Tag Archives: crime

A newspaper mystery & Britain in 1950

The mysterious smudged Guardian

The mysterious smudged copy of he Guardian

I was passing through Kings Cross St Pancras tube station a couple of days ago when I saw. in the Evening Standard bins, some newspapers which were not Evening Standards.

Several were an odd, blurred-print, 40-page edition of, apparently, The Guardian. Except everything was artistically smudged and it was some edition covering the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.

Maybe it was some bit of agitprop, but there seemed to be no message.

Maybe it was some offbeat advert for some product, but there was no visible plug anywhere.

The other paper in the Evening Standard bin was a copy of the long-deceased Daily Graphic newspaper dated Friday March 24, 1950. The headline was:

STOP THE CRIME WAVE

and that story ran beside a photograph of Queen Mary doing needlework in the garden of Marlborough House. The caption inexplicably said: Picture released, yesterday, as New York hailed her million-stitch carpet.

The Crime Wave story said, in part:

The viewpoint on crime in 1950

A viewpoint on law and a crime wave in 1950

Lord Goddard, Lord Chief Justice, warned the Government in the House of Lords last night that the wave of violence must be stopped. A way of ending it had got to be found.

“If the crime wave goes on,” he said gravely, “the demand that it be stopped will be overwhelming.

“Strength must be applied. I hope to goodness it will not be applied too late.”

But Lord Goddard, who was speaking in the second day’s debate on a motion calling attention to the crime wave, made it clear that he was not asking for corporal punishment to be brought back.

“It is one thing,” he explained, “to deplore – as I do – abolition of all forms of corporal punishment, and another to demand their reimposition.

“My reluctance to do so is because I think there is nothing worse than continually altering penalties….

“It is true I suggested the abolition of the ‘cat’ and the retaining of other forms – not merely the birch, but the cane, so that boys could have been caned…

“When a prisoner comes out after having the ‘cat’,” he said, “he is treated as a martyr or hero.

“But when he gets the birch he knows he will come out the object of ridicule – and nothing kills so quickly as ridicule.”

A double-page Guardian spread

Double-page Guardian spread in a 40-page enigmatic paper

The 1950 copy of the Daily Graphic was maybe an insight into another world 65 years ago.

But why it was in a modern-day Evening Standard bin and what the purpose was/is of the multiple smudged copies of The Guardian remains an utterly unexplained mystery.

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Comedian Malcolm Hardee, The Krays and The Richardsons and a film director

Malcolm Hardee on the BBC TV show Diners

Malcolm Hardee on the BBC TV show Diners. He was drunk.

Because (to be honest) of time constraints on my originality, here is another extract from the autobiography of Malcolm Hardee, godfather to British alternative comedy – I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake - now tragically out-of-print.

Malcolm was not a man un-acquainted with the law and with prison and detention centres.


I Stole Freddie Mercy’sBirthday Cake

He did steal Freddie Mercury’s cake…

When you are taken from court, the police are in charge of you. When you get to the detention centre or prison, the Screws – the warders – are in charge. When you arrived at Blantyre House, the routine was that the Screws said:

“Stand up against that wall!”

Then they just whacked your head straight into the side of the wall.

I watched this through a gap in the door and saw them do it to the three blokes before me. But they didn’t do it to me because of my glasses. So I didn’t get the full treatment. But life at Blantyre House was very hard.

You had to run about four miles with medicine balls under your arms and get up at six o’clock to do press-ups every morning and drill like in the Army:

“Quick march! Slow march! Get in line!”

They had a swimming pool and on May 1st, whatever the weather, you had to do four lengths of the swimming pool. This particular May was one of those cold ones and the swimming pool had a thin layer of ice on it. Someone just forced us all to dive in it. They worked you like demons. I got solitary confinement for two days, in a damp cell on bread and water, just for shouting out: “Bollocks!” at some point during a football match.

I was in Blantyre House in 1968 when the gangsters who were thought to be untouchable were put behind bars: The Krays (Ronnie and Reggie). They only operated in London’s East End and it has become over-magnified how important they were. They were just one of many gangs. The Richardsons (Charlie and Eddie) were operating in South East London and they weren’t quite so high profile. The good ones, of course, are the ones you don’t read about  – the Frenches were well known for local villainy and drew very little publicity. I was just on the very vague periphery of all this as they were a lot older and in a different league.

Eddie Richardson was involved in a big shooting at Mr Smith’s, underneath The Witchdoctor. It was a inter-gang thing. They all met down the gaming club and this bloke got shot and was bleeding all over the place from an artery. ‘Mad Frankie’ Fraser (the Richardson’s infamous ‘enforcer’) hit a bloke who subsequently died and ‘Mad Frankie’ himself was shot in the thigh. He got outside and the police found him lying in a front garden round the corner in Fordel Road, Catford, where my Aunt Rosemary and Uncle Doug – the ones connected with the train crash – were then living. His mates had just left ‘Mad Frankie’ there. A bit inconsiderate to the neighbours.

No-one outside South East London knew the Richardsons until they were arrested and there was a lot of publicity at their trial about torturing people in a home-made electric chair.

But everyone knew the Krays. As comedian Lee Hurst says, the Blind Beggar must be the biggest pub in the world. Every time you meet a London taxi driver he was in the Blind Beggar the day Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell.

Some people say the Krays wouldn’t have been big if there hadn’t been the shooting in the Blind Beggar. But these days people are getting shot all the time. In the paper yesterday there was a bloke shot in a pub in Yorkshire at lunchtime. I suppose The Krays were setting a trend.

The Krays also had that showbiz thing about them. They actually owned a club;  the actress Barbara Windsor was a girlfriend of Charlie Kray and later married Ronnie Knight who worked for The Krays; and the Conservative politician Lord Bob Boothby, whose mistress had been Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s wife, was having it off with Ronnie, the gay Kray.

The film about The Krays was wrong on almost everything, really. I saw part of it being filmed in Greenwich, which was the wrong place to begin with. They’d done-up this street to look like 1934 when the twins were born and there was a scene where Billie Whitelaw was coming out of a door as their mother. I was watching this scene being shot with a friend. We were sitting in a place called Lil’s Diner, a local cafe, where a lot of lorry drivers go. The director was trying to get it right and first an aeroplane went over, then a lorry drove past and then someone coughed loudly and, on about the 5th or 6th take, he got it right and it was all quiet and the light was right and the sun was out and Billie Whitelaw came out the door with this double pram with two kids in it and one of the lorry drivers yelled out:

“So which one’s the poof, then?”

The director went mad.

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My Top Ten biggest blog hits – Maybe I should forget comedy and turn to crime

Pencil_CUTYesterday, there were a lot of hits on a non-comedy-related piece I wrote in 2013.

This blog is often called a comedy blog, but the statistics of all-time highest hits on specific pieces are interesting. Only three out of the top ten are actually comedy-related.

On my Twitter page, I say: “I blog daily about interesting people doing creative things.”

And who am I to disbelieve myself?

But it is more complicated than that.

My ten blogs with the most hits are:

No 1
JIMMY SAVILE: THE BIRTH OF A PAEDOPHILE HOAX ON “HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU”

No 2
FEMINIST FEMALE COMEDIANS AGREE THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF RAPE IN EDINBURGH

No 3
HOW THE EDINBURGH FRINGE IS FINANCED: THE ARTICLE WHICH YOU CANNOT READ IN THIS MORNING’S EDITION OF “THE SCOTSMAN”

No 4
WHAT THE TAXI DRIVER TOLD ME ABOUT THE PROSTITUTES AND THE CRIMINAL FAMILIES

No 5
JIMMY SAVILE: THE INFAMOUS “HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU” TRANSCRIPT FROM 1999

No 6
KRAYZY DAYS – WHY LONDON GANGSTER RONNIE KRAY REALLY SHOT GEORGE CORNELL INSIDE THE BLIND BEGGAR PUB IN 1966

No 7
THE STORY TWO-FACED TONY BLAIR/BLIAR SUCCESSFULLY HID FROM THE BRITISH PUBLIC

No 8
THE QUIET MEN: ‘MAD’ FRANK FRASER, MALCOLM HARDEE AND JOHN McVICAR

No 9
CABINET MINISTER CHRIS HUHNE AND THE CONVENT-RAISED COMEDIAN

No 10
THE DEATH OF A UK BOXER LINKED TO THE SADISTIC MURDERS OF PROSTITUTES BY SERIAL KILLER ‘JACK THE STRIPPER’

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What the REAL Swinging Sixties were like – gangsters and police corruption

 (From left) Teddy Smith, Micky Fawcett, Johnny Davis, Reggie Kray, Freddie Mills, Ronnie Kray, Dicky Morgan, Sammt Lederman at Freddie Mills’ Nite Spot in the 1960s (Photograph from Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days)

Faces of the 1960s. (From left) Teddy Smith, Micky Fawcett, Johnny Davis, Reggie Kray, Freddie Mills, Ronnie Kray, Dicky Morgan and Sammy Lederman at Freddie Mills’ Nite Spot. (Photograph from Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days)

According to the Daily Telegraph in 2001, Mad Teddy Smith was:

“a psychopathic homosexual rumoured to have had affairs with Ronnie Kray and Tom Driberg, the former Labour MP. He disappeared the day after an argument with the Krays in 1967.”

The Kray Twins – gangsters Ronnie and Reggie – are iconic figures of the 1960s.

They were arrested in 1968, the year after ‘the summer of love’. Their associates included Micky Fawcett and ‘Mad’ Teddy Smith.

When I chatted to Micky Fawcett in June 2013, I mentioned it had been widely reported over the last 40 years that Teddy Smith was killed by the Krays. A very good article in the Daily Mail in August 2010 headlined SEX, LIES, DOWNING STREET AND THE COVER-UP THAT LEFT THE KRAYS FREE TO KILL repeated the story that the Kray Twins had killed him.

“No,” Micky told me in 2013, “I would think he’s in Australia or somewhere like that.”

Micky Fawcett (left) with son Michael Fawcett

Micky Fawcett (left) with son Michael Fawcett at The Ritz

I had another chat with Micky Fawcett and his son Michael Fawcett this week.

“When Reggie Kray was on his deathbed,” Micky told me, “he was asked if he had been involved in any unknown-of killings and he couldn’t miss the chance, knowing it was the end, of saying: Well, there was one other… and that was all he said.

“Then Nipper Read (the Scotland Yard detective who arrested The Krays) told the Daily Telegraph: Yes, we know all about it – It was Teddy Smith they killed and they buried him down at Steeple Bay (in Essex).

“But,” Micky told me this week, “there is this bloke who’s very interested in Teddy Smith – he’s got a sort of bee in his bonnet about him – and he had a chat with us and he finished up going to Australia and found Teddy Smith had died from natural causes in 2006.”

“How did he track him down?” I asked.

“We had pictures,” said Micky, “and he went out to Australia. Teddy Smith was quite a character. He used to walk around and he had a little tiny dog and a long cigarette holder.”

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

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

“Was he gay?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” said Micky. “He considered himself to be a playwright and he did write a play once for the BBC.”

“It was,” said Michael Fawcett, “the first TV play to be broadcast in colour on the BBC. It was called The Top Bunk. Something to do with prisons.”

The Top Bunk was transmitted by BBC TV on 30th October 1967 in their Thirty Minute Theatre series. Teddy was credited as Ted Smith and, according to the BBC synopsis:

Two old lags who share the same cell have got prison life down to a fine art. They are upset when an outsider, a public school type and a first timer, is made to live with them and bowled over when he reveals a sinister side to his nature, which makes him their natural leader, entitled to the position of prestige – the top bunk.

“He was put in Broadmoor,” said Micky. “Mad Teddy Smith was. He was certified insane. He used to be very confident.

Krayzy Days by Micky Fawcett

Micky Fawcett’s book: the title says it all

“I was talking to him one day in the house in Vallance Road (where The Krays lived with their mum) and, as we walked out, he said: Oh, they get on my nerves. They drive me mad – talking about violence all the time. If only people knew what I did to get myself certified and into Broadmoor…

“What did he do?” I asked.

“I never found out,” sad Micky. “He was an interesting character, though. This gay bloke with this dog and this cigarette holder.

“On another occasion, Ronnie said: Do us a favour, Mick, there’s a fellah called Cholmondley – he was one of Ronnie’s young ‘friends’ – I’m sending Teddy Smith to get hold of him for me. Can you go with Teddy and keep an eye on Teddy for me? So I went with Teddy Smith to Soho. I thought I knew Soho, but Teddy took me to two or three different unlicensed bars above clip joints and whatever.

Francis Bacon (Photograph by Jane Bown)

Francis Bacon, acquaintance of Mad Teddy Smith (Photograph by Jane Bown)

“We went in one and there were all these men in hacking jackets like you’d expect to find at a golf club or somewhere like that. They were obviously all gay and one of them was the painter Francis Bacon, who knew Teddy because that was his sort of style.

“We couldn’t find Cholmondley there, so then we went to The Establishment Club, which was a theatre.”

Peter Cook’s satire club?” I asked.

“Yeah. Lenny Bruce had been in there. There was a box office with a little grille. Teddy Smith said I just want to go in and have a look for a friend and the fellah said You can’t come in without a ticket.

“So Teddy Smith was getting a bit annoyed and said Could you come round here? I want to have a word with you and I thought Awww… Fuck off, I’m going to get involved in a murder here or something. But a fellah came from behind in a brown smock and with a bit of a black eye and he said: I’m Detective Sergeant ChallenorCan I help you?”

“Woo-hoo!” I said.

“You know about Challenor?” Micky asked me.

“Oh yes,” I said. “Was it Challenor?”

“Yes,” said Micky. “So I was out the door with Teddy Smith as quick as I could. At the time, I was living in fear of Challenor. I didn’t want to cross his path. He would have set me up and I’ve been set up a few times by the Old Bill.”

Richard Attenborough as Truscott of The Yard in Loot

Richard Attenborough (moustache) was Truscott in Loot film

“Truscott of The Yard,” said Michael Fawcett. “Truscott in Joe Orton’s play Loot was modelled on Challenor.”

“They put him in a mental home,” Micky said to me. “Challenor. You know – Bongo Bongo? He had a war against crime in Soho, going round punching people.”

Challenor was posted to the notoriously corrupt West End Central Police Station in 1962. It policed the Soho area. At one point, Challenor had a record of over 100 arrests in seven months. He eventually totalled 600 arrests and received 18 commendations. He achieved this by using what were, at that time, by no means unusual techniques.

On one occasion, he punched a suspect from Barbados while he (Challenor) sang Bongo, bongo, bongo, I don’t want to leave the Congo.

Various people claimed to have been beaten up or to have had evidence planted on them by Challenor, but they were still convicted.

On 11 July 1963, though, he arrested Donald Rooum, a cartoonist for Peace News, who was demonstrating outside Claridge’s Hotel against Queen Frederica of Greece.

Challenor reportedly told Rooum: You’re fucking nicked, my beauty. Boo the Queen, would you? and hit him on the head. Going through Rooum’s possessions, Challenor added a half-brick, saying: There you are, me old darling. Carrying an offensive weapon. You can get two years for that. 

The face of Harold Challenor , upholder of the law in 1960s Soho

‘Mad’ Harold Challenor – upholder of the law in 1960s Soho

Rooum, a member of the National Council for Civil Liberties, handed his clothes to his solicitor for testing. No brick dust or appropriate wear-and-tear were found and Rooum was acquitted, although other people Challenor arrested at the demonstration were still convicted on his evidence.

By the time Challenor appeared at the Old Bailey in 1964, charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, he was deemed to be unfit to plead

“They chucked him out of the police,” said Micky, “and said he’d had a mental breakdown.”

He was sent to Netherne mental hospital in Surrey and was said to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

A total of 26 innocent men were charged during Challenor’s activities. Of these, 13 were imprisoned. On his release from hospital, Challoner worked for the firm of solicitors which had defended him during his trial.

Since then, “doing a Challenor” has become police slang for avoiding punishment and prosecution by retiring sick.

Welcome to the wonderful world of British policing.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Jim Davidson on being “racist, sexist, homophobic” – and Operation Yewtree

Candy Gigi being advised by Jim Davidson  last night while critic Kate Copstick appears to have a fit in the background

Candy Gigi with Jim Davidson last night while comedy critic Kate Copstick appears to have fit

Who makes a good chat show host? Someone who can ask difficult questions and get revealing answers without the interviewee really noticing.

Last night, I went to Bob Slayer’s Christmas pop-up venue – Heroes Grotto of Comedy – in the City of London, where Scott Capurro and his friend David Mills were hosting their chat show. Their guests were London mayoral candidate Ivan Massow, 2014 Malcolm Hardee Award winner Candy Gigi and British comedy legend Jim Davidson. An interestingly eclectic trio.

Before anyone complains – as I am sure they will – about what follows. I myself would have mentioned an alleged incident of wife-beating. But this is not my interview.

Scott Capurro met Jim Davidson for the first time at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Last night he asked Jim why he had stayed at a hotel out by Edinburgh Airport.

“I thought I don’t want to get involved with everybody,” said Jim, “but, more than that, I didn’t want to go in a club and get blanked.”

“Did that happen to you?” Scott asked.

“Well, it did a bit,” said Jim.

Jim Davidson’s current Edinburgh Fringe show

Jim’s Edinburgh Fringe show this year

“We went to the performers’ bar at the Gilded Balloon,” Scott explained to the audience, “and a couple of comics said: Why did you bring Jim in here? I said: Because it’s a public bar and he’s a comic. Why the fuck are you here? Why don’t you fuck off if you don’t like him? These were people who had not seen his live performance. But they had made up their minds about who he was.”

“I am,” admitted Jim, “regarded as an old school/ racist/ sexist/ homophobic horrible person. I understand the perception of me. I really do understand that. Perception, yeah. How many times have we said: I fuckin’ hate that bloke and you meet them and they’re absolutely wonderful? What you’ve done is you’ve spent all that time wasting emotion.

“I’m the bad guy,” said Jim. “When Bernard Manning died, they had to have someone else. Someone said to me: Jim, you’re the bad guy, because it makes other people better by default.

“I have always been unhappy to be called homophobic because it’s fucking annoying. The racist thing I can get because I used to do jokes about black people and it’s a bit more sensitive than doing jokes about gay people.”

“The night I saw your show in Edinburgh,” said Scott, “there was a wheelchair guy in the front row – and a blind person.”

“Yeah,” said Jim. “What’s the point of a fucking blind person being on the front row? That’s what I actually said to him. He could sit and face the fucking wall and…”

“Do you,” asked Scott, “revel in that sort of…”

“Yeah. I do,” replied Jim. “Don’t you? You do.”

“Yeah,” said Scott.

“This is it, right?” said Jim. “In the front row here tonight, we’ve got an Australian, a mad woman, a baldy man, a blonde girl and a person that’s wearing boots that are too young for them. Let’s say we also have someone in a wheelchair…

(From left) David Mills, Jim Davidson, Scott Capurro last night

(L-R) David Mills, Jim Davidson and Scott Capurro last night

“What you do is try and get that person in the wheelchair involved. Include him rather than take the piss. But what happens is some fucking Guardian-reading leftie that wants an excuse to hate me might say: Jim took the piss out of a man in a wheelchair. So do you take that chance? I do. And then I get slagged off for it. I hate it. I hate it. But I can’t stop myself. I want to include people. I don’t want to take he piss out of someone in a wheelchair: that’s fucking easy. I want to include the person… Include the person.”

“The really disabled people,” said David Mills, “are people who have got no sense of humour.”

“A blind man can still see a good joke,” said Jim.

“Some comics think,” said Scott, “if you do an accent, immediately that’s racist.”

“Yeah,” said Jim. “What’s that all about? I don’t get that.”

“You did a brilliant accent in Edinburgh.”

“The West Indian thing? Or the Indian thing?”

“The Indian guy.”

“This is true. I don’t care if you think this is racist or not. My mate in Dubai was a Sikh and he had (at this point, Jim started to imitate the accents) a real broad Glaswegian accent. He had a brown face, didn’t wear a turban and could drink like a fish. Halfway through drinking, his accent became slightly Indian and then it became Scottish but still Indian and, at the end of the evening, it was totally Indian but with a Scottish personality – Who you fuckin’ looking at, ya cunt?

“Someone said: How Seventies is that – thinking that Indian people are funny? But how fucking insulting is that?

“I’ll tell you where my West Indian character Chalky comes from. I used to do jokes about West Indian kids I went to school with and it was 1976/1977 Blackpool, Little & Large – remember them?

Little and Large with Susie Silvey in the 1980s.

Little and Large with Susie Silvey in the 1980s.

“They had a manager and, when I did this West Indian accent, he said: Oh, fuck me, we can’t have this! It was never offensive in my mind and people would laugh their heads off at it. But he said You’ve gotta drop that and the producer said Why don’t you make it one character and make that character someone everyone can laugh at, even the black people in the audience? So Chalky was based around my mates: all the black kids I went to school with had West Indian accents. Chalky was a character to be loved. I didn’t invent that character to ridicule anybody and, if I have ridiculed anybody, I apologise from the bottom of my heart. He was made to be loved. He was Dennis The Menace. He was Minnie The Minx.

“Unfortunately, there is a perception of me and I’ve got to take that on the chin. I’ve done well, I’ve been doing this for forty years. I’ve afforded four divorces.”

Jim was arrested under Operation Yewtree, the police investigation following sex revelations about the late Jimmy Savile.

“I thought Yewtree was fucking great when it started off,” said Jim last night, “because it was arresting all those funny people at the BBC that I didn’t particularly like. And then Freddie Starr got arrested and I thought: This is ridiculous. I think he’s the greatest act I’ve ever seen: I mean, really, really old school but brilliant.

“There were about twelve reporters outside my house every day for a couple of weeks. The police investigation lasted a year. Everyone knew it was not for under-aged sex and everyone knew I was a bit of jack-the-lad and a pretty easy target. I’ve never hid the fact I like girls. But I think arresting me was the straw that broke the camel’s back. People started to realise: Hang on a bit; it’s getting silly.”

Jim explained that one woman who said she had been sexually assaulted by him at the London Palladium later (after he had provided evidence to the police) changed her story to having been assaulted at the Hemel Hempstead Pavilion. He says a policeman questioning him over another charge said:

You came off the stage at The Green Man in the Old Kent Road and you saw a woman there with a short skirt on and a garter belt hanging down under her skirt and you twanged her garter belt. Can you remember doing that?

“In 1978?

“Yes.

“I can’t remember doing that.

“Is that something you would have done?

“Yeah, probably. And then what? Then I sexually assaulted her?

“No. That IS the sexual assault that we have arrested you for.

“And that’s how it went on,” Jim said. “It cost me a year and about £500,000 and, at the end of it, they said: No further action. They didn’t say sorry or anything. It was horrible. Horrible.”

“What is the motivation of the accusers?” Scott asked.

“No idea” said Jim. “Schadenfreude? I really think that’s what it is. How dare he have such a good life when I’ve had such a shit life. And there’s a lot of bandwagon jumping. But it’s not for me to say.”

“Did you,” asked Scott, “believe in the legal system before this?”

“I still believe in it,” said Jim. “I don’t think the police had any alternative but to investigate. I read the other day that the Inspector of Constabulary said that the police should record more crimes. Someone can go in and say blah-blah-blah and it’s got to be put down as a crime and the person is arrested before the interrogation. I think that’s the wrong way round. I think, in this country, you are innocent until proven guilty. But I’m not going to shout out about it because I’m frightened to. I don’t want to rock the boat and that’s the truth.”

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What connects gangster Ronnie Kray & a famed gentle folk singer of the 1960s?

The front page of the funeral service

The front cover of Laurie’s funeral service

Three days ago, I posted a blog about gangster Reg Kray’s funeral. It happened today in 2000.

When I was talking to my chum Lou for a blog last month, there was a collection of funeral ‘programmes’ on a shelf in his living room. One had a picture of a couple being married. It was the running order for the funeral at the City of London Crematorium of Laurie O’Leary, who died on 27th April 2005.

He was a music business manager, tour manager and lifelong friend of gangsters The Kray Twins, Reg and Ronnie.

Ronnie Kray: A Man Among Men was a bestseller

Ronnie Kray: A Man Among Men

In 1963, Laurie O’Leary managed part of the Krays’ Knightsbridge club Esmeralda’s Barn. In 1966, he managed Sibylla’s club, partly owned by Beatle George Harrison. In 1968, for ten years, he managed the legendary ‘A’ List music business club The Speakeasy.

He tour managed acts including Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, Peggy Lee and Otis Reading.

In 2002, he published a book Ronnie Kray: A Man Among Men.

“They said Laurie used to drink champagne for breakfast every day,” Lou told me.

The back page of Laurie's funeral service

The back page of Laurie’s funeral service

“Where did he get his money from?” I asked.

“Music!” said Lou. “The first time he brought Motown to England, we weren’t ready for it.

“The American acts came over, he paid them and he lost everything.

“But, when he brought them back a second time, he made a fortune. Stevie Wonder was on TV on Ready Steady Go.

“I went to Laurie’s funeral. Nice do. Lovely send-off.”

Lou told me about a letter from the imprisoned Ronnie Kray to Laurie O’Leary.

“It said something along the lines of: Hello Laurie. I’ve been sent a tape. I’ve had a listen to it. I think it’s quite impressive. I think we should sign him up. He calls himself Donovan.

“I dunno how Ronnie Kray ended up with all these musician types sending him tapes,” said Lou, “but he did.”

My copy of Donovan’s A Gift From a Flower To a Garden

My own copy: Donovan’s A Gift From a Flower To a Garden

In my erstwhile youth, I was a big fan of Donovan.

I have no idea if Laurie O’Leary took up Ronnie Kray’s talent-spotting tip.

But the thought of mad-as-a-March-Hare hard man Ronnie Kray listening appreciatively to gentle Hare Krishna-ish Donovan’s hippyish music is, at the very least, incongruous.

Donovan’s videos on YouTube include a live version of his song Mellow Yellow. Fourteen?

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At London gangster Reg Kray’s funeral

Continuing this week’s semi-theme of posting extracts from my old e-diaries, below is an edited extract from my diary entry on Wednesday 11th October 2000. The Kray Twins, Reg and Ronnie, were notorious 1960s London gangsters.


Ronnie (right) & Reggie Kray as photographed by David Bailey in the 1960s

Reg (left) & Ron, photographed by David Bailey in the 1960s

The weather forecast said it would be a dark grey overcast morning with heavy rain.

Reg Kray’s hearse was due to leave undertakers English & Son in Bethnal Green Road at 11.15am with the funeral itself at St Matthew’s Church, Bethnal Green, at midday.

I arrived in Bethnal Green Road around 10.25am, when lots of large men with thick necks and short hair were leaving a burger shop to make their way to the church. They were ‘security’, wearing three-quarter length black overcoats, black trousers, white shirts, black ties. On the right arm, each wore a blood-red ribbon with the gold letters RKF – presumably Reg Kray’s Funeral. Each also wore, on their left lapel, a small red rectangular badge with the yellow letters RKF.

Up side streets, opposite the undertakers, were vans with satellite dishes on top to transmit back pictures of the funeral procession to broadcasting companies

Reg Kray (right) & Charlie Kray (left) at their brother Ronnie’s funeral; Steve Wraith is behind.

Reg Kray (right) & Charlie Kray (left) at their brother Ronnie’s funeral; Steve Wraith is behind.

As I passed Pellicci’s Cafe in Bethnal Green Road, where the Kray brothers used to meet for cups of tea, some local resident was being interviewed outside.

In the streets behind St Matthew’s Church, there were five or six or more communications vans parked for TV stations, some with dishes on top, some with tall extended masts.

On the flat roofs of the buildings opposite English and Son perched video cameras, stills photographers and people just standing waiting for the cortège to start off.

A large crowd stood around the undertakers’ entrance and along the pavement opposite; some stood on waste bins. The old-fashioned glass hearse had six black horses in front of it, the contours of their black harnesses picked-out with silver lines, their black blinkers decorated with silver lines and 18 inch tall black plumes rising from the top of their heads.

As the crowd watched, an enterprising TV cameraman passed by, dangling off the back platform of a red double-decker bus to get a tracking shot of the hearse and crowd.

Along the left side of the horse-drawn hearse, a wreath spelled out

FREE

AT

LAST

in white flowers with a thin red floral outline and, at around 11.10am, a long white floral wreath was put on the roof of the hearse facing right. It spelled out in white flowers:

RESPECT

English & Son in 2012 on Google StreetView

Funeral directors English & Son in 2012 on Google StreetView

At 11.13am, the coffin emerged and a sky-blue helicopter appeared and hovered overhead. Two teenage girls were standing next to me and, as the dark brown highly-veneered wood coffin containing Reg’s body was lifted into the hearse, they grabbed hands, excited at just being there.

In the crowd, cameras were lifted to take shots of the coffin: some were lifted up in the air and clicked blindly. Some were the standard old-style 35mm stills cameras; some were new digital stills cameras. Changing times.

I walked back along Bethnal Green Road towards Vallance Road, where the three Kray brothers had lived with their mother. As I passed Pellicci’s Cafe I looked inside and it was being renovated: gutted out for new walls and furnishings in front and back: everything changing.

There were only scattered groups of people waiting along Bethnal Green Road but, at the junction with Vallance Road, all four corners were more crowded. Opposite the Marquis of Cornwallis pub, I got chatting to a man in his late 50s who had come to see Reg’s twin brother Ronnie’s funeral procession a few years ago.

“Have you read the books?” he asked me. He told me he had read all the books.

He told me he had not been brought up in Bethnal Green and did not live there now: he lives in Peckham but he came, he said, to look.

Ronnie’s funeral in 1995 had been much more crowded, he said: “The pavements were packed solid shoulder-to-shoulder.”

Today, there were smaller, more scattered groups of people, not streets lined solid with people. Now the street market and shopping trips were continuing behind the people who were – rather than lining the streets en masse – in groups and individually standing at the edge of the pavement. When Ronnie was buried, the Krays were myths; now they were just interesting.

When the hearse drawn by six black horses and followed by a queue of low-sprung black limousines turned into Vallance Road, the police stopped all the oncoming traffic, including an ambulance.

Toby Von Judge

Toby Von Judge cut an interesting figure

Illegal prize-fighter Roy Shaw was there, looking less startled than normal. And Toby Von Judge from Wimbledon.

Among all the bulky black-coated men, Toby stood out by being quite small and dressed in a tan-coloured three-quarter-length camel-hair coat which had two military medals (with short ribbons) attached well below the waist at the left front. His face was lined, his hair black but heavily-tinged with grey and in a pony-tail at the back. He had another medal on a red ribbon round his neck.

Another man had what looked like a slightly melted plastic face and I did wonder if he had at one time had had plastic surgery to change his features but he had then aged, unnaturally changing the shape of the artificial skin.

Arriving late was a roly-poly black man with a black bowler hat.

Apparently missing were Mad Frank Frazer and actress Barbara Windsor.

The funeral inside the church was relayed to those outside by loudspeakers around the church’s exterior: around four at the sides and two at the front.

The ‘security’ seemed to have been influenced by militaristic films. The fact everyone had black coats, pasty white faces and red armbands gave it a rather Nazi colour tone.

On each side of the church door stood three heavy-set men, one behind the other, facing forwards, hands in pockets, legs apart. There was then a slight gap and, about three feet in front of each trio, stood another man facing forwards. Then, between these men and the entrance to the railing-lined semi-circle in front of the church, stood 5 men on each side facing each other, at right angles to the church door men, forming a corridor of men through which entrants had to pass. These men tended to stand legs apart, their hands clasped in front of their genitals. Within the railing-bordered semi-circle, two men stood at each corner of the building facing forwards. It was a display of power rather than actual required security: a security system copied from Hollywood war movies rather than normal showbiz funerals.

I realised later that there were fewer men on one side of this phalanx than the other. The side with fewer men was the side which had lots of press cameramen massed behind the railings. Fewer men made the view less obscured. I also noticed that all the ‘security’ men’s trouser legs were slightly too long: there was a concertina of wavy black material bunched at the bottom of each leg just above the shoe.

After two or three hymns and a couple of reminiscences of Reg, the final song was Frank Sinatra’s famous recording of My Way. By the time the funeral was over, the sun had come out and, as My Way started…

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again
Too few to mention…

Roberta Kray

Roberta Kray, the widow of Reg Kray

gliding out of the church doors were two priests in flowing purple and white robes, one of whom had the grace to look slightly embarrassed at the showbiz element as they led the black suited men and Reg’s grieving wife Roberta (with female friend) out of the church.

As the ‘congregation’ following them emerged, there were conversations, handshakes and shoulder-slappings: a big funeral like this is a chance to socialise and re-cement or create new business contacts.

“I ain’t seen ya for abaht four yeers,” one crew-cut man said to another: “Ow are ya?”

Among those coming out of the church, I noticed the actor Billy Murray. And playwright/actor Steven Berkoff was around somewhere. And there was Toby Von Judge again in his camel-hair coat walking with a slightly taller woman wearing fake suntan, a short black dress and very bleached very fake blonde hair.

As the coffin came out, one woman in the crowd clapped on her own for about five seconds, then it was taken up by others, then others.

Police close the surrounding roads for Reg's funeral hearse

Police closed the surrounding roads for Reg’s funeral hearse

As the crowd slowly dispersed and the helicopter hovered overhead, I wandered along to the large junction of Bethnal Green Road and Cambridge Heath Road. The helicopter, which had been hovering over the church now came and hovered over the road junction which was crowded with people on all corners and on all the traffic islands. Reg’s body was now in a car.

Yellow and white police motorcycles blocked the junction while two other police motorcycles led the cortège across slowly, but it was the walking black-coated men with red armbands preceding the cortège who cleared a way for the long line of vehicles.

As the hearse passed by, on the right side of the coffin were the words in white flowers:

REG

BELOVED

As another limo passed, a woman on the traffic island where I was standing said excitedly to her friend: “It’s Frankie! – Frankie’s in that car!” And, indeed, he was – Mad Frank Frazer, looking impassive.

We had heard the coffin car approaching because, as it came along the road, the sound of clapping came with it. Along from the other end of Bethnal Green Road, across the road junction and away, on to Chingford Mount Cemetery in Essex.

The Krays’ gravestone

The gravestone of twins Reg (left) & Ron Kray

At the cemetery, there was a flypast by a lone Spitfire chartered from Duxford air museum. The Spitfire – a symbol of Britain when Great.

Afterwards, someone I know who was also at the funeral told me: “I didn’t speak to Frank, but I called his number and Marilyn’s (Frank’s wife) voice is on the Answerphone saying: Frank’s out shooting… for TV I mean…”

There is a compilation of BBC TV and ITV News reports of Reg Kray’s funeral on YouTube.

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