Tag Archives: Princess Margaret

Once Upon a Time – Terry Stone, Terry Turbo, Princess Margaret & Mad Frank

In yesterday’s blog, former ‘rave’ organiser Terry Turbo – now film producer Terry Stone – was talking about his new film Once Upon a Time in London (released in the UK yesterday).

He has also produced the three (soon to be four) Rise of The Footsoldier movies, Bonded By Blood and other true crime films.


Terry Stone played Tony Tucker in Rise of the Footsoldier

JOHN: You were saying you are interested in true crime.

TERRY: Yes. In Rise of the Footsoldier, although there’s a lot in there that was made up, all the Essex Boys stuff was true. I’ve got a friend who’s on the Murder Squad so I know for a fact what stuff happened.

The conspiracy theories at the end are open to interpretation, but I know for a fact that all the Essex Boys stuff is 100% true. I look at that film and I’m proud of it.

JOHN: The title Once Upon a Time in London… It’s presumably intentionally reminiscent of Sergio Leone – Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time… The Revolution, Once Upon a Time in America.

TERRY: Once Upon a Time in America was one of my favourite movies. If you were to ask me what film Once Upon a Time in London is most like, it would be the British version of that. We were not trying to copy it, but we went: What stories haven’t been told in this country?

JOHN: And Once Upon a Time in America was vaguely based on the truth – the early days of organised crime in the US.

TERRY: In Once Upon a Time in London, everything in that happened. There’s nothing made up. The only scene that may have been changed slightly was the darts scene. That may not have happened. But the guy was getting tortured and, instead of having darts thrown at him, he might have had bits of his ear being cut off. But we thought: That’s too much like Reservoir Dogs, so why don’t we just do the darts cos it’s funny and no-one’s ever done it. It’s just fucking terrifying.

JOHN: It is. And it’s in character. ‘Mad Frank’ Fraser would do that.

The real Jack Spot (played by Terry in Once Upon a Time in London) after being attacked by ‘Mad Frank’ Fraser in 1956

TERRY: He would. He’d be pulling your teeth out with pliers or he’d be cutting bits off you. He was a fucking lunatic. That’s why I liked him as a character. He’s so fucking off-key. He spent possibly 60% of his life in jail. He just liked violence. He didn’t care about money; he just wanted to hurt people. Maybe he wasn’t wired-up right; I dunno. If you said to him “Go and kill that guy” he would just do it and then worry about it when he was in jail and then kill someone else and think: Oh well, I might as well kill him as well because I’ll be in jail anyway. That was how his thought process worked.

JOHN: He once offered to do free dental work for me if I ever needed it done. I wasn’t quite sure how to take that. I presume he meant dental work on other people; not on me. I think he was just trying to live up to his legend.

TERRY: When I met him, I was shocked. What shocked me about all of the people from that era was how fucking small they were. You meet them all now and they’re these tiny little fellers. Maybe we’ve just become bigger through genetics or food or whatever

JOHN: How tall are the Adamses?

TERRY: I dunno. All the people that I’ve met now all seem bigger. When you meet someone who is part of a firm or someone who’s heavy-duty nowadays, they look the part. They don’t have to be six foot high and twenty stone, but they look the part. With the old ones, because they’re now in their 70s and 80s, they’re lovely little old men and you think: Did he really go round pulling people’s teeth out? He seems such a nice guy.

JOHN: All the really violent people I’ve met have been very quiet and polite. The SAS men I’ve met have been terribly polite and quiet. I guess, if you move in certain circles – certainly criminal circles – it’s best to be polite to strangers in case they turn out to be homicidal maniacs living on a hair-trigger.

The real Billy Hill, subject of Once Upon a Time in London (Photo from Krayzy Days)

TERRY: There’s a old saying: Walk softly but carry a big stick.

JOHN: Well, if you really are dangerous, you don’t have to ‘big it up’ to prove it to yourself… Anyway… There are obvious sequels to Once Upon a Time in London. The continuation of the Billy Hill story and the whole of the ‘Mad Frank’ Fraser story.

TERRY: We’ll see what happens with this one and if it goes the way we think it’s gonna go – worldwide with someone like Netflix or Amazon – then, if they think they want some spin-offs or more films – then happy days.

A lot of people from that era have now retired or are dead. But we have access to Frank’s surviving family, access to the Sabinis – all of the people. So we have access to all the stories.

JOHN: The Godfather had real criminals in small parts. Was Once Upon a Time in London the same?

TERRY: There’s a few. And we used a few fighters. There’s a few people in there, if you’re into fighters or underworld figures. But we didn’t cast any villains in big parts.

JOHN: Real dodgy people often don’t look dodgy. I always thought Johnny Bindon looked a bit wimpish on screen. Though I wouldn’t have said that to his face.

TERRY: That’s a good story, that is. John Bindon. The only problem is, when I’ve talked to people about it, they’ve all gone: “Well, he was sort of an actor/villain. But he didn’t really do anything.” His selling point was shagging Princess Margaret and smoking weed with her. He was in the Sixties set, but with all the people I’ve mentioned it to, no-one really bit on it and I don’t know why.

JOHN: It’s psychologically fascinating. The end is a bit of a downer, but that could be handled.

TERRY: I would fucking love to play John Bindon. That would be a great part.

JOHN: That’s what they all said he had.

Poster for Once Upon a Time in London at Leytonstone tube station, East London

TERRY: The problem, being a working class London lad with my sort of build is you get regularly asked to be the henchman or the murderer. Do you wanna clump someone? I don’t mind doing that, but I actually want some substance to it. 

The part I play in Once Upon a Time in London was interesting because it had range – there was a family involved. I hope when people see the film, people will react: Oh! Actually, he can be more than just the guy who says “I’m gonna do you in” and all that shit.

If you haven’t got the material to show what you can do, nobody will give you the chance as an actor. Sometimes people are lucky: they get a part and shine.

JOHN: Sylvester Stallone held out and wouldn’t sell the Rocky script to anyone unless he was cast as Rocky.

TERRY: And he was absolutely on his arse. He was waiting on tables, doing anything, living in a fucking bedsit and they were offering “Here’s a million dollars for your script” – which is probably $5 million now – and he was unknown. And then he went and won a fucking Oscar and the rest is history. But a film about John Bindon… Everyone I talked to about it said: “There’s not really a story.”

JOHN: A massive rise and fall. Fleeing to Ireland at the climax; all that.

TERRY: But think about the kids now, right? They go and watch Legend because it’s Tom Hardy. They watch Footsoldier because it’s people getting bashed-up and carved-up and thrown through windows and girls with their tits out. If you say there’s a film about John Bindon, they’d say: “Who’s that?”

JOHN: But people don’t know about Jack Spot and Billy Hill.

TERRY: They know it’s the ones before the Krays. That’s the hook.

JOHN: And the Krays are in the trailer, which is great.

TERRY: But you look at John Bindon, what would you say?

An uncompromising photograph of John Bindon and Princess Margaret on the island of Mustique.

JOHN: They made The Bank Job about robbing the bank to get the compromising photos of Princess Margaret, though she was never named. Do you think that story is true?

TERRY: Well, if you were the government or the Queen, you’d be going: “I wanna get them fucking pictures!” And you would probably reach out to… 

I know a friend of mine who is… y’know… a villain. 

And the government have actually said to him: “If you do this, then…” … just like they went to the Mob and asked them to kill Castro. There are things the government can’t do and, if a gangster does it for them, they’ll do him some favours or they’ll overlook things. That’s how the world works.

JOHN: Wasn’t it Lucky Luciano who helped the Americans invade Sicily in the Second World War? Local knowledge and local contacts. Anyway… So what’s next for you?

Terry in his previous incarnation

TERRY: I wrote a book about the club scene (King of Clubs – Sex, Drugs & Thugs) and we have just-about signed a deal with a big TV company to turn it into a TV series. And I’ve just done two documentaries about the birth of drum & bass and the birth of garage music. It’s me and the DJs and the MCs talking about it and how big the brands were. 

I’ve also got a feminist horror film. I’ve got a couple of business partners – Richard Turner and Chris Howard. 

We’re always trying to do something new. We’re developing a lot of TV stuff and animated stuff.

… MORE ON THIS HERE …

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Margaret Thatcher, Queen of gay Soho, and Princess Margaret late of the aisles

The Margaret Thatcher - Queen of Soho poster

Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Edinburgh?

I posted a blog in December last year about the stage show Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho, which next week starts a run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Matt Tedford plays the former British Prime Minister and co-wrote the ‘drag comedy musical extravaganza’ with Jon Brittain.

“The show I saw at Theatre 503 last year was so complicated and so slick with such high production values – it was a fully-realised West End production – the lighting, the sound, the props – I remember thinking: They are never gonna want to take this show to the Edinburgh Fringe because it is so complicated they could never do it up there. Then I realised: Hold on! I’m sitting watching it in an Edinburgh Fringe-type venue here and they’ve done it brilliantly.

“That’s the thing about Jon as a director: props and sound and lighting cues,” Matt Tedford told me this week. “I’ve never known anybody to use so many props. He’s very dedicated. He has a writer’s mind. I faff about a bit. We complement each other very well. I’ve learned so much from him about how writing works. He says: I like the characters to all have an ending.”

Matt Tedford in Soho Theatre this week

Matt at the Soho Theatre this week

Matt studied drama with Jon and (last year’s used-to-be-called-Perrier Best Newcomer Award winner) John Kearns at UEA (the University of East Anglia). Comedian Pat Cahill was in the year above them. But, until Margaret Thatcher, Matt had not performed for five years – not since he graduated from UEA.

“I went into jobs,” he told me.

“Jobs?” I asked.

“Well, I worked for the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. Now that Labour has gone, it’s just called the Department of Education.”

Bizarrely, comedian Gareth Morinan also worked there at around the same time although they seem not to have met.

“And then I worked for an alcohol training company,” Matt said.

“Eh?”

“Training bar staff,” he explained.

“Had you ever been a barman?” I asked.

“No. I used to sit in bars at 11 o’clock in the morning and make them do tests on laptops.”

“So why did they employ you?” I asked.

Matt has arms strong enough for computers

Matt’s strong arms – much in demand in the catering world

“No idea. I think because I have very strong arms and could carry eight laptops at once. Also I have a bit of a schoolmasterish thing about me: No talking! Now I work for an accounting body.”

“Do you know a lot about accountancy?” I asked.

“No.”

“So,” I asked, “after UEA, you were a frustrated thespian?”

“Yes,” said Matt. “Then, two years ago, I went to Jon Brittain’s Hallowe’en party dressed as Margaret Thatcher. Then she died and Theatre 503 asked Jon if he wanted to write a rapid-response piece for their Thatcherwrite night. That was this time last year. And it just spiralled from there.”

“For the last few months,” I said, “I’ve seen posters in the tube for another Maggie show in the West End – Handbagged. Does that mean you’re screwed for a West End run?”

“I think we’re very different types of show,” said Matt. “I’ve not seen Handbagged, but theirs is about Maggie’s relationship with the Queen.”

“Whereas your one is…?”

“About Section 28.”

Putting the hate into Section 28...

Matt & Co put the hate into Section 28…

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

“When I went to see the play,” I said, “I thought it would be a hatchet job on Maggie Thatcher and, in fact, it was a hatchet job on the MP Jill Knight (who ‘introduced’ Section 28 to Parliament). Maggie came out of it OK.”

“We didn’t set out to make Margaret Thatcher likeable,” said Matt, “but, at the end of the play, people come up and (amiably) tell us: You made her a likeable person. I hate you for doing that!

When Jon and I sat down to write a play, I said: The weird thing about Margaret Thatcher is that she has all the makings of a gay icon – the power dressing, the androgynous voice; she’s a strong woman. But, because of Section 28, she’s a very hated figure. If she’d put out an album singing a few Cher songs, she could have made it.”

“She had gays in her Cabinet,” I said, “though, admittedly, they were not out.”

“She actually voted in favour of legalising homosexuality,” said Matt. “The only thing she ever said about homosexuality was that children as young as five were being taught they had an inalienable right to be gay. That was the only thing she said. And then they all clapped at the Party Conference and said: Oh, this is terrible. We need to sort this out.”

An inspiration: Margaret Thatcher

Loveable icon: Margaret Thatcher

“So how come,” I asked, “you sat down, decided to skewer Margaret Thatcher for Section 28 and ended up making her a loveable icon?”

“I don’t know. I don’t like any of her politics at all. But she’s a really interesting character. Every now and then in the show, we’ve had a heckler and it’s just so good to shout them down as Margaret Thatcher.”

“I never want to meet people I admire,” I said. “People who seem admirable turn out to be shits and people who seem awful turn out to be nice.”

“My aunt did meet Margaret Thatcher quite a few times,” said Matt, “and had dinner with her and said she was just crazy.”

“In what way?”

“There was something just a bit unbalanced about her. So focussed on stuff without any human side. I don’t think there was any sort of empathy there. Eleven years at the top, with no-one really around you saying No. A very interesting person. But thank god she died, otherwise I would still be sat working in the office.”

“Why did your aunt meet Margaret Thatcher?” I asked.

“She worked high up in the Civil Service. It wasn’t anything personal. My aunt met people as part of her job. She met Princess Margaret, who would open supermarkets and they’d have to be careful which aisle they walked her down because you couldn’t have her walk past the tobacco or the drink. They would have someone pushing the trolley for her.”

“The thought of Princess Margaret opening supermarkets,” I said, “had never crossed my mind.”

“If they were trying to encourage job creation in an area, they would sometimes wheel out Princess Margaret.”

“Is your aunt still in government?”

“Oh yes. She likes Prince Charles.”

“Anyone who talks to plants is OK with me,” I said. “Did your aunt hate Margaret Thatcher?”

Matthew Tedford as Margaret Thatcher

Matt makes Maggie the gay icon she always deserved to be

“Oh yes,” said Matt. “We’ve always been a very political family. A family of civil servants.

“My parents are very much left wing Socialists, but my granddad is a really staunch Conservative. I used to do the voice just to wind him up.”

“Did he enjoy being wound up?”

“Yeah. He’s very open-minded.”

“Are you going to walk up and down the High Street in Edinburgh in character to publicise the show?” I asked.

“Oh yeah.”

“That sounds dangerous,” I said. “You could get stoned.”

“If I’m lucky,” said Matt. “Actually, I’m going up to Edinburgh in the train dressed as Margaret Thatcher.”

I must have looked surprised.

Matt had a kebab in Soho

Matt/Maggie roamed Soho for a kebab

“Why not?” asked Matt. “I’ve been out in Soho dressed as Margaret Thatcher. I’m not a cross-dresser but, at every opportunity at the Fringe…”

“Three-and-a-half weeks dressed as Margaret Thatcher?” I asked.

“If I have to walk around supermarkets dressed as Margaret Thatcher to publicise the show, I will do it.”

“What’s it like to have people think of you as Margaret Thatcher?”

“People come up and talk to me after the show and it’s almost like therapy for them. People come up and say: I didn’t like you, I didn’t vote for you, but I really enjoyed the show. It’s just weird. In Ireland, they went mad for the fact they could meet me after the show, dressed as Margaret Thatcher, and shake my hand.

“Have you ever been curtsied at?”

“Yes. In Ireland. And people do kiss your hand every now and then, which is weird.”

“After a while,” I said, “the Thatcher voice must do your throat in.”

“Yes it does,” said Matt, “and I have had a lot of conversations with my mother about tights.”

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Other people’s lives & deaths & ills and what you get if you pay someone £5,000

I very rarely remember my dreams, which I think is a pity.

But who needs dreams when there is reality?

I looked at my old e-diary for things which happened on this day in past years.

Here are extracts from three April 6ths…


 1999

This morning, my mother went to the doctor and saw the other GP in the practice. He took her off the sleeping tablets and painkillers prescribed for her by the main GP and gave her 14 days worth of new painkillers. He said he had no idea what was wrong with her, though he easily found the pain spot.

(My mother died on 13th January 2007 from a heart attack;
the pain never stopped)

I got an e-mail from a friend in the US:

Something terrible has happened – massive car crash, involving my sister. Fractured spine, internal bleeding… car turned over, went in a 7 ft ditch, missed many trees, wheel came off, it was dark and there was no-one about except her friend following her in another car. The problem was the wheel bearing.

(My friend’s sister is still alive; she is fine now)


 2001

I went with my parents to hospital to see my father’s consultant. He said there had been two polyps removed during my father’s colonoscopy. The malignant tumour has been confirmed and he will operate on my father on 19th April for £5,000, cutting into the front of his stomach, cutting away the section of bowel where the tumour is and reconnecting the intestine with the bowel because he says that is easier than reconnecting two ends of bowel. My father was sick after his supper yesterday. Today, after an average sized meal at a Little Chef restaurant, he said: “Big meal. Made me awfy tired, but I enjoyed it.”

(My father died on 27th June 2001 of cancer)

 2003


Extract from an e-mail to me from a friend:

My Mum has had a bad week but today was feeling miles better. Except for a very strange thing. According to my Dad, she saw a ghost during the night. Only my mother can do things like that. She woke up suddenly about 3.00am to find a woman leaning over her bed staring at her, with large protruding eyes. My Mum startled her and she backed off then came close again at which point Mum turned to her side to switch on her hearing aid and when she turned back (a matter of seconds) the woman had gone. Mum very painfully got up and went to ask the nurse if anyone had entered the ward. No-one had.

(My friend’s mother is still alive)

The News of the World printed a story today:

PRINCESS’S SEX SECRET

Movie star Richard Harris had sex sessions with Princess Margaret at a lady-in waiting’s home, it was claimed last night. And when Margaret asked his help in destroying sexually explicit photos of her with small-time actor John Bindon, he called in 60s Torture Gang boss Charles Richardson. The gang leader forced Bindon, who was famous for balancing beer mugs  on his manhood, to hand over the pics for £5,000, according to Harris’s pal Robert McKew. “Richard burnt them, then ordered drinks all round,” said McKew.

(Johnny Bindon died 10th October 1993;
Princess Margaret died 9th February 2002;
Richard Harris died 25th October 2002;
Charlie Richardson died 19th September 2012)

So it goes.

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The death of a UK boxer linked to the sadistic murders of prostitutes by serial killer ‘Jack the Stripper’

I missed the 2008 movie The Bank Job when it was released in cinemas, but saw it on TV last night. It is about the 1971 robbery of the safety deposit vault at Lloyds Bank in Baker Street, London, and is allegedly based on a true story that one of the safety deposit boxes contained sex pictures of Princess Margaret (who is oddly never named in the film). Whether it is true or not I have no idea.

But the combination of seeing The Bank Job last night and the sad death of boxer Sir Henry Cooper yesterday reminds me of the story about British boxer Freddie Mills which I have heard for the last fifteen years from unconnected people in both the boxing and crime worlds.

The story is that Freddie Mills, a former World Light Heavyweight boxing champion who appeared in two Carry On films and many TV entertainment shows – he was the Frank Bruno of his day – was also a serial killer nicknamed Jack The Stripper who murdered six or possibly eight prostitutes between 1959 and 1965.

A 1969 novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square was loosely based on the case and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1972 movie Frenzy was loosely adapted from the book.

On 24 July 1965 Freddie Mills was found shot through the right eye in his Citroen car, parked in a cul-de-sac behind his nightclub The Nite Spot in Charing Cross Road, London. He was said to have shot himself inside the car with a .22 fairground rifle borrowed from a friend who ran a shooting gallery. The Coroner’s Court brought in a verdict of suicide. His family never accepted the verdict.

In 1991, Tony Van Den Bergh published Who Killed Freddie Mills? which brought up the Jack the Stripper story.

In 2001, former London crime figure Jimmy Tippett Jnr was reportedly writing a book which claimed Freddie Mills was Jack the Stripper and killed himself because the police were likely to arrest him.

In his 2004 book Fighters, James Morton concluded that Freddie Mills had killed himself because he was depressed and was convinced the Kray Twins were about to kill him.

In 2006, David Seabrook published Jack of Jumps which deduced that Freddie Mills was not Jack the Stripper.

The story I heard in the mid-1990s and over the years from multiple separate sources was that Freddie Mills was Jack the Stripper and – because the worlds of crime and boxing are inextricably intermingled in the UK and there is a crossover between crime and showbiz in Soho – he was known by crime figures to be the killer. It was said that, at the point of sexual climax, he was known to lose control of his violent inner self.

The police did not have enough evidence to arrest him, so those crime figures killed Freddie Mills. The police knew or suspected this was the case but, because of the Jack the Stripper background, did not pursue any investigation; they figured justice had been done. As the Coroner’s Court had decided the death was suicide, there was no need to investigate.

In 1999, I had a chat with Brian J Ford, first British President of the European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations, specifically to ask him about the Freddie Mills ’suicide’ story. Shortly after Freddie Mills’ death in 1965, he had written an article for the Sunday Mirror, pointing out the complete lack of any psychological profile for a suicide.

In a 1965 interview with ITN, boxing promoter Jack Solomons said of Freddie Mills: “He would never accept defeat… I would assume that he had no enemies in the boxing game – what he did outside of that in his after boxing life, that I couldn’t say.”

One very unusual detail in this alleged ‘suicide’ was that Mills had his right eye open when the bullet hit it. Usually, people close their eyes as the trigger is pulled.

Professor David Wingate, resident medical officer at Middlesex Hospital the night Mills’s corpse was brought in, carried out an examination on the body and was convinced that someone had taken the gun off Mills and shot him with it. He was not called to give evidence at the Coroner’s inquest.

Brian J Ford told me he had also looked in detail at the alleged ‘suicide’ weapon and concluded that it was physically impossible for Freddie Mills to shoot himself seated in the back of that type of Citroen in the way that he was shot with a gun which was too long to manipulate through 180 degrees. There were also signs of a violent struggle before the alleged ‘suicide’ took place in the back seat. Brian did not go for the Jack The Stripper angle and just believed Mills, as a boxer, was involved with criminal types who shot him for unknown reasons.

But the story refuses to go away.

I heard it again last year.

It may be an urban myth.

It may be the truth.

That’s the ironic thing about the real world. You can never be absolutely certain what’s true and what’s not.

There is a BBC TV documentary about Freddie Mills here on YouTube in which Scotland Yard’s ‘Nipper’ Read, who investigated the case, says he believes Freddie Mills killed himself, but Mills’ family still dispute the ’suicide’ verdict; towards the end, there is also a reconstruction of how not to shoot yourself in the head with a fairground rifle in the back seat of a Citroen.

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