Tag Archives: Dave Courtney

Comedian Matt Price is having weekly Conversations with Criminals

In 2013, I posted a blog in which comedian Matt Price talked about the violent physical attack in 2007 on his partner, comedian Martha McBrier, by four or five men in Glasgow. The attack permanently damaged her hearing. 

He told me: “about a year later, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and, between those times, a member of her family went to buy a gun to shoot the man who attacked her.”

Matt also looked into the possibility of taking violent revenge, but a career criminal persuaded him not to.

Last week, Matt told me: “If I’d have taken revenge, I wouldn’t be here eating a muffin with you; I’d have been in jail.”

He is still together with Martha and, now based in London, he has started a weekly podcast – released every Sunday – called Conversations with Criminals.

The fourth episode of the podcast was posted online yesterday.

Matt’s Edinburgh Fringe comedy show in August will be titled: Broken Hooters and Geezers with Shooters.


JOHN: Conversations with Criminals… Why?

MATT: Because I knew nothing about crime until I was on the receiving end of one, when Martha got attacked all those years ago. Had I taken revenge, my life would have been very different.

I would much rather hear about what it’s like to be in prison and how hard it is to hustle while I am here eating a muffin, drinking a coffee with you and not in prison.

JOHN: …and…?

MATT: Because I’ve spent about ten years in the company of various dodgy people.

I like podcasting as a medium and also I like the fact that people who are on the wrong side of the law have great stories to tell and a very bleak sense of humour. They have to in order to cope with what they do and what they’ve done.

I am casting my net wide. I’m going to Nottingham to speak to a guy who will talk me through what it was like to be an addict going in and out of jail. I’ve talked to a guy whose parents were heroin dealers and, in the 1980s, he moved down to London and started robbing banks. All interesting stuff.

JOHN: Why will they talk to you? You’re not paying them.

MATT: People like to talk about themselves. Or maybe I’ve just fallen in with the right crowd.

JOHN: The first podcast was with Dave Courtney who, let’s be honest, will talk to anyone. The second one was with…

MATT: Brendan, Dave Courtney’s best mate and he’s a very funny guy. Just a funny man. What makes him so interesting to me is that he is a self-confessed coward. He made it very clear when he met Dave all those years ago: “Look, you’re great company, but I’m a coward. I don’t want to get involved in any violence. So I will run away.”

JOHN: So he’s not really a ‘hard man’.

MATT: Not at all.

JOHN: Or a criminal?

MATT: I think it’s well-documented he did go to jail. But I know he doesn’t want to be known as a ‘hard man’ in any capacity and that’s very important to him. Because if you make it clear, in that world, that you’re not a hard man, then people will leave you alone.

JOHN: And, if you say you are a hard man…?

MATT: …I imagine there will be more… ermm…  challenges.

JOHN: Difficult to keep it up weekly, missus: the podcast.

MATT: Well, it’s not easy interviewing people who are on the wrong side of the law, because they tend not to make plans for the future. You can’t phone someone up and say: “Oh, can you have a look in your diary… We could do lunch next week?” 

That’s not how it works. And sometimes there are misunderstandings, of which I’ve had a few. The most recent one was with a guy called Andy Costello, who was in Episode 3.

He really intrigued me because, in a way, he’s a vigilante. He was a policeman and lost his job because – this is 20 years ago – somebody punched his teenage daughter and he took violent revenge on the guy – He beat up him and his mates – and went to jail for it. But he has turned his life around completely now; he’s an amazing guy.

JOHN: What does he do now?

MATT: He teaches martial arts. He trains some of the best fighters in the country if not in the world.

I met him through a friend and I went out to meet him on a farm where his gym is and I thought he knew I was doing my weekly podcast.

But he thought – because he has just started doing stand-up comedy – that I, as a comedian, was going to interview him about his new career.

We met and I said: “Look, I’m not here to judge you in any way…” and he thinks Great! Because he’s just started performing comedy and I’ve been doing it a while. And then we start talking about crime and revenge and what it’s like to be in jail. And he was too polite to say anything. He thought it was odd but maybe I was trying to ‘big him up’ with an interesting angle. 

It was only afterwards that our mutual friend told him the title of the weekly podcast was Conversations with Criminals.

But the interview was great and he and his daughter like it. So it was all fine and mellow.

JOHN: Have you had less mellow misunderstandings?

MATT: Yes. I met somebody else through a mutual contact and the three of us got into a car with Mister X who, to be honest, I knew very little about.

Our mutual friend says to Mister X: “You remember that time you chopped somebody’s arm off?”

And Mister X says: “No. I have absolutely no recollection of that whatsoever.”

“Ah, no,” says my friend. “You remember – that geezer with his arm hanging off and the claret everywhere?”

“No… I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. And, by the way, who are you?” says Mister X to me.

I said: “My name’s Matt and I’m a comedian.”

“Well, you don’t look very funny,” he says.

So we get to this strange pub and at that time I had flu – my eyes were watering and Martha had told me I needed to be drinking lots of water – so, of course, I downed four pints in one go and arm-chop man was already quite nervous and he says to our mutual friend: “Your mate looks a bit dodgy. What’s the matter with him? Is he a policeman? Is he wired-up? Is he a journalist?”

“No,” my mate says. “He’s just an idiot who is too scared to ask where the toilets are.”

So we had this very awkward, very tense interview with power ballads playing in the background and I said: “Can you give me some advice?”

And he said: “Yeah. You should chill out, mate. Relax. You look really twitchy and you’re making ME feel nervous now.”

Then two guys walked in – two total strangers – and my friend just walked out of the venue. So I followed him. 

A couple of days later, I got a phone call from Mister X who says: “You really ARE what you say you are. Shall we start again?”

So we did and we had a delightful chat. He is going to remain anonymous not for any particular sinister reason. It’s just he has moved on with his life. He said: “You can have a selfie with my dog, but don’t put the picture of the dog online, because that will give away my identity.”

JOHN: Quite a few comedians have dodgy pasts.

MATT: One day I was in a car on the way to a gig with Mister A, talking about the podcast and he said: “Well, as comedians, we are on the periphery of society anyway, so we have a lot in common with these people. We’re just alternative people who are not going to work 9 to 5 staff jobs and neither are they. We are just people with a different lifestyle.”

Unfortunately, crime pays an awful lot more than comedy does. 

Lets be honest, everybody says: “Ooh, I’d love to get on Netflix as a comedian but, failing that…”

JOHN: Do they?

MATT: True crime is very popular at the moment.

JOHN: I guess everybody thinks they would like the excitement of being a criminal.

MATT: Well, not me. I’ve met them. At various levels. And I don’t really know any one of them – yet – who says Oh yes! Crime is great!

Crime is great when you’re driving around in a BMW. But then you get caught and suddenly all the people who said they thought you were amazing don’t want to know you any more. I don’t see what’s glamorous about that.


CONVERSATIONS WITH CRIMINALS IS ON

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How ‘rave’ organiser Terry Turbo became film producer Terry Stone

Once Upon a Time in London there was organised crime: Terry Stone as Jack Spot (3rd from left)

The British gangster movie Once Upon a Time in London is released today. The star, co-producer and co-writer is Terry Stone.

 Once upon a time, in the 1990s, he used to organise raves under the name Terry Turbo.

How did that career change happen?

Last week, I asked him.

With rave organising now behind him, actor, producer, writer Terry Stone in sunny Soho last week.


JOHN: Your first appearance as an actor was in ‘celebrity gangster’  Dave Courtney’s 2003 movie Hell To Pay (released in 2005). That must have been an interesting experience…

TERRY: I turned up on set. There was no script and I was told “You stand there” and I said “Well, what am I going to be doing?” and they said “Just stand there” and I said “Well, I’m not going to be in the fucking film, then. I’m not going to stand there and be an extra. You said: Do you wanna be in the film? I wanna be in the film.” 

So the director gave me some lines.

Basically, the whole film was improvised with no script which, at the time, I thought was cool. But then, afterwards, I realised it was insane.

I said to the other actors: “I’ve really enjoyed being on this film. It’s been a lark. How do you go about getting into the business?” 

They told me: “Do a showreel off this work, get some pictures done, send ‘em out and see if you can get an agent.”

I thought: Sounds really simple. 

So I did that, got an agent, did a bit of EastEnders, The Bill, some theatre, My Family, the usual stuff that jobbing actors do. But, after a year… Well, anybody who’s a professional actor will tell you it’s a fucking hard life. There’s no money; there’s no work; any work you get is peanuts. You have to sweep floors, wait on tables, drive taxis – anything to just keep the lights on.

I thought: Y’know what? I’ve made a mistake here.

Because, before I got into acting, I used to run clubs all round the world.

A few of my friends who I’d told “I’ve sold my business; I’m gonna to become an actor” all asked me “How’s the acting going?”

I said to ‘em: “Not bad, but not great. I’m not earning enough money.” 

At the time, I had a mortgage, a wife, a child. 

I thought: I’ve made a massive mistake here.

A friend said: “What do you really wanna do?”

I said: “I actually wanna be in films.”

Terry Turbo – “The Rave Scene Richard Branson” said Vice

He said: You used to put on big events for 20,000, 30,000 people. How hard can it be to make a film?”

So I said: ”You got me thinking now. If I get a script, would you put some money in it?”

And he went: “I’ll put some money in.”

So I went round to all my mates and told ‘em: “Let’s all put some money in and make a film. It’ll be a laugh.”

That’s how I raised the money for my first film One Man and His Dog – and it was a dog, that film. But it was my film school. It was released and it went out in Holland, Germany. We got it out, which was an achievement, and we got 25% of our money back on it, which I thought was a disaster but, considering we didn’t know what we were doing, it was an achievement.

JOHN: How much did it cost?

TERRY: £140,000.

Then a friend of mine in the club scene contacted me and said: “Have you ever thought about doing a movie on the black-on-black gun crime in London?” It was a kinda Boyz n the Hood kinda film: Rollin’ with the Nines.

It won the Jury Prize at the Raindance Film Festival in 2005 and the director Julian Gilbey was nominated for the Carl Foreman Award at the BAFTAs. We made that for £250,000.

And that gave us a stepping stone to do Rise of the Footsoldier, which was a £1.3 million budget.

JOHN: Based on Carlton Leach’s book.

TERRY: Yes, which I hadn’t read when he suggested to me it would make a good movie. I knew Carlton from club days and I thought: Who’s gonna wanna watch a film about a doorman? At the time, I didn’t know about his involvement in the Inter City Firm or The Essex Boys.

I read his book and thought: Fucking hell! It’s really interesting! And I thought: If I was to pitch the idea, it’s The Football Factorymeets Goodfellas.

So I paid someone to write the script and I developed and created the Rise of The Footsoldier franchise. I got the money together, made it and, since then, there’s been four of them. They’re just making the fourth one now; almost finished. It comes out in October.

After that, I did a film called Doghouse but what Rise of The Footsoldier did was allow me to be an actor AND a producer and the reason I’m glad I made that decision was because, when you’re not developing something, you’re raising money. When you’re not raising money, you’re making something. When you’re not making something, you’re acting in something. There’s always something to do.

At the moment, I’m still a jobbing actor. If a role comes along and I like it and it’s well-paid, I’ll do it. You need to pay the bills.

I suppose because I’ve got a low boredom threshold, I need to be entertained… constantly.

So what I’ve done is create a load of work for myself. But I enjoy it and now it’s my 17th year in the business. I’m an old boy now. (LAUGHS LOUDLY)

JOHN: When you were doing the raves, you blew up a police car on stage at Wembley.

Terry as Tony Tucker, one of the Footsoldier’s ‘Essex Boys’

TERRY: It was all about doing something different and making it fun. Let’s do some mad shit. Blowing up a police car on stage at Wembley was funny. Having Prince William and Prince Charles and the Queen lookalikes coming to the raves was funny.

JOHN: Once Upon a Time in London is about the pre-Krays era in crime – about Jack Spot and Billy Hill who most people have not heard of…

TERRY: I think the thing about the Krays was they were ‘celebrity gangsters’. They wanted people to know who they were which, obviously, was their downfall. Whereas, if you spoke to any other criminals, they’d always be like: No publicity; no pictures. We don’t want anybody to know what we’re doing.

JOHN: What’s interesting is that, in the 1920s, they were making films about Billy The Kid and Jesse James who were active in the 1870s and 1880s – which was 40 to 50 years before. Today, the Krays’ era was around 50 years ago. There comes a point where villains become acceptable anti-heroes or even heroes.

TERRY: All the films I’ve made have been based on true crime, but they don’t glamorise it. I’m not interested in doing pretend-gangster films about a load of wallies that don’t exist. I have always had an interest in true crime. I thought about making a film about Jack Spot and Billy Hill in 2010. But, back then, nobody was doing period crime films.

JOHN: The Kray era is period crime…

TERRY: But that was the 1960s. The Jack Spot story is 1930s, 1940s, 1950s. Back in 2010, there was no Peaky Blinders, there was no Boardwalk Empire and I thought it was a bit of a risk. But then I heard Ray Winstone was gonna play both of the Krays in Legend  (it was eventually made with Tom Hardy) and Peaky Blinders came on and I thought: Now’s the time to get this going

As Jack Spot in Once Upon a Time in London: “It took a couple of years to get the money together”

It took a couple of years to get the money together and stuff but what fascinates me is that Once Upon a Time in London is about the birth of organised crime here. There’s always been crime in this country since probably the Stone Age. But actual organised crime where people have protection rackets, prostitutes working for them, they had bookmakers, they had spielers, they had restaurants, they had clubs. And you had the backdrop of the Second World War – rationing stamps, people didn’t have any money, people had lost their homes – we were fucked – So these criminals thought: There’s an opportunity here, boys! Let’s make some money!

JOHN: I don’t remember any other British gangster film focusing on the Jewish angle. Once Upon a Time in London starts with Oswald Mosley’s plans to march his blackshirts through the East End in 1936, which resulted in the Battle of Cable Street

TERRY: I think Once Upon a Time in London is the first British Jewish gangster film. 

JOHN: Now there a marketing opportunity.

TERRY: I was on page 3 of the Jewish Chronicle (LAUGHS) fully-clothed!.. The woman who interviewed me asked: “Why are you making a film to glamorize Jewish gangsters? It’s something that, really, we want to forget about.”

I said: “Listen, there’s nothing glamorous about what happened to Jack Spot…”

…  CONTINUED HERE

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Robber & unlicensed boxer Roy Shaw’s trouble spending some stolen money

Micky remembers Krayzy Days (Photograph by Michael Fawcett)

This is often described as a blog about comedy, but it is really about sub-cultures.

So I was having afternoon tea in London with Micky Fawcett, a former associate of the Kray Twins. He wrote what is arguably the definitive book on that era: Krayzy Days.

“Did you ever meet Roy Shaw?” he asked me.

Wikipedia currently says Roy Shaw “was an English millionaire, real estate investor, author and businessman from the East End of London who was formerly a criminal and Category A prisoner.”

By 1974, he had already spent around 18 years in more than 22 different prisons.

But he is most remembered now for his career as an unlicensed boxer.

The selling blurb on Roy’s 1999 autobiography Pretty Boy (written with Kate Kray) says:

“I don’t huff or puff or growl at anyone. But I live by a merciless code. For me violence is simply a profession… I wouldn’t hurt women, children or the ordinary man in the street. But if you are a man and you take a liberty with me or cross me, then believe what I say, when it comes to retribution, I have no pity or conscience.”

Roy Shaw (right) with gangland figure Dave Courtney

“I think I only met him a couple of times,” I told Micky. “I think I drove him home once after a film shoot. I think he was a bit punch drunk by the time I met him.”

“He got sectioned,” Micky said. “You know what for?”

“What?” I asked.

“Punching people,” said Micky.

“Habit,” I suggested.

“He kept punching everybody,” said Micky. “I knew him when I weighed 5 stone 2 pounds.”

Five stone?” I asked.

“We were boxing as children,” said Micky. “I seen him when he was a kid, running about. He was a real character. When he was in Borstal, he escaped by tying a psychiatrist up. I was Essex Schoolboy Champion or something. I think Shawy might have gone further. He was lighter than me. He must have got bigger all of a sudden. Maybe with the help of a few steroids.”

“He wasn’t very tall,” I said.

“No,” agreed Micky.

“And he had some rather dodgy eyes,” I suggested.

“That’s right, yeah,” said Micky. “Have I told you about the night I had out with Shawy?”

“Did it involve elephants?” I asked.

“Elephants?” Micky asked. “What’s that? Slang? Elephant’s trunk; drunk?”

“I just like stories with elephants in.”

“I can’t help you there,” said Micky.

“Ah well,” I said.

Roy Shaw’s autobiography, published in 1999

“Anyway,” said Micky, “I had a memorable night out with him. He told me: Listen, I done a robbery recently. I’ve got the money but they’ve got the numbers.”

“Numbers?” I asked.

“He had robbed the Daily Mirror, I think it was – and he had the money, but they had the numbers on the notes.”

“The serial numbers?” I asked.

“Yeah. So he said: I just wanna spend it. Get rid of it. Fancy a night out in the West End?

“So off we went to the Bagatelle nightclub (in Cork Street, Mayfair) and there was all the girls and the booze and the champagne and whatever you wanted and Shawy was paying for everything. It was a decent nightclub. Hostesses and all that. Jack Fox owned the Bagatelle,

“I went to have a slash in the toilet, came out and Jack Fox said: Excuse me. See your mate in there? He came down here the other night and he was chewing glasses.

Roy challenged World Champion Muhammad Ali to a fight (Photo in Roy’s Pretty Boy book)

“He could chew glasses. Have you ever heard of that?”

“There used to be a man,” I said, “called Monsieur Mangetout.”

“Anyway, I told Jack Fox,” Micky continued, “Don’t worry. He’ll be alright. He’s a mate. Don’t worry about him. He’ll be as good as gold.

“We were having everything we wanted but Shawy couldn’t get rid of the money because, at the end, Jack Fox gave him a very small bill: £5 or something.

“So we went on to another drinking club, Shawy’s went behind the bar, got the geezer out and said: I’m gonna have a lay down. And he lay down behind the bar and that’s as much as I can remember.

Willy Malone’s funeral, May 2017, reported in the East London Advertiser

“On another occasion, he was on his way home one night and there was a little drinking club in Aldgate owned by the Malones: Charlie & Willy. They were the people you ‘spoke to’ in Aldgate. Gambling, SP Office: take bets over the phone. They had this little drinking club. Aldgate was a rough area back in them days: in the 1950s. Around 1958; maybe even before.

“Anyway, Shawy wandered in there on his way home. And Willy Malone said: I don’t want you in here, ‘performing’. And Shawy said: What you talking about? Look, I’ve come to have a drink. I’m not looking for trouble. You seem to think I am, but I’m not. And Shawy pulled out a huge knife and said: Look!  and threw it on the floor. There you are, he said, now I’m harmless. I’m not looking for trouble.

“And, at that point, Willy Malone has gone and hit him on the chin – Shawy’s pissed – and knocked him out.

“When Shawy was out, they told Willy Malone: You know who that geezer is? Oh! He’s a fucking monster! He’ll kill you! He didn’t know the strength of him.

“When Shawy came round, they had gone.

“Willy Malone came and saw The Twins. They didn’t really like Shawy, because they were jealous of anyone with a bit of a reputation. So they didn’t do much to help or anything like that.

“But then Willy Malone was walking along in Whitechapel late one night and Shawy saw him and went up to him and said: I think me and you had better take a walk and have a talk, hadn’t we? And then he chinned Willy Malone.”

“It all ended happily then,” I said.

“Unless,” said Micky, “you was Willy Malone.”

“Mmmm,” I said.

“Shawy was in a massive armoured car robbery,” said Micky. “£87,000. This was back in 1963 in Kent. Most of the people who were on it got nicked, maybe all of them. I didn’t know ‘em all. Shawy got nicked because he was driving about in a white Mercedes-Benz sports car which he’d bought straight away – the next day or a couple of days later. He was on the dole at the time.”

Roy was sentenced to 18 years.

“He ended up in Broadmoor, he was given ECT treatment…”

He ended up in Broadmoor, where he was given experimental ECT treatment to make him less violent. The result, according to the doctor at Broadmoor, was to make him “even more aggressive and unpredictable”.

“He was married,” Micky told me. “He was in Malta with his wife at some point or other but that was way, way, way back. I dunno what happened.”

“When I met him,” I said, “I think he was on dating sites.”

“You know what happened to him, don’t you?” Micky asked me.

“What?”

“He did quite well. He was in the unlicensed boxing business and then they had him as a doorman and he was popular around that time. He was a big name.

“But he went on dating sites and he met a bird who robbed him of every penny. He had a house and a Rottweiler dog and everything he wanted but she sorted him. Took all his money.”

According to the Daily Telegraph’s 2012 obituary of him, “in 2009 he won a court battle with Linda Finnimore, a 43-year-old blonde who had acted as a manager when he was a boxer. Ms Finnimore claimed that she was Shaw’s ‘common law wife’ and that he had given her more than £600,000 in a share of profits from a £2.6 million land sale. But the judge accepted Shaw’s claim that he was a ‘Mr Trusty’ who had been taken for ‘a right mug’ by a ‘natural fraudster’ 30 years his junior.”

So it goes.

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Comedian and former plant Dec Munro says there is “Nothing Happening Here”

Dec Munro at the pleasance Dome  in Edinburgh in August 2012

Dec Munro with an odd-coloured pocket at the Pleasance Dome in Edinburgh in August 2012

“What’s happening?” I asked comedian Dec Munro yesterday in a meeting room at a private members club in central London.

Nothing Happening Here,” he said.

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? It is the title of the definitively odd comedy evening he runs with Niall McCamley. There is no website. Just a Facebook page.

“I enjoyed the last one,” I said. “I’ll come along this Tuesday (for the next one). How often is Nothing Happening Here?”

“Whenever we decide to do it,” replied Dec. “Tuesday’s will be the third.”

“So why call it Nothing Happening Here?” I asked. “Especially when lots happens.”

“We thought it would be stupid,” explained Dec, “and fun and a way of getting people to a location they might not otherwise go to.”

Dec’s Nothing Happening show partner Niall McCamley

Dec’s Nothing Happening Here show partner Niall McCamley

“The one I went to last time,” I said, “was an art gallery in Haggerston. Where was the first one?”

“Niall’s flat.”

“And,” I asked, “you’re not going to tell me where this Tuesday’s is, because we’re going to meet at some mystery place you will tell us on the day. Can you tell me what type of location it is?”

“Odd,” replied Dec.

“Surely not?” I asked.

“Everybody is being encouraged to wear glitter,” he told me. “Although we will supply some.”

“Is it sexually dubious?” I asked, nervously.

“No. But that would be amazing: taking people to some kind of S&M torture place. Do you know one?”

Dec Munro in an interesting ex-Belgian room thinking about a torture chamber for comedy

Dec Munro in an interesting ex-Belgian room thinking about a torture chamber for comedy

Dave Courtney,” I said, “has a torture chamber in his back garden in suburban Plumstead. He rents it out to film crews and anyone interested in such things.”

“Mmmm,” mused Dec.

There was a long, thoughtful pause.

“This used to be the headquarters of the Anglo-Belgian Club,” Dec told me.

“Not the most interesting of clubs, then,” I suggested.

“That’s a bit harsh,” he said.

“The Magritte Club would be interesting,” I suggested. “An antelope coming out of the wall wearing a bowler hat.”

“Mmmm,” mused Dec, “I was in the Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen show. I was the guy who runs out and does a little dance.”

“You were a plant in the audience?” I asked.

“Essentially yes,” said Dec. “I got a phone call from a friend saying: We need an idiot to get naked on stage at the Soho Theatre with Arthur Smith. Are you up for doing that? And I said: Sure, no problem at all. 

Arthur Smith sang Leonard Cohen but required some naked back-up

Arthur Smith Sang Leonard Cohen but required some nudity

“The first time I did it, I took a girl on a second date. Part way through the show, I asked her Will you excuse me for a minute? went backstage, took all my clothes off and tried to make it look more impressive.”

“Make what look more impressive?” I asked.

“My cock.”

“How?”

Dec made a vertical whirling movement with his hand.

“How do I describe that in my blog?” I asked him.

“Willy-wanging? Helicoptering?” he suggested.

“When you demonstrated that,” I said, “you used all four fingers and a thumb. For some of us, that is quite impressive to begin with.”

“The premise of the show,” explained Dec, ignoring my comment, “is that Arthur Smith is talking about Leonard Cohen; Leonard Cohen has a beef with Leonard Nimoy; and some of Leonard Nimoy’s poetry is featured.

Dec Munro attempts to mount a horse

Dec Munro attempts to mount a small horse

“So I ran out onstage completely naked except for a Leonard Nimoy face mask, did a little dance, disappointed a lot of people in the front row for a minute by dangling my cock arguably far too close to all of them, ran back offstage, put my clothes back on again and re-joined my date in the audience.

“At no point until about an hour afterwards did she know it was me. She just thought I had gone to the toilet. A friend of mine was there with her parents – I had no idea she was there. She came over and said: Dec! – Great cock tonight! Great cock! That was the point at which the girl I was on a date with figured out it was me.”

“And,” I asked, “then what did she say to you?”

“Nothing complimentary at all.”

“Was there another date?”

“Yes. I imagine it was my natural charm. You know, there is a moment of questioning your life choices when you are backstage downstairs at the Soho Theatre wearing a Spock mask looking at a mirror, whirling your cock round and trying to make it look as big as you possibly can.”

“You did this for the whole run of the show?” I asked.

“No. There was another guy who did it and he had the ability to play the accordion.”

“With his cock?”

Dec mercifully fully clothed

Dec Munro – mercifully fully clothed

“No. That would have been impressive. But I got a phone call from my friend saying: Dec, actually there’s another guy and he brings a bit more to it. He can play the accordion while naked and is happy to flash his balls. So he won out and he got to go on BBC Radio 4 and do it when they made Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen: the 30 minute version.”

“Naked on radio?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Was it an accordion or a squeezebox?” I asked.

“I think it might have been a squeezebox. What’s the difference?”

“A squeezebox,” I suggested, “sounds funnier when a cock and balls are involved.”

“Then it was definitely a squeezebox,” said Dec.

“Whole new avenues open up for your career,” I told him. “If you’re happy to go naked. Malcolm Hardee shows beckon. Have you ever jumped out of a plane?”

“Yes,” replied Dec, “I have jumped out of a plane and it went wrong, because they packed the parachute badly. They do a fixed line thing which automatically opens the parachute. It pulled and dislocated my right shoulder. I was the first person in twelve years to land outside their drop zone – somewhere just outside Lancaster. I landed in a ditch next to barbed wire and ended up on morphine that night at my friend’s birthday.

“I have to say morphine is amazing. You can get through absolutely anything on morphine. I was supposed to organise a surprise party for my friend, so I said: Please, just give me lots of morphine. I have not had it since, but I look back on it fondly.”

“Morphine was amazing in what way?” I asked.

“You just float,” explained Dec, “and, even though you know you’re in a lot of pain, you’re distracted and everything feels lovely and you’re happy. I think morphine should be obligatory.”

“Well,” I said, “I think it is in certain parts of London. Are you plugging anything else apart from Nothing Happening Here and morphine?”

The Facebook publicity photo for Nothing Happening Here

A photo promoting Nothing Happening Here displayed on the show’s Facebook page

“I’ve now got a little venue just next to the Bank of England that I’d like to put previews and stuff in so, if people would like to get in touch, that would be amazing. I’m going to try and get some well-known people and some weird, different, offbeat, Michael Brunströmy type fun people. He was the first act at the first Nothing Happening Here. He did 15 minutes as Mary Quant and nobody in the audience bar two people knew who Mary Quant was. I loved it.”

“Beyond that?” I asked.

“I want,” said Dec, “to do fun things and meet good people and do interesting things and maybe earn some money while doing it.”

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Other people’s lives and why Monica Lewinsky caused the 9/11 attacks

My parents in Edinburgh, perhaps in the 1970s. Who knows?

My parents in Edinburgh, maybe in the 1970s. Time can warp.

I have talked to a few novelists in my time.

They mostly admit that much of the fiction they write is actually the truth, but toned-down because the actual truth would be too far-fetched to believe. Especially where coincidences are concerned.

Yesterday, I bumped into Scottish comedian Jojo Sutherland.

I mentioned to her that today, bright and early, I have to go see my second cousin near Perth. At least he might be my second cousin. He is my mother’s cousin’s son. I think that might be a second cousin, but who knows?

Somehow I mentioned to Jojo that my mother had been born in the small village of Dunning near Perth.

JoJo said that, the day before, she had been in Dunning. Several comedians met there to leave cars and congregate on their way up to Elgin.

Dunning does not seem far from Perth. It does not seem far off the main road. But it takes forever to drive there, because the road to the village is in some sort of 1920s Einsteinian time warp. In the time it takes to drive there, you could raise families and empires could rise and fall.

There is no reason to go to Dunning (admittedly a very nice village) except for very specific reasons. Few people go to Dunning.

The fact that Jojo went there the day before I accidentally met her in Edinburgh would be laughably impossible in a novel.

The reason I am telling you this is because, yet again, I have no time to write a ‘proper’ blog before I drive off to Perth.

So here are some copy-and-pasted extracts from my electronic diary in – for no particular reason – 2001, the year Arthur C Clarke and Stanley Kubrick chose for their depiction of a futuristic science fiction world.

My father died in the early hours of Wednesday 27th June 2001. So it goes.

Russ Conway in 1962. He died in 2000

Russ Conway in 1962. He died in 2000, aged 75

On Saturday 1st September, my mother asked me if pianist Russ Conway had died. I said, “Yes. Last year or at the beginning of this year.”

She told me: “I always said I was OK provided he was OK. Because he had his strokes just after I had mine.”

Sunday 2nd September was my mother’s 81st birthday. She was breaking down in tears all day.

Meanwhile, other people lived their own, separate, lives.

I had a chum who was working for a PhD at an English university. She was having problems.

She had access to unused unique research material which NASA was willing to supply to her for her English PhD, which she was working on at NASA’s Goddard Space Center facility in Maryland. Her English university told her it would not allow her to continue nor give her a PhD unless the research work she produced was first published in scientific journals under the name of her supervisor at the university.

NASA said they wanted her to publish her own research under her own name thus getting credit for what she had done and that it was outrageous for the English university and its professor to take and get credit for research they had not done.

But that is the standard method of people getting PhDs in the UK – the university publishes students’ research as their own. The university staff get credit and perhaps a knighthood; the students get a PhD. But not in America, where the people who do the research publish their own work under their own name.

NASA was refusing to release the research material unless my chum got the credit; the English university was refusing to allow her to continue unless it was agreed up-front that their man got his name on the research.

On Tuesday 11th September, the World Trade Center was destroyed in New York.

On Wednesday 12th September, I wrote:

The mural on the side of Dave Courtney’s house

Two-storey mural on the side of Dave Courtney’s family home

Went to Plumstead to watch an interview being filmed with gangster Dave Courtney. He lives in an ordinary late Victorian road, his house mostly white and blue on the exterior: battlements on the white walls with large blue and grey Camelot scenes. On the side of the house, there is a 30-ft high brightly-coloured painting of him as a knight, seated with his wife on a stallion.

Above the door, there is a painting of a shield with a white fist on which is a knuckle-duster; beside it, a royal crest. Beside that, on the patio, is a 20ft high white flagpole with a tattered Union Flag. Invisible on the ground but visible to police helicopters, two eyes are painted on the roof. His motorbike has a painting of him brandishing a knuckle-duster, aiming a gun etc. In front of the front bay window stands a miniature 3-ft high sculpture of King Arthur’s sword Excalibur stuck in a white stone.

Inside the house, his living room has a wooden ceiling. On one wall, there is a large painting of him; on other walls, three giant swords. His girlfriend is thin, black and bald except for a black velcro-like band of black hair on her head. Their daughter Courtney Courtney is 3 years old, small, golden brown and sweet. Two young men in black suits, white shirts, black ties and highly-polished black leather shoes sat on two grey sofas watching television coverage of the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack. 

Later, outside, I watched a bespectacled Sikh walking past in a white turban with red dots pushing a bright yellow bicycle.

On Thursday 13th September, I got an e-mail from the director of the Dave Courtney interview:

The World Trade Center attack on 11 September 2001

The World Trade Center attack on 11 September 2001

My friend in New York tells me the entire reason for the New York atrocity is down to Monica Lewinsky – President Clinton a few years ago tried to bomb Bin Ladin to distract attention from the Monica Lewinsky affair. So apparently Bin Ladin has never forgotten it. So this is payback apparently. All over a blowjob!

On Friday 14th September, I got this message from a chum about her new boyfriend, who had just come over to the UK:

He is not used to people en masse. He has been living a solitary existence in the rainforest for ten years and is fairly knackered after the stresses of trying to decamp to the UK. He has a condition we call ME – good days and bad days – so needs a bit of a rest before meeting people.

On Monday 17th September, I got this message from a friend in England whose mother lived in New York and was there during the attack on the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon in Washington:

Thankfully all my friends and family are accounted for but it took until late on Friday/early hours of Saturday morning to get the OK from everyone I know and care about in New York and Washington. 

My Aunt is a medic and has been working flat out to cope with the casualties and fatalities that arrive at the medical centres/ hospitals around New York. She will need post traumatic stress counselling, as will all the rescue workers and medical staff. 

I did hope that the events of last week would prompt my sisters who haven’t been speaking to one another for the past 15 months to make their peace – they haven’t.

On Thursday 4th October; I wrote:

When clearing lots of my father’s spare bits of wood out of my mother’s side shed with neighbour Jenny and husband Albert, Jenny said – quite shocked –  “She’s getting rid of all trace of him.” I agreed.

My father and mother in Clacton, Essex. Ars long vita brevis.

My father and mother in Clacton, Essex. Ars longa vita brevis.

After my father’s death, I found my mother going through all their old photographs and tearing them up after looking at each of them. She thought it was better. She had her memories but felt she had to make a new start and that this was the best way of doing it.

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A cage fight, a slap on the buttocks, a silent woman and a trip to Guatemala

Dan March at his Mad Hatter party

Sober Dan March at his party

Last night, I had the choice of paying £35 for a VIP ticket or £25 for a standard ticket to see a cage fight arranged by self-proclaimed ex-gangster Dodgy Dave Courtney in his back garden in South East London or go to comic performer Dan March’s 40th birthday party at the Looking Glass Cocktail Club near trendy Shoreditch (£8 for a double vodka and orange).

It was a tough call but I am glad I went to Shoreditch, though I was unclear if getting into the back room through the looking glass door always entailed getting your buttock slapped with a riding crop or if this was a special addition for the occasion.

Lheila Oberman could not talk to me last night

Lheila Oberman could not talk to me last night

I am glad I went because I bumped into comedy performer Lheila Oberman whom I have not seen in years. She used to perform as 50% of the late and very-much-lamented Aliens Ate My Schnitzel duo.

Alas she could not tell me about this nor anything else much, because she had totally lost her voice. When I asked how long she had lost her voice, I think she told me it was two weeks because she held two fingers up. We partly conversed through her friend Tim Eagle, a very successful clown, who looked a lot like Jerry Springer and told me people kept saying he looked very like the recently deceased Lou Reed.

I returned home later to a message from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith, who is currently working in a Vancouver bookshop. In its entirety, her email read:

Anna Smith in her Vancouver hospital

Anna Smith in Vancouver has an untold story of Guatemala

My sister went to Guatemala. The result was three children (now grown) and then she became an Anglican priest !

I asked for more details.

This morning, I awoke to emails with more details, but of Vancouver not Guatemala. The multiple emails read:

A guy who was in the bookshop two weeks ago strode in, eyes gleaming. He asked: “Has that chunky guy been round here much?” I had no idea who he meant.

On sale in a bookshop in Vancouver

Literary culture in a bookshop in Vancouver (Photograph by Anna Smith)

They’re making a movie at Macleods Books, down the street. Jenn, who usually works inside Macleods, was standing at the corner, eyes on the door. Her job was to extract the book hounds who wandered into the store oblivious of it being used for a film set, despite the grips rushing about taking measurements and the ladders and floodlights everywhere.

I had sold a couple of architecture books to the movie’s art director a few days earlier and witnessed my boss dismiss a location scout from a different film, possibly Fifty Shades of Grey. My boss was annoyed:

“Are you holding a contest?” he asked. “Because I don’t want my store involved in one of your contests.”

Marble Arch Hotel undercover in Vancouver

Marble Arch Hotel undercover in Vancouver (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“But it’s my job” said the location scout. We have to go to several potential sites, take photos and let the director choose. It’s not my decision.“

“No, I don’t want you people in here,” said my boss. “You leave a mess.”

A short, slight man rushed in and proffered a shopping bag with a thin wooden box inside. “Are you looking for some gold flatware?” he asked. I told him, “No,” and he immediately hurried out.

Across the street, the Marble Arch Hotel is clad in scaffolding and blue veiling. Three mentally ill drug addicts (two men and a woman) have been living there but are now locked out of the building. Yesterday, they pounded on the temporary plywood door and shouted in all directions, indignant and plaintive: “Would someone unlock the door to our OWN home !!!”

Workman

Chunky workmen seen from the bookshop (Photograph by Anna Smith)

A tall, good looking young construction worker walked into the shop today. He told me they are stripping the lead paint from the Marble Arch building. I must have looked alarmed, because he added: “Don’t worry, it’s not the bad kind of lead”. He asked for a book from the window display – How To Pick Up Women.

I still know no more about why Anna’s sister’s visit to Guatemala resulted in three children and her becoming an Anglican priest.

I live in hope of more details and that Lheila Oberman will speak to me again.

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“Killer Bitch”, ‘Dodgy’ Dave Courtney, Scots comedian Janey Godley’s podcast and the UK gun laws

In the new Episode 27 of stand-up comic Janey Godley‘s weekly podcast (about 35 minutes in), her daughter Ashley Storrie (grand daughter of the late low-profile  but notable Glasgow ‘face’ George Storrie) talks about spending a day on the Killer Bitch film set with Dave Courtney and an assortment of dodgy London ‘chaps’ towards the end of 2009.

Ashley gets one detail slightly wrong – a day or two after the Killer Bitch film shoot at Dave Courtney’s home, police raided the house and arrested him on three charges of illegally possessing firearms. The main gun in question was never used on the Killer Bitch shoot.

What had happened, very basically, was that ‘Dodgy’ Dave and his wife owned a perfectly legal gun which they had on open display on their wall of their sitting room and which they occasionally used as a stage prop. But possession of the gun – with virtually no publicity – had been re-classified as illegal because it is relatively easy to re-activate it into being a ‘real’ gun.

Dave and his wife did not know possession of the gun had been reclassified. Thrown into prison, Dave was refused bail despite the fact that, on the three charges he faced, he was clearly no danger to anyone. The police kept him locked up over Christmas 2009. When he came to trial, the jury took only two hours to find him Not Guilty on all three charges.

Janey Godley was herself arrested in the mid-1990s for possession of firearms – a veritable arsenal of weapons – and she too was released – a sanitised but still fascinating version of why she was released appears in her gob-smacking autobiography Handstands in the Dark. She revealed the fuller reason in her 2004 stage show Good Godley! which rather belatedly opens in Australia (at the Adelaide Fringe Festival) in February/March this year.

Ashley does not appear in Killer Bitch. The movie, though widely banned from most retail shops, is still available at HMV shops and online from HMV, Amazon, Play.com etc.

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