Tag Archives: Frankie Fraser

Once Upon a Time – Terry Stone, Terry Turbo, Princess Margaret & Mad Frank

In yesterday’s blog, former ‘rave’ organiser Terry Turbo – now film producer Terry Stone – was talking about his new film Once Upon a Time in London (released in the UK yesterday).

He has also produced the three (soon to be four) Rise of The Footsoldier movies, Bonded By Blood and other true crime films.


Terry Stone played Tony Tucker in Rise of the Footsoldier

JOHN: You were saying you are interested in true crime.

TERRY: Yes. In Rise of the Footsoldier, although there’s a lot in there that was made up, all the Essex Boys stuff was true. I’ve got a friend who’s on the Murder Squad so I know for a fact what stuff happened.

The conspiracy theories at the end are open to interpretation, but I know for a fact that all the Essex Boys stuff is 100% true. I look at that film and I’m proud of it.

JOHN: The title Once Upon a Time in London… It’s presumably intentionally reminiscent of Sergio Leone – Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time… The Revolution, Once Upon a Time in America.

TERRY: Once Upon a Time in America was one of my favourite movies. If you were to ask me what film Once Upon a Time in London is most like, it would be the British version of that. We were not trying to copy it, but we went: What stories haven’t been told in this country?

JOHN: And Once Upon a Time in America was vaguely based on the truth – the early days of organised crime in the US.

TERRY: In Once Upon a Time in London, everything in that happened. There’s nothing made up. The only scene that may have been changed slightly was the darts scene. That may not have happened. But the guy was getting tortured and, instead of having darts thrown at him, he might have had bits of his ear being cut off. But we thought: That’s too much like Reservoir Dogs, so why don’t we just do the darts cos it’s funny and no-one’s ever done it. It’s just fucking terrifying.

JOHN: It is. And it’s in character. ‘Mad Frank’ Fraser would do that.

The real Jack Spot (played by Terry in Once Upon a Time in London) after being attacked by ‘Mad Frank’ Fraser in 1956

TERRY: He would. He’d be pulling your teeth out with pliers or he’d be cutting bits off you. He was a fucking lunatic. That’s why I liked him as a character. He’s so fucking off-key. He spent possibly 60% of his life in jail. He just liked violence. He didn’t care about money; he just wanted to hurt people. Maybe he wasn’t wired-up right; I dunno. If you said to him “Go and kill that guy” he would just do it and then worry about it when he was in jail and then kill someone else and think: Oh well, I might as well kill him as well because I’ll be in jail anyway. That was how his thought process worked.

JOHN: He once offered to do free dental work for me if I ever needed it done. I wasn’t quite sure how to take that. I presume he meant dental work on other people; not on me. I think he was just trying to live up to his legend.

TERRY: When I met him, I was shocked. What shocked me about all of the people from that era was how fucking small they were. You meet them all now and they’re these tiny little fellers. Maybe we’ve just become bigger through genetics or food or whatever

JOHN: How tall are the Adamses?

TERRY: I dunno. All the people that I’ve met now all seem bigger. When you meet someone who is part of a firm or someone who’s heavy-duty nowadays, they look the part. They don’t have to be six foot high and twenty stone, but they look the part. With the old ones, because they’re now in their 70s and 80s, they’re lovely little old men and you think: Did he really go round pulling people’s teeth out? He seems such a nice guy.

JOHN: All the really violent people I’ve met have been very quiet and polite. The SAS men I’ve met have been terribly polite and quiet. I guess, if you move in certain circles – certainly criminal circles – it’s best to be polite to strangers in case they turn out to be homicidal maniacs living on a hair-trigger.

The real Billy Hill, subject of Once Upon a Time in London (Photo from Krayzy Days)

TERRY: There’s a old saying: Walk softly but carry a big stick.

JOHN: Well, if you really are dangerous, you don’t have to ‘big it up’ to prove it to yourself… Anyway… There are obvious sequels to Once Upon a Time in London. The continuation of the Billy Hill story and the whole of the ‘Mad Frank’ Fraser story.

TERRY: We’ll see what happens with this one and if it goes the way we think it’s gonna go – worldwide with someone like Netflix or Amazon – then, if they think they want some spin-offs or more films – then happy days.

A lot of people from that era have now retired or are dead. But we have access to Frank’s surviving family, access to the Sabinis – all of the people. So we have access to all the stories.

JOHN: The Godfather had real criminals in small parts. Was Once Upon a Time in London the same?

TERRY: There’s a few. And we used a few fighters. There’s a few people in there, if you’re into fighters or underworld figures. But we didn’t cast any villains in big parts.

JOHN: Real dodgy people often don’t look dodgy. I always thought Johnny Bindon looked a bit wimpish on screen. Though I wouldn’t have said that to his face.

TERRY: That’s a good story, that is. John Bindon. The only problem is, when I’ve talked to people about it, they’ve all gone: “Well, he was sort of an actor/villain. But he didn’t really do anything.” His selling point was shagging Princess Margaret and smoking weed with her. He was in the Sixties set, but with all the people I’ve mentioned it to, no-one really bit on it and I don’t know why.

JOHN: It’s psychologically fascinating. The end is a bit of a downer, but that could be handled.

TERRY: I would fucking love to play John Bindon. That would be a great part.

JOHN: That’s what they all said he had.

Poster for Once Upon a Time in London at Leytonstone tube station, East London

TERRY: The problem, being a working class London lad with my sort of build is you get regularly asked to be the henchman or the murderer. Do you wanna clump someone? I don’t mind doing that, but I actually want some substance to it. 

The part I play in Once Upon a Time in London was interesting because it had range – there was a family involved. I hope when people see the film, people will react: Oh! Actually, he can be more than just the guy who says “I’m gonna do you in” and all that shit.

If you haven’t got the material to show what you can do, nobody will give you the chance as an actor. Sometimes people are lucky: they get a part and shine.

JOHN: Sylvester Stallone held out and wouldn’t sell the Rocky script to anyone unless he was cast as Rocky.

TERRY: And he was absolutely on his arse. He was waiting on tables, doing anything, living in a fucking bedsit and they were offering “Here’s a million dollars for your script” – which is probably $5 million now – and he was unknown. And then he went and won a fucking Oscar and the rest is history. But a film about John Bindon… Everyone I talked to about it said: “There’s not really a story.”

JOHN: A massive rise and fall. Fleeing to Ireland at the climax; all that.

TERRY: But think about the kids now, right? They go and watch Legend because it’s Tom Hardy. They watch Footsoldier because it’s people getting bashed-up and carved-up and thrown through windows and girls with their tits out. If you say there’s a film about John Bindon, they’d say: “Who’s that?”

JOHN: But people don’t know about Jack Spot and Billy Hill.

TERRY: They know it’s the ones before the Krays. That’s the hook.

JOHN: And the Krays are in the trailer, which is great.

TERRY: But you look at John Bindon, what would you say?

An uncompromising photograph of John Bindon and Princess Margaret on the island of Mustique.

JOHN: They made The Bank Job about robbing the bank to get the compromising photos of Princess Margaret, though she was never named. Do you think that story is true?

TERRY: Well, if you were the government or the Queen, you’d be going: “I wanna get them fucking pictures!” And you would probably reach out to… 

I know a friend of mine who is… y’know… a villain. 

And the government have actually said to him: “If you do this, then…” … just like they went to the Mob and asked them to kill Castro. There are things the government can’t do and, if a gangster does it for them, they’ll do him some favours or they’ll overlook things. That’s how the world works.

JOHN: Wasn’t it Lucky Luciano who helped the Americans invade Sicily in the Second World War? Local knowledge and local contacts. Anyway… So what’s next for you?

Terry in his previous incarnation

TERRY: I wrote a book about the club scene (King of Clubs – Sex, Drugs & Thugs) and we have just-about signed a deal with a big TV company to turn it into a TV series. And I’ve just done two documentaries about the birth of drum & bass and the birth of garage music. It’s me and the DJs and the MCs talking about it and how big the brands were. 

I’ve also got a feminist horror film. I’ve got a couple of business partners – Richard Turner and Chris Howard. 

We’re always trying to do something new. We’re developing a lot of TV stuff and animated stuff.

… MORE ON THIS HERE …

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A prison friend remembers the last time he saw gangster ‘Mad’ Frank Fraser

Mad Frank in 2002

Mad Frank Fraser in 2002

In February 2012, I wrote a blog which mentioned the British criminal ‘Mad’ Frank Fraser.

Someone recently posted a comment on the blog which I think is interesting enough to print here. I have tidied-up some of the punctuation.

The comment reads…


I first met Frank in 1976 at Cardiff Prison.

I first spoke to him by saying: “How can you wear jeans?”

He looked at me and said: “Come with me, son.”

I went to his cell.

He said: “Sit.”

I did.

He threw a book at me: “Read this.”

I threw it back at him.

“I said: “You read it.”

He said: “I like you – You’ve got bottle.”

Then I knew who he was.

He became a friend of mine. We used to have a good laugh.

Not many would speak to him.

He was my cup of tea.

I was 21 at that time. I use to play football on Saturdays, but there are four nations.

I’m Welsh.

Frank said: “Colin, you haven’t been picked to play for Wales. I will be back in five minutes.”

(When he returned) he said to me: “Yes, you are playing. Sorted. I want you to play for the English side. But Colin,” he said, “you must score or I will have to break your legs.”

I scored in every game and the English won.

Frank would run up and down the line threatening to break my leg if I didn’t score. He was shouting no end.

One game, he needed me to sort this guy on the other side. (When I did) he shouted: “Now, job done!”

I was sent off. Frank was so happy.

The last time I spoke to Frank was when he asked me if I could go and see if his wife was in the visitors’ room and how long had she been waiting.

She had been there for two hours.

I went back. I told Frank.

He said: “Thanks Col, mate.”

He said: “Disappear now. You won’t see me again, Col.”

He said: “Just go. Bye, Col.”

“But Frank…” I said.

He said: “Go. Go now.”

From a distance, I hear Frank: “Bye, Col.”

Sad for me.

Then I hear all the alarms go off.

The prison officer told him No his wife wasn’t there. So Frank cut his throat.

Last time I seen him.

Dragged away. My mate Frank.

Colin your English top scorer.

I found out he had money on me to score.

Respect to you Frank

xxxxxx from Colin.

 

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The night comedian Malcolm Hardee met gangster Charlie Richardson

Charlie Richardson book to be published next month

A new book to be published next month

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

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

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

Mad Frank interviewed at Repton Boys Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 7th February 2002

Malcolm & girlfriend Andree at the Wibbley Wobbley in 2002

Malcolm & girlfriend Andree at the Wibbley Wobbley in 2002

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

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

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

Dave Ford in a video uploaded onto YouTube in 2010

Author Dave Ford in a video uploaded onto YouTube in 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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The downside of being a dead celebrity: Liz Taylor, Charlie Drake, Rod Hull, Bob Hope & the Queen Mum

The Queen Mother was 101 years old when she died and she had cost the BBC a fortune by not dying earlier. Her death – codenamed ‘Blackbird’ at ITV where the Transmission Controllers had envelopes containing details of what to do when she did eventually die – was clearly going to be a big news story and her funeral a complicatedly large state event so, to my knowledge, the BBC ran a full rehearsal of her death and coverage of her funeral three times. It cost a fortune.

She must have been well-pissed off when Princess Diana died because everyone was unprepared. There were certainly no plans for Diana to have a big funeral because, at that point, she was not a member of the Royal Family and had no constitutional position. So, when the Royal Family were, in effect, forced by the press and – to my mind – surreal public opinion to give Diana a big fuck-me funeral, they used the plans for the Queen Mother’s funeral.

As a result, the Queen Mother’s funeral itself was a less big-scale anti-climax.

Dying can be difficult at the best of times, but pity the poor celebrity.

Elizabeth Taylor sadly mis-timed her death on Wednesday. On a normal slow news days, she could have expected to be the lead item on TV News bulletins. But it was Budget Day in the UK – economic pundits and bullshitting politicians stretched as far as the eye could see and there were expensive Outside Broadcast and studio links nationwide – plus there was lots of news coming in from Libya and still news report aftershocks from the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear story in Japan, where TV companies had, by now, flown expensive reporters into place and were paying for on-the-spot film crews.

So poor Elizabeth Taylor’s death did not quite get the level of coverage she could have otherwise expected.

This morning, TV scriptwriter Nigel Crowle pointed out to me two slightly bizarre angles to her death.

One was that one of her rivals for the key role in 1944 movie National Velvet – which made her a star – was future Baroness Shirley Williams.

Shirley was pipped at the post by Elizabeth and went on to found the Social Democrat Party while Liz went on to marry Richard Burton twice.

It’s unlikely that, if Shirley had got the role, she would have gone on to marry Richard Burton and Elizabeth would have founded the SDP, but stranger things have happened.

The other odd fact Nigel mentioned is that Elizabeth Taylor’s obituary in the New York Times was written by Mel Gussow who died six years ago.

This is no great surprise – Associated Press wrote the template for Britney Spears’ obituary in 2008.

What does surprise me is that British newspapers seem to have discovered a tone of reverence for Elizabeth Taylor which they never quite gave her in life. Something of a reverse on the situation for dead UK comedian Charlie Drake, who was much cherished during his life.

After his death, veteran TV producer Michael Hurll let rip about Charlie in an interview on the Chortle comedy industry website

Hurll worked with Charlie when he was a holiday camp redcoat: “He was a nasty man then,” Hurll said, “and he stayed a nasty man – a horrible, horrible man”.

Hurll, old enough not to care, went on to call Jerry Lewis (still alive) “a nasty piece of work” and Bob Hope (dead) “the nastiest man I’ve ever worked with”. As for Rod Hull: “He was the most miserable, nastiest man you ever met… Just a horrible, horrible man.”

Dying can be difficult at the best of times, but pity the poor celebrity facing the uncertainties of posthumous reviews.

I still retain memories of reading an Andy Warhol obituary (I can’t remember where) which ended with the climactic words: “He was a short man who wore a wig”.

Ex-gangster ’Mad’ Frank Fraser – not a man to meddle with in life – once told me over a cup of tea that he wasn’t “really frightened of anything but I’m a bit worried what they’ll say about me after I die.”

He seems a very nice chap. He offered me free dental work.

Just don’t ask me about Cilla Black…

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