally decide to sing Leonard Cohen anyway?” I asked him.

“Because,” he explained, “my play An Evening With Gary Lineker was running in the West End so it didn’t really matter what the fuck I did. So I did a show called Arthur Smith Sings Andy Williams. You know what it’s like. You have to pick a title in March for the Edinburgh Fringe in August. I had no intention of singing Andy Williams songs. It was a title I picked because it just seemed stupid.

“I am old school, I don’t actually write my shows until… Well, it got to about a month before Edinburgh and I thought: What the fuck am I actually going to do in this show?… Well, I’ve got Tony Hawks on the piano, so I might as well actually try to do a couple of Andy Williams songs. But then I got very interested in this bloke… I think of him as a bit like Malcolm Hardee in a way. He was a footnote in history. A character called Arthur Cravan. He was the nephew of Oscar Wilde, though he never met him.”

Arthur Cravan. “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about… not being talked about,” said his uncle.

“Was he Irish?” I asked.

“It’s hard to tell,” Arthur shrugged. “He was brought up in Switzerland. Then he lived in Berlin, then he moved to Paris, where he started selling his art magazine Maintenant! and became notorious for slagging everyone off. Then he was a boxer and won the French Amateur Boxing Championship and used to parade around the ring – long before Muhammed Ali – saying: This guy’s a wanker!

“He was also a thief. There were so many stories about him. Then the First World War started and he fled to America. He met Trotsky on the boat over to America. Once over there, he was invited to give a lecture at the Museum of Modern Art or somewhere about this new weird thing Dadaism. But he came on and he was drunk and he took his trousers down and had a piss on the table and got arrested. This was deemed by the Dadaists to have been a great success. He really was like an early Malcolm Hardee. He then supposedly went hitch-hiking round Canada dressed as a woman.”

“I presume,” I said, “he did this for no reason at all?”

“Never stood a fucking chance”

“Well, I think he was escaping. He was usually escaping from something. He then married a woman, a poet called Mina Loy and went to Mexico. Mina Loy, who was pregnant by then, was going to join him, but then he disappeared. It was thought that he got on a boat and it sank, but it was never really known – which, of course, is a great way to go – people not really knowing if you have gone. He was spotted here-and-there ever after. Oh! – And in 1916 in Barcelona he fought the then just finished World Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, the first black champion who had been pretty-much exiled from America for going out with white women. There’s little bit of film of him boxing on the internet.”

“How did he fare?” I asked.

“He never stood a fucking chance against Jack Johnson. But they were both just trying to make some money. He famously had huge bollocks.”

“Like Malcolm,” I said.

“There were just loads of stories about him,” Arthur continued. “Like Malcolm. He really is this sort of mythical footnote in history.”

“And they both died by drowning,” I said.

“Yeah. Possibly. He was only in his 30s when he died. If he died. He was a ludicrous figure. I did a thing about him on BBC Radio 3 a while back.”

“What has this to do with Arthur Smith Sings Andy Williams?” I asked.

“Ludicrous… We only charged something like 20p to get in”

“Ah yes!” laughed Arthur. “I got obsessed with Arthur Cravan and I went to an exhibition about him in Paris, at which point I decided to make the Arthur Smith Sings Andy Williams show about Arthur Cravan, punctuated by Andy Williams songs. I had this whole thing about Was Andy Williams really Arthur Cravan? It was the most ludicrous show. We only charged something like 20p to get in. You were offered your money back on the way out. We had a gala performance that cost something like £50 – for TV executives on expenses. I started the show talking about Arthur Cravan. People wondered what was going on. Then I suddenly started singing Moon River. I had Andy Smart as a plant in the audience and we had a fight during the show.”

“Did you impersonate Andy Williams’ voice?” I asked.

“As far as I can,” said Arthur. “And I had a bear that came on. Do you remember Andy Williams used to have a bear come on in his TV shows?”

“It seems to have slipped my mind,” I said.

“I conceived…” said Arthur, “I was going to do three Arthur Smith Sings… shows. I picked Leonard Cohen as a follow-up to Andy Williams because it just sounded so boring: Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen.

“So what has happened to the third Arthur Smith Sings… show?”

“I have a few in mind. Maybe Arthur Smith Sings The Supremes or Arthur Smith Sings Serge Gainsbourg or Arthur Smith Sings Little Mix. You pick the title for being funny before you worry about what’s in it.”

Arthur Smith Sings Harry Styles?” I suggested.

“Or Arthur Smith Sings Alan Bennett,” mused Arthur. “I dunno. I don’t thing he’s done a lot of singing.”

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Lewis Schaffer knocks himself. Cocaine is a Nice Little Earner for Jason Cook.

After yesterday’s blog appeared, Lewis Schaffer – a man who knows a thing or two about effective promotion using ‘self-knocking copy’ – issued a double press release:


LEWIS SCHAFFER TO BE A LEAD IN A PLAY (??!)

One Giant Leap for Lewis Schaffer

Giant Leap – one small step for Lewis Schaffer

In what has to be the most insane move of the year, Lewis Schaffer, the failed old New York Jewish comic now living in Nunhead, Southeast London, has been cast to co-star in a play making its debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

He will be co-starring with comics Tom Stade and Phil Nichol in the new play GIANT LEAP at The Pleasance. He is in every scene of the 70 page script, has lines on over 60 of the pages and is to be paid money and accommodation.

This is to be Lewis Schaffer’s first live acting gig since he appeared in The Odd Couple as a 17 year-old at Great Neck North Senior High School on Long Island, some 41 years ago.

Lewis Schaffer is to play a failed old New York Jewish comic.

*   *   *   *   *

LEWIS SCHAFFER TO CHARGE ADMISSION AT THE EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE 2015 FOR HIS SOLO SHOW

Lewis Schaffer’s tour poster

Lewis Schaffer – the current national tour poster

In a shocking announcement, Lewis Schaffer star of the the Free until Famous brand, is to charge admission for his formerly free show, the first time in seven years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015.

He will be interrupting his unique and amazing Free until Famous tour to ask for money in advance. His tour is at over 45 of the largest and most prestigious theatres and arts centres in the UK. Dates include 23rd July at Exmouth; 24 July in Guildford; and July 25th at Barnsley.


Jason Cook A Nice Little Earner

Jason Cook on to A Nice Little Earner

That is one way to promote a product. Another way is to take the Jason Cook route, which is to buy me breakfast at a cafe in Borehamwood.

Jason is heavily dyslexic yet has just published A Nice Little Earner, his third book in a gangster quadrilogy. Yesterday morning, over bacon & beans, he told me:

“We’re launching a competition for the new book. You have to answer a question about Vinny Jones – all the details are on the website – and you win copies of all three books, signed by me. And I’m going to be doing signings again at WH Smiths and Waterstones in August.

“Five months after that, we will publish the fourth book – Cocaine: The Devil’s Dandruff. And, in the meantime, we’re working on the film scripts.”

“There were,” I said, “only going to be three books?”

Jason - “Elements have been changed to protect ourselves"

Jason – “Elements have been changed to protect ourselves”

“Well,” Jason told me, “the editor looked at the third book and said: There’s two books in here. What do you want to do? So I said: Publish it as two books. So we cut the third one into two books. The four of them can be read separately or as one story.”

“How do I describe these books?” I asked. “Fictionalised reality?”

“They’re based,” said Jason Cook, “on a real-life story, but the elements have been changed to protect ourselves and other people.”

The central character running through the books is called The Cookster.

“Remind me what the four books are about,” I prompted.

Jason Cook’s first two semi-autobiographical crime books

Publicity for Jason’s first two semi-autobiographical books

“The first one,” said Jason, “There’s No Room for Jugglers in My Circus, is about a young boy who grew up in Borehamwood and how he gets involved in criminality – drugs and gun crime – and is used as a chess-piece in an international smuggling ring. It’s set in London, Borehamwood, Marbella, Colombia and Jamaica.

The Gangster’s Runner is about how organised crime works and who’s involved – the trappings – fast money, power, cocaine, guns.

One way to publicise yourself: your own money Jason Cook

One way to publicise yourself: print your own Cookster money

A Nice Little Earner is about the main characters in the drug smuggling, about Mr Niz, his smuggling of the cocaine and about the ‘firms’ in London.

Cocaine: The Devil’s Dandruff will bring it all to an end and how Mr Niz was involved. He was actually nicknamed ‘the milkman’ because he was able to deliver cocaine in any country.”

“So,” I said, “overall, the books are about…”

“They’ve got,” said Jason, “police, gangsters, villains, a grass, prison, plenty of powder and connections to the football and boxing underworlds.”

Say hello to Jason Cook's little friend

Wanna publish? Okay. Say hello to my little friend. 

“Connections?” I asked.

“Organisations,” Jason said, “with regard to boxing promoters and football ‘arrangements’ and bribery and the signing-over of a Premier football club… allegedly.”

I asked: “Not a player? A club.”

“A club,” said Jason. “And there’s a football player who gets blackmailed. The footballer’s being blackmailed by the footballer’s wife.”

“His own wife?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

Jason has plans to film his books

Jason – plans to turn his books into movies

“Because he’s fixing matches. Obviously, we have protected all the names. A lot of it has already been in the news, but you’ll read about it first hand in the book.

“The Sun newspaper sent a reporter down to talk to me and took pictures three months ago but, after talking to their solicitors, they decided not to do the article because, they said, they ‘didn’t want to open a can of worms’.”

“I would have thought,” I told Jason, “that you should be more worried about the consequences to you.”

“I talked to my solicitors about what I could put in the book and talked to a lot of of the people involved.”

Even so…

If true…

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Filed under Books, Boxing, Comedy, Crime, Drugs, Football

Arrest of the Kray Twins; Frank Bruno; and the winner of Britain’s Got Talent

Micky Fawcett in the May Fair Hotel yesterday

Micky Fawcett was in the May Fair Hotel, London, this month

A couple of days ago, I blogged about a chat I had with Mickey Fawcett, a close associate of iconic 1960s gangsters the Kray Twins.

“I dug out some statements the other day,” he told me.

‘The ones made when you were arrested with the Twins?” I asked.

“Yeah. There were loads of people arrested.”

“It was fraud you were acquitted of?”

“Yes. I wasn’t charged with anything else.”

“This is,” I checked, “when the Krays were arrested for the two murders?”

Krayzy Days by Micky Fawcett

Micky Fawcett’s book about The Firm

“The murders and everything,” said Micky. “The whole thing. I was the last one arrested because I kept out-of-the-way for a while. I had always given my mother’s address, so the police kept missing me. I had stopped speaking to the Twins at this point and was enemies with them and we were trying to kill each other.”

“As,” I said, “in the first sentence in your book.”

“Yes,” said Micky. His book Krayzy Days starts with the words:

We were going to kill Reggie Kray. I had a .38 revolver and we were waiting for him late one night outside John Bigg Point, a block of flats in Stratford, East London. Reggie and I had once been close and for years I knew the Kray twins as well as anyone. But now their world was in disarray. They were lost in their own celebrity; a fame which brought with it a circle of yes-men and hangers-on. Wannabe gangsters who fuelled brother Ronnie’s madness. Only a few of us who had been around for longer could see the twins were heading for disaster. If we didn’t do anything they would take us down with them.

Micky Fawcett (right) with Ronnie Kray (left) & boxer Sonny Liston,

(From left) Ronnie Kray, boxer Sonny Liston, Micky Fawcett (Photograph from Krayzy Days)

“You got off,” I said. “How?”

“I had a plan,” said Mickey.

“What was that?” I asked.

“People will have to read the book,” he laughed, “but it involved the Financial Times.”

“What was the fraud you were charged with?” I asked.

Long firm,” said Micky. “Poor old Stanley Crowther was running the long firm – a gay, alcoholic, ex-barrister.”

“I feel,” I said: “there is a sitcom in this.”

“What used to happen with Ronnie, though,” Micky continued, “was that he would spoil a long firm by jumping in halfway through. On one occasion, he said to me: Come on, Mick: a bird in the hand is worth four in the bush.

Larry Gains - British Empire (Commonwealth) heavyweight champion, Ronnie and Johnny Davies with the twins’ racehorse Solway Cross.

Twins’ racehorse Solway Cross with (L-R) British Empire heavyweight champion Larry Gains, Ronnie Kray and gunman Johnny Davies. (Photograph from Krayzy Days)

“Another day, he went in and said: I need £1,000 to buy a racehorse. And he bought one. The Twins really bought it for their mother.  But it was a ‘three-legged’ one. It never won anything. They auctioned it.

“One of the statements I read the other day was when the Twins got arrested. Nipper Read – Chief Superintendent Read, he was at the time – goes into the council flat the Twins are using in Bunhill Row and his statement reads: I said to Reginald Kray ‘You are under arrest’ and he said ‘Aaahhh! Mr Read, we’ve been expecting you. You’ll find it a bit more difficult this time, because we’ve got lots of friends now, you know’… The Twins got 30 years!”

“Nipper Read,” I said, “was an unusually straight copper, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” Micky agreed. “Nipper Read was straight. But he weren’t straight with me.”

“When?” I asked.

“Just after the Twins had been arrested and I had been acquitted, I applied to the British Boxing Board of Control for a licence to train a boxer – which they gave me, after checking me out. Then, a couple of weeks later, they asked me to come back again and Nipper Read was there and James Morton, his mouthpiece.” (James Morton was then a lawyer, but later wrote books with Mad Frank Fraser and about gangland in general).

Micky Fawcett ‘gloving up’ Funs Banjo

Micky Fawcett ‘gloving up’ Funso Banjo for a boxing match

“They were part of the Board of Control,” Micky explained, “and they said: Your licence has been rescinded. You were granted one by the Southern Area Council but now the full Board has discussed it and you can’t have a licence. You knew the Kray Twins.

“I said: Well, a lot of people knew the Kray Twins. Everybody knew the Kray Twins.

Yeah, they said, but you knew them more than most. So they stopped me getting a licence, despite the fact I had been acquitted in court.”

“But,” I said, “You got a licence eventually.”

“Yeah, but it took years and not getting one ruined me, because I had a boxer and he didn’t want to be trained by someone who the Board of Control didn’t consider to be a fit person to have a licence – despite the fact I had been acquitted in court and I had stopped speaking to the Twins and we were trying to kill each other… Nipper Reid was a nasty little man. But it was deeper than that.”

“In what way?” I asked.

Micky Fawcett’s boxer Funs Banjo

Micky Fawcett’s boxer Funso Banjo (Photograph from Krayzy Days)

“What happened was Terry Lawless and Mickey Duff and Mike Barrett and Co had Frank Bruno. And I had a black heavyweight boxer called Funso Banjo – his real name was Babafunso Banjo. And they were afraid I would topple Bruno. They didn’t want anyone to spoil the Bruno patch and that is why they took my licence away. To make it really difficult for me. Funso Banjo ended up boxing Joe Frazier’s son.

“And Funso’s son Ashley Modurotolu Banjo won Britain’s Got Talent in 2009.”

“Doing what?” I asked.

“Dancing. He was a ballet dancer. He’s the leader of Diversity, the dance troupe. He’s performed at the London Palladium and been introduced to the Queen. Never been in any trouble. He’s done well.”

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Filed under Boxing, Crime

Why Jesus was not born in Scotland

Today, more news from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. She writes from Vancouver:


In Vancouver, Ben from Glasgow.(Photograph by Anna Smith)

Ben from Glasgow, making a living in Vancouver (Photograph by Anna Smith)

Ben from Glasgow tells me the reason Jesus was not born in Scotland was because they couldn’t find a wise man there.

Ben says he did stand up comedy in Toronto and was a jockey… I believe him… He has one joke after the next, is five foot one and knows about horses.

He told me he used to train race horses at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, then he worked his way out west exercising horses or swamping out stables, asking for temp work at racetracks. At one racetrack in Winnipeg, they asked him what he could do. He said: “Fuck, fight and fiddle.”

He was hired right away.

Scots boxer Benny Lynch (1913-1946)

Scottish boxer Benny Lynch (1913-1946)

He says he is the grandson of Scottish boxer Benny Lynch and, as soon as I looked up Benny Lynch, I could see it. He looks just like him and has the same mannerisms. He told me it was no picnic for his father – or any of them at that time, by the sounds of it.

But he still is laughing. A very cheerful guy… mostly.

For some reason he likes me. He let me know how to find him. It might be funny to do a rigged boxing match with him. They say I have a good left hook.

Meanwhile, Mark Steck, the bearded  motorcycling novelist from Missouri who sold me his book Artless not long ago, emailed me from California. He is in a redwood forest, reading your blog, on his way to Mexico.

I am moving back to my boat. A doctor named Derek Human (Head of Cardiology at the University of British Columbia) told me last week that my heart looks fine.

Anna Smith is no stranger to the hospitals of Vancouver

Anna Smith is no stranger to the hospitals of Vancouver

He said that my hose is definitely not coming loose – if anything it is stronger, as the scar tissue is holding everything so well in place that it will never fall apart.

They did almost a week of various scans, including four hours in an MRI where I was played Baroque concertos, which made me cry a bit.

All my neighbours on the river are happy that I am coming back and are talking about how great it is to live where you can throw potato peels out of the window. I agreed. I told them how horrible it is to live in an apartment and put all the food scraps in a bucket.

Are they using the term ‘lumbersexual’ in the UK? I noticed that a friend of mine who is a civil servant has been looking more like a lumberjack every day.

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Filed under Boxing, Canada, Medical, Scotland

What happened last night – talk of deaths, Islam and Olympic terrorists

Dave Courtney (left) and Roy Shaw on the set of Killer Bitch

Tomorrow, the funeral of Roy Shaw is held in the quiet Essex village of Upshire. He died ten days ago, aged 76.

Currently, Wikipedia describes him as “an English millionaire, real estate investor, author and businessman from the East End of London who was formerly a criminal and Category ‘A’ prisoner. During the 1970s-1980s, Shaw was active in the criminal underworld of London and was frequently associated with the Kray Twins.”

It is only then that Wikipedia mentions his main claim to fame: the unlicensed/illegal boxing scene.

Roy Shaw was legendary for his unlicensed/illegal  fights, particularly against Lenny McLean.

When I met him on the set of the Killer Bitch movie a couple of years ago, he was quietly-spoken and seemed rather shy. Gentlemanly in an old-fashioned kind of way.

“He was a sweet old boy he was. He had a heart of gold,” Lou told me last night.

Lou was the armourer and ‘death consultant’ on Killer Bitch.

“You knew him after he was a boxer?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. I knew him from about 1995/1996 from all the charity-raising things,” Lou said. “In the old days, he was built. Really strong man. Amazing. It was like his ears had muscles. The muscles started just below his ears and went down to his shoulders. He was in terrific shape.”

Roy Shaw was not the only recent death in the Killer Bitch cast.

Sean Boru died in February.

He only made a tiny appearance in the movie, but had the most extraordinary stories when I talked to him off-set.

He beat cancer three times, wrote his own autobiography No Sense of Tumour and ghost wrote the biographies of £9.7 million Lottery winner Michael Carroll (who also appeared in Killer Bitch) and snooker player Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins. He turned down the offer of writing rock reprobate Pete Doherty’s autobiography, reportedly on the basis that model Kate Moss was concerned it would expose too much of her private life.

He was also chummy with former alleged Irish bank-robber Gerry Hutch – ‘The Monk’ – much talked-of when I worked in Ireland in the mid-1990s.

Last night, I discovered Lou had made pocket money out of Killer Bitch’s notoriety:

“I bought an 8mm blank-firing .44 automatic for the film,” he told me. “It cost me £40 and I sold it the other week for £125. The guy wanted it because it had been used in Killer Bitch. Being used in the film had ‘added worth’ to it.

The death of Ben Dover in the opening scene of Killer Bitch

“And I sold that curved jambiya knife we used in the opening scene – where the naked girl stabs Ben Dover to death – I paid £12 for that at an arms fair and I sold it to a bloke for £40. Again, he wanted it because it had been used in the film.”

I spent two hours having tea with Lou.

When I came home, there was an e-mail waiting for me from film director Paul Wiffen, whom I blogged about yesterday.

“I was interested to read in your blog about the idea that people will be half-watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony in case there is a terrorist attack,” Paul’s e-mail said.

“However, I am fully expecting a terrorist attack not on the Olympic Stadium itself but on Stratford station. By making this the ‘public transport’ Olympics, the Einsteins at LOCOG have picked the terrorists’ target for them. If terrorists destroy the transport hub, which is completely unprotected, then they bring the Olympics to a standstill without having to crack the stadium security.

“Stratford is three stops on the barrierless Docklands Light Railway from the East London Mosque where they are taught (1) that all men should have a beard without an associated moustache, (2) that all women should be covered from head to toe at all times and – most worryingly – that, if they kill lots of men and women who don’t obey (1) and (2), Allah will give them 70 houris in Paradise. Quite what they will do with them once they have detonated Semtex in their underpants I am not sure.

“All this stuff with missiles on top of flats is really stupid. The security people need profiling on public transport from three miles away. If they don’t, then Stratford will be a sitting target for a lone individual. If he picks the right time, a single guy could kill 5,000 and shut the Olympics down without going anywhere near any of the G4S security people or the soldiers in the Stadium.”

In this blog, I partially try to give an insight into various lifestyles and interesting views on life, not just my own.

Tomorrow, I will not be attending Roy Shaw’s funeral in Essex, because I will be attending the interment of comedian Malcolm Hardee’s mother’s ashes in South London.

So it goes.

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Filed under Crime, Movies, Racism, Religion, Terrorism

A stand-up comedian is like a boxer

Bob Boyton: from punch-lines to punches

A couple of days ago, I blogged about seeing Mark Kelly’s second try-out of his show-in-the-process-of-being-written Stuart Leigh – The Stewart Lee Tribute Act, which took place at Ivor Dembina’s Hampstead Comedy Club. Comedian Martin Soan was also in the audience.

Afterwards, I got talking to comedian-turned-writer Bob Boyton about a novel which he has spent ten years writing and which is going to be published in May. But we got sidetracked into the link between boxing and comedy.

What’s the book about?” I asked Bob.

“It’s called Bomber Jackson Does Some,” he said. “The eponymous hero is a homeless ex-boxer called Anthony ‘Bomber’ Jackson. It’s not autobiographical, but I did do some boxing training while I was writing it. I trained with Mark Reefer, an ex-Commonwealth champion who didn’t become famous despite being a champion. He was good but perhaps not big enough at his weight. A great trainer. Someone who lavished love on his training. And I’ve worked with homeless people for many years, so there’s also a link there.”

“Is it a funny novel?” I asked.

“No, not really,” he replied. “A couple of jokes in it.”

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t like novels with jokes in ‘em,” Bob told me. “I hate when you buy a novel by a comic and he hasn’t really developed enough plot or done enough work on the characters, so he just pads it out with bits of his routine. I think it’s disrespectful of the novel and of fiction. And it’s a bit disrespectful of your act.

“It’s a problem for comedians,” he continued, “that there’s no legacy with comedy. A little bit, maybe, if you’re one of a golden few. I heard Max Miller on record and he was obviously strong and then Jimmy Jones done a lot of his material. But generally, in 150 years time, no-one’s gonna go That’s a great gag, that!… In 150 years time, Jeremy Hardy’s act won’t make any sense.”

“So your novel isn’t autobiographical?” I asked.

“Well,” laughed Bob, “I did research some of the drinking myself.”

“Why did it take you ten years?”

“There were times I just got fed up with writing the bloody thing. I kind of knew there was a story to be told. It is a bit like being a stand-up, thinking Right, I wanna deal with that subject so I’m gonna write a gag about it. It’s just a much longer process with a novel. When I was doing stand-up, I could write a gag and probably try it out in two nights time and then I might keep it in or not. Whereas I found you can spend ten years writing a novel. That’s probably why you need an editor.

“Bomber Jackson is a bloke in his mid-40s. His last big fight was at least 20 years ago… which he fucked-up because he’d been drinking when he should’ve been training. He’s fallen into criminality and those various things that happen to boxers because, if you’re good at hurting people, then you’re worth a lot of money to unsavoury characters.

“He’s just come out of prison and he knows he’s gotta find a different life. He’s done a lot of prison, a lot of small sentences and he goes in search of redemption and I hope the book keeps the reader wondering whether or not he finds it.. right to the end.”

“Why write about a boxer?” I asked.

“Well, I have a bit of a guilty pleasure. I’m a boxing fan and I’m drawn to it because they are very much like comedians. So I started off… I don’t think it lasted very long but… It was a kind of a metaphor for when I gave up stand-up…. You do it on your own. It’s not like football, where you can blame other team members.”

“Fighting the audience?” I asked.

“Well, not so much fighting but, it’s you – if you win, it’s great. And, if you lose…”

At this point, Ivor Dembina was passing by and heard what we were talking about.

“The thing about comedians,” Ivor said, “is that we’ve all seen each other die the death on stage – everyone. However good you are, however famous, we all know you’ve been there. So there’s that kind of gut respect. And, with boxers, even though they’re competing, they all know they have put themselves in that same position of being humiliated. So there’s that kind of bottom line respect.”

“I remember,” I said, “Ricky Grover (boxer-turned comedian and actor) “told me that, when you box, all that matters is that you don’t humiliate yourself. Humiliation is the worst thing.”

At this point, Martin Soan passed by.

“I’ve based my whole fucking career on being humiliated,” he said as he passed.

“Every comedian…” Ivor continued, “All of us – We’ve all died the death. We all know what it’s like. You never forget that. And you respect other people because they go back. Even though they got booed off, they went back and had another go. You respect them. It’s the same with boxers. A boxer can take a really bad beating, but he’ll go back and fight again.”

“That’s right,” agreed Bob. “Not many boxers gave it up because they lost. The business might have given them up in the end. But either they’ve made enough money and they’ve realised they want to go out somewhere near the top. Or they just can’t get any fights.”

At this point, Bob and I gave up talking about Bomber Jackson Does Some. The conversation moved on and people talked about Malcolm Hardee, Ian Hinchliffe and pissing in wardrobes. I must have another chat with Bob Boyton about his novel at some point before it is published in May.

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Filed under Books, Comedy, Sport, Writing

The death of a UK boxer linked to the sadistic murders of prostitutes by serial killer ‘Jack the Stripper’

I missed the 2008 movie The Bank Job when it was released in cinemas, but saw it on TV last night. It is about the 1971 robbery of the safety deposit vault at Lloyds Bank in Baker Street, London, and is allegedly based on a true story that one of the safety deposit boxes contained sex pictures of Princess Margaret (who is oddly never named in the film). Whether it is true or not I have no idea.

But the combination of seeing The Bank Job last night and the sad death of boxer Sir Henry Cooper yesterday reminds me of the story about British boxer Freddie Mills which I have heard for the last fifteen years from unconnected people in both the boxing and crime worlds.

The story is that Freddie Mills, a former World Light Heavyweight boxing champion who appeared in two Carry On films and many TV entertainment shows – he was the Frank Bruno of his day – was also a serial killer nicknamed Jack The Stripper who murdered six or possibly eight prostitutes between 1959 and 1965.

A 1969 novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square was loosely based on the case and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1972 movie Frenzy was loosely adapted from the book.

On 24 July 1965 Freddie Mills was found shot through the right eye in his Citroen car, parked in a cul-de-sac behind his nightclub The Nite Spot in Charing Cross Road, London. He was said to have shot himself inside the car with a .22 fairground rifle borrowed from a friend who ran a shooting gallery. The Coroner’s Court brought in a verdict of suicide. His family never accepted the verdict.

In 1991, Tony Van Den Bergh published Who Killed Freddie Mills? which brought up the Jack the Stripper story.

In 2001, former London crime figure Jimmy Tippett Jnr was reportedly writing a book which claimed Freddie Mills was Jack the Stripper and killed himself because the police were likely to arrest him.

In his 2004 book Fighters, James Morton concluded that Freddie Mills had killed himself because he was depressed and was convinced the Kray Twins were about to kill him.

In 2006, David Seabrook published Jack of Jumps which deduced that Freddie Mills was not Jack the Stripper.

The story I heard in the mid-1990s and over the years from multiple separate sources was that Freddie Mills was Jack the Stripper and – because the worlds of crime and boxing are inextricably intermingled in the UK and there is a crossover between crime and showbiz in Soho – he was known by crime figures to be the killer. It was said that, at the point of sexual climax, he was known to lose control of his violent inner self.

The police did not have enough evidence to arrest him, so those crime figures killed Freddie Mills. The police knew or suspected this was the case but, because of the Jack the Stripper background, did not pursue any investigation; they figured justice had been done. As the Coroner’s Court had decided the death was suicide, there was no need to investigate.

In 1999, I had a chat with Brian J Ford, first British President of the European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations, specifically to ask him about the Freddie Mills ’suicide’ story. Shortly after Freddie Mills’ death in 1965, he had written an article for the Sunday Mirror, pointing out the complete lack of any psychological profile for a suicide.

In a 1965 interview with ITN, boxing promoter Jack Solomons said of Freddie Mills: “He would never accept defeat… I would assume that he had no enemies in the boxing game – what he did outside of that in his after boxing life, that I couldn’t say.”

One very unusual detail in this alleged ‘suicide’ was that Mills had his right eye open when the bullet hit it. Usually, people close their eyes as the trigger is pulled.

Professor David Wingate, resident medical officer at Middlesex Hospital the night Mills’s corpse was brought in, carried out an examination on the body and was convinced that someone had taken the gun off Mills and shot him with it. He was not called to give evidence at the Coroner’s inquest.

Brian J Ford told me he had also looked in detail at the alleged ‘suicide’ weapon and concluded that it was physically impossible for Freddie Mills to shoot himself seated in the back of that type of Citroen in the way that he was shot with a gun which was too long to manipulate through 180 degrees. There were also signs of a violent struggle before the alleged ‘suicide’ took place in the back seat. Brian did not go for the Jack The Stripper angle and just believed Mills, as a boxer, was involved with criminal types who shot him for unknown reasons.

But the story refuses to go away.

I heard it again last year.

It may be an urban myth.

It may be the truth.

That’s the ironic thing about the real world. You can never be absolutely certain what’s true and what’s not.

There is a BBC TV documentary about Freddie Mills here on YouTube in which Scotland Yard’s ‘Nipper’ Read, who investigated the case, says he believes Freddie Mills killed himself, but Mills’ family still dispute the ’suicide’ verdict; towards the end, there is also a reconstruction of how not to shoot yourself in the head with a fairground rifle in the back seat of a Citroen.

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