Tag Archives: Francis Bacon

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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The more bohemian forerunner of The Groucho Club in London’s Soho

Sophie Parkin at the Sohemian Society last night

Sophie Parkin at the Sohemian Society meeting last night

The Groucho Club stands rather discreetly in Dean Street, Soho, with no identifying name and behind windows half-hiding what goes on inside. Its members are media trendies, but rather respectable – even if they might have a self-image of themselves that they are not.

What they certainly are not is true bohemians. But Dean Street clubs were not always this way.

Last night, I went to the Sohemian Society in an upstairs room at the Wheatsheaf pub in what some call Fitzrovia, some North Soho and some aspirational estate agents even sometimes call Noho.

Sophie Parkin, daughter of Molly Parkin, was showing an extraordinary series of photos she had collected for her new self-published book about The Colony Room Club 1948-2008: A History of Bohemian Soho.

Sophie Parkin's new history of Bohemian Soho

Sophie Parkin’s new history of Sohemia

As I blogged a couple of days ago about self-publishing, it’s worth mentioning that Sophie has said “we are publishing it ourselves because it’s the only way to make any money from publishing. Authors’ advances have shrunk to the size of a cock in the North Pole. And having spent two years of my valuable life on this precious tome I didn’t want to be paid peanuts and then see it sink from lack of proper marketing.”

For most of its life, The Colony Room Club was run by the irreplaceable Muriel Belcher, who tended to welcome all comers  to the Colony with the greeting “Hello, Cunty!”

Based in a small upstairs room in Dean Street, the Colony became famous as a drinking club for the likes of painters Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, writer Dylan Thomas and polycreative George Melly.

Opposite the Colony Club in Dean Street stood the more up-market Gargoyle Club, which was interior-designed by the artist Henri Matisse and architect Edwin Lutyens and had as its chairman the painter Augustus John. It had been opened in 1925 by aristocratic playboy and bohemian David Tennant – not to be confused with Doctor Who – and actress Hermione Baddeley.

“David Tennant was very bohemian,” explained Sophie Parkin last night, “but he was very against ‘theatricals’, as he called them. So he would not allow even Hollywood actress Tallulah Bankhead to join his club straight away. It might be because of the story that she had met some kind of high-class landed gentry type Englishman and spent some time with him – ‘got to know him’ in a Biblical fashion – and the next time she saw him was in the Café Royal and he snubbed her, so she said loudly: What’s the matter, dahling? Can’t you recognise me with my clothes on?

Even more bizarre stories about the even more bohemian Colony Room Club abound, featuring the likes of writer William Burroughs, painter L.S.Lowry and ballet dancers Frederick Ashton and Robert Helpmann. With the likes of writers Keith Waterhouse, Johnny Speight and Jeffrey Barnard around and with sometime barmaid Kate Moss (the model) and barman Daniel Craig (later James Bond), the possibility of legendary stories arising is endless. In the early 1960s, even Christine Keeler and Stephen Ward were said to be frequent visitors.

There were other even more surprising luminaries – including spies Burgess & Maclean, who allegedly spent their last night in London at the Colony Room Club before they fled to the Soviet Union. And East End gangsters Ronnie and Reg Kray.

Sophie’s book includes quotes from Ronnie and Reg saying how much they enjoyed meeting artist Francis Bacon at the Colony and, last night, an audience member mentioned a rumour that the Twins had actually stolen some paintings from Bacon, then sold them back to him.

The Colony was known for its homosexual members at a time when homosexuality was, as Sophie says, “not just illegal but very illegal”

The Krays had been introduced to the club by their gay MP friend and Colony Room Club regular Tom Driberg (later reputed to be a Czech spy).

According to Sophie, Driberg “admitted to Christopher Hitchens in the Colony that he loved going into special committees in the House of Commons with semen still sticky at the corners of his mouth”.

“There’s a lovely story about Tom Driberg,” Sophie Parkin said last night, “getting annoyed with another member, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, who had become a publisher. In one book, Geoffrey had included a picture of him in the company of the Krays. Tom told him: I don’t want my reputation destroyed. He was complaining about this to Muriel Belcher at the Colony and she told him: You never seemed to mind when Ronnie’s cock was in your mouth.”

Sophie also talked about David Archer, the publisher in the early 1950s of Dylan Thomas, George Barker, Louis MacNeice and others.

“You can,” said Sophie, “name all the major poets of that era and he published them all in Parton Press and let them retain copyright. He had inherited a huge amount of money and didn’t care about money – He just gave it to people who didn’t have it. And then, at the end, he ran out of money and everybody deserted him. He lived in a bedsit and died penniless. He committed suicide and, the day after, suddenly this Foundation found him. They didn’t have the internet in those days. They had been searching for him for five years and they had another great big huge amount of money to give him.”

So it goes.

The Colony Room club is now no more.

So it goes.

It has been turned into three flats.

Sophie Parkin and her husband now live in Deal, Kent.

Last night, Sophie’s husband told me they hope to open the Deal Arts Club soon.

According to Sophie: “It will have to be a membership club – Ordinary people on a day trip to the seaside might be offended by the full use of our language and the freedom of our thoughts.”

Indeed.

After all, Sohemia is a state of mind rather than a physical location.

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