Tag Archives: Krays

What really happened Once Upon a Time in London – one gangster’s view

In my last two blogs, actor/producer/writer Terry Stone was talking about his new movie Once Upon a Time in London (released in the UK two days ago), which told the story of Jack Spot and Billy Hill, the dominant figures in London crime before the Kray Twins managed to capture the headlines in the mid-1960s. 

I thought it would be interesting to watch Once Upon a Time in London with Micky Fawcett, who was an associate of both Billy Hill and the Krays and who wrote arguably the most factually accurate book on the Twins: Krayzy Days.

So we watched Once Upon a Time in London and had a chat.


Micky Fawcett at Elstree and Borehamwood station

MICKY: There was a lot of money spent on it.

JOHN: All the main Jack Spot stuff is before your time.

MICKY: Yeah. All the pre-War stuff.

JOHN: What did you think of it?

MICKY: It’s like a violent fairy tale. Not my cup of tea. There was so much of it.

JOHN: The violence.

MICKY: Yeah. Too much. It cheapened it, in my opinion. It devalued it.

JOHN: Why?

Jack Spot and wife Rita go to court in 1956, after they were both attacked by five men

MICKY: All that violence was too much for me. I mean, the violence didn’t work, did it? It’s no good unless you’ve got thoughts and reasons; plotting and scheming. But they did the fight scenes pretty good.

JOHN: You seemed amused with one bit where someone was just hitting and hitting and hitting someone else.

MICKY: You’d have only had to do it once.

JOHN: You thought all the hitting people over and over was too violent?

MICKY: Yeah. And throwing darts in people’s faces… I thought it was over the top. But they put it in to appeal to the audience, which is fair enough. Most of the violence was over the top, though the fight with the Twins at the end was very realistic and the Twins were very realistic in the way they were talking. The Krays was a good bit of casting.

JOHN: The actors are real-life twins.

Terry Stone as Jack Spot in Once Upon a Time in London

MICKY: And Jack Spot was a good bit of casting. Terry Stone acts the role of Jack Spot very well. He’s very believable. Though Spot, what I saw of him, he wasn’t quite as outwardly aggressive. A bit shrewder. I only really knew him for about five minutes when I was 17. And I met Spot again when he was old. He came in the gym one day. He was all bent-over. Hillsy was quieter. He was very smart.

JOHN: Smartly-dressed?

MICKY: Yeah. His attitude. He would have shirts made. Very, very smart. He paid his bills and played the game. Jack Spot knocked everybody.

JOHN: Knocked?

MICKY: He didn’t pay any bills. Wouldn’t… you know what I mean? He was a totally different type of person to Billy Hill. That sounds like just an on-the-surface thing, but it shows you their natures. Billy Hill was very keen on his clothing. All that beating up and getting back up. He wasn’t into that. He was a bit of an actor too.

JOHN: Acting the part of being a gangster?

MICKY: Yeah.

JOHN: There must have been lots of actual violence, though.

MICKY: Well, in his book, Billy Hill says whenever you cut somebody (with a razor), always do it this way. (HE DEMONSTRATES)

JOHN: Vertically down the cheek?

MICKY: Yes. Because, if you do it this way (diagonally) and you happen to cut them here (round the bottom of the chin) you’ll probably kill them and only a mug kills people. That’s what he said: “Only a mug kills people for no reason”.

Not necessarily totally 100% true…

JOHN: Billy Hill’s book was called Boss of Britain’s Underworld.

MICKY: Yeah. That book. Hillsy said to me: “It’s the biggest load of bollocks ever written: don’t believe a fucking word in it.”

JOHN: When you have to choose between history and legend, print the legend.

MICKY: I knew Albert Dimes as well. He was very hot-tempered was Albert: typical Italian. In the fight in Frith Street in Soho, in the film, they didn’t show Spot getting hit on the head with the scales or some big metal scoop. There was a woman in the shop called Sophie Hyams. She hit him on the head.

JOHN: She’s mentioned but you don’t see her hitting him. Bad for his image in the film, I guess. I didn’t really fully follow the stuff on the racecourses.

MICKY: That’s where it kicked off. The racecourses. The sponges. They can’t just demand money off you. At the racecourses, the bookmakers had to write the odds up on the board and they had a man who went along and wiped it all off. The bookmakers had to pay and there was a squabble with Albert Dimes at a racecourse.

The Kray Twins: were not always up for a fight

The Twins backed out of that. They didn’t want to know. And they were afraid of Billy right until the end. Right till the very end. The Twins didn’t want to know when it kicked off in 1955. They were 22 at the time. All the big men were fighting. The Names.

I was told there was a phone call made to them and they said: “It’s nothing to do with us.”

I was with Reggie one day in their Double R club and Big Pat said: “Jack Spot and Johnny Carter have come in the club!” It was like God had come in. They looked up to him and Billy Hill.

JOHN: What did Billy Hill think of them?

MICKY: He told me he suggested they write the letter to the Home Secretary about Frank Mitchell. He told me: “You don’t think those two brainless cunts had the sense to do it, do you?” He didn’t have no time for them at all.

JOHN: You went out to Spain with Billy Hill. (MENTIONED IN A 2017 BLOG)

Teddy Machin (Photograph from Krayzy Days)

MICKY: Yeah. He told Teddy Machin to invite me out. He was 58 at the time and he seemed like an old man to me. One day we were lounging round the pool – me, Machin, Hillsy – and I said: “I was coming out here with a mate of mine anyway. He’s opening a shooting club up near Madrid.”

And Hillsy said: “Mick, you may have said something that’ll set you up for life.”

I said: “What?”

It was when General Franco was in power. 

Hillsy said: “In Spain, the only licensed gambling allowed is in a shooting club. There’s nowhere else you can gamble. I’m with a mob, the Unione Corse; we fucking run the West End (of London)”

JOHN: What’s the best film you’ve seen about this era?

MICKY: None. There are some good French gangster films I like. The Godfather is a good film but things like the wedding and that are not to my taste.

JOHN: It’s a very Catholic film. Lots of ceremonial-type stuff. Did you see The Long Good Friday?

MICKY: Yeah, but I can’t remember it.

JOHN: The Wee Man?

Martin Compston as Glasgow’s Paul Ferris in The Wee Man

MICKY: Yeah. I thought it was good.

JOHN: Good. But not necessarily spot-on with the facts: very much Paul Ferris writing his own version of events and creating his own legend.

MICKY: I thought it was… realistic. I think the best gangster film I’ve ever seen was Casino.

JOHN: Oh, yes. Lots of true stories. The bit about the eyes popping out was true, wasn’t it… Why did you like it?

MICKY: Well, it was all sort-of reasoned. And the woman playing-up. The wife. They weren’t like gangsters; they were like cafe owners. The best bit was when they were talking and someone said: “He won’t talk. He’s a good kid. A stand-up guy. He’s solid.” And one of the others says: “Look… why take chances?”

JOHN: So they get him killed.

MICKY: Yeah. Why take chances?

Johnny Depp (left) as Donnie Brasco, with Al Pacino

JOHN: Did you ever see Donnie Brasco?

MICKY: Oh yeah! Maybe that’s a better one. Maybe that’s the best one. Very, very good. Al Pacino was the best in it. A feller I knew – he’s dead now – he was exactly like that.

JOHN: Someone should film your book Krayzy Days.

MICKY: Yeah, but it’s all different things, ain’t it? It’s not one story. 

JOHN: The unwary would assume it’s all about the Kray Twins, but it isn’t. There’s the Unione Corse and…

Krayzy Days – remembered as they were

MICKY: Well, nothing much happened with the Unione Corse. Billy Hill wanted me to… I was going to do the Unione Corse thing here, but I got in trouble – I wish I hadn’t – and Hillsy kept away from me, because he knew the feller I was arguing with – Teddy Machin – and he knew something would go down not-too-good and Machin got shot. 

There’s all that stuff in the book and the Tibbses are at the end of it. Someone put a bomb in his car; dunno who. The best story, though is the Banksy one which doesn’t involve any violence. I sold one of his old pictures the other week – a print that he’d done – numbered.

JOHN: All legal and legit and above-board?

MICKY: Yes. Of course.

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Micky Fawcett remembers the gay Kray Twins and their talkative mynah bird

Krayzy Days – remembered as they were

Micky Fawcett, a close associate of UK gangsters the Kray Twins, pops up every now and then in this blog.

He wrote arguably the definitive ‘inside’ story about Ronnie and Reggie – Krayzy Days.

So we were having a chat in Stratford, East London, yesterday…


MICKY: Did you know the Twins had a mynah bird?

JOHN: I don’t think I did.

MICKY: They were given this mynah bird and it was very good at imitations.

“Mum! Mum!” it used to say and COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH. – it used to take off their dad’s cough – Old Charlie. 

“Some money! Some money!” it used to say; “Get some money!” and “What’s YOUR name?”

It frightened the life out of people. They used to have it in the corner of the kitchen.

The best one was when Old Charlie ‘outed’ Ronnie.

There was me and Dukey Osbourne and Ronnie, who was sitting at the table with a basin of stew and a bull terrier laying at his feet. 

JOHN: What was the dog’s name?

MICKY: Dunno. Don’t know if it had one. Anyway, this was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and there was a bit of noise in the hallway. And it’s their old man, Old Charlie, coming home pissed.

Ronnie squawks like his mynah bird and says: “Mum, mum! The drunken old bastard’s here!” 

And the mynah bird goes: “Drunken old bastard! Drunken old bastard!”

Old Charlie Kray – the Twins’ father

Old Charlie comes in, straightening his shirt cuffs and his tie – he was always straightening himself up – and he says: “Shuddup, son! What I’ve heard about you today, you’re gone! You’re GONE! You’ve completely gone! That’s what you are. What they’re saying about in the pub, in the 99 (a pub in Bishopsgate) is disgusting! You make me sick!”

Ronnie says: “Shuttup, you old cunt! Shuttup! Fucking shuttup!”

He got up, rushed over to Old Charlie and he’s got hold of him by the collars and he’s still got the knife and fork in his hands and the dog was attacking Old Charlie’s leg, but not fiercely. And, with the knife in his hand, Ronnie – he hadn’t actually meant to, but he – scratched Old Charlie’s cheek by his nose – a little trickle of blood.

And Old Charlie’s shouting out: “Violet! He’s cut me! He’s cut me!”

At that point, I took my leave and was out the door. I was gone.

Next day, I went round to see Reggie and he was limping slightly. I asked what was wrong and he said: “Ronnie kicked me up the bollocks.”

JOHN: Why?

MICKY: I dunno why. I didn’t ask. You didn’t ask questions like that.

JOHN: Surely everyone always knew Ronnie was gay from the beginning? From when he was a teenager or whatever.

MICKY: No. I don’t suppose so. Well, people didn’t want to know. Nobody used to say it, did they? Not in them days. I remember the first time anybody told me.

JOHN: About Ronnie?

MICKY: Yes. Well, about the pair of them. It was a close friend of mine. I don’t think ‘gay’ was a word then. ‘Poof’, maybe. He said: “They’re poofs” or whatever. 

I said: “Yeah?” 

He said: “Course they are. Why do you think all them young boys are coming round? Can’t you tell?”

Micky Fawcett (left) first met Ronnie Kray around 1956

JOHN: How long had you known them at that point?

MICKY: A couple of years, I guess. About 1956 maybe. They were quite young. (The Kray Twins were born in 1933.) It was billiard hall days. I remember we were outside this billiard hall. I think Ronnie had done his famous escape from Long Grove mental hospital.

JOHN: Which was?

MICKY: Reggie went in to visit him and Ronnie walked out.

JOHN: Being twins.

MICKY: Yeah. I knew Reggie but not Ronnie then.

I remember the first time I met Ronnie. I saw him from the back and thought he was Reggie. He was walking up to the billiard hall and I come up behind: “Hey! Reg!” 

And he said: “I think you want my brother.”

JOHN: But they looked different. Reg had a narrower face and Ronnie’s was wider.

MICKY: In the pictures when they were younger, they don’t look so different.

The Kray Twins in their younger, boxing, days

JOHN: Of course. The boxing pictures.

MICKY: But they didn’t look quite the same. Ronnie was scruffier the first time I met him. Not scruffy intentionally.

He had just come out of a mental hospital.

The bottom of his trouser leg was roughed-up a bit and his boots were a bit… You know how you can imagine someone who has just come out of a…

Reggie was very, very smartly dressed.

JOHN: Was that always the case?

MICKY: Later on, towards the end, Ronnie was a very smart-dressed feller who went to Savile Row tailors for his clothes. Reggie dressed very smart, but went to Wood’s in Kingsland Road. It was like East End boy and West End girl.

JOHN: Ronnie being the West End girl.

MICKY: Yeah.

JOHN: You always dressed very smart yourself.

MICKY: You had to be. It was part of the thing. I was five years younger. Reggie was very impressive when Ronnie was away. Reggie was running the Double R club. You always get trouble in clubs. He was very smart. You can imagine the rest, can’t you?

Maybe it played a part in their hatred for the rest of the world.

JOHN: What did?

MICKY: Being gay at that time. Although it worked for them as well because the stars – a lot of them were gay – used to come to see them in the Kentucky club or the Double R.

When they were younger, they didn’t want anybody to know.

JOHN: Did they get picked-on at school for being gay or did no-one know?

MICKY: Well, I think they were frightening everybody. I imagine that. Reggie didn’t want anyone to know. He wanted to be one of the boys.

JOHN: He didn’t ‘come out’ at all, did he?

MICKY: Not totally, no. He did when he was in the nick. I don’t want to… People talk about them when they were away in the nick; what they did. But it’s too… distasteful.

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Life in the 1960s: a world of murderers, spies, criminals, politicians, mysteries.

Micky Fawcett lived life in the Krayzy Days

So, a couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a journalist:

“I am looking for more information on Teddy Smith’s background….particularly place and date of birth, but in fact anything… Is there any chance you can help? I’m interested in Smith because of certain connections to other areas of research, namely political issues.”

I have blogged about Teddy Smith before. He was an associate of the Kray Twins, London gangsters in the 1960s.

So last week I had a chat with my chum Micky Fawcett, author of Krayzy Days, a definitive book on the Krays which goes beyond them into Micky’s dealings with the Unione Corse, the US Mafia et al.

Micky told me: “The full story with me and Teddy Smith is that there’s no story. He was one of those people who was just there and it was as if he’d always been there. I dunno where he came from.

“I remember walking out of the (Krays’) house one time and he said: They get on my nerves. It’s so boring. Talking about violence all the time. Any type of violence. It gets on my nerves. They oughta know what I did to get myself certified and into Broadmoor. And that was the end of that conversation. He told people he was the youngest person ever in Broadmoor. He was sent there as a borstal boy. I dunno if that’s true. But it’s what he told people.”

“So he must have been under 23 when he went into Broadmoor?” I asked.

Teddy Smith without his cigarette holder and little dog

“I dunno where or when he was born. He had relations who lived at the top of Dartmouth Park Hill in Highgate. He was a bit sort of middle class.”

“What was he doing for the Krays?” I asked.

“Don’t know.”

I looked at Micky.

“I really don’t know,” he said. “I never give it a second thought. He was just there. He used to walk around with a little dog and a cigarette holder. He was gay, but he weren’t camp. Nothing effeminate. And you just accepted it: Oh, yeah, he’s gay. I told you before about that time we met Francis Bacon, the painter. I didn’t like the look of him. Francis Bacon. Well, I weren’t impressed.”

“This bloke who got in touch with me,” I said, “seems to think there’s some political angle with Teddy Smith, which I don’t think there is, is there?”

“No,” said Micky, “but the connection would be Tom Driberg the MP – I’ve seen writers since say he and Teddy Smith were lovers. I dunno if that’s true or not.”

“Well,” I said, “Tom Driberg did put it about a lot.”

MP / Soviet spy Tom Driberg

“I didn’t know who Driberg was at the time,” said Micky. “Didn’t care. He was just this tall feller standing around.”

“He was supposed to be,” I said, “a Soviet agent working via the Czechs.”

“Ah, was he?” said Micky. “He used to be a cottager, hanging around in gents toilets.”

“Did you ever meet Lord Boothby?” I asked.

Lord Boothby was a peer of the realm, a regular on TV panel shows and entertainment shows. An entertaining politician a bit like Boris Johnson is now. Except Boothby mingled with criminals as well as showbiz people and politicians. He put it about a lot.

“No, I never met Boothby,” Micky told me, “but a pal of mine did. We were at the billiard hall one day and a feller called Albert Lovett said to me: See that kid over there? He’s ‘avin’ an affair with Lord Boothby. I had never heard of Lord Boothby. Not interested. And Albert said: He’s been telling me what they do. He gets their trousers off, gets them to bend over and smacks their arse with a slipper… He was a burglar.”

“Who?” I asked. “Lovett?”

“No. Lovett was a con man. The kid – Leslie Holt – he was a burglar. Another pal of mine, called Boy Boy Clifford, was a receiver. He was quite well-respected among everybody. He came from Hoxton originally. Dead now.

(Left-Right) Lord Bob Boothby, Ronnie Kray and Leslie Holt

“Leslie Holt took Boy Boy up to see Boothby and Boothby said: Hello… Hello… Get him a drink, Leslie. So Leslie went off and came back with a gin & tonic or whatever. And Boothby said: I said get him a fucking drink! You don’t call that a fucking drink, do you? Top it up! And they got talking and Boothby said to Boy Boy: Would you like to fuck my wife? That’s true. And that was a difficult one for poor old Boy Boy to answer.”

“Well,” I said, “supposedly Boothby had had a long-term affair with Harold Macmillan’s – the Prime Minister’s – wife.

Krayzy Days – remembered as they were

“I dunno if he meant it,” said Micky. “Would you like to fuck my wife? Maybe it was just a show-off. He was a terrible show-off, Boothby. He liked shocking people.”

“What,” I asked, “happened to Leslie Holt?”

“He got murdered in Harley Street by the dentist.”

“Because?” I asked.

“He knew too much. They doubled the… They gave him an injection… This is the newspaper story, not my story.”

“So who wanted him killed?” I asked.

“Upstairs. The powers that be. Or it might have been the dentist himself or his friends or… I dunno.”

Then Micky and I got talking about the ‘suicide’ of boxer Freddie Mills.

At Freddie Mills’ Nite Spot in the 1960s – (L-R) Teddy Smith, Micky Fawcett, Johnny Davis, Reggie Kray, Freddie Mills, Ronnie Kray, Dicky Morgan and Sammt Lederman (Photograph from Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days)

Freddie Mills was a major British boxer – a former world light heavyweight champion – a regular on TV panel shows and entertainment shows. A boxer-turned-TV personality a bit like Frank Bruno. Except Freddie Mills mingled with criminals as well as showbiz people.

His suicide is interesting because it has always been rumoured he was murdered. One widespread rumour is that he was murdered because he was ‘Jack The Stripper‘ – someone who had been going round killing prostitutes.

“I’ve heard there’s a chap who claims,” said Micky, “that he was duped into taking Freddie Mills to a spot where this chap’s father had hired two gunmen who came in from America, shot Freddie Mills and went away again. Mafia men.”

“Did he get killed because of the Jack The Stripper thing?” I asked.

“No. The story I was told is that Freddie Mills lost all his money and went downhill and got depressed and miserable and threatened to blackmail this guy who had connections with the Mafia who got him shot.”

Actor George Raft (centre) with Ronnie (left) and Reggie Kray

“He was going to blackmail him because of his criminal connections?” I asked.

“Yes. It was at the time when the Mob were in the West End in London.”

“The time when actor George Raft was coming over?” I asked.

“Exactly,” said Micky.

Mickey talked more about George Raft in a blog last year.

They were different times back then.

But yet not very different from today.

Human nature is human nature.

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Where the Kray Twins gangster film “Legend” got it all so very badly wrong

Yesterday’s blog was about comedy twins. Today’s is about gangster twins. So that, of course, means the Kray brothers. well, two thirds of them.

Micky Fawcett in the ring at Repton Boys’ Clu ethal Gree

Micky Fawcett in the ring at Repton Boxing Club

There have been three movies about the Kray Twins.

The Krays in 1990.

The Rise of the Krays which went straight to DVD in 2015.

And Legend in 2015.

Micky Fawcett has seen all three films, worked with the Krays and has written arguably the most factually accurate version of their story: Krayzy Days.

A movie based on his book is in the early stages of development.

“It’s not a Krays film,” Micky told me at the May Fair Hotel on Friday. “(The writer/director) has done an outline and we’re on the same wavelength and that’s very important. He’s read Krayzy Days and different things have caught his eye such as, while the court case was going on, I was arrested in Brussels.

“So he’s going to do your whole story?” I asked. “Including Jack Spot and the Unione Corse and everything?”

“Yeah. That’s what got his attention. He’s more interested in all that than in the Krays. They’ve been done to death. Those Kray films, I think they’re dreadful.”

“I couldn’t,” I told him, “get my brain round Legend at all because it’s basically about the supposed romance between Reggie Kray and Frances (his girlfriend and then his wife).”

“In the first Krays film,” said Micky, “they had to go that bit further and make Frances into a complete imbecile. In reality, she was quite enjoying it up to a point, but you wouldn’t want Reggie round you all the time. You wouldn’t want anybody really neurotic around you, would you? She stuck with it for a long time, but there were a couple of incidents which sort of disqualify her from being a complete little mouse. There’s the one that’s in my book and which you blogged about when Reggie approached me and said: Mick, I was sitting outside Frances’ tonight and she came along in another car.

Micky Fawcett (left) with Reggie Kray and Frances

Young Micky Fawcett (left) with Reggie Kray and Frances

“And the other time was when she and Reggie had been on holiday and had more-or-less come straight to The Hideaway, the club, and she told me: Do you know, he hasn’t laid a finger on me all the time we’ve been away. She said it straight out. And Reggie said to me…”

“Reggie,” I asked,” was actually there when she said that to you?”

“Yeah. Me and another guy; a pal of mine. She said it to us right in front of him. And Reggie said: Oh, thank god it’s only you two she’s said it to! What he was worried about was that Ronnie would get to hear about it and start making really… Cos that’s exactly what Ronnie would have liked…”

“Because?”

“Because Ronnie didn’t like women. He hated women. He really hated women, apart from his mum. He used to say: Mick, Mick, Mick, what do you see in them? They’re horrible, smelly, rotten, stinking things. He was always trying to make other people gay. Wouldn’t you like to try it with… I can get you a nice boy…

“A feller called Ron Stafford – I think he’ll be dead by now – he said to him: Ronnie, I just don’t have the glands to appreciate it. He was an educated feller.”

“It was the sex thing,” I said, “that threw me in Legend. The Reggie and Frances relationship.”

“And the Twins never raised their voices,” said Micky. “They shout in the film. I never heard Reggie shout at all. Not ever. Ronnie might shout in a low voice at Reggie. He wouldn’t shout at someone else he was angry with. He wouldn’t alarm you so you could run or defend yourself. He would just attack.

Micky Fawcett (left) with Ronnie Kray

Micky Fawcett (left) with Ronnie Kray way back in the 1960s

“In the film, Ronnie shouts at people and then he comes back with a claw hammer and then spends a quarter of an hour bashing ‘em on the head. That’s mad. One whack with a lead pipe and you’re gone.”

“In both films,” I said, “The Krays and Legend – the Twins fight each other – in the boxing ring in The Krays and in the club in Legend. That’s not true, is it?”

“They often came to blows,” said Micky. “Not for long, but they would really belt each other – really punch into each other. I dunno who used to start it, really. It just happened.”

“There’s a scene in the first film, The Krays,” I said, “where they get in the back of a van and they have sub-machine guns. They didn’t have those sort of things, did they?”

“Nah. They didn’t have a big mob around them either. They never had a big gang round them.”

“It was like something out of Chicago,” I said.

“It wasn’t like that at all,” laughed Micky. “That was for America or… I dunno. Or for anyone daft enough to…”

“And swords,” I said, “crop up in both The Krays and in Legend. The Twins didn’t use swords, did that?”

“No,” said Micky. “But, once someone mentions anything once, it becomes a fact.

David Litvinoff was a gay guy who worked for the William Hickey column on the old Daily Express – in 1961. He spoke very well; he was an educated man. (He was ‘dialogue coach and technical adviser’ on the gangster sections of the 1968 movie Performance.) But he was originally a Jewish EastEnder.

“When Johnny Davies and I had the trouble at the Hammer Club – somebody got shot in the bollocks – it’s in the book – I went up to Esmeralda’s Barn and took Johnny Davies with me and asked Ronnie Kray: Can you give us some help?

Ronnie Kray (right) with Bobby Buckley

Ronnie Kray (right) with tug-of-love boyfriend Bobby Buckley

“He said: We’ve just taken a flat off a feller in lieu of a debt. He said: Here’s the keys. It was 7 Ashburn Place in Kensington and the feller was David Litvinoff. He had previously been having an affair with a young feller called Bobby Buckley, who Ronnie was madly in love with.

“So we moved in the flat and Litvinoff and Ronnie were rivals for this boy. Litvinoff was very naive about it all. I was sitting around with him and Ronnie one day and Litvinoff said: Mick, we’ve gotta get a good nickname for Ronnie, here. I think we should call him Hook Nose cos he’s got a big hook nose. 

“A lot later, I saw Litvinoff in Oxford Street, right outside Oxford Circus station, and this is where the sword business comes from – this is where it all comes from. The feller with me saw Litvinoff and said to me: Oh, he looks like a cat.

“Because Ronnie told me he’d got a feller – he told me the feller’s name – to walk up to Litvinoff in the street and slash his mouth horizontally – right into both cheeks.”

“A Glasgow smile,” I said.

“The Twins had just got their 30 years,” said Micky, “and Litvinoff told me: You know, I’m not sure if I’m pleased they’ve gone away or not.

Reg Kray (right) & Charlie Kray (left) at their brother Ronnie’s funeral; Steve Wraith is behind.

Ronnie’s funeral: Charlie Kray (left) with Reggie (bottom right)

“Charlie doesn’t appear in Legend at all,” I said. “Maybe they thought it would be too complicated for American audiences to have twins and a third brother.”

“The Twins didn’t like the first film,” Micky told me. “They hated Charlie for it all the rest of his life.”

“He was involved in The Krays?” I asked.

“He was the technical advisor,” said Micky. “He got £250,000 for it. But Charlie would have been: Do it, then. I’ll be in the bar. Who’s that girl over there?

“Have you seen The Wee Man?” I asked. (It was directed by Ray Burdis, who produced The Krays.)

“Yeah,” said Micky. “I thought it was a good film. Did you?”

“I thought it was a very good film, but it has very little to do with the facts of what actually happened. Arthur Thompson, for some extraordinary reason, is played with an Irish accent. And it’s very biased and you can see why. It’s Paul Ferris creating his own legend.”

Krayzy Days – remembered as they were

Krayzy Days – remembered as they were

“The thing is,” said Micky, “they could have made a similar film about the Krays. If they had said: It is loosely based on… I wouldn’t argue about any of it; I’d probably have enjoyed it. But it is supposed to be factual. The critics seem to think Tom Hardy did a good job with Reggie. They see him swaggering about. But Reggie was a little feller. He wasn’t a big feller.”

“And he didn’t swagger?” I asked.

“Not like Tom Hardy does, no. I’m not in love with Tom Hardy in it at all. Not at all.”

“I’ve not seen The Rise of the Krays.” I told Micky.

“Don’t bother,” he told me.

There is a trailer for The Wee Man on YouTube.

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Comedian Malcolm Hardee, The Krays and The Richardsons and a film director

Malcolm Hardee on the BBC TV show Diners

Malcolm Hardee on the BBC TV show Diners. He was drunk.

Because (to be honest) of time constraints on my originality, here is another extract from the autobiography of Malcolm Hardee, godfather to British alternative comedy – I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake – now tragically out-of-print.

Malcolm was not a man un-acquainted with the law and with prison and detention centres.


I Stole Freddie Mercy’sBirthday Cake

He did steal Freddie Mercury’s cake…

When you are taken from court, the police are in charge of you. When you get to the detention centre or prison, the Screws – the warders – are in charge. When you arrived at Blantyre House, the routine was that the Screws said:

“Stand up against that wall!”

Then they just whacked your head straight into the side of the wall.

I watched this through a gap in the door and saw them do it to the three blokes before me. But they didn’t do it to me because of my glasses. So I didn’t get the full treatment. But life at Blantyre House was very hard.

You had to run about four miles with medicine balls under your arms and get up at six o’clock to do press-ups every morning and drill like in the Army:

“Quick march! Slow march! Get in line!”

They had a swimming pool and on May 1st, whatever the weather, you had to do four lengths of the swimming pool. This particular May was one of those cold ones and the swimming pool had a thin layer of ice on it. Someone just forced us all to dive in it. They worked you like demons. I got solitary confinement for two days, in a damp cell on bread and water, just for shouting out: “Bollocks!” at some point during a football match.

I was in Blantyre House in 1968 when the gangsters who were thought to be untouchable were put behind bars: The Krays (Ronnie and Reggie). They only operated in London’s East End and it has become over-magnified how important they were. They were just one of many gangs. The Richardsons (Charlie and Eddie) were operating in South East London and they weren’t quite so high profile. The good ones, of course, are the ones you don’t read about  – the Frenches were well known for local villainy and drew very little publicity. I was just on the very vague periphery of all this as they were a lot older and in a different league.

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 – the ones connected with the train crash – 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 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.

The film about The Krays was wrong on almost everything, really. I saw part of it being filmed in Greenwich, which was the wrong place to begin with. They’d done-up this street to look like 1934 when the twins were born and there was a scene where Billie Whitelaw was coming out of a door as their mother. I was watching this scene being shot with a friend. We were sitting in a place called Lil’s Diner, a local cafe, where a lot of lorry drivers go. The director was trying to get it right and first an aeroplane went over, then a lorry drove past and then someone coughed loudly and, on about the 5th or 6th take, he got it right and it was all quiet and the light was right and the sun was out and Billie Whitelaw came out the door with this double pram with two kids in it and one of the lorry drivers yelled out:

“So which one’s the poof, then?”

The director went mad.

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So I was talking to ex-gangster Mad Frank Fraser behind the Blind Beggar pub when this little girl came up to us…

Mad Frank at the historic Clink jail in 2002

Mad Frank interviewed at The Clink in 2002

Thirteen years ago today, in 2001, former gangster Mad Frank Fraser was being filmed for a documentary about his life.

Filming took place at the Clink prison museum near the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the south bank of the River Thames.

I chatted to Frank over coffee between camera set-ups.

He told me there had been no recent talk of filming the story of his life: “I think they’re waiting till after I die,” he said flatly, “because then they can say anything. They could make up things or, if I did something when I was defending myself, they could just say I slashed someone for no reason at all.”

Frank was, as always, gentlemanly and very slightly deaf in one ear. He and his then wife Marilyn Wisbey, daughter of a Great Train Robber, lived in a rented flat off the Old Kent Road. The next day, they were both travelling up to Birmingham to sign copies of their new books: her first autobiography Gangster’s Moll and his Diary (his third autobiographical book).

We had lunch in a clean but characterless local cafe a short walk along Clink Street: Frank, me, the cameraman, the sound man and a stills photographer from Tunbridge Wells who had done a few fashion shoots but really wanted to break into travel photography.

At one point, Frank, the sound man and I were sitting alone at a table when the sound man suddenly said without warning: “Do you want to see some magic?”

He entertained us with some close-up magic, putting a paper napkin into his closed fist then making it disappear. When he and I were alone later, he faked bending and swallowing a fork and told me forlornly that Americans just accepted magic tricks for their simple entertainment value, but the British wanted to see tricks over and over again to work out how they were done. He was interested to work in movie special effects because his father used to run a firework display company.

After lunch, we relocated to an upstairs room at the Clink, which had the walls and ceiling in prison/dungeon/torture chamber style but which also had a bar and giant stand-up fridge for drinks and a small glitter-ball dangling from the ceiling. Presumably it was occasionally used for private parties and discos.

Mad Frank interviewed at Repton Boys Club

Mad Frank was interviewed in the ring at Repton Boys Club

We then all drove to Repton Boys (boxing) Club in Bethnal Green where the Kray Twins used to box.

Frank had brought along a colour photo of him shaking the hand of an ashen-faced, bed-ridden Reggie Kray just a few days before he died.

Reggie had white bandages on his right wrist.

Then we drove to the Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel where Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell in 1966.

Standing outside the Grave Maurice pub opposite the London Hospital where he once deposited a man with a hatchet in his head, Frank was greeted by strangers coming out of the pub inviting him in to drink with them. Walking back to the Blind Beggar, along the pavement lined by Indian and Pakistani-owned stalls, everyone – even small Asian children – recognised him.

Finally, as we were saying our goodbyes in the large Sainsbury’s car park behind the Blind Beggar and I was talking to Frank, a lone little girl, aged about 13, came up and asked to shake his hand. He did with an: “Of course.” She said nothing, then turned and went away, a happy smile on her face.

“Did you see that?” he asked.

“You don’t have to worry about any feature film,” I told him: “You’ll be Uncle Frank to her forever.”

The police say Mad Frank killed 40 people, though it sounds like a figure just plucked out of thin air, either by the police or by Mad Frank himself for publicity purposes.

So it goes.

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Comedy, Christ, Ronnie Biggs’ lively funeral and Glasgow gangland aggro

Yesterday, I went to church to see (again) Juliette Burton’s wonderfully enjoyable and emotional show When I Grow Up. Yet again life-enhancing. Yet again funny, fast-moving, uplifting and joyous and – yet again – the body punch of the coup de théâtre sting-in-its tail had me with tears in my eyes. I was watching the audience reaction and their emotions turned on a sixpence from laughter to stunned shock when the narrative carpet was pulled from under them and (far more difficult for a performer to pull off) back to laughter again.

Juliette Burton & Frankie Lowe rehearse yesterday for her February-May tour of Australia

Juliette Burton and Frankie Lowe yesterday rehearse for February-May tour of Australia

When I Grow Up is also a technically very complicated show with constant audio and video cues to hit, fast-moving PowerPoint presentation changes and, at one point, Juliette interacting with a Skype screen. Yesterday, the techie on the show was Frankie Lowe, who composed Juliette’s pop song Dreamers (When I Grow Up)The show was flawless and was, in effect, a rehearsal for next month’s two-night run at the Leicester Square Theatre which is, itself, a dry run for Juliette’s Australian shows in February-May, which Frankie will also be teching.

Almost as interesting as the show, though, was the location – a church.

The vicar – Dave – arrived close to showtime because he had been conducting the funeral service for Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs at Golders Green Crematorium, where the eco-friendly wicker coffin had, the Guardian reports today, been draped in the flags of the UK & Brazil and an Arsenal football scarf. The coffin was escorted by Hell’s Angels with the London Dixieland Jazz Band playing Just a Closer Walk and it left to the strains of The Stripper. The Daily Mirror today reported that “as the hearse carrying his coffin passed through the streets of north London, a white floral wreath in the shape of a two-fingered salute was visible.”

Dave the vicar had also conducted the funeral service last year for Great Train Robbery mastermind Bruce Reynolds.

Dave’s book

Dave the vicar’s 2012 book of advice…

He is clearly an interesting vicar. He has published several books including How To Be a Bad Christian.

That book’s blurb explains Dave lays down “some key practices for how to be a ‘bad’ Christian, including how to talk to God without worrying about prayer, how to read the Bible without turning off your brain, and how to think with your soul rather than trying to follow rules.”

This August, he will be publishing How To Reinvent God (and Other Modest Proposals).

Everyone seems to be publishing books at the moment, except me.

William Lobban, now a published author

William Lobban, now a  bestselling author

Last November, I had a chat with Glasgow gangland ‘enforcer’ William Lobban about his autobiography The Glasgow Curse. This morning, he told me it had gone straight to No 4 in Amazon Kindle’s True Crime bestsellers and No 3 in Waterstone’s crime bestsellers.

Yesterday, STV reported that “former Glasgow gangster” Paul Ferris , who has written his own true crime autobiography, “is considering taking legal action” against William Lobban’s publisher over what is written in the book. STV did not say what the problem was, but it somehow involves the highly-publicised shooting of Glasgow Godfather Arthur Thompson’s son ‘Fat Boy’ outside their family home ‘The Ponderosa’ in 1991.

The Wee Man – a fascinating film based on Paul Ferris’ version of his exploits – was released last year.

This morning, I asked William Lobban for his reaction to the report that Paul Ferris is “considering taking legal action”. He told me: “Ferris has been sending me (@TheGlasgowCurse) naughty tweets. Check out his Twitter feed (@PaulFerris_Gla) and see for yourself… quite malicious!… It’s all wind. He’s basically letting off steam and there’s no way he will take things further. There isn’t a judge in the land who would agree that anyone could blacken or defame his character – Impossible!”

The move from villain to media anti-hero or even sometimes hero is interesting.

Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs, like Buster Edwards before him, had mostly achieved the move from criminal to perceived cheeky chappie.

The Great Train Robbery happened in 1963.

Buster - from villain to hero

Buster – He moved from villain to hero in less than 25 years

The movie Buster was released in 1988 – just 25 years later – with loveable Phil Collins as Great Train Robber Buster Edwards. Fellow robber Ronnie Biggs’ death coincidentally occurred just hours before the first broadcast of a two-part BBC TV drama series The Great Train Robbery.

In their time (if they ever existed) Robin Hood and Dick Turpin were criminal robbers. Now Robin is a hero and Dick a hero, anti-hero or whatever you want to make of him.

They, like others after them, have moved from being reviled criminals to legends.

Billy The Kid was shot dead in 1881. Jesse James was shot dead in 1882. The move from criminal to legend had started by the time the first Billy The Kid movie was made in 1911 and the first Jesse James movie was made in 1921 – just 30 to 40 years after the events they portrayed.

The Kray Twins’ exploits were in the 1960s. By the time The Krays movie was released in 1990, they were already well-established as legendary cultural anti-heroes (or, to some, heroes).

In movies, dark heroes are always more interesting to act and to watch than whiter-than-white heroes.

The interlinking of showbiz, the media and crime. The making of legends.

’Twas ever thus.

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