Tag Archives: racing

Advice on four ways to make money illegally in movies and sport

No 1: Become a movie producer

This morning, I was reading an old interview with famed Hollywood scriptwriter Tom Mankiewicz, in which he mentioned big-budget movie producer Alexander Salkind, one of whose productions was the 1978 Superman film starring Christopher Reeve, which Mankiewicz scripted.

If you make a big-budget international movie, you have a perfect excuse to move money, people and odd pieces of complicated props and machinery with space in which to hide things backwards-and-forwards between countries without arousing suspicion.

Salkind was a rather dodgy character who occasionally came to the attention of the authorities. I vaguely remember him once getting arrested by police – I think for fraud – and unexpectedly producing a diplomatic passport, which gave him immunity from prosecution. My memory is that it was a Panamanian diplomatic passport, but Tom Mankiewicz says Salkind, in fact, paid the government of Costa Rica to secretly make him their cultural attaché to Switzerland. This would give him, he thought, total diplomatic immunity.

But the scam did not work 100%, according to Mankiewicz. In the United States, where there was a warrant out for his arrest, the FBI said: “I’m sorry, cultural attaché from Costa Rica to Switzerland doesn’t cut it with us. That’s not a diplomatic passport as far as we’re concerned.”

Which is why Salkind did not and could not ever show up for any of his movie openings in the US.

Who knows what was happening to the money Salkind was moving from country to country in large amounts?

But it reminded me of three sporting scams which worked… mostly.

No 2: Hide the drugs inside something very high profile

I was told that one particularly creative heroin smuggling gang managed to get a man working inside the team of a Formula 1 World Champion. The heroin was transported from country to country inside the World Champion’s racing car (without his knowledge). After all, which brave Customs man is going to dismantle the World Champion’s hi-tech racing car to search for drugs?

Perhaps small scale for heroin smuggling, but it worked.

No 3: Steal money from people who are taking bribes

I was once also told the true story of a top British champion jockey (now dead) who was being paid to lose races (to help a betting scam). Obviously, he received the money in cash and, to avoid ‘misunderstandings’, he got it at the racecourse immediately after the race. On one occasion, he was paid for losing a race, then had to be helicoptered elsewhere for another high-profile race before being returned to the first racecourse. So he left the money (several thousand pounds) in the boot of his car.

A criminal who heard about this arrangement, simply stole the money from the boot while the jockey was away. When he returned, it was assumed by the jockey to be a random car theft and, of course, the theft of the bribe could not be reported to the police as a crime.

As near to a perfect crime as you can get.

No 4: Go to the dogs

On an even more admirably creative level, a British comedian with criminal links in his past told me a story about the ‘wrong’ dog coming round the final bend at Romford Stadium and someone throwing four footballs onto the track in front of the dogs to cause chaos and get the race abandoned.

The late comedian Malcolm Hardee, inevitably, topped this story by telling me he had once shared a prison cell with a man nicknamed ‘Teddy Bear’. This odd nickname came about because the man had been paid to stand by the rail at various stadiums around the UK and, if the ‘wrong’ dog was winning, he would throw a teddy bear onto the track. The dogs then went crazy and tore it apart, stopping the race. “His great talent,” explained Malcolm, “was that he could run very fast after he had thrown the teddy bear.”

I can only presume that, on one occasion, he failed to do this fast enough.

Crime does not always pay.

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Comedian Charlie Chuck gets on his bike and pulls a girl with kneepads

I got an excited call from Charlie Chuck yesterday.

“Have you seen the film Rollerball?” he asked me.

“Yup,” I replied. “The original one.”

“I were in this thing called Rollerburn on Saturday at Newark Showground with big bikes. It were 46 year ago the last time I rode a motorbike. I used to have a 650 Norton. This one were a big bike; I don’t know what it were but it were big.”

“What did it involve?” I asked.

“I knew about it ages ago,” he told me. “but I didn’t know exactly what it was. It were obviously something big, really big and they’re going to do it in Paris next time.

“When I got there, I did me routine: I hobbled on and wrecked me drum kit and all that and then they lined me up – still in character – me and these two other blokes – to race and they all had their leathers on and their helmets on but I just had me suit on and me hair up.

“I thought it were exhilarating, I thought it were absolutely brilliant. The best thing I’ve done in years.”

“How did you get it?” I asked

“This bloke who used to be Frank Sidebottom’s base player. Now he does this.”

“How did he know you could ride a motor bike?

“He didn’t.”

“He must have been relieved.”

“He were over the moon when I told him. I did an hour and a half rehearsal at Leicester racetrack.

“There were a girl fell over. She were being pulled by another bike in front of me and I didn’t run her over but I were cracking on like I were going to go straight into her.”

“A girl was being pulled along behind a bike?” I asked.

“There were these three bikes and we set off with three girls on rollerskates holding onto bars at the back of the bikes. The girls were all padded-up like in Rollerball.

“They put a string round me wrist. That way, if I fell off, it would cut the engine out. And I were in character as Chuck. And I were crying because they’d tied me to the bike and the machines were taking over. I were really playing it up.

“I rode straight out the building and the girl let go.”

Charlie Chuck leads an interesting life.

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True tales from the Comedians’ Cricket Match?

Apparently, during filming of the new movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, author John Le Carré was phoned up and a key line was added. It was during a scene in which new information was assessed and the line was:

“Patently a fabrication from beginning to end. Just could be the real thing.”

I have found that the more unlikely a story, the more likely it is to be true. When comedian say something likely, it is often made up; when they say something too OTT to be true… it is often a toning-down of a far more OTT truth.

Yesterday, I was at the comedians’ annual cricket match against the locals at Staplefield in West Sussex. It seems to be held every six months.

Cricket is possibly the dullest game ever invented. But you certainly meet some interesting people and hear some interesting stories at the comedians’ cricket match.

While theoretically watching, I got talking to a retired fireman who used to work in Slough. He told me that, occasionally, he would cycle into work to Slough from Staplefield, a journey of 54 miles. It would take him three hours but keep him fit. And he once cycled from Slough to Northampton and back – a 140 mile round trip – to see a girlfriend.

Clearly Staplefield harbours some hardy people.

One comedian at the match told me about not appearing on the Sky TV talent show Don’t Stop Me Now in which contestants are ejected in various odd ways including being jerked up into the air by a rope or wire or dropped through a trapdoor.

The comic in question was told he could not use the word “Nazis” in his routine because “people might be offended”. Not offended by the routine or the gag, which was inoffensive, but by any use of the word “Nazis” in any sentence. Another problem was that he turned out to be too heavy for either the rope or the trapdoor. Sky did not use him on the show.

Another comic (and it is fairly obvious to other comics who this is) told me that, in horse racing, there had been a fad a few years ago – if a fellow jockey was asleep – to drop either snot or sperm onto the unconscious person’s closed eyes.

“Snot and sperm,” I was told, “are both at body temperature, so the person doesn’t wake up. But, when they do, they find their eyelids are stuck together for a little bit and they think they are blind… How we used to laugh!”

This story vies with another for most bizarre story of yesterday.

I heard the other story at local pub the Victory Inn from a guy of about 30 who claimed he had been in the Army and had been in Afghanistan. His tour over there is not actually relevant, but I mentioned to him the story I have blogged about before of the Irish Republican sympathiser who was put unconscious on a plane to New York.

The story I was told yesterday was a tale of a personal dispute between a couple of Army men and a non-Army person who had screwed them out of money. When the money could not be recovered, they removed him from his house one night, drugged him so he was unconscious, put him in a container lorry, drove it to the Balkans to a place they knew in a forest on a remote hillside miles from any town or village. They stripped him, gave him a tab of LSD and left him there on the hillside, naked and presuming he was still in the UK.

“What happened to him?” I asked.

“I’ve got no idea,” the man in the pub told me. “Not interested.”

He shrugged his shoulders.

The story seems unlikely but, perhaps because of that, it has the ring of truth about it.

Who can tell betwixt reality and fantasy, especially if you find yourself naked and alone on a hillside where any locals you meet will be speaking in an unknown language.

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