Tag Archives: Jack the Ripper

The Jack The Ripper Comedy Tour with Becky Fury on the Day of The Dead…

It was Malcolm Hardee Award winning comedian Becky Fury’s birthday yesterday. I had a celebratory drink with her.

I had tea. She had coffee.

Next month, she is going to lead a Jack The Ripper Comedy Tour around London’s East End.

Rival Jack The Ripper tours roam the streets of London’s East End several times a week…


JOHN: So… It’s in bad taste, some might say.

BECKY: Of course it is in very bad taste.

JOHN: So why do it?

BECKY: It’s Hallowe’en.

JOHN: No it’s not. You’re doing it on the 2nd of November.

BECKY: Well, it’s the Day of the Dead.

JOHN: Is it?

BECKY: Yes. November 2nd – That’s the Day of The Dead.

JOHN: Anyway, why do it?

BECKY: Because serial killers are very popular. People like serial killers.

JOHN: Their victims don’t.

Becky Fury: “Serial killers are very popular”

BECKY: You never hear them complain. But, more generally, serial killers are very popular with the public and I did one on Hallowe’en the year before last. which was very popular. It sold out completely. I think I need more coffee.

JOHN: How many people do you have on a street tour like this?

BECKY: Thirty people; that’s the maximum. More than that and it’s too difficult to shout at them.

JOHN: You have done previous Jack The Ripper tours.

BECKY: Yes, I did a straight one. Then I did a feminist one. And now I’m doing a comedy one.

JOHN: So how are you going to get laughs out of it? There’s a lot of disembowelling involved in Jack The Ripper.

BECKY: Well, there is, but I will just wander round pointing out stupid fake stuff and throw in some real facts and do a quiz about serial killers. 

JOHN: So some real facts intermingled with some made-up facts.

BECKY: Yes. Just like in most good stand-up comedy. People tend not to know where reality ends and bullshit begins. As long as it’s entertaining: I think that’s the most important thing. If we walk down Brick Lane, we can find out where Jack The Ripper’s favourite curry house was.

JOHN: Gullible American tourists may take it all at face value.

Becky outside the Jack The Clipper barber shop

BECKY: That’s fine. I am going to take people to random places like the Jack The Clipper hair barbering salon. And there’s one alleyway that’s covered in street art. It’s an actual original Victorian alleyway – one of the only ones that’s left – though, unfortunately, no-one got murdered there.

JOHN: That’s a pity.

BECKY: Yes, but it’s atmospheric. We might add art to it. There’s some interesting serial-killer-esque graffiti there already.

JOHN: Is there a prize for the serial killer quiz?

BECKY: No.

JOHN: You could give the winner a liver wrapped up in paper. 

BECKY: No. Though the prize could be not having your liver and internal organs cut out and strewn all over the audience.

JOHN: How much does it cost to buy a real liver from a butcher’s?

BECKY: Alright, the prize could be one of Mary Jane Kelly’s severed ear lobes.

JOHN: Or maybe the family kept John Paul Getty III’s ear… They might donate it. No serial killer connection, though.

BECKY: No, John.

JOHN: Ears of corn, perhaps. Cereal killers.

BECKY: No, John.

JOHN: Have some more coffee. What sort of questions will be in the quiz?

BECKY: Gilles de Rais fought alongside Joan of  Arc in the Hundred Years War, but who did he have his servants lure into his castle, where he would torture, sexually assault and kill them?… I think the team deliberation on that will be interesting. There’s a music round as well.

JOHN: Is this Jack The Ripper Comedy Tour going to be a regular thing?

BECKY: Hopefully. We’ll see how this one goes. Hallowe’en is a good time to get people to come along.

JOHN: The Day of the Dead.

BECKY: The Day of the Dead.

JOHN: Are you going to dress up?

BECKY: I think I might dress up as Fenella Fielding.

Becky Fury drank a lot of coffee yesterday

JOHN: Where can your comedy go after this triumph? You will have peaked with your Jack The Ripper Comedy Tour. What plans?

BECKY: Tons of stuff, but I don’t want to talk about them yet.

JOHN: No?

BECKY: No.

JOHN: Oh.

BECKY: Did you put something in my coffee?

JOHN: Too soon?

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Creating a Legend – The Krays and the killing of ‘Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell

Two Jack The Ripper tours on opposite sides of the same street last night

Two competing Jack The Ripper tours huddle together on opposite sides of the street in London’s East End last night

Last night, I was in the area where Jack The Ripper killed at least five women 127 years ago.

Now he is a legend. He is more famous worldwide than any 19th century British Prime Minister. Last night, I may have counted some twice – though I do not think I did – but there were at least sixteen Jack The Ripper guided tours going round the area.

The gap between despised villain and fascinating legend becomes ever shorter. With 1950s and 1960s London gangsters the Kray Twins, we are still close enough to see the legend being built.

The teaser trailer for the latest film about the Krays – Legendwas released last week. It got 2,067,569 hits in its first two days online.

Yesterday afternoon, I met Micky Fawcett, an associate of The Krays, who wrote the book Krayzy Days about his time with them (and much else)

Odd shot - After leaving their family home, the Krays lived in a council flat - and buildings were not this high in the 1960s.

Odd teaser – After leaving their family home, the Krays lived in a council flat – and buildings were not this high in 1960s.

Micky did not think much of the Legend teaser trailer. I too thought the selling line about the Twins “ruling” London was a wild exaggeration. Mickey saw more detailed quirks: apparently, in reality, Ronnie Kray never wore spectacles outside his home.

Then the subject came up of Frank’ The Mad Axeman’ Mitchell.

Some of what follows is taken from Wikipedia, so the facts are (a) in the public domain and (b) as they are from Wikipedia, not necessarily true.

That is one of the things about legends.

They are not necessarily true.


WIKIPEDIA SAYS:

‘Mad axeman’ Frank Mitchell

‘Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell in happy days

From the age of 17 Mitchell was regularly incarcerated in borstals and prisons, mostly for shop-breaking and larceny. In prison, Mitchell was “a thorn in the flesh of authority”. His sentences were characterised by violence against guards and fellow inmates and he was punished with the birch and the cat o’ nine tails.

He slashed a guard across the face and was charged with attempted murder after attacking an inmate he believed had informed on him; he was later acquitted. 

In 1955, he was diagnosed as ‘mentally defective’ and sent to the Rampton psychiatric hospital. Two years later Mitchell escaped with another inmate and they attacked a man with an iron bar before stealing his clothes and money.

When he was recaptured, Mitchell attacked police with two meat cleavers and was sent to Broadmoor. He escaped again, broke into a private home and held a married couple hostage with an axe, for which he was nicknamed ‘The Mad Axeman’ in the press.


Micky’s Krayzy Days remembered

Micky’s Krayzy Days were lived to full

Micky told me: “He was in Broadmoor first off and he escaped – I don’t know how. What happened was he broke into a cottage and there were a couple of old people in there and he picked up an axe and said: Now, behave yourself.”

“He never used the axe?” I asked.

‘No. I’m not saying he was a saint. He was an idiot. But he didn’t want to go back to Broadmoor. He wanted to go in a prison.

“There was a feller called Tom Bryant who used to come in the Double-R Club (which the Kray Twins owned). He wrote for The People newspaper. He was always in the Double-R.”

“To pick up stories?” I asked.

“Probably. After that incident with the axe, Tom Bryant nicknamed Frank ‘The Mad Axeman’.

“And, after that, it was Keep away from Tom Bryant. The day before, he was a friend. But after he called Frank ‘The Mad Axeman’ it was a case of: Frank Mitchell is a friend of ours. Keep away from Tom Bryant.


WIKIPEDIA SAYS:

In October 1958 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for robbery with violence.


Micky Fawcett in the May Fair Hotel yesterday

Micky Fawcett photographed in the May Fair Hotel recently

Micky told me: “I went down to Dartmoor Prison to meet somebody else and they said: Frank Mitchell never gets any visitors.

“This is a long time – many years – before anything happened to him.

“So I met him. He was quite nice, an ordinary sort of feller… He was not very bright, but quite a pleasant sort of type. He said to the screw (prison warder): Look after Micky. It was like he was threatening the screw. He said: Micky’s a friend of ours now, right? Do you understand?

“And the screw, sounding slightly scared went: Yeah, alright Frank. OK Frank. Keep calm.”

We now enter ‘six degrees of separation’ territory here.

Johnny Edgecombe in later life

Johnny Edgecombe in later life

In a 2013 blog, Harry Rogers told me that his chum Johnny Edgecombe (who precipitated the Profumo sex scandal) had shared a cell with Frank Mitchell in Dartmoor and that “everybody was really frightened of Frank in there. Not just the prisoners, but all the screws. He was like an animal.”

Micky told me: “They used to have work parties at Dartmoor: like a chain gang thing. Quarrying. But Frank used to tell the screws I’ll be in the pub and he used to go off to the local pub and have a drink.”

I said to Micky: “I thought Dartmoor Prison was isolated, in the middle of nowhere.”

“It is.” said Micky.


WIKIPEDIA SAYS:

Dartmoor Prison

Dartmoor Prison – it’s a long way to the nearest public house

Mitchell was sent to Dartmoor prison in 1962 and, whilst there, his behaviour improved. He kept budgerigars and was transferred to the honour party, a small group of trustee inmates who were allowed to work outside the prison walls with minimal supervision. Mitchell was permitted to roam the moors and feed the wild ponies and even visited nearby pubs. On one occasion he caught a taxi to Okehampton to buy a budgerigar. The governor of the prison promised Mitchell that if he stayed out of trouble he would recommend to the Home Office that he be given a release date. Four years later, Mitchell was aggrieved that he had still not received one.

Mitchell had befriended Ronnie Kray when they served a sentence together at Wandsworth Prison in the 1950s. During Mitchell’s trial for attempted murder, Ron hired a lawyer for him and paid for him to have a new suit fitted. Ron was keen on breaking Mitchell out of prison, thinking it would help him to publicise his grievance and earn a release date, as well as enhance the Krays’ standing in the underworld. Reg Kray recalled that he was reluctant, but finally reasoned that “if nothing else, it would stick two fingers up to the law”.


Micky told me: “The big story is that The Twins ‘sprung’ Frank Mitchell from Dartmoor. But all they did was say to someone: Can you just go down and pick Frank up – and he just walked out, got in the car and came to London.”


WIKIPEDIA SAYS:

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

Teddy Smith in the 1960s: a man in the car at Dartmoor

On 12 December 1966, while with a small work party on the moors, Mitchell asked the sole guard for permission to feed some nearby Dartmoor ponies. His request was granted, he walked over to a quiet road where a getaway car containing associates of the Krays – Albert Donoghue, ‘Mad’ Teddy Smith and Billy Exley – was waiting for him, and they drove to London, where the Krays put him up in a flat in Barking, East Ham. It was over five hours before Mitchell was reported missing.

Mitchell’s escape made national news, led to a political storm over the lax security around a man described in the press as ‘Britain’s most violent convict’, and was debated in the house of Commons. A large manhunt ensued, with 200 policemen, 100 Royal Marines and a Royal Air Force helicopter searching the moors.


Micky told me: “It was mad the way the whole thing went and he got shot in the end in the way that he did. Poor old Frank Mitchell.”

“This,” I said, “is Brown Bread Fred in the back of a van?”

“Yes,” said Micky. “The most horrible part about it was that I think it was Albert Donoghue who said that, as they came over Bow bridge, Frank said: Oh, I’d like to go down there. Me dad and all me family are in Bow. And they told him: No, you can’t go there; we’re taking you to Barking. Or it might have been East Ham. That was his last journey. That’s horrible. 

“Because really he was just a big bicycle thief. (At the age of 9 he stole a bicycle from another child, for which he was taken before a juvenile court and put on probation.)


WIKIPEDIA SAYS:

Freddie Foreman’s autobiography

Freddie Foreman’s 2007 autobiography

Mitchell soon became a problem for the Krays. Owing to his physical strength and short temper, he was difficult to control. He was unwilling to give himself up and return to prison, and was not allowed to leave the flat in case he was recognised. Effectively, he had traded one prison cell for another. The Krays feared releasing him or turning him in as he could implicate them in his escape. Mitchell felt insulted that Reg had only visited him in person once and was particularly upset that he could not visit his parents, despite them living nearby. He grew increasingly agitated and began making threats against the Krays. The Krays decided the only solution was to kill him.

On 24 December 1966, Mitchell was led into the back of a van by Albert Donoghue, thinking he was to be taken to a safe house in the countryside where he would meet up with Ron Kray. Waiting in the van were several men, among them Freddie Foreman and Alfie Gerrard, who were armed with revolvers. Once the van doors were closed and the engine started, they opened fire on Mitchell, killing him. Donoghue thought that 12 shots were fired before Mitchell died. His body was never recovered.


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

Ronnie (right) & Reggie Kray, photographed by David Bailey

I said to Micky: “There was a story the Krays knew someone with a boat in a seaside town and bodies would be dumped over the side, weighed down and wrapped in chicken wire so, when they rotted and/or fish ate them, large bits of body would not float to the surface.”

“That’s not true,” said Micky.

“No?” I asked.

“You don’ t want to know,” he told me.

“I do.’

“You don’t.”

“I do want to know, provided it doesn’t involve names.”

“Exactly,” said Micky.


WIKIPEDIA SAYS:

Albert Donoghue’s 1996 autobiography

Albert Donoghue’s 1996 autobiography

In 1968, the Krays and various accomplices were arrested and put on trial for an array of offences, including the murder of Frank Mitchell. Their attempt to cajole gang member Albert Donoghue into confessing to killing Mitchell led to him becoming a crown witness and testifying against them. Ron, Reg and Charlie Kray and Freddie Foreman were all acquitted of Mitchell’s murder, due to lack of evidence and the perceived unreliability of Donoghue’s testimony.

Reg Kray was found guilty of conspiring to effect Mitchell’s escape from Dartmoor, for which he received a five-year sentence to run concurrently with his other sentences. Donoghue and another Firm member, John Dickson, pleaded guilty to harbouring Mitchell and respectively received 18-month and 9-month sentences.

Freddie Foreman’s 1996 autobiography

Freddie Foreman’s 1996 autobiography

In his 1996 autobiography Respect, Foreman admitted to shooting Mitchell as a favour to the Krays.

Donoghue said Foreman was paid £1,000 for it.

Foreman was arrested and questioned by police after repeating his confession in a 2000 television documentary, but the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it would not be re-opening the case due to the then extant Double Jeopardy law.

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In the cyber world of viral publicity, BBC America sent me an e-mail today

Today, I was invited to go to a media show next week – MediaPro 2011 – and all they really wanted to know in cyberspace was my e-mail address and Twitter name.

Why?

I have no idea.

I have a friend who works for a major charity. Coincidentally, today she sent me an e-mail asking:

“Do you like Twitter?”

My answer was:

“I don’t really understand it – possibly because I do not have a smart phone.”

And I do not understand it, though I use it slightly for self-publicity.

It could cope with it a bit more once I understood the use of the hash sign.

But there is the problem of people actually seeing any message in the Twittersphere.

A comedian I know who also uses it for publicity sends any message mid-morning, late afternoon and near midnight to try to get it read.

It seems very popular with celebs and performers. I can’t imagine why they talk to each other on it, though.

My comedian chum Janey Godley Tweets extravagantly and swears it is useful if, for example, she goes to a new city – people will tell her useful information.

It has immediacy, which something like Facebook does not necessarily have. But coming with that is transience – if you Tweet a message at 10.30am, someone following 800 people may not see it if they don’t look until 3.00pm.

It is in that (what I think is an) odd area where, instead of talking to one person on the phone or in an e-mail, you talk to multiple people and (for reasons I cannot begin to fathom) you are having a conversation with one person which anyone is invited to listen in on.

As far as I can see, if you want to Tweet some one specific person, you might as well text ‘em.

I told my Charity friend:

“You might take a look at Google+ for work… Google+ seems to me to have a more up-market clientele than Facebook.”

(Nothing personal to my Facebook Friends).

The best proven way to get publicity, though, is to be included in my daily blog.

Bizarrely, BBC America would seem to agree. Today, I got an e-mail from someone at BBC America:

_______

Hi,

I work for BBC America, the U.S. cable television channel. I came across your blog and wanted to reach out, because BBC America is premiering a new series, WHITECHAPEL, on WED OCT 26 that I think would be interesting to you and your readers.

WHITECHAPEL is set in modern-day East London where a copycat killer is terrorizing London – and it’ll take everything these police officers have to keep history from repeating. The force is faced with the brutal and bloody history of their streets, from echoes of the 19th century & Jack the Ripper to the infamous 1960s crime twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Can these officers “solve the unsolvable and catch the most famous serial killer that ever lived”?

WHITECHAPEL is from the producers of the Emmy Award-winning Downton Abbey and starring Rupert Penry-Jones (MI-5, Cambridge Spies), Phil Davis (Sherlock, Bleak House) and Steve Pemberton (The League of Gentlemen, Viva Blackpool).

Don’t miss WHITECHAPEL every Wednesday at 10/9c starting Oct 26 only on BBC America. Can’t find BBC America on your cable dial? Use the Channel Finder in the top-navigation bar on bbcamerica.com.

PLUS:
• Watch the extended trailer now: http://bbca.me/WhitechapelTrail
• Get an exclusive look Inside the Making Of… WHITECHAPEL: http://bbca.me/MakingWhitechapel
• Watch a special advance sneak peek of the series premiere: http://bbca.me/WhitechapelPeek

Cheers!

_______

Now, I will plug anything for anyone if it sounds interesting – as the above proves – for a bit more profile, but why me?

I may bullshit, but I am a minor little blogger in the grand cyber scheme of things.

I know BBC America will have sent out hundreds of e-mails. But why to me?

I am not  complaining in any way. Far from it. I am delighted, but…

Why me?

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Shoreditch dreams – Satanic stand-up comedy and Lycra-clad policemen

Perhaps it was the fact I only had two hours sleep the previous night.

But what is it with Shoreditch in London?

It seems to have aspirations to be trendy Islington but its pockets of aspiring Yuppieness have been dropped down into what, at night, seems like a set from a Jack The Ripper film – jet-black stone streets with added 21st century traffic. It’s like King’s Cross but darker and with less investment.

Shoreditch is a dark night-time nether corner of schizophrenic Hackney, where partly-trendy-yet-immensely-downmarket Hoxton meets a corner of Hackney proper and the world that was the Kray TwinsBethnal Green, which now has 1950s Brits intermingled with penniless immigrants who have nothing but hope in two generations time.

And round the corner from all this sit the glass towers and stone solidity of the City of London.

Shoreditch is a very strange place.

The area is like some darkly surreal imagining on the thin border where a dream may or may not turn into a nightmare.

So, a couple of nights ago, I went to Shoreditch after only a couple of hours sleep the previous night with these thoughts in my mind and comedy in my heart.

Yes, I have no fear of bad writing.

I went to see the weekly Cantaloopy Comedy show run by Miss D aka the interesting part-comedian, part serious journalist that is Daphna Baram.

Last time I went, the Cantaloupe pub cat stole the show, meandering across the stage and occasionally finding high points from which to look down disdainfully at the performing comedians.

This time, sadly for me, there was no cat but also, sadly, no headliner Arthur Smith, whose mother had had a bad fall. Daphna reckons I am bad luck when I go to one of her gigs. She may be right.

But the Cantaloopy bill was so choc-a-bloc, the lack of the two main attractions did not damage the show.

One highlight for me was Janet Bettesworth, who is just plain weird and I cannot for the life of me figure out why.  It had nothing to do with my lack of sleep. It has something to do with her Joanna Lumley voice, the dry sometimes almost literary delivery, the unexpected shock of red hair and her extraordinary transformation late in the act into a comedy ventriloquist with Hammer Horror hints. It was like watching a refined relative talk sweetly to you but with a whiff of the Satanic and dark deeds behind the curtains of Middle England wafting from the stage. I began, at one point, to think I must be hallucinating.

Highly entertained and utterly fascinated… but hallucinating.

This can’t be happening, I thought.

Yet it was and I was pleased it was.

I knew it wasn’t my lack of sleep. I had seen Janet Bettesworth before and was equally mesmerised before.

I had never seen David Mills before despite the fact he was recently crowned New Act of the Year – the highly prestigious award formerly known as the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year and proof that something good can occasionally come out of Hackney.

But I was amazed how a totally top-notch professional camp American of this quality had  escaped my radar. Especially as he has apparently lived in the UK for a decade. Much like Maureen Younger being a new act for me at a Pull The Other One gig a couple of weeks ago.

Curiouser and curiouser.

A few weeks ago, someone mistook me for Antipodean intellectual Clive James. At Cantaloopy, David Mills said I reminded him of Shrek. I know which I prefer. But alas I know which is more realistic.

Altogether an unusual night in Shoreditch especially when, on my walk back to the car, I bumped into Noel Faulkner just leaving his Comedy Cafe venue and, after crossing Shoreditch High Street, he became fascinated by the sight of two police cars pursuing a man on a skateboard.

“The guy should just keep going,” Noel said to me. “Police cars will never catch a skateboard.”

When I reached my own car I saw, up an adjacent side street, two policemen and a policewoman milling around in the middle of the road while another two policemen were climbing up on a wall to look over railings into a graveyard.

I wondered what the man had done. Perhaps we are on the cusp of a spate of major skateboard robberies which will be countered by Scotland Yard establishing a Skateboard Squad of Lycra-clad coppers.

Or perhaps I just need more sleep.

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