I always think Six Degrees of Separation is overstating the case.
It is usually less. And the overlap of politics, showbiz and crime is pretty much a given constant.
Three days ago, actor Tony Booth (of Till Death Us Do Part, Coronation Street, the Confessions comedy films et al) died.
He married Pat Phoenix (of Coronation Street). His daughter – Cherie Booth – married politician Tony Blair. (of Iraq War Two). His brother was the actor James Booth (of Zulu etc).
This was a hotbed of new working class talent run by alas now half-forgotten Joan Littlewood in the 1950s and 1960s.
Her base – the Theatre Royal, Stratford (in London’s East End) – was/is a hop, a spit and a left hook away from the Krays’ family home in Vallance Road in Bethnal Green. So, of course, everyone knew everyone else. East End working class culture and all that.
The Kray Twins owned the Kentucky club in nearby Mile End Road.
A lot of the Joan Littlewood acting talent appear in the movie Sparrows Can’t Sing which she directed. It starred her protegés James Booth and Barbara Windsor and, apparently in a small cameo towards the end, the Kray Twins even turn up in it.
“Joan Littlewood was always in The Kentucky,” Micky Fawcett told me. “Her, Barbara Windsor, Victor Spinetti, James Booth, George Sewell – George Sewell’s dad was a famous character.
“She said to me once: I’d love to make a film about the two boys and I’d have him – James Booth – play them. But she never made it, of course.”
According to Micky, both Joan Littlewood and the Twins hated the biographical film The Krays, eventually made in 1990.
In his book Krayzy Days, Micky writes of the Twins:
‘They loved having the celebrities around and were thrilled to be invited to the premiere of Sparrows Can’t Sing at the ABC, a cinema which stood opposite The Kentucky. I usually blanked all of those showbiz events. They were a real bore. Whenever the stars were around, the conversation would always have to be about the Twins. That was all any of them were interested in. Ronnie and Reggie were happy to play along. That night, they were done up in dinner suits, standing out from everyone else with their bow ties. A friend of mine whispered to me: I can’t wait to see if one of them stars thinks Ronnie’s a waiter and asks him to get a drink.”
The premiere of Sparrows Can’t Sing, with Barbara Windsor (an ex-girlfriend of Charlie Kray) accompanied by future husband, armed robber Ronnie Knight.