Tag Archives: police

Lynn Ruth Miller on why “Everyone hates the San Francisco police…”

Lynn Ruth – Hubba Hubba – I’ve Got Balls

Stand-up comedian and late-flowering burlesque performer Lynn Ruth Miller concludes her series of blogs about her return to play three weeks of gigs in the San Francisco area after four years based in the UK…


Last Friday, I performed at the Hubba Hubba Revue’s anniversary event. I sang I’ve Got Balls and Music, Music, Music and was carried off the stage by a gorilla. AND I got my fourth standing ovation.  All this praise and adulation just might go to my head.

After the show, I went out to dinner with Kari Jones who is an accomplished hula hoop-er and now she dances on roller skates while she hula-hoops. I can barely clap my hands without falling over; she is a physically coordinated genius.  

But I am beginning to realize that my very existence and persistence is the key to all this admiration I have been getting from audiences. The one thing I want to remind myself over and over is that I am a hustler and I work for every gig I get, but I am not an exceptional talent.  

I do not want to suddenly think I am hot stuff when I am only an old lady having more fun with life than I ever dreamed possible after my anxiety-fraught, miserably unhappy, first half of life.

On Saturday afternoon I had another date with Alan Kahn which was really lovely because he has been very kind and attentive to me since I have been here.  

He drove me into San Francisco where I hunted around for a Starbucks or Peets to sit in until it was time for my gig at The Setup comedy club in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.  

Alan dropped me off at a Starbucks that had no place to sit so I asked a policeman if he knew of a café nearby.

“In the next block,” he said smiling happily at his partner and nodding to me.  

So off I went trudging down Market Street looking for a Peets that was not there.

So much for believing the San Francisco police.  

Finally, a young man in a cell phone shop drew me a diagram and sent me four blocks away to a lovely Peets where I could sit and ruminate about my set and take a bit of time to write some new material.

On the way there, I saw four police people on bicycles and I stopped to ask a young Asian police girl on a bike if this was a new thing since I could not recall seeing the police on bikes when I was here four years ago.  

She was a delightful young lady and assured me that, yes, they do ride their bikes mostly because it is easier for them to get into a troubled area and get out and not seem as threatening or intrusive as when they are in a vehicle with sirens blaring, double parked and blocking traffic.  

This young lady said she prefers a bicycle to being on her feet because, she explained: “They all hate us… You have to learn not to take it seriously… You should come to our station. We all just sit around laughing at the funny and abusive things people say to us. You have to have a sense of humor in this job.”

Well I certainly agree with her.

Everyone hates the San Francisco police because they shoot before they ask questions; they give citations when they are in the mood whether deserved or not; they are belligerent and angry even when you have not done anything wrong; and (like that first guy I met) they enjoy giving a pedestrian wrong information as a private joke.

Many of them are on drugs and alcohol and get off without sentencing because they are one of the boys.  

It is good know they laugh among themselves. I have never seen one smile.

I told this young lady who looked as innocent and sweet as a teenager that the London police do not carry guns and she looked shocked. She could not imagine patrolling a street unarmed.  

“They have Billy clubs in London,” I said to reassure her and off she pedaled to have a laugh-in at the local police station.

That was on Saturday.

On Sunday, it was my big art show.

After I left my home four years ago to fly cross the Atlantic Ocean and start a new life in the UK, Thad Gann salvaged 51 of my paintings. At that time, he said he was going to sell these paintings for me and make us both astronomical fortunes. But promises are only promises and dreams often have no substance at all.  

He had the best of intentions but did not even bother to price the paintings or display them. He did, however, make a lovely Facebook page called The Art of Lynn Ruth Miller.

Part of the reason he did nothing to sell the art was that he was involved in  moving from the East Bay to San Jose. This is a city that lacks the glamour of the Bay area. It is at the south end of Silicon Valley and the homes are small and crowded together in contrast to the sprawling ranch homes further north and in Los Angeles. The city is hot in the summer and cold in the winter without the fog or ocean breezes to keep the temperatures stable.

We planned to have a huge art sale there on Sunday to get rid of these 51 pieces of questionable art but, because the city itself is so far away from the central areas and because no-one there really knows me the way they do further north, I had very few hopes of selling anything at all.

And, indeed, all of two people show up – although each bought a painting.  

The rest of my 51 pictures will be donated to a rest home or children’s hospital to give the rooms a bit of color and to make me feel I have not painted in vain.

I do not paint for money. I paint to paint.

And now – back to London.

Painting by Lynn Ruth Miller … Photographed by Thad Gann

 

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UK comedy performer Matt Roper aka ‘Wilfredo’ in criminal court in New York

Matt Roper with his Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Matt Roper with his Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Yesterday, Malcolm Hardee Award winning performer Matt Roper (aka character act Wilfredo) was in court in New York City.

“Run me through how it happened,” I told him today. “It started about a month ago, didn’t it?”

“I was performing at The Slipper Room,” he said.

“You have a regular slot there?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he told me. “A couple of times a week; I host on a weekend. It’s a variety theatre – a burlesque joint as well. Often I don’t get offstage until 2.00am and then, to get up to 137th Street in Harlem where I’m living, it’s bit of a schlep at night: I have to catch two subway trains.

“I had been up since 7.00am the previous day and it was now 3.30am. I knew my train terminated at 96th Street and the carriage was more-or-less empty, so I thought I would just swing my legs across the seats, put my head against the window and get a little bit of shut-eye. so that’s what I did. When I woke up, two police officers were looking over me, saying: Get off the train please, sir!

“So I got off the train onto the platform. ID, they said. So I gave them my passport. Do you know it’s a crime what you’re doing? It’s outstretching. It’s a crime.

“I said: I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.

Matt did not know it was a crime

Matt did not know it was a crime amid the pools of whatever

“That was the annoying thing: I didn’t know. There are no signs saying it’s a crime. Feet on the seats we know is not cool, but these were just plastic seats, the carriage was empty and it was filthy because it was 3.30am in the morning – There were beer cans and pools of whatever. What was it Kenneth Williams said? I’m sick and tired of offending everybody. My crimes are nothing compared to Mussolini.

“I would have thought,” I said, “you would get off for being a foreigner and, by definition, ignorant.”

“They either wanted to make a bit of an example of me,” said Matt, “or there was some sort of incentive: I really don’t know. But they said: You’re going to have to come back to the station with us while we take your details and, as they said it, one of the officers was putting my hands behind my back and putting handcuffs on me. I just couldn’t believe it. I asked: Are you serious? – I was told: Yes, sir. They were quite sweet; they were charming. They took me back to the police station. I was fingerprinted and they photographed me, then put me in a cell for three or four hours. They locked me up and then released me. It was an interesting experience because I had never been arrested before – I’ve been all the way around the world without being arrested – so part of me was quite enjoying the experience but then, after the first hour passes and you’re still in a cell, locked up, the novelty wears off.”

“And, unusually,” I said, “you were not in a cell with prostitutes and gangsters?”

“No. which says a lot about Harlem these days. It was an empty cell and, if my crime was as bad as it gets at 4.00am in West Harlem, then I think its reputation is a little unjust.”

“Why,” I asked, “did they lock you up for three or four hours? What were they waiting for?”

Matt Roper last week, as Wilfredo (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Wilfredo did not know outstretching was illegal (Photograph by Garry Platt)

“I really don’t know,” said Matt. “When I researched it later that day… I spoke to you that day, I came back, had a sleep and then got up and Googled this ‘outstretching’ charge and it seems some people are just given a fine; one African guy was deported.”

“He was?” I asked. “Just for putting his feet on the seats in the subway?”

“I don’t know if he was an illegal or not,” said Matt.

“So,” I said, “there are police photos of you?”

“Well,” said Matt. “I wanted to get a copy of my photograph. They say it doesn’t exist, but I saw the form with my photograph on it. I said to them: Can I get a copy of this? Because I’d quite like it framed, really. They said: You can get it when you go to court.

“But, when I got to court, they said: No, no, we don’t have copies of that; you have to go up to the sixth floor. So I went up to the sixth floor and they said: No, no. Because we decided not to prosecute you, it doesn’t exist. But I don’t quite believe that.”

“Why did they say they were not going to prosecute you?” I asked.

“I think because they were having a busy day.”

“What was the court like?”

The doors of New York Criminal Court

“I was one of the few white people in there.”

“It was a proper high court. You go in through these huge doors and there’s the flag, there’s the eagle, there’s In God We Trust. all sorts of people making notes beside the judge. All these people on pews and all of them were on desk appearance tickets like me. They’d been speeding or busted with marijuana. They were mainly kids – mainly Latin-Americans and African-Americans. I was one of the few white people in there. I guess it shows the police go for a certain type of person.”

I said to Matt: “You playing comedy in a burlesque club is a bit like… Well, I think your father (comedian George Roper) was too young to do it, but like British comedians playing at The Windmill in London.”

“I think it’s exactly like that,” said Matt. “You know my dad was up in court with six striptease performers… You blogged about it…”

“Did I?” I asked.

“My dad was tried for obscenity in the 1960s…”

“Did I actually blog about this?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“I really must read my own blogs,” I said.

“It would have been in December 2012,” said Matt. “In the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s, women were allowed to be nude on stage in England but, if they moved, it was considered obscene.”

“Were the girls dressed and your father was naked?”

“No.”

Wilfredo handed out roses to his last fans last night

Wilfredo in his now stolen costume

“Anyway,” I said, trying to change the subject away from this blog I had forgotten. “Your act got stolen in New York.”

“Yes, about three weeks after the arrest,” said Matt, “I was in a bar having a wonderful time, I put my bag down by my feet and it got stolen. I’m rather amused by the thought of whoever took it – hoping for a laptop or an iPhone – unzipping it and finding Wilfredo’s costume inside… The trousers were just… and the wig and the teeth and the shoes. They must be the most disappointed thieves. Though it was a pain in the arse because I had a gig a couple of nights later and Wilfredo is quite difficult to replace.”

“But you had a spare set of teeth?” I asked.

“Yeah. He’s all back to normal, though the hair is a little bit longer.”

“Did you go to a wig shop in New York?”

“Yeah. One of the burlesque dancers said she would cut the wig for me. And now he has been cast in a feature film which we’ll be shooting this winter.”

“Made by?” I asked.

Movies beckon for Matt Roper

Movies beckon for Matt Roper and Wilfredo

James Habacker, who runs The Slipper Room, is now making films. He’s just made his first film called The Cruel Case of The Medicine Man, which won Best Feature at the Coney Island Film Festival.

“But his second film is an out-and-out comedy: The Mel and Fanny Movie – James and his wife are Mel and Fanny Frye – he plays this character from the Borscht Belt. Wilfredo has been cast as Mel and Fanny’s personal chauffeur.”

“That’s something to look forward to,” I said. “Wilfredo’s teeth in the movies.”

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Six days in March: mafiosi in Prague, war in Serbia, Yanks in Amsterdam and a flying saucer in the Thames Valley

I have no time to transcribe the blog I should be writing today so, as always in such cases, you get a copy-and-paste from my e-diary – in this case, starting today 16 years ago in 1999


MONDAY 22nd MARCH 1999 – AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam (Photo by Massimo Catarinella)

Amsterdam (Photo by Massimo Catarinella)

There are precipitous stairs up to my new hotel. This, as with other houses in Amsterdam, is because there are two storeys below the two-storey hotel and people live vertically because, at one time, house tax was based on the width of your house so everything was built narrow.

The hotel is run by two thin gay men, probably in their late-40s or mid-50s, heavily wrinkled like white prunes.

The room has a brown carpet, pink bedsheets and bedspread; high light green walls with horizontal hanging ivy atop one of them. When trams pass, there is a thunderous rattling through the tall, single-glazed window. I think I may move soon.

TUESDAY 23rd MARCH – AMSTERDAM

Dinner with the Englishman who runs the TV station where I am freelancing. We previously worked together at TV stations in Prague in 1994 and 1995. He says Prague has changed since I was there; the various foreign mafias have taken over large sections of society; it started, he says, with the privatisation of taxis. The TV operation we both worked for in Prague was sold (at a loss) by UIH to Time-Warner last week; but, in return, UIH got Time-Warner cable interests in Hungary and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Eastern Europe has become the new Wild West.

WEDNESDAY 24th MARCH – AMSTERDAM

Dinner with three workmates. One of them observed that the Dutch give a bad time to Germans – shop assistants are coldly difficult to them in shops etc – because of the Second World War. As we ate, NATO planes and cruise missiles were starting to attack Yugoslavia/Serbia/Montenegro/Kosovo.

THURSDAY 25th MARCH – AMSTERDAM

In McDonalds, the assistant was giving a hard, contemptuous time to a well-dressed family of Russians who spoke very bad English.

FRIDAY 26th MARCH – AMSTERDAM

At breakfast in the hotel, there was an American couple: he was wide and tall like some American Football player, she was much smaller and much younger. The TV was tuned to BBC1 News. The American couple had missed the start of the bombing of Serbia, presumably because they were travelling around. Their abbreviated conversation went:

Him: “What’s going on?”

Me: “NATO has started bombing Serbia.”

Her: “What’s NATO?”

Him: “North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It’s…what is it?…The big six?” (LOOKS AT ME)

Me: (CONFUSED)

Her: “I thought that was just a trade organisation.”

Him: “No, it does some policing, too.”

At Schiphol Airport in the evening, there was a group of very jolly people in their 20s – about a dozen – on the travelator in front of me. It turned out they were going to my Gate. And they were drunk – amiable, jolly and drunk. It came as no surprise they were travelling on Finnair to Helsinki as the only times I had encountered Finns before – in Leningrad in 1985 – they were all amiable, jolly and staggeringly drunk. Something to do with the strict drink laws in Finland: at that time, Finns came across to Leningrad, sold denim jeans and Western goods to Russians and got very charmingly drunk on vodka.

My friend Lynn’s partner Frank had asked me to get him some schnapps at the airport duty free – stuff you can only get in Schiphol. It comes in an opaque brown bottle. I couldn’t see it, so I asked a man who was stacking the drinks shelves: “Do you have any schnapps?”

Inevitably, I was standing right by the schnapps: he pointed to two different brands, both in white bottles.

“I was asked to get some schnapps in a brown bottle,” I said: “Do you have any in a brown bottle?”

He looked at me as if I was mad, almost shrinking backwards, and replied:

“No, we do not have schnapps in a brown bottle.”

The EasyJet plane to Luton took off two hours late because:

a) the incoming plane broke down in Luton and
b) they had to fly a replacement plane into Amsterdam and
c) they said: “Air traffic over Western Europe has been disrupted by NATO”

I suppose squadrons of giant B-52 bombers taking off from Gloucestershire and flying to Serbia would do that.

SATURDAY 27th MARCH – BOREHAMWOOD

John Ward drives home in his Wardmobile

John Ward driving to his home in his self-made Wardmobile

My chum mad inventor John Ward has built a flying saucer. Today, with his son, he was collecting it from a garage in Weybridge then coming round to collect some stuff from me on his way home to Northamptonshire.

On the way to me, he was stopped by a Thames Valley police car with flashing lights and siren. Inside was a Sergeant Whittaker.

“What do you think you are doing?” asked Sergeant Whittaker.

He told John they had looked at their cameras and seen John and his son driving along the road in their car pulling an object brightly painted in fluorescent orange, red, yellow and blue.

“You are a distraction,” Sergeant Whittaker told John.

“Thankyou,” said John.

“Don’t be flippant,” Sergeant Whittaker warned him.

Sergeant Whittaker then appeared to flounder around trying to find something on which to arrest John.

“Have you got a licence for that?” Sergeant Whittaker asked, pointing at the flying saucer.

“It’s a trailer,” John replied.

“It has a seat in it,” observed Sergeant Whittaker.

“Ah,” said John, “But it has no engine in it: so it is legally a trailer.”

John Ward knows about these things.

At this point, an old man on a motorcycle passed by and was so amazed by the flying saucer and the police car with the flashing lights that he lost control of his motorcycle, hit the central barrier and fell off.

“Look!” Sergeant Whittaker told John. “He was distracted by your… your… thing!”

“No,” argued John. “It’s all your flashing red and blue and white lights distracted him.”

Sergeant Whittaker said accusingly: “Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? We could have arranged a police escort.”

“You’re joking,” said John.

“No I’m not…..Where are you going with it?”

“I’m dropping in at a friend’s in Borehamwood to collect some stuff, then taking it home.”

“Oh no you’re not. You’re a distraction. You’re taking it straight home.”

At this point, John phoned me on his mobile.

“Are you phoning the press?” the sergeant asked.

“Not yet,” said John.

“I know you from somewhere,” Sergeant Whittaker said. “Have I seen you on television?”

“No, I’m not him,” said John. “Reg, the bloke with the glasses in Coronation Street. People sometimes confuse me for him. But I’m not him.”

“No, you’re not him,” agreed Sergeant Whittaker, “but I think I’ve seen you somewhere.”

Eventually, Sergeant Whittaker got in John’s car and his policeman mate drove the police car. They set off in convoy, lights flashing and escorted John’s flying saucer to the border of the next police area – where a Buckinghamshire police car took over.

“Is that it?” the Buckinghamshire policeman asked when he saw the flying saucer. He had obviously been expecting something like a vast over-hanging mobile home on a pantechnicon.

When the Buckinghamshire police car reached the borders of Northamptonshire, there was a Northamptonshire police car waiting for them.

“Oh,” the Northamptonshire policeman said on seeing John, “It’s you.”

“Have we met?” John asked him.

“No,” said the Northamptonshire policeman.

When the other car had gone, the Northamptonshire policeman told John: “They’re mad down south. It’s a waste of time. They should be out catching criminals. I’m going back to the station.”

And off he went.

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Filed under Czech Republic, Eccentrics, Holland, Police, Yugoslavia

What the REAL Swinging Sixties were like – gangsters and police corruption

 (From left) Teddy Smith, Micky Fawcett, Johnny Davis, Reggie Kray, Freddie Mills, Ronnie Kray, Dicky Morgan, Sammt Lederman at Freddie Mills’ Nite Spot in the 1960s (Photograph from Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days)

Faces of the 1960s. (From left) Teddy Smith, Micky Fawcett, Johnny Davis, Reggie Kray, Freddie Mills, Ronnie Kray, Dicky Morgan and Sammy Lederman at Freddie Mills’ Nite Spot. (Photograph from Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days)

According to the Daily Telegraph in 2001, Mad Teddy Smith was:

“a psychopathic homosexual rumoured to have had affairs with Ronnie Kray and Tom Driberg, the former Labour MP. He disappeared the day after an argument with the Krays in 1967.”

The Kray Twins – gangsters Ronnie and Reggie – are iconic figures of the 1960s.

They were arrested in 1968, the year after ‘the summer of love’. Their associates included Micky Fawcett and ‘Mad’ Teddy Smith.

When I chatted to Micky Fawcett in June 2013, I mentioned it had been widely reported over the last 40 years that Teddy Smith was killed by the Krays. A very good article in the Daily Mail in August 2010 headlined SEX, LIES, DOWNING STREET AND THE COVER-UP THAT LEFT THE KRAYS FREE TO KILL repeated the story that the Kray Twins had killed him.

“No,” Micky told me in 2013, “I would think he’s in Australia or somewhere like that.”

Micky Fawcett (left) with son Michael Fawcett

Micky Fawcett (left) with son Michael Fawcett at The Ritz

I had another chat with Micky Fawcett and his son Michael Fawcett this week.

“When Reggie Kray was on his deathbed,” Micky told me, “he was asked if he had been involved in any unknown-of killings and he couldn’t miss the chance, knowing it was the end, of saying: Well, there was one other… and that was all he said.

“Then Nipper Read (the Scotland Yard detective who arrested The Krays) told the Daily Telegraph: Yes, we know all about it – It was Teddy Smith they killed and they buried him down at Steeple Bay (in Essex).

“But,” Micky told me this week, “there is this bloke who’s very interested in Teddy Smith – he’s got a sort of bee in his bonnet about him – and he had a chat with us and he finished up going to Australia and found Teddy Smith had died from natural causes in 2006.”

“How did he track him down?” I asked.

“We had pictures,” said Micky, “and he went out to Australia. Teddy Smith was quite a character. He used to walk around and he had a little tiny dog and a long cigarette holder.”

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

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

“Was he gay?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” said Micky. “He considered himself to be a playwright and he did write a play once for the BBC.”

“It was,” said Michael Fawcett, “the first TV play to be broadcast in colour on the BBC. It was called The Top Bunk. Something to do with prisons.”

The Top Bunk was transmitted by BBC TV on 30th October 1967 in their Thirty Minute Theatre series. Teddy was credited as Ted Smith and, according to the BBC synopsis:

Two old lags who share the same cell have got prison life down to a fine art. They are upset when an outsider, a public school type and a first timer, is made to live with them and bowled over when he reveals a sinister side to his nature, which makes him their natural leader, entitled to the position of prestige – the top bunk.

“He was put in Broadmoor,” said Micky. “Mad Teddy Smith was. He was certified insane. He used to be very confident.

Krayzy Days by Micky Fawcett

Micky Fawcett’s book: the title says it all

“I was talking to him one day in the house in Vallance Road (where The Krays lived with their mum) and, as we walked out, he said: Oh, they get on my nerves. They drive me mad – talking about violence all the time. If only people knew what I did to get myself certified and into Broadmoor…

“What did he do?” I asked.

“I never found out,” sad Micky. “He was an interesting character, though. This gay bloke with this dog and this cigarette holder.

“On another occasion, Ronnie said: Do us a favour, Mick, there’s a fellah called Cholmondley – he was one of Ronnie’s young ‘friends’ – I’m sending Teddy Smith to get hold of him for me. Can you go with Teddy and keep an eye on Teddy for me? So I went with Teddy Smith to Soho. I thought I knew Soho, but Teddy took me to two or three different unlicensed bars above clip joints and whatever.

Francis Bacon (Photograph by Jane Bown)

Francis Bacon, acquaintance of Mad Teddy Smith (Photograph by Jane Bown)

“We went in one and there were all these men in hacking jackets like you’d expect to find at a golf club or somewhere like that. They were obviously all gay and one of them was the painter Francis Bacon, who knew Teddy because that was his sort of style.

“We couldn’t find Cholmondley there, so then we went to The Establishment Club, which was a theatre.”

Peter Cook’s satire club?” I asked.

“Yeah. Lenny Bruce had been in there. There was a box office with a little grille. Teddy Smith said I just want to go in and have a look for a friend and the fellah said You can’t come in without a ticket.

“So Teddy Smith was getting a bit annoyed and said Could you come round here? I want to have a word with you and I thought Awww… Fuck off, I’m going to get involved in a murder here or something. But a fellah came from behind in a brown smock and with a bit of a black eye and he said: I’m Detective Sergeant ChallenorCan I help you?”

“Woo-hoo!” I said.

“You know about Challenor?” Micky asked me.

“Oh yes,” I said. “Was it Challenor?”

“Yes,” said Micky. “So I was out the door with Teddy Smith as quick as I could. At the time, I was living in fear of Challenor. I didn’t want to cross his path. He would have set me up and I’ve been set up a few times by the Old Bill.”

Richard Attenborough as Truscott of The Yard in Loot

Richard Attenborough (moustache) was Truscott in Loot film

“Truscott of The Yard,” said Michael Fawcett. “Truscott in Joe Orton’s play Loot was modelled on Challenor.”

“They put him in a mental home,” Micky said to me. “Challenor. You know – Bongo Bongo? He had a war against crime in Soho, going round punching people.”

Challenor was posted to the notoriously corrupt West End Central Police Station in 1962. It policed the Soho area. At one point, Challenor had a record of over 100 arrests in seven months. He eventually totalled 600 arrests and received 18 commendations. He achieved this by using what were, at that time, by no means unusual techniques.

On one occasion, he punched a suspect from Barbados while he (Challenor) sang Bongo, bongo, bongo, I don’t want to leave the Congo.

Various people claimed to have been beaten up or to have had evidence planted on them by Challenor, but they were still convicted.

On 11 July 1963, though, he arrested Donald Rooum, a cartoonist for Peace News, who was demonstrating outside Claridge’s Hotel against Queen Frederica of Greece.

Challenor reportedly told Rooum: You’re fucking nicked, my beauty. Boo the Queen, would you? and hit him on the head. Going through Rooum’s possessions, Challenor added a half-brick, saying: There you are, me old darling. Carrying an offensive weapon. You can get two years for that. 

The face of Harold Challenor , upholder of the law in 1960s Soho

‘Mad’ Harold Challenor – upholder of the law in 1960s Soho

Rooum, a member of the National Council for Civil Liberties, handed his clothes to his solicitor for testing. No brick dust or appropriate wear-and-tear were found and Rooum was acquitted, although other people Challenor arrested at the demonstration were still convicted on his evidence.

By the time Challenor appeared at the Old Bailey in 1964, charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, he was deemed to be unfit to plead

“They chucked him out of the police,” said Micky, “and said he’d had a mental breakdown.”

He was sent to Netherne mental hospital in Surrey and was said to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

A total of 26 innocent men were charged during Challenor’s activities. Of these, 13 were imprisoned. On his release from hospital, Challoner worked for the firm of solicitors which had defended him during his trial.

Since then, “doing a Challenor” has become police slang for avoiding punishment and prosecution by retiring sick.

Welcome to the wonderful world of British policing.

… CONTINUED HERE

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At London gangster Reg Kray’s funeral

Continuing this week’s semi-theme of posting extracts from my old e-diaries, below is an edited extract from my diary entry on Wednesday 11th October 2000. The Kray Twins, Reg and Ronnie, were notorious 1960s London gangsters.


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

Reg (left) & Ron, photographed by David Bailey in the 1960s

The weather forecast said it would be a dark grey overcast morning with heavy rain.

Reg Kray’s hearse was due to leave undertakers English & Son in Bethnal Green Road at 11.15am with the funeral itself at St Matthew’s Church, Bethnal Green, at midday.

I arrived in Bethnal Green Road around 10.25am, when lots of large men with thick necks and short hair were leaving a burger shop to make their way to the church. They were ‘security’, wearing three-quarter length black overcoats, black trousers, white shirts, black ties. On the right arm, each wore a blood-red ribbon with the gold letters RKF – presumably Reg Kray’s Funeral. Each also wore, on their left lapel, a small red rectangular badge with the yellow letters RKF.

Up side streets, opposite the undertakers, were vans with satellite dishes on top to transmit back pictures of the funeral procession to broadcasting companies

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

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

As I passed Pellicci’s Cafe in Bethnal Green Road, where the Kray brothers used to meet for cups of tea, some local resident was being interviewed outside.

In the streets behind St Matthew’s Church, there were five or six or more communications vans parked for TV stations, some with dishes on top, some with tall extended masts.

On the flat roofs of the buildings opposite English and Son perched video cameras, stills photographers and people just standing waiting for the cortège to start off.

A large crowd stood around the undertakers’ entrance and along the pavement opposite; some stood on waste bins. The old-fashioned glass hearse had six black horses in front of it, the contours of their black harnesses picked-out with silver lines, their black blinkers decorated with silver lines and 18 inch tall black plumes rising from the top of their heads.

As the crowd watched, an enterprising TV cameraman passed by, dangling off the back platform of a red double-decker bus to get a tracking shot of the hearse and crowd.

Along the left side of the horse-drawn hearse, a wreath spelled out

FREE

AT

LAST

in white flowers with a thin red floral outline and, at around 11.10am, a long white floral wreath was put on the roof of the hearse facing right. It spelled out in white flowers:

RESPECT

English & Son in 2012 on Google StreetView

Funeral directors English & Son in 2012 on Google StreetView

At 11.13am, the coffin emerged and a sky-blue helicopter appeared and hovered overhead. Two teenage girls were standing next to me and, as the dark brown highly-veneered wood coffin containing Reg’s body was lifted into the hearse, they grabbed hands, excited at just being there.

In the crowd, cameras were lifted to take shots of the coffin: some were lifted up in the air and clicked blindly. Some were the standard old-style 35mm stills cameras; some were new digital stills cameras. Changing times.

I walked back along Bethnal Green Road towards Vallance Road, where the three Kray brothers had lived with their mother. As I passed Pellicci’s Cafe I looked inside and it was being renovated: gutted out for new walls and furnishings in front and back: everything changing.

There were only scattered groups of people waiting along Bethnal Green Road but, at the junction with Vallance Road, all four corners were more crowded. Opposite the Marquis of Cornwallis pub, I got chatting to a man in his late 50s who had come to see Reg’s twin brother Ronnie’s funeral procession a few years ago.

“Have you read the books?” he asked me. He told me he had read all the books.

He told me he had not been brought up in Bethnal Green and did not live there now: he lives in Peckham but he came, he said, to look.

Ronnie’s funeral in 1995 had been much more crowded, he said: “The pavements were packed solid shoulder-to-shoulder.”

Today, there were smaller, more scattered groups of people, not streets lined solid with people. Now the street market and shopping trips were continuing behind the people who were – rather than lining the streets en masse – in groups and individually standing at the edge of the pavement. When Ronnie was buried, the Krays were myths; now they were just interesting.

When the hearse drawn by six black horses and followed by a queue of low-sprung black limousines turned into Vallance Road, the police stopped all the oncoming traffic, including an ambulance.

Toby Von Judge

Toby Von Judge cut an interesting figure

Illegal prize-fighter Roy Shaw was there, looking less startled than normal. And Toby Von Judge from Wimbledon.

Among all the bulky black-coated men, Toby stood out by being quite small and dressed in a tan-coloured three-quarter-length camel-hair coat which had two military medals (with short ribbons) attached well below the waist at the left front. His face was lined, his hair black but heavily-tinged with grey and in a pony-tail at the back. He had another medal on a red ribbon round his neck.

Another man had what looked like a slightly melted plastic face and I did wonder if he had at one time had had plastic surgery to change his features but he had then aged, unnaturally changing the shape of the artificial skin.

Arriving late was a roly-poly black man with a black bowler hat.

Apparently missing were Mad Frank Frazer and actress Barbara Windsor.

The funeral inside the church was relayed to those outside by loudspeakers around the church’s exterior: around four at the sides and two at the front.

The ‘security’ seemed to have been influenced by militaristic films. The fact everyone had black coats, pasty white faces and red armbands gave it a rather Nazi colour tone.

On each side of the church door stood three heavy-set men, one behind the other, facing forwards, hands in pockets, legs apart. There was then a slight gap and, about three feet in front of each trio, stood another man facing forwards. Then, between these men and the entrance to the railing-lined semi-circle in front of the church, stood 5 men on each side facing each other, at right angles to the church door men, forming a corridor of men through which entrants had to pass. These men tended to stand legs apart, their hands clasped in front of their genitals. Within the railing-bordered semi-circle, two men stood at each corner of the building facing forwards. It was a display of power rather than actual required security: a security system copied from Hollywood war movies rather than normal showbiz funerals.

I realised later that there were fewer men on one side of this phalanx than the other. The side with fewer men was the side which had lots of press cameramen massed behind the railings. Fewer men made the view less obscured. I also noticed that all the ‘security’ men’s trouser legs were slightly too long: there was a concertina of wavy black material bunched at the bottom of each leg just above the shoe.

After two or three hymns and a couple of reminiscences of Reg, the final song was Frank Sinatra’s famous recording of My Way. By the time the funeral was over, the sun had come out and, as My Way started…

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again
Too few to mention…

Roberta Kray

Roberta Kray, the widow of Reg Kray

gliding out of the church doors were two priests in flowing purple and white robes, one of whom had the grace to look slightly embarrassed at the showbiz element as they led the black suited men and Reg’s grieving wife Roberta (with female friend) out of the church.

As the ‘congregation’ following them emerged, there were conversations, handshakes and shoulder-slappings: a big funeral like this is a chance to socialise and re-cement or create new business contacts.

“I ain’t seen ya for abaht four yeers,” one crew-cut man said to another: “Ow are ya?”

Among those coming out of the church, I noticed the actor Billy Murray. And playwright/actor Steven Berkoff was around somewhere. And there was Toby Von Judge again in his camel-hair coat walking with a slightly taller woman wearing fake suntan, a short black dress and very bleached very fake blonde hair.

As the coffin came out, one woman in the crowd clapped on her own for about five seconds, then it was taken up by others, then others.

Police close the surrounding roads for Reg's funeral hearse

Police closed the surrounding roads for Reg’s funeral hearse

As the crowd slowly dispersed and the helicopter hovered overhead, I wandered along to the large junction of Bethnal Green Road and Cambridge Heath Road. The helicopter, which had been hovering over the church now came and hovered over the road junction which was crowded with people on all corners and on all the traffic islands. Reg’s body was now in a car.

Yellow and white police motorcycles blocked the junction while two other police motorcycles led the cortège across slowly, but it was the walking black-coated men with red armbands preceding the cortège who cleared a way for the long line of vehicles.

As the hearse passed by, on the right side of the coffin were the words in white flowers:

REG

BELOVED

As another limo passed, a woman on the traffic island where I was standing said excitedly to her friend: “It’s Frankie! – Frankie’s in that car!” And, indeed, he was – Mad Frank Frazer, looking impassive.

We had heard the coffin car approaching because, as it came along the road, the sound of clapping came with it. Along from the other end of Bethnal Green Road, across the road junction and away, on to Chingford Mount Cemetery in Essex.

The Krays’ gravestone

The gravestone of twins Reg (left) & Ron Kray

At the cemetery, there was a flypast by a lone Spitfire chartered from Duxford air museum. The Spitfire – a symbol of Britain when Great.

Afterwards, someone I know who was also at the funeral told me: “I didn’t speak to Frank, but I called his number and Marilyn’s (Frank’s wife) voice is on the Answerphone saying: Frank’s out shooting… for TV I mean…”

There is a compilation of BBC TV and ITV News reports of Reg Kray’s funeral on YouTube.

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Comedy critic Kate Copstick on Jewish prejudice and the Scots/UK legal system

A selfie of Coptick and me at The Grouchy Club

A selfie of Copstick and me at The Grouchy Club last month

At last month’s Edinburgh Fringe, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I hosted the daily Grouchy Club. It will return at next year’s Fringe and we are currently looking into running monthly Grouchy Club events in London.

In the first Edinburgh show, I asked her about herself.

“You went to Glasgow University…” I said.

“Yes.”

“And studied drinking?”

“No. That came to me naturally. There was no need to study. I wrote my final Honours paper – which was on Kelsen’s Pure Theory of Law – on a breakfast of two litres of Guinness. I was pretty much incapable of leaving the house without wrapping myself around something alcoholic – I mean a drink, not a person. I farted and belched my way through the exam and got a 2:1.”

“You wanted to be a Scottish lawyer?” I asked.

“Well,” explained Copstick, “I had seen Witness For The Prosecution at a very impressionable age and had this ridiculous idea that lawyers were there to help people. I was very, very naive and obviously had not met any lawyers. I saw myself as Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird mode. And also I was an appalling smartarse at school. I was unpopular. I was short, fat and ugly. The only thing that was any good about me was that I was clever.

“What clever people went on to do was Law or Medicine and, as my Highers were English, French, German, Latin and History, I was not going to be a doctor.

“The Law degree was good fun and I got to shag a lot of Jewish boys and really upset a lot of Jewish mothers. I had a boyfriend called Michael. Well, he and I were not ‘going out’. I wasn’t into relationships. I was more into just shagging randomly and frequently. Those were the days.

“Michael’s parents were quite rich and, for his 18th birthday, they bought him a Mini-Cooper car which they then locked in the garage because he took me out in it – a shiksa had soiled the seats.

“That was the first time I really understood prejudice. One Jewish guy invited me over to dinner and his mum and dad were there and I was put at the end of the table with the crockery and the cutlery for the goyim. It was like Unclean! Unclean!

“Michael – the guy with the Mini-Cooper – got me for my 21st birthday The Code of Jewish Law.”

“What,” I asked, “IS the code of Jewish Law?”

“God loves us. God hates everyone else.”

The figure of Justice - blindfolded to avoid seeing any truths

The legal system… is blind to justice

“Anyway,” I said. “You decided not to become a lawyer. Why?”

“I did quite enjoy it, except I did come to realise that it is just a big posh boys’ game. It is not even so much about the boys. It’s about the posh. An ordinary person is never going to win. The police are liars and bastards. The prosecution services are liars and bastards. Your best defence is a rich dad and posh accent. If you don’t look right and don’t sound right, you’re probably guilty.

“I sat in front of juries and listened to them talking because I was an Advocate at that point. I was the instructing solicitor. I heard them say things like: Aw, see that Mr Taylor? (Bill Taylor was a Defence Lawyer) He’s got such lovely blue eyes. See when he looks at you? Ya cannae help but agree wi’ him. That is not a fucking defence! But that was the kind of reasons they had. You think: This is all just fucked!

“The scariest people I ever met were the Glasgow Serious Crime Squad. They would have ‘fitted you up’ faster than a Chinese tailor. Just unbelievable!”

“The clue’s in the name,” I suggested. “The Serious Crime Squad. They commit serious crimes.”

“That’s absolutely true,” said Copstick, “but I just thought: Fuck this for a game of soldiers.

‘Which years are these?” I asked.

“The mid-1980s.”

“How long do you train to be a lawyer/liar?” I asked.

“You do a four year degree and then you go off and become a baby apprentice and then, if you’re smart enough, you get to skip a year of apprenticing. So I got to skip a year.”

“So,” I said, “after being trained to lie for four years solid, you can only become either a lawyer or a politician, really.”

“After four years, you know nothing other than books,” said Copstick.

“So,” I said. “If you decide not to be a lawyer after four years, you’ve got no other career.”

“Well,” said Copstick, “what you do know is how to learn. It trains your brain like nothing else. It teaches you not to be frightened of words. If someone sends you a contract, read it. It’s not scary. It will basically just say the same thing over and over and over again to make you think it’s saying a lot of things. They could hide anything in there.”

“So basically,” I said, “all they teach you is how to encapsulate things quickly so you can speak about something you don’t understand and make it sound credible like a politician or a lawyer?”

“In a nutshell, John,” said Copstick. “In a nutshell.”

… CONTINUED HERE

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How the English court system works (?)

The figure of Justice - blindfolded to avoid seeing any truths

The figure of Justice – blindfolded to avoid seeing any untruths – and truths

To save myself from having to write a blog today when all I want to do is sleep – the result of over three weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe – here is a blog about something which happened this week over ten years ago in England.

Someone I know was starting two weeks of Jury Service in a court somewhere in England. He told me:

Day One

None of us got picked today…. There was a lot of waiting around then they sent us all home… I ended up chatting with a right demographic mix, including… a 40-year-old grammar schoolboy self-made Tory-voting string-em-up merchant web designer; a local councillor very lefty with bleeding heart and social conscience (great arguments between those two!); an oldie female retired teacher; a young (22) ‘lad’ carpenter of some type; a young single mum from a council estate (“I dunno nuffink about politix”) and me…. And that was just the smokers!

The fault of the system is this… Most self-employed people don’t want to be there (big loss of earnings – it’s costing me a grand!!!). Most middle class with good jobs don’t want to be there. (They were all the ones moaning they had tried to get out of it )… So you are left with the unemployed, retired and immigrants whose first language definitely ain’t English…. But hey …That’s democracy! or is it?

Day Two

I got picked today…. Going into the court room was awe-inspiring… I had to remind myself this wasn’t telly…. Half my jury could barely read the affirmation. Then it was my turn, so I gave my best performance… and everyone after me then gave it a bit of welly too!

It is a nasty little case – GBH/drugs… Quite complicated too. We were sent home early – 3.30pm – as the two barristers needed to do a bit of thrashing things out. It is by no means cut and dried. My brain hurt at the end of the day.

Day Three

I went to see the trial myself.

A 20 year-old Bengali is accused of cutting the throat of another 20 year-old Bengali, exposing his windpipe. He is accused not of attempted murder but of GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm). His defence is that he was at home all evening. On the evening of the offence, the police came and broke down his door to find him on the phone (he was calling the police because someone was breaking down his door). There was blood on the stairs, the floor, his bedspread and his hand. He said he had cut his finger at college that afternoon.

Forensic DNA tests showed it was, indeed, all his blood and that none of his blood was at the murder scene, nor was any of the victim’s blood on the accused’s clothes. The victim said the accused man was a drug dealer and that he (the victim) hated drugs and drug dealers. Unfortunately for him, the defence knew he had been addicted to crack and heroin, was on methadone and had been convicted of manslaughter.

The prosecution produced two diaries found at the accused’s address which they claimed showed the accused was a drug dealer. Unfortunately, the defence pointed out one of the diaries was not in his handwriting and was partially in Bengali, a language he can neither read or write. The other diary, they contested, was the diary of a drug taker not a dealer – and the accused admitted he took drugs.

While the jury was out, the prosecutor told a detective there to give evidence: “If this guy gets off, it will seriously prejudice the whole case” and “The evidence fitted in better in the other trial”. The accused is related to a criminal Bengali family.

The jury comprised six blacks, one Asian Moslem and five whites. Three of the blacks, strangely, were Nigerians. My friend on the jury told me that one of the black women had arrived 20 minutes late that morning saying, quite unconcerned: “Oh, you could have started without me”.

Day Four

I went to the court again.

The judge gave a rambling colloquial summing up which non-native English speakers would have found unclear. After about two hours (around 4.30pm) the jury gave their verdict – partly because it was a Friday afternoon and, if they had not decided, then they would have had to continue on Monday and some of them were ‘second weekers’ – you are called to Jury Service for two weeks. If the final case runs over the two weeks, then you have to stay until it is concluded.

My friend told me that, when they went into the jury room, there were an initial six for Guilty, five were undecided and one wanted Not Guilty. My friend was the jury foreman. He went round the jury asking initially whether they thought the accused man was guilty. One woman asked: “Which one?” She had not been clear who had been on trial and thought perhaps he was the victim.

I am not going to say whether the jury found the accused man Guilty or Not Guilty.

You can toss your own coin.

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