Tag Archives: masochism

Corrupt cops, sado masochist whippings & how gangster Ronnie Kray described his own dangerous, psychotic feelings

Micky Fawcett remembered  Krayzy Days yesterday

Micky Fawcett in London’s Mayfair yesterday

Yesterday, I had tea at the May Fair Hotel in London with Micky Fawcett whose memoir Krayzy Days has, quite rightly, been called the “definitive” book about iconic 1960s criminals the Kray Twins. Micky was on their ‘firm’.

“At some point after the George Cornell murder in the Blind Beggar pub,” Micky told me, “Ronnie Kray took his entourage – there could have been about 20 of them –  into a pub in Hackney – and a plainclothes policeman was in there and approached him and said Look, Ron, I’m the Old Bill and I know what you’ve been through. Don’t worry. No-one’ll get near you in here. You can use this place, you can do what you like, but I’ll want ‘looking after’ and he told Ronnie how much money he wanted. So, you know what Ronnie did?”

“He hit him?” I suggested.

“No,” said Micky. “He phoned Scotland Yard and told them what had happened. So they then said they had to get Ronnie to be a witness in court against the policeman. So Ronnie went on the run and he hid until it blew over.”

“Did the policeman ever get prosecuted?” I asked.

“It just died out,” said Micky. “What the police were very fond of doing was – I’m not sure what phrase to use – maybe ‘drawing a veil of decency’ over things.”

“As I understand it,” I said, “the Krays’ rivals, the Richardsons, had lots of policemen in their pocket, but the Krays didn’t.”

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

Ronnie (right) & Reggie Kray  photographed by David Bailey

“The Krays didn’t have any police protection,” said Micky, “but what they did have was nothing to do with money because money wasn’t their thing.

“Their thing was sex. That was their downfall; it was everything. It wasn’t money with them.”

“So the Kray Twins had no influence over the police?” I said.

“Well,” said Micky, “there was this woman called Jamette who owned a club called La Monde in the World’s End in Chelsea and she knew the then Commissioner of Police, Sir Joseph Simpson. He was a masochist and she was a sadist.”

“The perfect relationship,” I said.

The current Wikipedia entry on Sir Joseph Simpson says: Simpson was a fair and tolerant man, but also expected the same high standards of others that he set for himself and was a great believer in discipline. He believed in a more equal police force, where senior officers and lower ranks had a closer relationship.

“Jamette was a horrible, evil woman,” said Micky.

Krayzy Days by Micky Fawcett

Krayzy Days remembered in Micky book

In Micky’s book Krayzy Days, he writes that Jamette “emboldened” the Kray Twins by telling them that this top cop Sir Joseph Simpson was a closet masochist who she would regularly whip and abuse to order and she assured them she could handle him. This same woman was the one who, when Reggie chinned Bimbo Smith knocking his false teeth out, stamped on them, and on her daughter’s 16th birthday asked Ronnie to deflower her. Ronnie duly obliged.

“I suppose,” I said to Micky yesterday, “that the Richardsons were in it for the money and the Krays were in it for the power and the violence.”

“That’s right,” said Micky unexpectedly. “You know who sums it up well? Malcolm Hardee.”

I had given Micky a copy of the late comedian Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake.

“I’ve read most of his book,” Micky said. “My son Michael kidnapped the book and I had trouble getting it back off him.”

In his book, Malcolm Hardee says: 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. 

Reggie Kray, Micky Fawcett, singer Lita Rosa, Ronnie Kray, actress Barbara Windsor & actor Ronald Fraser

Reggie Kray, Micky Fawcett, singer Lita Rosa, Ronnie Kray, actress Barbara Windsor & actor Ronald Fraser in 1960s

“The Twins,” said Micky yesterday, “had their clubs and were into showbizzy things.”

“There were stories,” I said, “that the Richardsons were paying off at least one Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard. But the Krays were not paying off the police.”

“That’s right,” said Micky. “I mean, they declared war on the police. They hated them. It was like a religion with them. Everybody had to hate the police and when Ronnie Marwood stabbed a policeman with a frogman’s knife, the Twins made a cause célèbre of it. He was hanged for it. They were obsessed by it. There was another guy who got shot by the police in a phone box – he wasn’t crooked, he was a nutcase – but, after he’d been shot, the Twins were trying to find links so they could say Oh, he was a pal of ours. They were anti-Police, anti-Police, anti-Police all the time.”

“So is that why Ronnie phoned up Scotland Yard and told them about the plainclothes copper who wanted a bribe in the Hackney pub?” I asked.

“No,” said Mickey, “Ronnie phoned up Scotland Yard because he was fucking, raving mad. What probably happened was that he was in a paranoid mood.”

Ronnie Kray, boxer Sonny Liston, Micky Fawcett

Ronnie Kray, boxer Sonny Liston, Micky Fawcett in 1960s

“Did you get on the wrong side of him?” I asked.

“In my book,” said Micky, “I tell you. One afternoon, me and a pal of mine were driving along and we saw an old boy we knew – Lenny Stringer. He’d done six years in Dartmoor Prison, but had given it all up; he was a nice old boy and we were going to drop him off in Corporation Street where he lived.

“Suddenly – Ding-a-ling-a-ling – Ding-a-ling-a-ling – bells – and there’s a car in front, a car behind and a car beside us forcing us into the kerb. Then we were jumped on by half a dozen big coppers who grabbed us and put us in different cars. I looked down at the floor of the police car and saw a crow bar wrapped in brown paper and thought They’re going to say that’s mine.

“So, at the police station, I said those legendary words What’s it all about, guv? and this Welsh copper told me: The manor will be a bit fucking quieter without you: that’s what it’s all about. It cost us £200, we had to plead guilty for possession of crowbars and my pal and I each got three months in prison – they let Lenny Stringer go.

“I got the three months and appealed, knowing we’d have to plead guilty later. You used to be able to appeal in the Magistrates’, say I want to go to the Sessions and, just before you got there, drop your appeal. It gave you time to get all your things in order.

“So, that night, I walked into the Kentucky Club (owned by the Krays) and Ronnie was in there.

“I told him We got three months each today. Lenny Stringer got off.

“And Ronnie went Why you telling me this, Mick?

“And I said What, Ron?

“And he said You told me a different name before. You’re sounding me out, aren’t you, Mick?

“And I said N-n-no. No, Ron, what?

“And he said: You’re sounding me out. You think I’m a grass, don’t you? A lot of people are going round saying we’re grasses, me and Reggie.

“And I said: No, I dunno what you… I…

“And he said: Yes you do...

“And I said: I don’t th… I… Honestly, Ron…

“At that moment, someone else walked in and he said Hello to Ron and I went out the door – gone – quick.

Vallance Road, home of the Kray Twins

“Mick, I want to have a word with you”

“The next night, half a dozen of us were in the (Krays’) house in Vallance Road and Ronnie said: Mick, I want to have a word with you. So Reggie and the others all went off to the Kentucky Club and Ronnie said to me: You and me will walk down together.

“And he told me: I’m sorry about last night, Mick. The words will stay in my head forever. He said: You must think I’m a right prat, don’t you? A word I’d never heard him use.

“He said: I’ll tell you what it is, Mick. I’ve been experimenting with not taking my medication. I’ve taken it now. I’ll try and explain to you. It’s like a haze. I can’t tell you. It’s like I’m living in a fog. I can’t work things out. I can’t understand things. I’ve got the pills here. Look.

“I said: Oh, yeah. They were Stelazine – an anti-psychotic drug. He’d already been in and been certified.

“He said: Do you want one?

“So I took one of the pills and swallowed it. I took it in case, if I refused, he’d say Oh! You think I’m trying to poison you! and it all started up again. I took the pill and that was the end of that.”

Leave a comment

Filed under 1960s, Crime, London, Police, Sex

The masochist comedians and their aching need for love and approval

I ended my blog a couple of days ago by saying: “I think comedians are a bunch of masochists with an urge to fail.”

Then I went to comedian and occasional erotic dancer Charmian Hughes‘ entertaining Christmas party and bumped into the fascinating American expat comic Karen O. Novak, who has been my Facebook friend for a while but who (as is often the case in the surreal new world of Facebook) I had never actually met.

When I got home, I Googled her and discovered she had appeared as a stripper in Jerry Springer the Opera.

Interesting, I thought.

But “Oh no,” she told me yesterday. “My bit in Jerry Springer lasted all of ten seconds so, although I’m very proud to have been even a tiny part of such an important work, I would hate Stewart Lee or anyone else to think I was going around Christmas parties almost ten years later boasting I had a big part in it!”

A few years ago, she also had an ongoing show of her own called Mistress O’s Comic Discipline in which she played the role of a rubber-clad dominatrix hosting a panel game show, in which many prominent comics – including the inevitable Malcolm Hardee were ‘disciplined’ in front of the audience.

Now tell me comics are not masochists at heart.

Karen says Mistress O’s Comic Discipline was “a heady mix of filthy jokes and fetish play” but, after a few years, she “decided that the naughty comics had been spanked enough” and retired to her jacuzzi for a well-earned rest.

She also told me she has just finished a few years in therapy and feels much better inside, but has lost all interest in appearing on stage.

I think the last thing any comic – or, indeed, any performer – should ever do is find out why they do what they do. Once they exorcise their demons and find out why they do it – or even how they do it – they will be unable to do it.

Karen tells me that “therapy heals the aching need for that ‘fix’ of love and approval.”

But it is that very aching need for a ‘fix’ of love and approval which creates and drives comedians and performers generally.

If you satisfy it with therapy, you will screw-up the creativity.

Perhaps it is better to have a screwed-up psyche and a screwed-up life than to screw-up your creative performance ability.

But, then, I am not a performer.

I guess I am just fascinated by the screwed-up lives and screwed-up psyches of performers.

Charles Aznavour was once asked why he wrote and sang so many sad sings. He answered (I paraphrase extensively):

“When people are happy, they are all happy in much the same way. What can you say? They feel happy. But, when people are sad, each feels sad in a very different, very specific way for very personal, specific reasons. Unhappiness is more interesting to a writer and performer.”

So… Therapy…

Whether ’tis better be a screwed-up performer or to be a non-performer with fewer problems?… It’s a tough call for those with creative ability.

I never saw Mistress O’s Comic Discipline but, as Karen O. Novak also used to run the Poodle Club in Stoke Newington and the Pink Poodle Club in Soho, I somehow suspect that she may re-emerge with yet another OTT comic idea or persona.

In a sense, I maybe hope Karen’s demons re-appear.

I hope she gets a little screwed-up and performs wildly widely again.

3 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Psychology

Stand-up comedians: are they funny people?

(This article previously appeared in Mensa Magazine)

FUNNY PEOPLE

by John Fleming

You are a stand-up comedian. You get up alone on stage. A spotlight shines on you. If you now perform the greatest show of your life, your future is downhill. If you get badly rejected by the audience, their objective reaction reinforces your own insecurities. You’re in a Lose-Lose situation. Who can be attracted to that? A masochist. That’s what I thought. So I asked Jewish comedian Ivor Dembina who has run many successful comedy clubs over 20 years, has seen comedy talent of all types fail and succeed and who, in his show Sadojudaism, jokes at length about his penchant for sadomasochism.

“Well, stand-up can be painful,” he initially agrees, “but the point about masochism is that it’s a state where pain is pleasurable and I’ve never heard a comic describe the frustrations and humiliations of public failure as something to be enjoyed.”

So why does he do it?

“I’m aware of a a core desire within me to please others which I can trace back to early childhood, being rewarded by my parents with smiles and approval whenever I made them laugh.  In adulthood I’ve acquired a desire to control situations and an irrepressible need to prove I’m right. Stand-up comedy is the best outlet I’ve found for both characteristics.”

Comedian Ricky Grover comes from London’s East End:

“Whether they admit it or not,” Ricky suggests, “most comedians live their life in depression, even feeling suicidal. They feel like they’re shit, feel like they’re not going to be able to do it again. If you don’t laugh you’d cry. That’s your options.

“There was a lot of violence going on in my childhood and sadness and depression and one of the ways to escape from all that was humour. I would make ‘em laugh and sometimes I’d make my stepfather laugh to deflect a confrontational situation. A lot of humour where I came from was quite dark. I wanted to be like my stepfather – an armed robber – because that was the only person I had to look up to. I had him or my little skinny grandad who was really quite verbally spiteful to me. I thought, well, if it’s between the little skinny grandad or the ex-boxer/armed robber, I’ll be the ex-boxer/armed robber and I suppose that’s why I went into… boxing.”

Scottish comedienne Janey Godley was raped by her uncle between the ages of 5 and 13; at 19 she married into a gangster family; at 21 her mother was murdered; for 14 years she ran a pub in Glasgow’s tough East End; and, in a 22-month period, 17 of her friends died from heroin.

“I do sometimes think everything I say’s shite,” she admits, “and I do sometimes think nobody’s ever gonna laugh at it and I get worried.”

So why get up on stage and face total personal rejection?

“Because it’s challenging,” she explains. “Because, with me, every show’s different. I don’t really tell jokes; I tell anecdotes that are unusual in that I talk about child abuse and murder and gangsters and social issues. I get up and do something different every time and it’s a really exciting challenge because I think: I wonder how that’ll work? And, when it really works it makes me really happy. When it completely dies, I think, I’m going to do that another twenty times, cos that was strange. Most of the stuff I do is reality with bits of surrealism. I tell a big true story with funny bits and talking animals in it and sometimes glittery tortoises. It might not affect their lives, but the audience WILL remember it because it’s different.”

So what is the X Factor?

“In my case, delusions about my own self-importance,” says Ivor firmly. “That’s why I decided to become a comic.”

“You’re split between two extremes,” says Ricky. “Really low self-esteem and a massive ego. They’re the two things you need to do stand-up and they come hand-in-hand. Deep down inside, there’s a little voice inside that tells you you’re shit but you want to prove you’re not. Stand-up comedy is the nearest you’ll ever get to being a boxer, because you’re on your own and you’re worried about the one same thing and that is making yourself look a cunt in front of everyone.”

Ivor believes: “Successful comedians tend to be characterised by a slightly ‘don’t care’ attitude. They can be philosophical about failure and speedily get over things like bad gigs and hostile reviews and move on to the next performance without dwelling on setbacks.”

“I have the confidence to get up on stage,” Janey tells me, “because after the life I’ve led – all the madness and the pub and the gangsters and the abuse – there is nothing frightens me any more. So, if I ever stood in a room with 600 people and talked for 15 minutes and nobody laughed, then it’s no worse than having a gun held at your head and I’ve already had that, so it doesn’t really scare me.”

“Boxers ain’t worried about getting hurt,” explains Ricky, “because, when your adrenaline’s flowing there is no real pain. In fact the pain’s quite enjoyable. I used to like soaking up the pain in the ring and smashing it back into them. My favourite comedy gigs are when I’m watching comedian after comedian go under and get heckled and I think, Right, I’m going to conquer this. And I sort of go into battle and then I can turn a gig round and make something happen.”

“I’ve had gigs which were going too well,” says Janey, “and I’ve intentionally ‘lost’ the audience just so I can work hard to get them back again.”

“Yeah, sometimes,” says Ricky, “There can be a really happy great big roar on every word you say and the gig’s almost too easy and you think, I’m going to throw something in here and make this a little bit hard, and I’ll come out and say something that may be offensive to some people and the whole room will go quiet and then you can play with that quietness and see where you go with it and that can be an interesting gig. So it’s a battle going in your head all the time.”

The late great club owner Malcolm Hardee once told me he was unimpressed by jugglers because, if anyone practised for several hours every day over several years, anyone could become good. “Juggling is a skill you can learn,” he insisted. “Stand-up comedy is a talent. However hard you work, you can’t become a great stand-up without underlying talent.”

So is comedy a skill or a talent? Can you learn it?

“All that’s required,” believes Ivor, “is a bit of talent, a modicum of common sense, a thick skin and an ability to learn from your mistakes. Stand-up isn’t nearly as difficult as people imagine. I started by running small comedy clubs and witnessed the efforts of many others whom I thought I could be better than. It was as simple as that.”

“It’s not just one thing,” Janey believes. “Thirty things are important on stage. There’s talent, confidence, timing, connecting with the audience, empathy, humour, the human touch. People have said the most bizarre things to me on stage. A woman once stood up and told me she’d been raped a couple of weeks ago and this was the first night she’d laughed since then. That’s not talent or technique; that’s being able to connect with another human being in a room full of people. But I do it for me, not really for them, because there’s nothing better than standing on stage. I don’t do it because of ego or because of lack of confidence. I do it for the experience of doing it because I love the applause.”

“I suppose,” admits Ricky, “that you’re looking for someone to say This bloke is a comedy genius. But, if someone does say that, there’s this little voice inside your head which disagrees: No you’re not, you’re shit. Then, if someone writes a review and says you’re shit, you think: No I’m not, I’m a comedy genius.”

Rejection is the thing that binds comedians together,” says Ivor, “because they’ve all experienced it at some time or other. What separates those of us who eventually become stand-ups from those who give up is that we are prepared to risk rejection time and time again.”

“You know what I think it is?” says Ricky “What all us comedians have in common? What we want? It’s not about being famous. It’s not about having fortunes. I think it’s just about having a bit of recognition. The thing that drives us all mad is not getting recognition for what we do.”

But, once you have proved you can do it once or ten times or fifty times, why keep doing it? Why constantly risk rejection?

“If you have the best sex of your life,” suggests Janey, “It doesn’t stop you doing it again. You’ll keep on doing it and keep on doing it.”

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Psychology