Tag Archives: Little Legs

The pros and cons of sex workers

Amsterdam’s red light district De Wallen

My eternally-un-named friend told me yesterday that she was concerned my recent blogs may have tended towards sleaze and that some of that sleaze might seem to rub off on my blog.

I am not that concerned.

As I have said before, I do not necessarily agree with what I quote other people as saying in my blogs. If I were to make a desperate attempt to get into Pseud’s Corner, I look on this blog as a series of (with luck) interesting, occasionally funny (both haha and peculiar) insights into sometimes otherwise overlooked corners of social history in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Pepys into ephemera if I were really desperate to get into Pseuds’ Corner.

In September last year, I ran a blog headlined The great showmen and conmen of London: why I am proud to be British.

In it, I mentioned in passing a dwarf called Roy ‘Little Legs’ Smith who, in the 1960s, had allegedly worked for gangsters the Kray Twins as an ‘enforcer’ and had later appeared in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour film.

This week, that blog got a comment:

I knew Little Legs briefly, towards the end of his life. He would visit his literary agent who had offices above ours in St. Martin’s Lane. Roy would pop in to visit us and have a sup of his ‘cold tea’ before tackling the second flight of stairs. He was quite a character and some of the stories you mention he told to us. Other stuff we later found out when his Obit was published.

I replied to the person who posted that comment, asking if they knew anything more about ’Little Legs’. I said:

He’s one of those interestingly vivid characters who simply disappears from human ken unless they are written about in print – even if it’s cyber print… Oh how I wish I’d talked to that bloke who used to walk along Oxford Street for years with a placard saying sitting was bad for you…!

I got this reply about ‘Little Legs’:

I wish I could remember all of his tales – but sadly some 20 years or so have elapsed since those days. I have a clear memory of Roy sitting in our office and telling Debbie and myself that he would marry us excepting that he already had a wife. I know he talked about his days with the circus and of his family but much more I can’t now remember.

 AM Heath, his literary agents, shared our building. Roy’s stature meant he couldn’t reach the latch on the door exiting onto St. Martin’s Lane – our acquaintance began when I heard him jumping and whacking at the latch with his stick and went down the stairs to open the door for him. And after that, he would often stop in on his way in and out of the building and pass the time with us.

Stanley Green, gone and doomed to be forgotten?

As for the man in Oxford Street with the placard:

Stanley Green – as a teenager in my first job near Oxford Street, I regularly saw Stanley Green with his placard. He was an object of fascination but not enough of a one for me to risk starting a conversation with him or taking one of his pamphlets.

I too am glad these people are not forgotten.

All that was a gentle lead-in to this…

I posted a blog yesterday headlined Comedian Chris Dangerfield spent over £200,000 in 18 months on having sex with Chinese prostitutes in London.

When I linked to it on my Facebook page, my account was immediately locked and a message came up saying there was a “site issue”. A few minutes later, the account was unlocked, but the posting had been removed.

I can only assume that the Facebook computer took offence at the title of my blog and presumed that anything with the £ symbol and the words “sex” and “prostitutes” might be some lady (or gent) of the night touting for business.

Strangely, the words I used in a previous blog title – Top comedy critic Kate Copstick spends $2,500 on prostitutes in Nairobi, Kenya – did not trigger any computer reaction.

But there have been several human responses to yesterday’s blog.

One (from a man) said:

Nothing quite like sloppy one-hundred and seconds on a woman who has probably been gang raped, people smuggled, beaten, pimped and possibly had her passport stolen, to be extorted back from her. Pretty funny really. Especially paid for by crack. ha ha! More people like Chris would improve the universe.

Another other reaction (from a women) was:

The percentage of sex workers on this planet who are raped or “extorted” is being sensationalised.  Certainly rapes and extortions are terrible events but the numbers are actually minimal compared to the vast majority who choose this line of business because it offers better hours, more fun and ten times the money than other work. This is especially so in impoverished countries where the other choices are demeaning dangerous domestic labour  or equally dangerous mindless repetitive jobs in  garment factories….If we really care, we need to focus on eradicating poverty, not prostitution.

I have to say that my tendency is more towards the first of those two reactions. But the strange thing I have found over many years is that (and I don’t think I am imagining this) the people who mostly believe prostitution should be legalised seem to be women and the people who tend to think ‘sex workers’ are trapped in a profession they would not willingly choose tend to be men.

I have never quite come to terms with why this should be.

But I am open to explanations.

***

There is more reaction to my blog about Chris Dangerfield HERE.

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Filed under Nostalgia, Sex

The great showmen and conmen of London: why I am proud to be British

I saw a special screening of Showmen of the Streets tonight – a 45-minute documentary about street performers of the 1930s-1960s and their precursors. People like The Earl of Mustard, The Road Stars, The Amazing BlondiniPrince Monolulu, The Man with X-Ray Eyes, The Happy Wanderers (who I just about remember playing Oxford Street in my erstwhile youth) and Don Partridge aka ‘King of the Buskers’, who actually managed to get into the UK hit parade and who hired the Royal Albert Hall in 1969 to stage a show called The Last of The Buskers with some of the great street performers of that and previous eras.

A couple of characters not in the film whom I remember are Don Crown and ‘Little Legs’.

Don Crown used to perform an act with budgerigars in Leicester Square and various other places. I used him on TV programmes a couple of times but, the last time I met him, he was a broken man: he had become allergic to feathers.

True and sad. Though I see from his website that he seems to have recovered and performs on the South Bank in London.

The other character I remember was a dwarf called Roy ‘Little Legs’ Smith who was a busker himself, but he also used to collect money for street performers. A busker would play the queues in Leicester Square and Little Legs would go along collecting money in, as I remember it, a hat. The theory – which proved true – was that it is almost impossible not to give money to a dwarf collecting for a busker.

Little Legs appeared in the Beatles’ film Magical Mystery Tour. He died in 1989 and, according to his obituaries, he had worked for the Kray Twins as an ‘enforcer’ in the 1960s. Indeed, a book Little Legs: Muscleman of Soho was published in 1989 which traced, among other things, “his long career as a street entertainer and card-player”. In 1999, his nephew stood as a candidate for Mayor of London.

I merely pass this on.

The DVD of the documentary Showmen of the Streets is being released in a couple of weeks time.

Director John Lawrenson – who used to perform the ‘ball and cup’ magic routine in London’s streets – is currently preparing a new film about great hoaxers, including William Donaldson (aka Henry Root) who wrote to prominent public figures with unusual or outlandish questions and requests and published their replies.

Also in the film will be the late but glorious Fleet Street hoaxer Rocky Ryan who, among other career highlights, persuaded major British newspapers to print stories that sex and drug orgies were taking place on Mount Everest and that the Yorkshire Ripper was being let out of Broadmoor to go to the local disco as part of his rehabilitation into society. He also managed to persuade several Israeli newspapers that Adolf Hitler was alive and well and living in Golders Green… a famously Jewish London suburb.

It makes you proud to be British.

Although Rocky Ryan was Irish.

But let’s not get into that.

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Filed under Comedy, Movies, Theatre