Tag Archives: Charlie Richardson

Other people’s lives & deaths & ills and what you get if you pay someone £5,000

I very rarely remember my dreams, which I think is a pity.

But who needs dreams when there is reality?

I looked at my old e-diary for things which happened on this day in past years.

Here are extracts from three April 6ths…


This morning, my mother went to the doctor and saw the other GP in the practice. He took her off the sleeping tablets and painkillers prescribed for her by the main GP and gave her 14 days worth of new painkillers. He said he had no idea what was wrong with her, though he easily found the pain spot.

(My mother died on 13th January 2007 from a heart attack;
the pain never stopped)

I got an e-mail from a friend in the US:

Something terrible has happened – massive car crash, involving my sister. Fractured spine, internal bleeding… car turned over, went in a 7 ft ditch, missed many trees, wheel came off, it was dark and there was no-one about except her friend following her in another car. The problem was the wheel bearing.

(My friend’s sister is still alive; she is fine now)


I went with my parents to hospital to see my father’s consultant. He said there had been two polyps removed during my father’s colonoscopy. The malignant tumour has been confirmed and he will operate on my father on 19th April for £5,000, cutting into the front of his stomach, cutting away the section of bowel where the tumour is and reconnecting the intestine with the bowel because he says that is easier than reconnecting two ends of bowel. My father was sick after his supper yesterday. Today, after an average sized meal at a Little Chef restaurant, he said: “Big meal. Made me awfy tired, but I enjoyed it.”

(My father died on 27th June 2001 of cancer)


Extract from an e-mail to me from a friend:

My Mum has had a bad week but today was feeling miles better. Except for a very strange thing. According to my Dad, she saw a ghost during the night. Only my mother can do things like that. She woke up suddenly about 3.00am to find a woman leaning over her bed staring at her, with large protruding eyes. My Mum startled her and she backed off then came close again at which point Mum turned to her side to switch on her hearing aid and when she turned back (a matter of seconds) the woman had gone. Mum very painfully got up and went to ask the nurse if anyone had entered the ward. No-one had.

(My friend’s mother is still alive)

The News of the World printed a story today:


Movie star Richard Harris had sex sessions with Princess Margaret at a lady-in waiting’s home, it was claimed last night. And when Margaret asked his help in destroying sexually explicit photos of her with small-time actor John Bindon, he called in 60s Torture Gang boss Charles Richardson. The gang leader forced Bindon, who was famous for balancing beer mugs  on his manhood, to hand over the pics for £5,000, according to Harris’s pal Robert McKew. “Richard burnt them, then ordered drinks all round,” said McKew.

(Johnny Bindon died 10th October 1993;
Princess Margaret died 9th February 2002;
Richard Harris died 25th October 2002;
Charlie Richardson died 19th September 2012)

So it goes.

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The night comedian Malcolm Hardee met gangster Charlie Richardson

Charlie Richardson book to be published next month

A new book to be published next month

In London in the 1960s, the Richardsons – Charlie & Eddie – were rivals of the Kray Twins – Ronnie & Reggie.

The Richardsons always kept a lower profile than the Krays but were imprisoned after a high profile ‘torture trial’ in which (among other things) their enforcer ‘Mad’ Frank Fraser’s habit of pulling out people’s teeth with allegedly gold-plated pliers was a widely-reported part. I can do no better than quote this section of the Richardsons’ current Wikipedia entry:

The police unearthed the sadistic methods of torture that the gang specialised in. Victims were hauled in front of Charlie, Fraser and others in a mock trial. Then the punishments were meted out, anything from beatings to more severe forms of torture: whippings, cigarette burning, teeth being pulled out with pliers, nailing to the floor, having toes removed with bolt cutters and given electric shocks until unconsciousness.

Mad Frank interviewed at Repton Boys Club

Mad Frank (left) interviewed at Repton Boys’ Club in 2002

The electric shocks were inflicted by an old Army field telephone which included a hand-crank-powered generator. The victims had the terminals attached to their nipples and genitalia and were then placed in a bath of cold water to enhance the electrical charge. Afterwards, if victims were too badly injured, they would be sent to a doctor who had been struck off the Medical Register.

This process of trial and torture was known as ‘taking a shirt from Charlie’, because of Charlie Richardson’s habit of giving each victim a clean shirt in which to return home (since the victim’s original shirt was usually covered in blood).

On one occasion, a collector of ‘pensions’ (protection money from publicans and others), who was twice warned by the Richardsons after he pocketed the money and spent it at Catford dog track, was nailed to the floor of a warehouse near Tower Bridge for nearly two days, during which time gang members frequently urinated on him.

Comedian Malcolm Hardee was always, it seemed to me, enthralled by ‘real’ criminals.

Shortly after he bought the Wibbley Wobbley boat in Rotherhithe to establish a new comedy club, there was a social event which had been pre-arranged by the boat’s previous owner. This is an entry from my diary at the time:

Thursday 7th February 2002

Malcolm & girlfriend Andree at the Wibbley Wobbley in 2002

Malcolm & girlfriend Andree at the Wibbley Wobbley in 2002

In the afternoon, I went to see Malcolm at the Wibbley Wobbley. He had left his belt somewhere and he asked if I remembered when trousers used to come with cardboard belts. I did not.

I asked what happened if it rained and he told me they only came with cardboard belts at the point of sale; then you bought a proper belt before it rained.

At the Wibbley Wobbley in the evening there was allegedly a book signing (Who’s The Thief? by Dave Ford)

Dave Ford in a video uploaded onto YouTube in 2010

Author Dave Ford in a video uploaded onto YouTube in 2010

but really is was just a party. Dave Ford was a tall, broad villain in a white shirt, his throat hidden by a scarf – a former paratrooper. One of the people who turned up was Charlie Richardson who had that fresh, pink, newly-scrubbed look that many Faces have – with a look of relaxed yet steely self-confidence in their eyes. He was slightly too short for the width of his body and had a hooked pink Roman nose; he was bald with close-cropped white hair and close-cropped white beard.

Another man came in with the same look of relaxed yet steely self-confidence in his eyes and they met as equals. Everyone else deferred to Charlie.

Malcolm was very tense, very nervous, very twitchy – obviously quite excited to be in Charlie Richardson’s presence – but eventually plucked up courage to approach and introduce himself to the great man who seemed to relax when he realised who Malcolm was. There was a twinkle in Charlie’s eyes.

Later, Malcolm played Tom Jones’ Please Release Me on the jukebox, but no-one reacted.

Later still, with the interior of the boat jam-packed, the back of the Wibbley Wobbley was lowering in the water and Malcolm was looking slightly nervous about it possibly sinking.

Malcolm Hardee, man of the River Thames, had contacts (photograph by Vincent Lewis)

Malcolm Hardee was always enthralled by ‘real’ criminals (Photograph by Vincent Lewis)

I left at about 8.45pm and, outside, there was a large collection of 4×4 vehicles with chromium bars at the front to ward off any sudden appearance of cattle, buffalo or wildebeest stampeding through the streets of South London.

Apparently at 11 o’clock – closing time – after I left, Malcolm said:

“Come on, come on – Closing Time – Haven’t you lot got cells to go to?”

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One man can change the world with a bullet (or six) in the right place….

(A version of this blog was also published in the Huffington Post under the title What Links Dead Comedian Malcolm Hardee, Gangster Mad Frank Fraser & a British Political Sex Scandal?)

My local handyman (who is a very interesting person; he was at university – UCL, London – with the mother of Kate Middleton, our possibly future Queen) came round to mend my side gate yesterday. He was telling me he hated reading Charles Dickens and could not understand what people see in Dickens’ writing.

“Just caricatures,” he fumed. “Just caricatures. But,” he continued, “Horace Walpole is worse. “The Castle of Otranto is utter shit yet people thought it was a great piece of writing at the time and they thought Horace Walpole’s name would be remembered. Now, quite rightly, no-one remembers him except dusty academics. He’s a footnote. Who knows which ‘famous’ people’s names are going to survive from the 20th century? It’s pot luck.”

Also yesterday, Bill Alford sent me a Facebook message telling me he had posted on Flickr ninety-five… count ’em that’s ninety-five… photographs he took in the years 1985-1987 at the late Malcolm Hardee‘s legendary – nay, notorious – seminal alternative comedy club The Tunnel Palladium.

In among the early photos of Keith Allen, Clive Anderson, Phil Cool, Jenny Eclair, Harry Enfield, Jeremy Hardy, Ainsley Harriott, Jools Holland, Eddie Izzard, Phill Jupitus, Josie Lawrence, Neil Morrissey, Mike Myers (yes, that Mike Myers), Vic Reeves, Jerry Sadowitz, Screaming Lord Sutch, Squeeze and many others at Malcolm’s Tunnel Palladium, there is a photo of a trendy-looking gent captioned Johnny Edge.

All ninety-five… count ’em that’s ninety-five… of Bill’s photos are interesting – a nostalgic flashlight on an earlier comedy era – but the photo of Johnny Edge was the one which interested me most because I never met Johnny Edge.

I only knew of him by reputation.

He died almost exactly a year ago, on 26th September 2010.

He was just an ordinary bloke living in south east London, whom most people had never heard of yet, when he died, he merited very lengthy obituaries in the Daily Telegraphthe Guardian and the Independent.

In that sense, he was a bit like Malcolm Hardee.

Most people in Britain had never heard of Malcolm Hardee but, when he drowned in January 2005, such was his importance to the development of British comedy, that he merited near full-page obituaries in the Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard, the Guardianthe Independent and The Times – indeed, he managed to get two obituaries in the Evening Standard and two in the Guardian.

Malcolm had told me tales of Johnny Edge coming to his comedy clubs and, when I showed the Flickr photo to a friend who worked at Malcolm’s later comedy club Up The Creek, she immediately recognised him:

“Oh yes. I recognise him. He was a regular. He always seemed to me to be on his own. I didn’t know who he was, but other people seemed to know him and treat him with respect, like he had been in known bands or something, He looked ‘reggae’ and he held himself well, maybe just because he was older and quiet. He seemed nice. I think if he had been in a rock band I would have heard which one, which is why I wondered how people were familiar with him… Now I come to think about it, maybe Malcolm always put his name ‘on the door’ so he got in for free. Logically, I think that is highly likely.”

When Malcolm had told me about Johnny Edge being a regular at his clubs, I could feel the slight thrill he had in being able to say he had met and, to an extent, known him.

Johnny ‘Edge’ was a nickname. He was actually Johnny Edgcombe. What he did in 1962 was the catalyst that triggered the Profumo Scandal in 1963 which played no minor part in bringing down the Conservative government in 1964.

Edgecombe had fired six shots at osteopath Stephen Ward’s mews flat, where Edgecombe’s ex-girlfriend Christine Keeler was hiding.

Malcolm’s barely-contained thrill at having a link with Johnny ‘Edge’ was the same thrill I could sense in him when famed 1960s South London gangster Charlie Richardson came to a party on Malcolm’s floating pub the Wibbley Wibbley. It is the same thrill some people feel if they have an even tenuous link with the Kray Twins.  I have heard more than one stand-up comic joke about the TARDIS-like capacity of the Blind Beggar, seeing as how most of the population of East London appears to have been in the pub the night Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell.

It is the thrill of one or two degrees of separation from important historic or society-changing events.

Malcolm had three degrees of separation from the Krays, which I think he always cherished and which is mentioned towards the start of his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake (now out-of-print, but currently available from me via Amazon at  the remarkably reasonable price of £49.99 + p&p).

When Mad Frank Fraser, the Richardson’s ‘enforcer’ was shot in the thigh during a fight at Mr Smith’s Club in Catford, he was eventually left lying in the front garden of Malcolm’s aunt Rosemary and uncle Doug. The shooting was part of the bad blood and linked events which led to the shooting in the Blind Beggar which brought the Kray Twins and, to an extent, the Richardsons down.

Links within links within links.

To an extent, I share Malcolm’s thrill with one or two degrees of linked separation from national, international or parochial history. Everything and everyone is inter-linked.

Malcolm never met Mad Frank Fraser. I have and I am glad to have met and chatted to him a couple of times: the man who once lay bleeding in Malcolm’s aunt and uncle’s front garden.

Links within links within links.

Once, Mad Frank told me he worried “a bit” what people would say about him after he was dead, because what people are seen as being is ultimately not what they are but what people write about them in retrospect.

A butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazonian jungle really can change the world. Ordinary unsung individuals can be part of the chain that creates historic events. Or, to quote anti-hero Mick’s line in Lindsay Anderson’s trendy 1968 film If….

“One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place…”

Or six bullets.

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