Tag Archives: brothel

Sex madam Cynthia Payne remembered

Cynthia on The Dame Edna Experience

Cynthia Payne as she appeared on The Dame Edna Experience

Cynthia Payne – ‘Madam Cyn’ – died two days ago. Obituaries were printed yesterday in the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent and The Times – in other words, all the UK’s quality newspapers.

In 1980, she was sentenced to 18 months in prison (reduced to 6 months on appeal) for running a brothel where “elderly men paid with Luncheon Vouchers to dress up in lingerie and be spanked by young women”.

Personal Services - billed as “from the director of Monty Python’;s Life of Brian

Personal Services – “from the director of Monty Python’s Life of Brian”

At the time, the tabloid newspapers had a field day reporting this sex case. But I reckoned only the Daily Mail captured the real flavour – that it was not about sex but about English eccentricity.

Two feature films about her were released in 1987 – Personal Services and Wish You Were Here. She stood for Parliament twice.

In the obituaries, a family friend Kevin Horkin described her as “a national treasure” and an “extremely colourful archetypal English eccentric”.

A friend of mine lived in Streatham at the same time that Cynthia Payne was ‘in business’. This is my friend’s memory of her:

I remember Cynthia well from her frequent shopping forays with her wretched wheeled shopping trolley down Streatham High Road post-prison. She was forever wandering around the High Road with her tartan shopping trolley as boring and common as ever wanting to be noticed. Everyone accompanied Cynthia on her shopping expeditions when they became entangled in that sodding shopping trolley. 

She was a boring, everyday empty vessel whose personality deficit was filled in and manipulated by the male media. ‘The tart with a heart’ has always been a lie that men delude themselves with. The truth is abused/mentally deficient women on drugs/drink. 

Streatham was hell when the story broke, with street prostitutes screeching all night outside my house near the Odeon when the pimps withheld their drugs. They were on the High Road instead of the backstreets and, even when I moved away from the High Road, there was a prostitute in the street – always high and aggressive, until one client destroyed her house after beating her up and so the landlord could finally evict her.

Cynthia was just dull, unlike the real Streatham personality Eddie Izzard, happily strolling the streets in his fringed suede jacket, always intelligent and amiable.

Cynthia Payne appeared on ITV’s The Dame Edna Experience chat show in 1987 – the other guests were actor Sir John Mills and ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. There is an extract on YouTube. She is introduced 5 minutes in.

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Comedian Chris Dangerfield on his new Edinburgh show and starting up a sex business without the Chinese Triads.

(This was also published by Indian news site WSN)

Chris Dangerfield looks over his shoulder yesterday

Chris Dangerfield looking over his shoulder yesterday

This blog contains very sexually explicit material and should not be read if you find that sort of material offensive.

* * *

I met Chris Dangerfield for tea in London’s Soho yesterday.

When I arrived in Chinatown and phoned him, as arranged, at 5.00pm, he said “Hello, John,” and then put someone else on the line.

“Hello, John,” a female Chinese voice said.

“I’ll be five minutes,” said Chris.

When he arrived, he told me he had had eight hours sleep in the previous three days.

“You know Pam died?” he asked.

“Pam?” I asked.

“Pam. Beggar. Been round here twenty years. Stood as tall as your knee. Green hands from moving 2p coins in them. Gambling addict. She died. Died just before Christmas. Probably cancer. She had it. Was treated. And I only found out yesterday that she died. So that was a bit of a shock.”

“She was a tramp?” I asked.

“She lived in sheltered housing,” said Chris, “but she was a gambling addict. It’s all about addiction. Last time we spoke, I was on the way to rehab for my hideously re-occurring heroin addiction…”

“…for a weekend,” I added.

“Yeah,” said Chris, “well, it went on a bit longer than a weekend.”

“Did it work?”

“Yeah, I’m clean. Yeah. But I got a girlfriend and she’s been hit by a car and she’s in hospital. That’s why I’m kind of… I left her on Sunday and I found out this morning (Thursday) that’s she’s in hospital.”

“What happened?” I asked. “A broken leg?”

“I don’t know,” said Chris, “because I’m trying not to get too… I just don’t know, John. It’s all  very… new. So that’s why I’m a little bit… more confused than usual… I’m also trying to buy 50 kilos of silver off of someone… That’s another complication… I’m all up-in-the-air.”

“All a great source for comedy,” I suggested.

“I had an interesting phone call,” said Chris. “The Comedy Cafe phoned me and said If you can fill our venue, you can have 100% of the door. An interesting business model. I said What’s the capacity? They said A hundred people. So I’ll do an hour’s show there. I’ll get £800. I can fill it. I am very good at marketing these things.”

Coming soon – the last ever performance of his 2012 show

Coming soon – the last ever performance of this 2012 show

“When is this?” I asked.

“25th of April,” said Chris.

“You’ll manage that,” I said. “Are you doing last year’s Edinburgh Fringe show?”

“Yes. And it’ll be the last performance of it. The last time I ever perform Sex Tourist. So that’s also a selling point for it.”

“So things are going well?” I asked.

“Well, I’ve been asked back to Swansea,” said Chris.

“Whaaaat???” I reacted.

“I know,” said Chris. “It was a nightmare, a living nightmare last time. You blogged about it. I’ve been asked back by Richard Griffiths, the same person who booked me last time. He said I’m in demand down there. He rang me up and said £400 plus travel expenses.”

“Perhaps news of your nightmare has spread,” I suggested. “Did Richard Griffiths explain why he has had this mental aberration?”

“I don’t care,” said Chris. “£400 plus travel expenses to go down to Swansea and do a gig is OK by me. He’s got a different venue. I said I’ll do it. I want the money in advance. I’m not going all the way down to what is essentially a… a… well, I don’t even need to describe it. Everyone knows what Swansea’s like. I’m going to go down there and preview my new show, which is now called Enter The Dragon.”

“Because?” I asked.

“It’s about how I spent £150,000 – I’m done the maths now and it wasn’t £200,000 like I told you, it was only £150,000 – So it’s now called Enter The Dragon: How I Spent £150,000 on Chinese Prostitutes… sub-titled Looking For Love in All The Wong Places.”

“Aha,” I said.

“Now,” Chris continued, “when you rung me up, I was in a Chinese brothel, as you know, because I put one of the girls on the phone. I am going to set up my own massage parlour…

“I am trying to get Will Self – who I know – to let me do a gig to just him. I want to preview my Edinburgh show just to Will, because I want him to write a review because he’s excellent with language and I grew up reading Will Self stuff. That sounds like it might be on the cards, but I also told him about setting-up this massage parlour because you know I had a meeting with the Triads?”

“Errrr…. No,” I said. “Which Triad?”

“They’re actually the Xxxxx Family,” said Chris. “Hong Kong organised crime, essentially. They wanted an Englishman to front a massage parlour for them in London. I had a meeting with them and all these Chinese women came in first – all beautiful – and I thought they were laying them on. I thought it was like a little sweetener. It was 11 o’clock in the morning in a hotel in North Soho and I thought, Jesus Christ, man, this is it. Game on! but then the boys come in and discussed terms with me.

“I was with all these Triads and these women and the meeting went on for about three hours and halfway though – and I say this embarrassed – I was squinting my eyes and my accent had changed slightly – Ah. This ah sounds like-ha good ideeah in a Chinese accent – because it all seemed just so seductive to be part of their world. The weird thing is I’ve never felt I belonged anywhere. The only place I’ve ever belonged is rehab. When I’m in rehab, I think Yes, I should be here.

“I’ve got a terrible history with organised crime. I’ve had people put guns in my mouth. I’ve been chased round the country. I’m still paying someone off for some very very naughty business I used to be involved in.

Chris Dangerfield in Soho yesterday, just off Chinatown

Chris Dangerfield in Chinatown yesterday

“So I said to the Xxxxx Family, You have a terrible reputation for cutting people’s hands off. And we all laughed. Hahahahaha we went and they said, Yeah, but we just wanna make money.

“Anyway, I turned that business model down. I decided not to do it. But the woman you spoke to on the phone today – me and her are going to set up a massage parlour. And that’s part of my new Edinburgh Fringe show. That meeting with the Triads and what happened before and after. I’m not saying I have a particularly bizarre life, but I wouldn’t put it in my show unless it went worse than just a meeting with some crooked businessmen.

“This year’s Fringe show opens with a true story about having sex with an Alsatian called Emma.”

“This is a woman from Alsace, not a dog?” I checked.

“No, it’s a dog not a woman,” Chris corrected me.

(I have changed the dog’s name to preserve its privacy)

“The thing is,” said Chris, “you know they say You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink? In much the same way, you can lead a dog to penis but you can’t make it fuck. I did not rape the animal. I did insert my penis into an animal, but it took to it like a… duck to… water. It truly did.

“I didn’t fuck it… I’ll tell you why I call it ‘it’ in a minute. Weirdly… You know some people name their pets with human names like a gerbil called Scott? Well, this Alsatian was called Emma. It really did not help to have my penis inside a dog called Emma. I was quite high and remember stroking its back and thinking Emma’s got amazingly soft hair.

“My point is that, although the dog was called Emma, I couldn’t tell if it was a male or a female. My question to you, John, is Has anyone ever seen a dog’s vagina?”

“Another dog, I presume?” I managed to suggest.

“Have you yourself ever seen a dog’s vagina?” Chris asked me.

“Errr… Not that I remember.”

“If you were going to have to put your finger in a dog’s orifice, starting under the tail… Weird, isn’t it?”

“It seems that way to me,” I agreed.

“Fill yourself full or heroin and tuinal,” Chris continued. “Look… I had a penis; the dog was happy to reverse onto it. In Germany, they’ve got animal brothels. They’re trying to get them closed down, but I’ve seen men fucking horses and you can’t make… I’ve seen a horse fucking a man on a video… and you can’t make a horse do that. The horse either wants to do it or not. I’ve seen a man – not on video, live – put his penis in the massive chasm that is a horse’s rear end. It wasn’t pleasant.”

“I think this conversation is getting out of hand for my blog,” I said.

“Well,” said Chris, “you’ve got the Triads, you’ve got the bestiality, you’ve got the mother-and-daughter prostitutes who, whilst wanking me off…”

“I must have missed that one,” I said. “My attention must have wandered. Run that past me again..”

“The mother-and-daughter prostitutes who, whilst wanking me off,” repeated Chris, “had an argument that ended up with them hitting each other, whilst they’re still wanking me. They did not stop. You’ve got to admire that…”

I shrugged casually.

“So this new Edinburgh show is going to be excellent,” Chris told me.

“I’m going to regret using this phrase,” I said, “but you’re not sucking up to me with made-up stories just to get publicity in my blog, are you?”

“You know me by now.” said Chris. “It’s all true. I can take you to meet the people. This is my Edinburgh show. Every single thing is true. You know me by now, John. You know that I don’t actually have an imagination. I can’t write jokes. I’ve never written any comedy down. I buy books. Every year, I think: It’s time to grow a bit as an act. I buy a book. I open the book up, I do a pencil drawing of a goose with human legs and it gets put in the bin. It’s all true.

“Another bit of news is… When is this blog being published?…”

“Probably tomorrow,” I said.

“OK, then I can’t tell you this next bit. It’s a PR stunt. I’ll ring you and you will be the first to know. But I can tell you I’m doing a UK tour – me, Trevor Lock and Lee Kern of the TV show Celebrity Bedlam… The three of us are doing a UK tour with a very, very, very odd, different… I’m not going to tell you any more, but it is not just a comedy tour.”

“Does it involve any woodland creatures?” I asked.

“There’s no animals,” said Chris, “unless anyone brings one along to the show. But there will be no reversing them onto me.”

“At my age,” I said. “I am thankful for small mercies.”


Filed under Comedy, Crime, Dogs, Drugs, Sex

Canada closes a BBC brothel + comedy critic Kate Copstick wastes few tears

Anna Smith ignores the BBC in Canada (photograph by Jean Nault)

For the last month and a half, Britain’s tabloids have been obsessed with the Jimmy Savile paedophile scandal, the subsequent witch hunt and the resignation of the BBC Director General after Newsnight wrongly accused Lord McAlpine of paedophilia.

Meanwhile, the world turns.

Anna Smith in Vancouver tells me that “the BBC scandals have barely caused a ripple here, possibly because there is a particularly infamous massage parlour located near a busy intersection in Vancouver called Broadway Body Care. It advertises in the employment classifieds: Make top money – Become a BBC Girl !!!

Anna tells me that, following a court case last year, the Vancouver BBC currently has a sign on the door with a note saying “closed for renovations”.

Not unlike the original in that respect, then.

Meanwhile, the world turns.

Comedy critic Kate Copstick keeps me updated on her work in Kenya for her Mama Biashara charity. This morning, I received her latest e-diary:


Today is a medical clinic and our ‘clinic’ is a small breezeblock square  that looks like an outside toilet. And is about the size of a double portaloo. And indeed may BE an outside toilet, judging by the smell. A massive queue is forming.  The highlights of the day are …

Susan who has sole care of four grandchildren and has legs which are each the size of Janette Krankie. She has pain everywhere, palpitations, and has to be lifted in and out of our portaloo.

Hannah who is 82 and has care of 12 grandchildren. She makes the average population of an L.S. Lowry painting look obese: bad joints, pain and a persistent cough.

Josephine who presents us with what I suspect is shingles. My suspicions raised, I send her for an HIV test which comes back positive. She is a house girl in the area and hopelessly alone.

John who has a heart that sounds like someone is playing the maracas.

Beatrice who tells us she gets “pain” then “falls down” and “her legs die”.

Mary who says “there is something growing in my eye” and who is absolutely right – a brown fungus is growing over both corneas.

Mary’s baby who is 1 year and 3 months and weighs 6kg – He has rickets and vomits up anything except breast milk.

Felix who is 9 years old and has a rectal prolapse.

Patrick who was attacked by thieves and lost an eye and part of his jaw. The wounds are now infected and  extruding pus.

Then there are coughing mucusy babies, the usual time-wasting imaginary ‘fever’ and a load of de-worming to do and cod liver oil and various vitamins to give out. Bicarbonate of Soda is a wonder drug here. You have no idea how many ‘ulcers’ it cures.

By the end of the workshop, we are working in the dark and we have had to close the door.  We have a list of people to take to various hospitals and clinics tomorrow and people to follow-up on next week.


OK, so today I did a Lenny Henry. I teared up. Which is appalling. Tearing up is a totally pointless, self-indulgent exercise. Every second a well-fed, secure, healthy person spends dabbing tears from their eyes is a second they COULD and SHOULD have been spending doing something to fix the situation they are so upset about.

Luckily I have few tears, so to business …

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Filed under Canada, Health, Kenya, Sex, Television

Reaction to comedian Chris Dangerfield spending over £200,000 on prostitutes

Chris Dangerfield looking around in London’s Soho last week

Two days ago, I posted a blog headed Comedian Chris Dangerfield spent over £200,000 in 18 months on having sex with Chinese prostitutes in London. This got quite a lot of reaction and I mentioned a couple of comments in yesterday’s blog, headlined The pros and cons of sex workers.

Since then, there has been more reaction and I print some of that reaction and dialogue (unedited) below, using the on-screen names of the people who made the comments. It starts with the original two comments…

Nothing quite like sloppy one-hundred and seconds on a woman who has probably been gang raped, people smuggled, beaten, pimped and possibly had her passport stolen, to be extorted back from her. Pretty funny really. Especially paid for by crack. ha ha! More people like Chris would improve the universe.

The percentage of sex workers on this planet who are raped or “extorted” is being sensationalised. Certainly rapes and extortions are terrible events but the numbers are actually minimal compared to the vast majority who choose this line of business because it offers better hours, more fun and ten times the money than other work. This is especially so in impoverished countries where the other choices are demeaning dangerous domestic labour or equally dangerous mindless repetitive jobs in garment factories….If we really care, we need to focus on eradicating poverty, not prostitution.


What you say is true – there is evidence that the numbers on globally trafficked women working in the sex trade is exaggerated. But so is the myth you peddle: “The percentage of sex workers on this planet who are raped or “extorted” is being sensationalised.”

I would hazard a guess (and it is just a guess, as are your assertions, without any evidence backing them up) that if you have any experience of the sex trade at all, it is with women working at the higher end of the market. And probably domestic at that.

Visit any sex worker at the lower end of the business anywhere in the world – the street workers – the women working around mass transport hubs (I’m not including airports here, as they tend to have a much more moneyed clientele) and speak to the women. Rape of lower end sex workers is commonplace, even mundane. That goes for Italy, Africa, Eastern Europe, Russia, South East Asia, and the UK.

This: “vast majority who choose this line of business because it offers better hours, more fun” is such a disturbing line I don’t know where to begin, however: “and ten times the money than other work” is inevitably true for any woman that “chooses” to become a prostitute.

Of course poverty is a massive factor for the women that “choose” to become prostitutes. No doubt there are some women, somewhere in the world who do form educated, informed and lucid decisions to sell themselves. But if you think this represents the majority, or even anything other than a tiny fraction of the total then…

See, I’ve been to trafficked women’s centres in Eastern Europe. I was in Kosovo just after the war, and met some of the hundreds of women who had managed to make it back home. Devastated, brutalised, eviscerated emotionally, and I’m afraid, physically. Often from the gang rapes that “broke” them.

I’m afraid that if you really think that gangsters don’t operate in the business, that various mafia are not involved, especially in cross border prostitution, then there’s not much I can say that will change your mind.

To misquote your words: ” If we really care… Certainly rapes and extortions are terrible events but the numbers are actually minimal.” How many are OK?

Mat. It appears you’ve confused prostitution with sex slavery. Don’t feel too stupid, you’re not the first.

Oh Chris, I do. I feel too stupid. Not being the first, or learning from others’ mistakes. Now you’ve pointed out that no prostitutes are sex slaves I think I’ll just go and boil my head. Makes it better for everyone, right?

Did you ask them if they were OK before you stuck it in? After you’d come in them, and paid, did you ask if they had to give any of your hard-earned crack-cash to a pimp? Or were you too busy watching them dance, they were so happy with life?

It appears you’ve confused nihilism with logic. Don’t feel too bad. etc etc.

“Now you’ve pointed out that no prostitutes are sex slaves” – No I didn’t. Sex slavery is a specific example of a general problem of human exploitation. Having been around prostitutes for years, worked with them, socialized with them, been friends with them, lived with them, had love affairs with them, I didn’t need to ask those questions, I already knew the answers.

I know bricklayers who are unhappy about their job. I know factory workers who have lost limbs earning money. I know many people who have been forced into marriage and others raped in the same situation. These are all other specific examples of a general problem of human exploitation.

I am dining out with a group of sex-workers tonight to celebrate a birthday. I’ll let them know that you’re doing your bit to save them from the life they have chosen.

I think you might have me mistaken for a 16th century puritan. But you still didn’t answer any of my questions, which is a bit… weak.

This might surprise you, but yeah, I also know a few prostitutes in Amsterdam, who are as you describe too, but I don’t extrapolate that out to cover everyone. And to be honest, some of them even though they were really lovely, independent and bright women were… how can I put this… a bit messed up.

I never said all prostitutes are sex slaves, ’cause, um, that would be daft. I know an ex-dominatrix, who’s a lovely lass and did some very odd stuff for cash, because she was into exploring it. She gave it up after a while, because she could. I didn’t need to save her from the life she had chosen, because, well, she had chosen it, and had the choice to leave.

My girlfriend works with hookers, and spent two years “saving” someone from crack addiction and her pimp. She’s not out of the woods yet, but is actually “happy for the first time in a long time.” So I’ll tell my girlfriend to quit, yeah? ‘Cause we don’t want to come over all do-goody. And we’ll leave her raping, woman beating pimp to do his thing, ’cause that’s cool, and a bit edgy.

From your lack of answers to my points, I’m just guessing you never screwed an East European lady that you didn’t know for money, or a crack addict, or someone who needed a bit of help. And that before you withdrew your shrivelling post coitus genitalia, you had vetted the Chinese girls you bragged about screwing for crack-money. That would make it better, wouldn’t it?

Actually, it would. A bit.

Anyway, have a lovely time tonight with women who are at the far end of the bell curve (geddit?) on prostitution…



Nice comeback.

But yeah, surreal. A guy breaks loads of taboos with his nihilistic behaviour, some of which certainly results in misery, some of which possibly does, and then in the service of his ego transforms it into a stage show for what he hopes is further ego massaging. The idea that someone might find fault with this process is met with, frankly, crap putdowns.

As I said initially, the universe is empirically a better place with you in it. Would that there were more. You are my hero.


I’ve lived with a WG (Working Girl) and have quite a few more as friends. None of them have been smuggled (they’re all British citizens), all do the job because it’s mostly enjoyable and pays well, some even pay tax on their earnings. None of the ones I’ve known have had pimps. When the lady I lived with went anywhere we went Dutch. We both had our own incomes and were quite happy that way.

Maybe female sex workers are less likely to tell men that they were OK with their work for fear of being thought of badly, maybe some don’t think men will understand unless they dress the experience up as a kind of romantic victimhood… I don’t know. It seems to me that there are plenty of sex workers who are exploited and plenty who aren’t and the subject is still too much of a hot button for most research into it to be reliable. I try to concentrate on not denying anyone’s experiences. Just because there are sex workers who are OK with or enjoy what they do, doesn’t mean there aren’t others for whom it’s a living hell and vice versa.

As to Chris Dangerfield, well, my gut reaction was “at least he’s honest”. He didn’t show any signs of giving a toss about whether the women he’d been with were truly there of their own free will, or any of the other things people tend to consider if they’re interested in behaving ethically. But it was only one interview, and I didn’t see his show, and even if it was representative of his attitude and he doesn’t care at all, I didn’t feel the blog entry was asking me to be OK with what he was saying. I felt that it was just an account, and it made interesting reading. From that point of view I’m glad you posted it; thanks John.


It just occurred to me, actually: it’s possible that the more vocal women on the subject of the sex trade are more likely to be those with a positive view of it, because those with a negative view would be so used to instantly being accused of being “anti-sex” or “prudish” that they could well be put off bothering to engage any more, given that those are often the first responses to anyone, male or female, who puts ethics before individual gratification. Except that there’s always the assumption that men like sex so, if a man objects to one kind of sex, it must just be that kind he doesn’t like whereas, if a woman objects to it, she’s assumed to be revealing her feminine distaste of anything sexual. And/or maybe people internalise the stance they think society expects them to have, given their gender, and only tend to speak up if their true feelings contradict it. I know very little about gender politics, but I’m sure the truth of the matter is very complicated.

MIKE TAYLOR (in an e-mail to me; I have edited this, mostly in brackets… Mike was aware this was for publication and works in the comedy business):

What do you want to know? I’ve a million tales from the ‘life’. Spend most of my time living and working from a Manchester (building which also houses) two WGs. Just off into Manchester to book a table for a meal for punters and WGs which we’ll be having prior to going to a ‘social’ for a lot of the North West’s Punters and WGs in November. I do know a fair bit about the scene, especially from the point of view of indies.

With regard to Chris Dangerfield I can’t really comment. My only major experiences with foreign girls being the Eastern European woman Kathryn (WG girlfriend) and I booked (for a show) in Prague and the 6 window girls in an alcohol and drug fuelled 48 hours in Amsterdam on a Manchester comic’s fun few days some years ago (about 6 months before my heart attack). My other experiences have all been with either UK Street girls, long ago given up, then independents; my social life and (housing) life has mainly been with indies. Although, through the social life, I have met quite a few parlour girls.

The indies and parlour girls I’ve met have all been UK citizens working freely because of their own choice. Some of them smoke some weed, some do a bit of coke, some drink too much. However the same can be said of many lawyers, doctors, accountants, and – shock horror – comedians. Most of them enjoy the job most of the time. They do get pissed off with ignorant blokes, unclean ones etc, but every job has it’s bad stuff; that’s why they pay you. The majority of guys are pleasant, polite and fun to be with. I’ve heard this from numerous WGs. I believe them. One: they know I’m not interested, partly because of heart medication, partly because I think Why should I pay? I’m not married. I think punting is more designed for married blokes who want extra sex (and blow jobs) without involvement.

I was going to do an Edinburgh show based on my experiences of the last 10 years but, in the end, decided that it could cock up my deal with (censored) if it became successful. Shame – I had a WG with experience of putting on Edinburgh theatre productions who was willing to help me with it.


Filed under Sex

Comedian Chris Dangerfield spent over £200,000 in 18 months on having sex with Chinese prostitutes in London

(This piece was also published by India’s We Speak News)

Chris Dangerfield in Soho yesterday, drinking it all in

I met comedian Chris Dangerfield in Soho yesterday morning. He had just had a fight with telecoms company O2. He has a website which sells lock-picking tools.

“Anyone can legally buy lock-picking tools and pick locks to their hearts’ content,” Chris told me. “But O2 seem to think they have it in their power to say only people over 18 can buy them. It isn’t the law and I’ve been on the phone to them for two hours. I now can’t even access my own business website on my own O2 phone.”

“But they haven’t targeted other sites selling lock-picking tools?” I asked.

“No,” Chris laughed. “They’ve only gone for the largest and most respected purveyor of fine lock-picking devices.”

We went for tea in Frith Street. He said there was something he had to tell me.

Cleo Rocos” Chris told me, “has spent the last ten months working with a master brewer or distiller or whatever it is in Mexico or – fuck knows – somewhere in South America or Central America or somewhere and she’s brought out this new range of tequilas. It was my friend’s birthday last night and my friend has been obsessed with her since she used to get her ample assets PVCd up on the Kenny Everett TV shows”

“Obsessed?” I asked.

“Obsessed,” said Chris. “He stalked her. He had a map with crosses on it to triangulate her whereabouts until he found out where she lived. Absolutely true. Yesterday it was his birthday and I’m on some quite heavy back medication which he stole from me. Well, I gave to him, but I said Let’s pretend this is stealing so that, if you do die, I’m in the clear.

“He took that and said Right, Cleo Rocos is doing a promotion for her tequila, so I would love to go up there and I said Look, I don’t drink. I don’t want to get involved in those horrible situations. He said Please! Please! You’ll be my wingman! I said I’m not a wingman. I’m not a straight man. It’s not my role. I will ruin this for you.

“Anyway, we go up there and he’s rubbish because he’s so nervous and he’s sipping his tequila – it’s a shot of tequila – and he asks Cleo What cocktail is this? and she’s like Wha-a-a-a-t? Ridiculous. So she starts talking to me. I charm her so well by accident that she ends up giving me her card. My friend and I leave. He’s crying. He’s my best friend. He hasn’t spoken to me since last night and I don’t even know if he’s still alive after taking my back medication. He walked off crying. So I’m in a very strange mood this morning. I’ve upset my best friend and I’d like to dick Cleo Rocos and it looks like that might happen. So that’s good and bad. My best friend may kill himself, but I might get to have sex with Kenny Everett’s sidekick.”

“Do you think she’ll mind being mentioned in a blog?” I asked.

“I’m charming,” said Chris. “I’m very charming. But I want to tell you about Nick Broomfield.”

“The internationally-acclaimed documentary film maker?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Chris. “Louis Theroux is like Nick Broomfield lite, isn’ he? And there’s a couple of others…. So I read in an Observer article last Sunday that he’s made a film about the Chinese brothels in Central London which I assume will be here in Soho and Chinatown because that’s where they are: there are about 80 round here. He’s got loads of undercover footage so, immediately, my Facebook wall and my Twitter is covered with people saying It looks like you’re going to get some more airtime. The chances are you’re going to be in it.

“My show at the Edinburgh Fringe next year is going to be based on the fact that in around eighteen months I spent in excess of £200,000 on Chinese prostitutes.”

“When did that finish?” I asked.

Chris Dangerfield and one of his tattoos

“Just before I went to Thailand and wrote my Sex Tourist show,” he told me. “It ended around July 2011. So when I read that Nick Broomfield had made a film and he’s got undercover footage of it, I’m amazed if I’m not in it and I can’t wait to be in it. He may well digitize my face, but I’m covered in very distinctive tattoos – they’re all writing, there’s no pictures. So hopefully I will be identifiable and then I will be able to sue him for one penny. I don’t want the money off him, just the suing.”

“What would you sue him for?” I asked.

“Err… err…” said Chris. “I’ll find something. He didn’t get me to sign a release form. He might think no-one would like to draw attention to what they’ve done. I’d love to draw attention to it. I’m an atheist, but I am praying to my atheist god that I am in that documentary – clearly me – because I do some weird shit.

“When they’re out of the room, waiting for me to get undressed, I’m making sure there’s nothing unpleasant in my anal crack, dipping my penis under the tap quickly just in case the prostitute I visited an hour before has left anything unpleasant there. Cos sometimes I was doing three or four Chinese prostitutes a day.”

“What might be in your anal crack?” I asked.

“Well, usually poo,” replied Chris laughing.

“And how did you get £200,000 to throw away?” I asked.

“Ah!” said Chris. “That’s an interesting story. I’m going to give you some key words which I think will keep me free of incarceration. If I were to give you the words… my past importing cocaine and selling crack… and say you could use those words in any order you like to create a picture of how I might have earned that money… Easy come, easy go… I learned Mandarin in Chinese brothels in London. I can hold a very basic conversation in Mandarin.”

“If you learnt the language in brothels,” I said, “isn’t the spread of words you know limited? You can’t really go into a vegetable shop and ask for things.”

“Well,” Chris told me. “I do occasionally go into the Loon Fung on Gerrard Street to buy food and I can certainly ask How much does that cost? and there are certain Chinese terms like Mama foo-foo which means So-so but the literal translation is Horse-horse tiger-tiger.”

“So,” I asked, “you’ve been buying a lot of strange things from the Loon Fung?”

“If you come round my house for a hamburger,” said Chris, “be prepared.”

“But back to Nick Broomfield,” I said.

“I’ve contacted his management,” Chris told me. “I’m guessing, if his film is being released this year, it’s probably been shot in the last two years and, considering I was doing two or three a day or more for that eighteen month period, I’m hoping to hell that I’m in the documentary. Not because people can see my nasty white arse go up and down but just because it makes me laugh a lot. I like the thought of being in it.”

“You did two or three a day for eighteen months,” I said. “Why?”

Chris was flummoxed.

“Why have lots of sex?” he asked, incredulous.

“Why Chinese prostitutes?” I asked.

“I’ve got ‘yellow fever’ – I love Chinese prostitutes; I love Asian prostitutes.”


“That’s a question about taste I could never possibly answer. (Gay comedian) Scott Capurro said to me that having sex with an Asian man was the nearest he’d come to having sex with a woman.”

“But prostitutes?” I asked.

“I’ve blurred the boundaries. I’ve become very good friends with a lot of these women.”

“Because you live in Soho yourself?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Chris. “I have had three lives in Soho. When I was a child, I used to come up here to buy magic tricks. Then I had my mid period when I was selling drugs for ten or fifteen years doing ‘the Dean Street shuffle’ – Gerry’s – French House – Colony Club. And now I’ve lived here about four years, where I’ve been ‘clean’ and just doing stand-up… and,” he added as an afterthought, “laying down.”

“I think it depends on your definition of ‘clean’,” I suggested. “But you encounter all these people socially too, because you live in Soho.”

“Yeah,” said Chris. “I’ve been out to dinner with them.”

“And you are doing an Edinburgh comedy show about Chinese brothels next year?”

“Yes,” said Chris. “I’m going to call it Chinese Wank Shops with the tagline In 18 Months I Spent in Excess of £200,000 on Chinese Prostitutes.”

“Doesn’t the constant subject of prostitutes put women off you?” I asked. “Women are not going to be wildly attracted to a man who puts himself around the brothels of Soho.”

“They love it,” said Chris. “I get fan mail… I get so many comedy groupies… They see my show and then they Facebook or Tweet me: Hello. I saw your show. Would you like to have sex?”

“Your Sex Tourist show at the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of months ago didn’t seem to have only men in the audience,” I observed.

“Well,” said Chris, “Kate Copstick’s excellent review in The Scotsman of my excellent show pointed out the audience was made up of old, young, male and females, singles and couples. All laughing hysterically. I have no wrong or right audience. I’ll make anyone laugh. Mathilda Gregory’s 5-star review of Sex Tourist in FringeGuru said it was an “all-conquering clash of ego and touching vulnerability” and I that had “moustache-twirling charisma”.

“How,” I asked, “do you make knobbing prostitutes for money acceptable to comedy goers?”

“Well,” said Chris after a pause. “It’s not my job to make it acceptable. It’s their moral outlook. They have to critically evaluate the evidence they are presented with and not be idiots. If they want to base their understanding of prostitution on ITV series about police and whores and make massive mistakes, then they should do so.”


You can read about reaction to this blog HERE and HERE


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Unusual Edinburgh Fringe sponsorship deals for comedy coming your way soon

Bob Slayer – a comedian often plastered

This August at the Edinburgh Fringe, hard-drinking comedian Bob Slayer is running his Alternative Fringe venue The Hive in co-operation with the Free Festival.

It is going to be a complicated festival.

But Bob has got what I thought (for him) was the ultimate sponsorship deal – the Scottish Borders Brewery is sponsoring his venue for a six-figure sum in a five-year deal. (and supplying beer).

At least… I thought this was the ultimate piece of Fringe sponsorship…

Sex Tourist – coming with discount deals

…until Bob told me that Chris Dangerfield’s show Sex Tourist – also performing at The Hive – has gone one better and got sponsorship from an ‘escort’ agency called Escorts in Edinburgh.

According to Chris Dangerfield’s blurb: “I went to Thailand for a seven-week sex holiday. It didn’t go according to plan. Whores, drugs, guns, anal issues, ladyboys, occasional crying.”

In a legal quirk, according to Bob, “Chris Dangerfield can offer, via his sponsoring escort agency, discount deals on ‘escorts’ to publicise his show. That is perfectly legal in Edinburgh. But, due to the tight Scottish licensing laws, I cannot offer discounts on the lovely (already cheap) Scottish Borders beer which will be sold at The Hive.”

This, though, may not be the end of the odd sponsorship deals in Edinburgh this year.

Bob tells me that, at the weekend, he had news from Australia.

The Dark Room – could be bound to please

The basis of John Robertson’s show The Dark Room is… “You are trapped in a dark room. You must escape. Interactive and loud, this is the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure game… Get ready for pain, intrepid cretin!”

Bob tells me: “John sent me an e-mail saying he may have found a sponsor for his show – a bondage gear supplier!”

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What the taxi driver told me about the prostitutes and the criminal families

It was exactly fourteen years ago today.

It was in the very early hours of Bloomsday – the 16th of June.

I had flown back from Rome to Stansted on Ryanair.

Delays on the flight back to London had escalated to the point that I only narrow managed to get the delayed last train out of Stansted to Liverpool Street station… but, by the time I arrived there, I had missed the last tube train to Kings Cross.

This is what happened, as I wrote it in my diary when I got home:


A few of us followed the signs for the taxi rank at Liverpool Street station – temporarily by Platform 15 – arriving just as a taxi picked someone up. No other taxi appeared. After about ten minutes a British Rail man, who must have seen us on the security cameras, came and told us taxis would not be coming to the rank because it was after the last train. But, if we went and stood outside the Broadgate office development they stopped there.

“Don’t go to the ones on the left,” he told us. “They just hang around to rip people off. I know the bloke who runs the scam. Turn right where there’s a real rank.”

Sure enough, outside to the left there were about six black cabs with men hanging around looking hopeful. We went to the right and waited while taxis circled: some passed, some stopped and took the first person in the queue, some asked for people going in specific directions.

When I got to the front of the queue, a cab drew up and the driver asked if I was going north; I said yes – either to Kings Cross Thameslink for the next train (in about 2 hours) or, I asked: “How much would you charge to take me to Borehamwood?”

“How much are you offering?” he replied.

“Thirty quid?” I suggested. (I knew it was about £25 on the meter from Heathrow.)

He paused, then said, “Alright,” almost with a shrug, as if he didn’t care.

The cab driver was short but broad and had hooded eyes which he blinked slowly in the mirror, as if he was aware of controlling them. He said he didn’t specialise in stations or in any particular area and he’d always worked nights because it was more interesting. Like many a cab driver, he fancied himself as a bit of a philosopher.

“People have two faces they wear,” he said to me through the glass, “and the one they put on in the wee small hours of the morning – in the dark in the night in a cab – is their real one. No-one ever puts on their real face at work, do they? I mean, I do, because I don’t care – people can take me or leave me. But people show the real person they are when they’re in a cab and it’s night and they’re talking to the back of your head.”

He told me he had been looking for anyone going north because he had someone to pick up near Camden in 90 minutes.

He eventually told me that he was involved with two ‘escort girls’…

“I’m not their pimp or anything,” he said, “I don’t get involved in that side at all. I just drive them to places and I’m around if they have any trouble. I don’t wait around while they do whatever they do, but I stay fifteen minutes after I drop them off and I’m there fifteen minutes before they’re going to finish.”

The girls, he told me, charged £300 per hour for a minimum four hours. If they were only wanted for an hour, they would still get four hours pay. Some other girls charge £1,000 per hour with a minimum four hours.

“I didn’t even ask what they did the first two or three months. I mean, I knew – I’m not stupid. But it’s just business. I do it for the money. They pay me a decent amount – if they paid me less, I wouldn’t do it – and they give me a bonus if I sort out any trouble for them. I’m not tied to them. It’s not like they keep me or anything.”

The two girls he knows are not just on ‘call-out’; they often arrange parties with other girls for what he called old age pensioners – old men – mostly Jewish and Asian old men, he said, many retired, he said, who can afford it.

“They specialise in…” the taxi driver told me, “…what they specialise in.”

“After a couple of months,” he said, “one of the girls asked me if I could sort out any problems that came up for them. I said I preferred to sort things out by just talking to people but, if I had to do any more, I was OK on that.”

I mentioned there used to be a brothel in the countryside just outside Radlett (next to a Little Chef restaurant which has since been demolished). It had occasionally been mentioned in the local paper. They even reported when it finally closed down: the madam had decided to retire.

“It seemed a strange place to run a brothel,” I said.

The cabbie told me there still was one in Radlett. But, he said, I’d be surprised how much use is made of big country houses at weekends.

“Lots of parties,” he said.

I mentioned I had heard Xxxxxxx Xxxxx and his friends had had a big party at a hotel near Tower Bridge when they were planning the alleged £800 million ATM robbery and they’d brought in British Airways stewardesses for the party. The driver said he’d heard it was Virgin stewardesses.

We agreed Xxxxx was a clever man.

“I mean,” said the cabbie. “He doesn’t need to do any of that for the money or anything.”

The cabbie said he had heard Xxxxxxx Xxxxx had been involved in some made-to-order insurance robberies. The owners of the houses agreed with Xxxxx that burglaries would take place and specific very valuable insured items would be taken. After the robberies, the owners would be given back the main items; the burglars would keep some relatively unimportant minor items; and Xxxxx would split the insurance money with the owners. There was never any problem getting the insurance pay-out because there really had been a robbery.

I said I had read that one of the five youths allegedly involved in the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence was related to a well-known South London criminal family but I did not know which one.

“Oh,” the cabbie told me, “One’s a member of the Cxxxxx family who are related to the Lxxxs – they’re gypsies. The gypsy families are very violent.” He said all five of the Lawrence ‘suspects’ were ‘well-connected’. When I got home, I looked the names up in a couple of very thoroughly indexed books: the Cxxxxxs go way back to the days of Jack Spot in Soho, but there was no reference to the Lxxxs. None of the Lawrence defendants have the surname Cxxxxx, though they could still be part of the family.

Perhaps the cabbie was making it up. Perhaps he was repeating a new urban myth. Or perhaps it was true.

He told me he lived in Hastings with his wife, but was only there at weekends. During the week, working in his cab, he stayed at a flat he had in Potters Bar, just off the M25.

He said he got regular work out of ferrying the two girls around and it filled in the gaps picking up fares in whatever area he took them to. This explained why, unlike other cabbies, he did not specialise in any particular area of London.

When I got home there was an e-mail from Tara TV asking me if I could go to Dublin to do some work for them. I thought about how much the world had changed since James Joyce wrote Ulysses about Bloomsday in 1904.

But then I thought Maybe it has not changed at all.

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News of the World. Forget the hacks. It’s The Bill you always have to pay.

I have worked as a researcher and sub-editor for BBC TV News (via their old Ceefax teletext service) and, briefly, in the newsrooms at Anglia TV, Granada TV and ITN. I have known a lot of journalists. But even I was shocked by the News of the World and other tabloids’ amorality.

I don’t mean the telephone hacking scandal which has now seen Rupert Murdoch close down Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper.

I mean the cheap Killer Bitch movie and Katie Price’s ex-husband Alex Reid being caught on camera with his trousers down.

Police corruption comes later in this blog.

In what must have been a moment of madness I financed Killer Bitch without reading the script (look, it was cheap) and I was away at the Edinburgh Fringe for weeks when shooting started.

While I was away, a sex scene was shot between Alex Reid and the lead actress, the director’s girlfriend/partner.

Alex Reid’s chum/manager asked the director if it was OK to have a photographer on set that day – not to take photos of the sex scene itself but just of Alex arriving, being on-set, being glamorous. The director said Yes.

And, of course, when the sex scene happened, click-click-click and off in a corner Alex’s photographer goes to e-mail out his photos.

What the director didn’t know was that the manager guy had, all week, been playing-off the News of the World against The People to get a higher price for the sex scene pictures. The People ran their photos on the cover and in an “exclusive” double-page spread that Sunday.

But the News of the World, unknown to anyone else, had secretly set up a hidden camera in the grotto where filming took place. They took their own photos and ran a single-page ’spoiler’ about “sickening footage” in the “vile and degrading hardcore porn film” in which Alex had been involved in a “disgusting rape”.

In fact, it wasn’t a rape scene at all. Never was. Never scripted as rape (I read that bit later); wasn’t shot as rape; wasn’t edited as rape. I saw the uncut footage when I came back from Edinburgh and it simply wasn’t rape.

But, bizarrely, journalists often believe what they read in tabloid newspapers, so this story about the vile rape scene in a hardcore porn movie (which is wasn’t) quickly spread across the world, sometimes using the same words the original News of the World had used.

The movie, which had only just started shooting and which was months away from being edited, was reviled as “violent porn” by The Times of India, a “vile and degrading movie” on Australia’s Perth Now website and “violent, aggressive… icky stuff” by TheHollyoodGossip.com. Back home, totally unseen, the Daily Mirror slammed it as “a sick movie” with “vile scenes…stomach churning”

Fair enough. Good publicity for a small film, though sadly much too early to profit from.

Two weeks later, The People ran a new cover story and two-page spread about how Alex Reid had “returned” to the Killer Bitch set “to shoot more torrid outdoor sex shots”. This had never happened. It was a complete fiction. But The People had detailed descriptions, actual photos from this supposed second sex scene (they were re-cycled from the original scene) and they even had a direct quote from the director saying, “I can confirm that Alex filmed these scenes within the last seven days”.

The director told me not only that The People had never talked to him about this alleged re-shoot but, at that point in time, he had never actually talked to anyone at the newspaper about the film ever.

Obviously, you expect to be mis-quoted and have your words twisted by newspapers. Now, it seems, it’s common to simply make up entirely fictional stories.

The New York Daily News correctly reported that “the film’s producers don’t seem bothered by the publicity.”

Fair enough. Publicity is publicity.

But just as the Stephen Lawrence affair, to my mind, was not about racism but about police corruption – an investigating policeman was paid-off by the father of one of the accused – the current News of the World scandal is not about phone hacking but about endemic police corruption.

Two days ago, I saw a Sky News double interview with, on the one hand, Brian Paddick, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and on the other ex News of the World journalist Paul McMullan.

McMullan could be seen almost literally biting his tongue off after he said that, if you were investigating police corruption, the only way to find out the facts was to talk to other policemen. As they might lose their jobs by dishing the dirt on fellow officers, they could not be expected to do this for free or for a few pounds and it was not unreasonable to pay them £20,000 or £30,000.

This figure was picked up by the interviewer.

Brian Paddick, who was basically defending the Met, said this was terrible but “clearly everyone has their price”.

This is an interesting thing to say because it is an acceptance by a former senior Met officer that, if the price is high enough, any Metropolitan policeman can be bought.

Yesterday’s London Evening Standard led on a story that “Corrupt Met police received more than £100,000 in unlawful payments from senior journalists and executives at the News of the World.

It also claimed that two senior Scotland Yard detectives investigating the phone hacking scandal held back: “Assistant Commissioners Andy Hayman and John Yates were both scared the News of the World would expose them for allegedly cheating on their wives if they asked difficult questions of the Sunday tabloid.”

Today’s Guardian says: “Some police sources suggested there was no evidence yet that officers had actually received the payments and what would also be investigated was whether the journalists involved had kept the money themselves.”

Obviously some Met officer here, limbering up for a career as a stand-up comic.

Police in the UK taking bribes? Shock! horror! – And the Pope is a Catholic?

The system-wide corruption within the Metropolitan Police in the 1960s was supposedly partially cleaned-up.


On 4th December 1997, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon gave evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee and said there were around 100-250 corrupt officers in the Met. By “corrupt” he meant seriously corrupt – they dealt drugs, helped arrange armed robberies etc.

Condon is also the man who coined the phrase “noble cause corruption” – the idea that some police justifiably ‘bend the rules’ to get a conviction when officers ‘know’ the accused is guilty but do not have enough proof to convict. So it could be seen by some as “noble” to plant evidence, lie under oath and generally ‘fit up’ any ‘known villains’ when there is no actual evidence which would prove their guilt.

In Stoke Newington the police did, indeed, ‘fit up’ guilty drug dealers who would not otherwise have been imprisoned. But their motive was not to ‘clean up’ the area but to clear away the opposition as police officers were themselves dealing hard drugs. Whether this comes within Sir Paul Condon’s definition of “noble cause corruption” I am not sure.

In 1998, the Telegraph got hold of (and one wonders how) a confidential document containing the minutes of a meeting organised by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS). It quoted this police document as saying: “corrupt officers exist throughout the UK police service… Corruption may have reached ‘Level 2’, the situation which occurs in some third world countries.”

I once asked someone who had managed a ‘massage parlour’ – in other words, a brothel – how he had avoided getting raided by the police. He looked at me as if I was mad:

“Cos we fucking paid the Old Bill and gave them free services,” he said.

In Britain today, it remains a fact of life – as it always has been throughout my life – that you always have to pay The Bill.

Last night’s TV news shows reported that today the police would arrest former News of the World editor Andy Coulson. Now where would they have got that story from? Only the police would know. And today he was arrested.

Was the tip-off paid-for or was it just a nudge-nudge case of You do me a favour; I’ll do you a favour?


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Cabinet minister Chris Huhne and the convent-raised comedian

I mentioned in a recent blog that comedian Charmian Hughes was one of the first small intake of six girls at Westminster Boys’ School. The person who suggested she go there was her childhood chum Chris Huhne now (well, at the time of writing he still is) a Government Cabinet Minister. He is currently having a spot of bother over claims by his furious estranged-wife that he got her to accept penalty points for speeding when, in fact, it was (reportedly) he who was driving the car.

“I was driven in a car by him,” Charmian tells me. “He used to have a London taxi in his gap year before university. He must have been 18 and drove it to Turkey. But, alas, he didn’t take me to Turkey… Alas.”

He did give Charmian her first snog though and, back when Charmian first knew him, his preferred mode of transport was pedal-powered. She was about 10 when the two of them used to ride their bikes through a South Kensington mews. “It was such a genteel area,” she tells me. “The neighbours shouted at us because they found it a bit threatening and noisy.”

“His family were always extremely kind to me,” she says. “His mother – an actress – was the first person ever to take me to the theatre. It was The Mermaid Theatre. I think Marcel Marceau was miming something or other. Chris’ family were nice to me when I was persecuted by my own family. His mother said I was very artistic and special whereas my own family said I was twisted and strange because I wrote poems.

“When he was in the Sixth Form, he started a school paper called The Free Press for London-wide free distribution and didn’t have enough paid adverts for the first one, so the first edition was in danger of looking very bare and amateur. His friends were all making up ads he could stick in. I was about 14 or 15 and I wanted to impress him like mad and I remember we were sitting in a tube train on the Circle line when I suggested: How about an advert for Madame Hughes, Maison de Plaisir with my mother’s phone number? That would be good!

“I didn’t really think he would do it, but he did. I forgot all about it until one day the phone rang. I picked it up and a husky male voice said: Is that Madame Hughes? My blood ran cold, my stomach sank. I was terrified my mother would hear me talking to the man on the phone and I whispered: It’s all a ghastly mistake. A joke. I’m a school girl. The man was very understanding and rang off. My mother was and is a terrifying person with a terrible raging temper.

“The next phone call was from a tabloid newspaper reporter investigating ‘the schoolgirl brothel’. My mother answered. I heard her Medusa-like voice shrieking and threatening and the reporter scampered away never to ring again. When I told her what we’d done, she summoned Chris round.

Are you going to sue me? he asked in his most sophisticated timbre. Sue you? my mother sneered, A silly stupid little arrogant schoolboy like you? You must be joking, but I’m going to speak to your parents…”

Charmian’s first snog was with Chris Huhne when she was around 15 and he was around 17.

“I was at a convent boarding school,” Charmian tells me, “so it was hard to cop off.

“Later it was Chris who suggested I went to Westminster Boys’ School, but,” she adds dolefully, “by the time I’d got there, he’d left. Once he was at Oxford I hardly saw him. He was a very glamorous and sexy figure. We all adored him. He was brainy and cool and sophisticated. I think he only snogged me to put me out of my misery.”

Then she adds mysteriously:

“I also gave Frank Skinner his first avocado.”


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John Lennon, Aristotle Onassis and the famous ballerina who was a gun runner

“There’s nowt as queer as folk,” is a saying which perhaps doesn’t translate too well into American. In British English, it means there’s nothing more strange nor more interesting than people.

So bear with me, dear reader, as I tell this meandering tale of less than six degrees of separation, a Wagnerian concentration camp, John Lennon and hand grenades in Cricklewood, north west London.

In my erstwhile youth, while I was a student, I lived in a Hampstead house of bedsits. One of the other inhabitants was the late Martin Lickert who, at the time, was John Lennon’s chauffeur. He lived in a bedsit because he was rarely home and only needed an occasional single bed to be unconscious in at night. Although, one night, I had to swap beds with him as I had a double bed and he had to entertain a girl called Juliet. He later went on to become a poacher-turned-gamekeeper. Long after I knew him, he trained as a barrister and specialised in prosecuting drug cases for HM Customs & Excise.

His relevance, as far as this blog is concerned, is that he accidentally appeared in the little-seen and staggeringly weird Frank Zappa movie 200 Motels.

In that film, shot at Pinewood Studios, the part of ‘Jeff ‘was originally going to be played by the Mothers of Invention’s bass player Jeff Simmons who quit before filming. He was replaced in the movie by Wilfred Brambell, star of BBC TV’s Steptoe and Son and The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, who walked off set in a rage after a few days and Frank Zappa said: “The next person who comes through that door gets the part!”

The next person who came through the door was Martin Lickert, by then Ringo Starr’s chauffeur, who had gone to buy some tissues for his drumming employer who had a “permanent cold”.

The co-director with Frank Zappa of 200 Motels was Tony Palmer, famed director of documentaries on classical composers who, last night, was talking about his career in a Westminster library. I was there.

It was an absolutely riveting series of anecdotes which lasted 90 minutes but it seemed like 20 minutes, so fascinating were Tony Palmer’s stories.

He has, to say the least, had an odd career ranging from directing Richard Burton, Vanessa Redgrave and Frank Zappa in feature films to large-scale documentaries on heavyweight classical composers and from making documentaries on Liberace, Hugh Hefner and Peter Sellers to Swinging Britain TV rock shows like Colour Me Pop, How It Is and the extraordinary feature-length 1968 documentary All My Loving, suggested to him by John Lennon and so controversial at the time that it was shelved by David Attenborough (then Controller of BBC2) who said it would only be screened over his dead body – Attenborough denies using these words, but Palmer has the memo.

All My Loving was eventually screened on BBC TV after the channel had officially closed down for the night. I saw it when it was transmitted and, even now, it is an extraordinarily OTT piece of film-making.

Tony Palmer’s film-making career is much like the composing career of Igor Stravinsky (whom Palmer introduced to John Lennon when The Beatles were at their height). Stravinsky saw Tchaikovsky conduct in the 19th century and was still composing when he died in 1971, after The Beatles had broken up. So there are fewer than even six degrees of separation between Tchaikovsky and Martin Lickert.

Palmer – who is currently preparing a documentary project with Richard Dawkins – has had an extraordinarily wide range of encounters from which to draw autobiographical anecdotes.

He directed Michael Palin and Terry Jones in Twice a Fortnight, one of the important precursors of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and he directed the 17-hour, 12-part 1977 TV series All You Need Is Love tracing the development of popular music. Again, that project was suggested to him by John Lennon and he discovered that, though The Beatles had never tried to copyright the title All You Need Is Love, it had been registered by a Hong Kong manufacturer of sexy clothing and a brothel in Amsterdam.

Palmer also advised director Stanley Kubrick on music for his last movie Eyes Wide Shut and has apparently endless anecdotes on the great creative artists of the 20th century.

Who knew that the cellist Rostropovich used to get paid in cash, would put the cash inside the cello which he then went and played on stage and bought refrigerators in bulk in the UK so he could send them back to the USSR and sell them at a vast profit?

I, for one, had never heard that the German composer Richard Wagner, Hitler’s favourite composer and much admired by the Nazis, actually had a grandson who ran a concentration camp towards the end of World War II.

Nor that, in the 1950s, ballerina Margot Fonteyn got paid in cash which she then took to a Cricklewood arms dealer to buy guns and grenades which were channeled though France to Panama where her dodgy politician husband was planning a coup.

It’s amazing that, by now, someone has not made a documentary about Tony Palmer.

I suppose the problem is ironic: that the perfect person to have done this would have been Tony Palmer.

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