Tag Archives: Frank Mitchell

The art of political war compared to a comedy club and Disney studio politics

I usually keep away from overt politics in this blog so, no doubt, I will regret posting this one…

Jonathan Pie’s initial comic success came courtesy of RT

A comedian I know was recently asked about the possibility of appearing in the UK-produced comedy series which Russian TV station RT  is apparently planning to screen next year. He said he would not appear on RT, which is financed by the Russian government. I think he was wrong. All publicity is good publicity and, if he is allowed control over his own material, I see no real problem.

But why RT, the former Russia Today – a current affairs channel akin to the BBC News channel – should be thinking of screening a comedy show is interesting.

I was also told that RT is especially interested in screening Right Wing satirists who find it tough to get on UK TV.

Why would RT be interested in Right Wing not Left Wing comedians?

Well, presumably for the same reason that, allegedly, the Russian state set up hundreds of Facebook accounts promoting Right Wing rallies supporting Donald Trump during the US Presidential elections.

The Daily Beast’s view of who was behind Right Wing posts

They supported the more Right Wing candidate against the (comparative to Trump) more liberal, anti-Right Hillary Clinton.

I was in TV promotions and marketing for 25-ish years and have always been interested in techniques of persuasion and how to sway beliefs and perceptions.

As well as in marketing, that is actually what Art does too: you try to take the audience – whether viewers, listeners or fiction readers – along with you.

Which is also relevant to the art of war in the 21st century.

Sun Tzu says in his influential book The Art of War that “the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” because the object of war should be not to destroy your enemy’s assets and power structure but to take them over intact.

In the modern world, you no longer need to physically take over your rival’s cities, economy and means of production. You do not need to actually take over your enemy’s assets and decision-making processes. What you want is the power to influence your opponent’s economic and political directions and decisions.

Undermining their strength and influence is equivalent to increasing your own.

Lest we forget, the reason Sun Tzu’s The Art of War (written in the 5th century BC) came back to prominence in the mid-1990s was that Disney company president Mike Ovitz recommended it or (in some versions of the story) allegedly gave copies to all his Hollywood executives as a training manual for navigating the corporate world. It was said that the only two books you needed to read to succeed in corporate politics were Machiavelli’s The Prince and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

Sun Tzu’s view in the 5th century BC

Two of Sun Tzu’s oft-quoted and closely-linked insights include:

“You have to believe in yourself”
and
“The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”

In the modern world, corporations are – it could be argued – equivalent to non-geographically specific states.

You do not need to fully take over a company to influence its direction. A large shareholding will give you a voice – or being able to influence the main shareholders may suffice.

In the modern world, it is pointless – it always has been – to primarily seek to influence the thoughts and beliefs of those who agree with your own views. They already agree with and believe what you believe. To change things, you need to influence the thoughts and beliefs of those who support/bolster your opponents.

There is no point only targeting the fans of your product, although you do have to remind them your product exists.

The important thing is the target (Photo: Christian Gidlöf)

Your aim is to sell a ‘belief’ in your product to people who are not yet convinced or who are actually actively resistant and opposed to your product. Or – and this is the point – you can undermine their existing beliefs in the product they currently buy, which will increase the comparative impact of your own product.

If that product is a political system, then you do not even have to convince your opponents that your beliefs are right. By undermining their confidence in their own political system, you can strengthen your own comparative position.

If you were to bizarrely and possibly unwisely transfer this to the situation of a stand-up comedy show featuring only two comics then, if you undermine the audience’s belief and confidence in one comic, you increase their (comparative) belief in the other comic. The MC can do this in his/her introduction of the other comic to the audience. Or one comic can undermine the other’s self-belief and thus performance.

In the case of the US, let us just imagine for a moment that the Russians wanted to install Donald Trump because they believed he would be more receptive to their overtures, reduce or remove economic sanctions related to Ukraine etc etc…

Well, they must be very disappointed because he has proved to be a rogue player.

It is a bit like the Kray Twins springing ‘Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell from Dartmoor Prison in the 1960s and then finding that he actually was uncontrollably mad.

US cartoonist Ben Garrison’s view of the Washington ‘Swamp’

But – swings and roundabouts – Trump’s appeal is to Right Wing voters in the US and his constant harping-on about how the Washington Establishment and the ‘Fake News’ media are corrupt must relentlessly and effectively chip-chip-chip away at his loyal Right Wing voters’ belief in their own system.

That is something that no Left Wing politician could ever do.

If you undermine a building, it will collapse.

As for my comedian chum, I think he was wrong to refuse to appear on RT.

If they give him an unfettered, uncensored voice which he cannot get onto UK TV then, in terms of Art, that is a ‘win’ situation for him.

The fact that the financiers of RT may see comedy on existing British society as a way of undermining belief in the current system and appealing to the always-malleable 18-35 year old age group while appearing to be the voice of individual freedom of expression is a side issue.

Morality was never a necessity in Art.

And, of course, abroad, many took individually-seen videos of fake reporter Jonathan Pie as those of a real reporter whose off-camera personal views had been caught between recordings, thus showing the duplicity of Western reporting.

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Krayzy Days – Why London gangster Ronnie Kray really shot George Cornell inside the Blind Beggar pub in 1966

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

I Stole Freddie Mercy’sBirthday Cake

Malcolm Hardee iconic autobiography

Towards the start of comedian Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, this passage appears:

______________________________

There was a club in Catford called The Witchdoctor. It was a club we all went to although they didn’t sell drink. Downstairs there was ‘Mr Smiths’ – a gambling casino….

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 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 says 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.

______________________________________________________

Micky Fawcett in the May Fair Hotel yesterday

Micky Fawcett in the May Fair Hotel, London, yesterday

Yesterday, I had tea at the May Fair Hotel in London with former Kray Twins associate Micky Fawcett.

His new book Krayzy Days is that rare thing – a totally true insight into what it was like being with the Kray Twins – Ronnie & Reggie –  and their brother Charlie.

“Did the Kray Twins have a sense of humour?” I asked.

“Ronnie had a very good sense of humour,” Micky told me, “Reggie had no sense of humour, but Ronnie did.”

“What type?” I asked. “Black humour?”

“Yes,” said Micky. “Black humour.”

“Or maybe black and blue,” I suggested.

“He was an Oscar Wilde type,” mused Micky. “I’m not saying he was witty, but he would have loved Oscar Wilde. The way Oscar Wilde used to carry on.”

“Because he felt he was clever and superior?” I asked.

Ronnie Kray, boxer Sonny Liston, Micky Fawcett

Ronnie Kray (left) with boxer Sonny Liston & Micky Fawcett

“Well, Ronnie felt superior,” Micky agreed. “He was called The Colonel. He thought he was superior to everything and everybody. As I say in my book, I was round the Twins’ house one day and somebody dropped in a copy of Private EyeIt was about ‘Knacker of The Yard’ (Private Eye’s name for un-named policemen) and all that – I can’t remember exactly what it was about. But Ronnie read it and laughed for the rest of the day.

“He used to describe himself as ‘a well-known thug and poof’.”

“But,” I said, “he took exception when George Cornell called him a poof.”

“No, that’s…” said Micky.

“When Ronnie shot him in the Blind Beggar pub,” I added.

The Blind Beggar pub in London

The Blind Beggar pub in London

“Well,” said Micky, “in the book I tell the true reason for that. It has nothing to do with homosexuality at all. It’s in the book. I was visiting someone in Dartmoor Prison. But, the day before the Blind Beggar shooting, there was the big tear-up at Mr Smith’s in Catford.”

“That’s the one mentioned in Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography,” I said.

“Yes,” said Micky. “Everybody was Whoa! Did you hear that? Whoa! My God! and all that. Frank Fraser finished up with a bullet in his leg in that front garden. It was a big tear-up between the Richardsons and another local ‘firm’.

“The following evening, I was going to Dartmoor, so I went over to the Regency club to meet the fellah I was going with – the Regency being a club in Hackney frequented by the Krays, who had a small share in it. People think they owned it, but the Barry family owned it.

“When I got to the Regency, I saw Reggie outside and he said: What about the news! Reggie was a very uptight sort of fellah. He never hardly showed his emotions. But he grabbed hold of me and he was waltzing me round on the pavement saying: What about it, Mick? Wasn’t it great? The Richardsons had been arrested.

“But I didn’t feel very elated by it at all. They had never done anything to me and, as I came away, I thought to myself: I’ve a feeling now that the next thing is going to be them (The Krays). Once these things get underway, the police nick everybody. The Richardsons had been arrested, but it wasn’t something to celebrate.

“I met my pal. We went to Dartmoor Prison. Visited a fellah down there. Frank Mitchell was on the visit as well. When we used to go to Dartmoor, we’d get my mate out and say to the screw (the prison guard): Can you get Frank Mitchell too? and he’d get Frank Mitchell.”

Nine months later, ‘Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell was sprung from Dartmoor Prison by the Kray Twins and subsequently murdered on their orders when they found out he really was uncontrollably mad.

“Frank Mitchell would come for a chat at Dartmoor,” explained Micky, “because he didn’t have any visitors of his own. He’d sit down and say to the screw: You look after him, cos he’s a friend of mine and I’m telling you, if you don’t... and the screw would say Alright, Frank, alright. OK, Frank, keep calm... That’s a fact. They were good experiences when I look back.

“Anyway, we come home to London and, early in the morning, I got a newspaper and it said: MAN SHOT DEAD IN THE BLIND BEGGAR PUB. So I get on the phone straight away to Charlie Kray. He says: Meet me outside Mile End station. So I go straight there and I can remember it as if it was yesterday.

George Cornell in a police photo

George Cornell in a police photo

“I said to him: Reggie? and he said No, Ronnie. I said Yeah? He said Yeah. What’s happened, Mick… you know that turn-out down there…”

(Micky and I agreed that, for the rest of the exact detail of this story, you will have to buy Micky’s book… He’s no fool and I am not going to argue with him. So there is a section of our conversation missing here… Micky then continued…)

“So he’s going to throw a petrol bomb into Freddie Foreman’s pub.

“And Charlie Kray told me I wish you’d been here, Mick, because you’d have been the obvious choice to send over because I would have liaised – I used to – but they sent Nobby and he’s come back and gone Oh, it’s all off again! Murders! We’ve gotta do something! They’re going to burn Fred’s pub down!

“And Ronnie’s gone What? And Ronnie’s got all excited, cos he’s mad and he’s gone Give me a shooter! Right! Right! Let’s have a drive round and see if we… and he’s gone into the Blind Beggar and Boom! and that’s it. Just cos Cornell was one of them, cos he was associated with the Richardsons.

“I got on well with Georgie Cornell. He came from Stepney but was very friendly with the Richardsons in South London. He wasn’t 100% with them all the time. And all kinds of strange stories have gone on about why he was shot.

Krayzy Days by Micky Fawcett

Micky Fawcett’s new myth-busting book

“The strangest of them all is that Georgie Cornell gave Ronnie a terrible beating on some previous occasion. John Pearson says it in his book. But the fellah who told Pearson is a terrible liar.”

“Is he alive?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Well I’m not going to print that he’s a terrible liar, am I?” I said. “He might take it amiss.”

“Don’t worry about him,” Micky told me. “He’d have trouble getting out of his armchair.”

“There are so many stories,” I said to Micky: “The comedian Lee Hurst used to say that the Blind Beggar must be the biggest pub in the world because, every time you met any London taxi driver, he would claim he was in there the night Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell.”

“Well,” Micky told me, “in the pub that night there really was this fellah called George The Fib.”

“Is he violent, is he still alive and does he live near me?” I asked.

“You’re OK,” said Micky, “he’s dead. But he was called George The Fib cos he was known for lying about everything so, when he told people he had been in the Blind Beggar the night of the shooting, no-one would believe him. He was going around afterwards saying What about that turn-out? I was in there that night… but no-one would believe him. The Old Bill didn’t even interview him.”

Krayzy Days indeed,” I said.

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Ignore the new Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, this is how the Profumo political sex scandal really happened

John Profumo, the UK’s Minister for War

John Profumo, the UK’s disgraced Secretary of State for War

A couple of days ago in my blog, there was a discussion between one of my Facebook Friends and writer Harry Rogers about whether people accused of sex crimes should be named in the press before they are prosecuted.

There is another interesting angle to this which Harry Rogers knows a bit about. Not a sex crime but a sex scandal… The Profumo sex scandal of 1963 which ultimately brought down Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government.

But this blog is really about Johnny Edgecombe, whom I think I probably met at Malcolm Hardee’s Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich in the 1990s. By then, he was known as Johnny Edge. I have a vague recollection that Malcolm introduced me to Johnny Edge once; but I can’t be certain.

What interests me about Johnny is how small incidents in apparently insignificant individuals’ lives can change history.

For those too young to remember, the Profumo Affair involved ‘good-time party girl’ Christine Keeler having sex with John Profumo, the UK’s Secretary of State for War. This was not good, given that he was married to actress Valerie Hobson. Worse though, given that Profumo knew Britain’s entire defence secrets and this was the height of the Cold War, was that Christine Keeler was also having sex with Yevgeni Ivanov, a senior naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy in London. All military attachés are assumed to be spies.

In October 1962, the United States and the USSR almost stumbled into a nuclear war over the Cuban Missile Crisis.

At the same time, in London, Johnny Edgecombe was Christine Keeler’s boyfriend and allegedly her pimp. Before that, Keeler’s boyfriend had been drug dealer ‘Lucky’ Gordon. When she split from Gordon, he attacked her with an axe and held her hostage for two days. She then became Johnny Edgecombe’s girlfriend.

Just before Christmas 1962, she split from Johnny Edgecombe. What happened then resulted in a court case in which John Profumo’s name was mentioned in open court and the whole Profumo scandal became public knowledge.

Johnny Edgecombe went to prison for what happened in the mews.

I had a drink with Harry Rogers last night.

Harry Rogers in Greenwich last night

Harry Rogers remembers Johnny in Greenwich last night

“I met Johnny Edge just after he came out of prison,” Harry told me. “I think the intelligence services knew very well what was going on with Christine Keeler: that she was having an affair with Profumo and was also seeing Ivanov.”

“What had Johnny done before the Profumo thing?” I asked.

“He’d been friends with lots of jazz musicians in London,” Harry told me. “And he’d worked for Peter Rachman.”

“The dodgy slum landlord?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Harry. “Rachman bought a lot of properties up and, when he had trouble getting people out of a property, he would get Johnny Edge and a couple of others to go and take over the basement in the building and set up a shebeen. A shebeen is an illegal drinking establishment with lots of loud music pumping all night. So Johnny’s role was to set up the shebeen and get musicians to come in there and party. They had a great time and the people got so fed up with the noise they left. It was like constructive dismissal – constructive eviction, really.”

“But eventually,” I said, “he met Christine Keeler, she left him and that triggered off the whole thing.”

“Yes,” said Harry. “When Christine Keeler left him – he was kind of pimping her in a way; he was living off her earnings, anyway – he wanted money and he needed money and also Johnny was in competition with Lucky Gordon, who was out to get Johnny. He saw him as the person who had taken ‘his Christine’ away from him – cos he’d been pimping her too.

“Lucky Gordon had caught up with Johnny in the Flamingo club in Wardour Street in Soho and there had been a big running fight through the club. They were chasing each other about all over he place. Lucky Gordon was going to beat up Johnny, but Johnny pulled a knife and ‘striped’ his face.

“After that, Lucky Gordon was really, really angry and so he got a machete and he was threatening to cut Johnny Edge’s head off. And that’s why Johnny got a gun. And the gun that he got was Christine Keeler’s. She had a Luger pistol.”

“Why did she have a gun?” I asked.

“I think for protection,” Harry replied. “Anyway, Johnny took her gun and he was carrying it because he knew that, if Lucky Gordon did catch up with him – if he wasn’t protected – Lucky was going to kill him.

1964 book on the scandal

A 1964 book on the Profumo Scandal

“When Christine left Johnny and went to Stephen Ward in the mews, Johnny got a taxi to the house. Christine was there but wouldn’t come to the window. Mandy Rice-Davies came to the window and told Johnny Christine doesn’t want to speak to you – Here’s some money – Go away! – and threw a handful of fivers out the window.

“That made Johnny angry, so then he decided he was going to go in and talk to Christine. So he tried to do what they do in the movies. He tried to shoot the door open by blowing the lock off the door with the gun.

“That didn’t work, so then he got back into the taxi…”

“The taxi driver,” I asked, “had just been sitting there twiddling his thumbs through all this?”

“Yes,” said Harry. “The cab driver was still waiting. Johnny got back in the cab. And they drove off.

“Meanwhile, the police had been phoned. They caught up with Johnny and arrested him and charged him with attempted murder. They said he’d actually tried to shoot Christine Keeler from the street through the window. He never did that. But they needed a court case to break open the whole thing so they could officially look into everything that was going on. And, from that point onwards it all came out.

“What Johnny told me was that not only was Stephen Ward supplying various members of the Establishment with women… There were a number of them: Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies, Rona Ricardo and two or three other girls were involved in this circle, this kind of call girl ring that he was running… They would all go down to Lord Astor’s place (Clivedon in Buckinghamshire) and have the swimming pool, the weekend orgies, all the rest of it… not only was Stephen Ward doing that, but he was also supplying lots of Members of Parliament and the aristocracy with marijuana.”

“Which would be a big thing then,” I said.

“Which was a big thing then,” Harry agreed. “And which Johnny Edge was supplying to Stephen Ward.”

“How did the Russian get involved?” I asked.

The Daily Mirror reports Profumo’s resignation

Profumo resigned because he lied to MPs

“Well,” explained Harry, “Stephen Ward would host parties which diplomats and all sorts of people would attend – He was just a military attaché. I don’t think there was any attempt to screw information out of Profumo. There’s no way that Christine Keeler was pumping Profumo for information to give to Ivanov, who she called her ‘Russian teddy bear’. It was all just sex and drugs, really. But spooks, being what they are, often read a lot more into the situation than is there.

“Profumo was a pretty honourable man. He just liked screwing.”

“You’ve heard about the new Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical that’s being written about Stephen Ward?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Harry. “Johnny Edge told me Stephen Ward was a great guy and it was terrible the way he was vilified out. Really, he was just serving a need.”

“And was driven to suicide,” I said.

“And,” said Harry, “Johnny was sent to prison. He spent about six years inside. The Labour Party – Bessie Braddock in particular – said, as soon as they got into power, they would ensure he was released. But, of course, what happened when the Wilson government came in? They left him there to rot. He kept writing to them from prison trying to get them to honour what they had said they were going to do, but they left him there.

“He’d been sent to Dartmoor! For a while he shared a cell with Frank Mitchell.”

“The Mad Axeman?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Harry. “Everybody was really frightened of Frank in there. Not just the prisoners, but all the Screws. He was like an animal. But he took a liking to Johnny so, consequently, life was easy for Johnny inside because he had total protection. In those days, it wouldn’t have been easy being a black West Indian like Johnny in prison.’”

“And you met him soon after he got out?” I asked.

“When he first came out of prison,” explained Harry, “he didn’t go back to Notting Hill, he moved to a flat in Blackheath, then later he moved to a flat on a council estate by what’s now the Up The Creek comedy club.

“His aim was, if he could ever make enough money, to go out to the West Indies and buy a boat like his dad had had. Of course, it never happened.

“He would wake up in the morning and smoke a joint. Then he would get washed and dressed. Smoke another joint. Have breakfast. Smoke another joint. Then he was set up to go out for the day. He was always stoned. Always.

Johnny Edge in later life

Johnny Edgecombe in later life + one of his cigarettes

“He decided he was going to make money from selling chess sets. He met somebody who had access to a whole load of reproduction fancy chess sets: the Lewis chess set, the Reynard The Fox one, a Mexican carved crystal one and an erotic chess set – pornographic, basically – the bishops had little boys sucking them off. They weren’t cheap. He made a good mark-up on them.

“Also, if you wanted to buy half a pound or a pound of dope, Johnny knew where to go. In 1971, you could probably get a pound of dope for £500 and he’d charge you £550. He wasn’t a big dope importer or anything, but he was big mates with Howard Marks, who was.

“After the chess sets, he got into buying VW camper vans in Amsterdam and filling them up with Second World War leather jackets and overcoats he bought in a warehouse near where he bought the VWs. They looked like Nazi overcoats but weren’t – most were actually Dutch motorcycle police coats, but they looked the business.

“So Johnny would fill the camper vans with these coats, bring them back to Britain and sell them. The rock singer Chris Farlowe used to run a Nazi militaria shop and Johnny Edge used to sell him these Dutch police overcoats as genuine Nazi wartime overcoats at a massive mark-up.

“Needs must when the Devil drives. There was no way he was ever going to get employed in a straight job; he was so stoned all the time.

“He was a very likeable guy. He was a great guy.”

“And he died just over two years ago,” I said. “What did he die of?”

“Lung cancer,” said Harry.

So it goes.

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