Tag Archives: Spain

“All the London casinos were crooked” – gangsters, gambling and bullfighting

Micky Fawcett (left) with Michael at the May Fair hotel in 2014

“So how did your son Michael become a bullfighter in Spain?” I asked former Krays associate Micky Fawcett in the bar of the May Fair Hotel in London last week.

“Well, in the late 1970s,” Micky told me, “I was having a bit of trouble with the gendarmes in London so, around Christmastime, I got in a car to Spain with Michael, his mother and his mother’s sister. We got a flat out there. I had been in Spain before – with Billy Hill.”

“Why were you with Billy Hill?” I asked.

“He wanted to see me because he had pulled that masterstroke which I mention in the book.”

Micky’s autobiographical memoir Krayzy Days goes way beyond his days with the Kray Twins, Ronnie and Reggie.

Young Micky Fawcett (left) with Reggie Kray & Reggie’s wife

“I was out with Reggie in Mayfair one night,” Micky told me, “and we went to go in the 21 Club in Chesterfield Gardens and they wouldn’t let us in, so Reggie chinned the doorman and we went off to the Astor Club in a bad mood. The Astor was in an alley behind where we’re sitting now.

“Reggie owed lots of money in income tax at the time. He had just given me Esmerelda’s Barn (a Knightsbridge club) and said: You take it over. I dunno if you can do anything with it. Sell it to someone or something.

“And, down at the Astor, we saw this guy called Murphy. He was a rick.”

“A rick?” I asked.

“He sits in at the game in a casino but he’s working for the house. Cheating. All the cards are marked. And Reggie said to this guy: You might be able to do something with Mick here. And the guy said: I don’t do anything without I contact The Old Professor.”

“The Old Professor?” I asked.

“Billy Hill,” said Micky. “Anyway, Reggie was furious. It was another knock back to him that night. So we went in the office at The Astor and Reggie phoned Billy Hill and said: Listen. We’ve got somebody here who says he can’t do any business with us unless he gets the OK from you.

“And Bill said: Bring him round straight away.

“So we threw the guy in the car and took him round and Bill told the guy: Get in the kitchen, you. I’ll deal with you in a minute. Then Bill said to Reggie: Can I just throw him out? For old times, sake, eh, Reg?

Billy Hill at home. (Photo: Krayzy Days)

“And Reggie said: No, he’s going in the River.

“And Bill said: No, Reg, think about it. This will be the last place he’s ever been seen. Just for old times sake, eh? I’ll just throw him out.

“So Reggie said: Go on, then.

“And Bill went in the kitchen. A bit of noise. – Oh! Agh! Ugh! Ah! – All over the top. And Hillsy came out and said: I just kicked him up the arse and threw him out. Here you are Reg. And he gave Reggie a brown envelope. Wot’s this? says Reggie.

There’s a monkey in there, said Hillsy.”

“£500?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Micky. “And Billy told Reggie: It’s a gift. It ain’t nothing. We’ll be friends.

“So Reggie said: OK. And he took it because he didn’t have any money at all. He was skint.

“Anyway, about 48 hours later, I’m round Vallance Road (where the Krays lived) and Hillsy phones up. He says: Reg, I’ve got a problem. Can you get me some help?

“So Reggie gets a few of the more fierce-looking characters around. He didn’t give me nothing. I’d had nothing out of the £500. He said to me: Mick, you stay here and man the phone in case anything goes wrong. And away they go.

“A couple of hours later, he comes back and he ain’t saying very much. Eventually, I ask him what happened and he says: It was a false alarm, really. He was up there playing cards with some of his mates – the waiters out of the local restaurant. Foreigners.”

“So what was the problem?” I asked.

Teddy Machin (Photograph from Krayzy Days)

“Well, I’m going to tell you,” said Micky. “I tell Teddy Machin about it and he tells Hillsy who says: Oh yeah. I know Mick. He came round here with Reggie. Bring him out here. I’d like to meet him. He was in Spain by then. He used to be back and forward to Spain. He used to get about. He’d been to South Africa. So I got on the plane and went out to Spain.

“And it turned out they hadn’t been waiters. They had been alarmed at the Twins moving in to the 21 Club and chinning the doorman.

“The 21 Club was one of the top casinos in the country. They were a bit concerned cos they were running the gambling in London. Someone wrote a book about it. (The Hustlers: Gambling, Greed and The Perfect Con and there was a 2009 TV documentary titled The Real Casino Royale and a Daily Telegraph article.) One of their customers was George Osborne’s uncle.”

“The recent Chancellor of the Exchequer?”

“Yeah. At Aspinall’s, above the Clermont Club, just round the corner from here. They was all crooked. At some point, Billy Hill had said to John Aspinall: You can either blow the whistle and ruin your business or you can include us in it. And Aspinall said: Well, I’ve got no choice, have I? You’re in it.

More on the Unione Corse in the book

“The ‘waiters’ who were with Billy Hill when Reggie went round were the Unione Corse who were running the gambling in Mayfair.”

“They were running all the casinos?”

“Yeah. All the casinos were crooked, near enough. They had a system where they could mark the cards. I don’t know how. Nobody did. But they did. And Billy Hill did.

“So, when I went out to Spain, he told me all the story about how it was the Unione Corse. He wined me and dined me a bit. He took me to the Marbella Club and he said: Come over to Tangier. He had a club there as well and they were in Tangier as well. So I went there with him. Boulevard Hassan II was his address there.

“Anyway, that’s how I got the flavour for Spain. And, when I was in Spain, he took me to bullfights.”

“So,” I asked, “when you later went out to Spain with your son Michael and his mother, how old was Michael?”

Micky Fawcett chatted in Mayfair last week

“Nine. And I said to Michael: I’ll take you to a bullfight. And we did. Then, a few days later, we were on the beach and Michael was messing around with the muleta – the red flag – and he’s playing bullfighters.

“And the fellah who had the concession for that part of the beach was an ex-bullfighter who fought as El Solo. He introduced Michael to other bullfighters. All of a sudden, we were catapulted right into the middle of that sort of thing. The man who ran the bullring had been written about by Hemingway.

“So they have to test the little baby bulls and they see which ones are brave. And Michael was just playing at fighting with the little bulls.”

“There was,” I asked, “no sticking swords or anything else into them?”

“Oh no, no,” said Micky. “Baby bulls. But, while we were there, doing all that, an English woman who was a journalist started making enquiries about Michael and, next thing you know, there’s a picture of Michael in the bullfighting magazine El Ruedo with writing underneath in Spanish all about him. He was 10 years old by then.

“And I didn’t know at the time, but it was also in the Evening Standard in London. So there I am out in Spain trying to keep a low profile and Michael’s got a big picture and article in the big bullfighting magazine and in the Evening Standard back in London – and it was even in the local paper The Stratford Express.”

Young Michael Fawcett got publicity

“He must have been proud,” I said, “aged ten.”

“Nah,” said Micky. “He didn’t care. He said: Oh no! It’ll spoil my image! Cos he was into music.”

“How long did this go on for?” I asked.

“A few months, I suppose. What happened was I then ran out of money.”

“So you had to come back to Britain?”

“Well, no. Not quite.”

“Is this,” I asked, “when you ended up in jail in Belgium or somewhere?”

“Worse,” said Micky.

 

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Filed under Crime, gambling

Where do comedians get their ideas from? And are they all mad or do their lives thrust madness upon them?

Towards the end of the recent Edinburgh Fringe, Scots comedian Billy Watson did a handful of unbilled gigs in an out-of-the-way pub.

This is what he explained at the very start of his hour-long show.


Billy Watson at last month’s Edinburgh Fringe

Billy Watson at last month’s Edinburgh Fringe

I was married to a Turkish lady and she, basically, had a series of mental breakdowns over the course of twelve years – because she was married to me, basically. Trying to make that shit funny isn’t easy. How do I turn that into a comedy show? It was a challenge.

I gave her acid.

The relationship wasn’t working too well and I gave her some LSD and then, three days later, she just went completely… I came home from work at 7 o’clock in the morning and she was completely out to lunch.

She started speaking in tongues. She’s going Argwahburgh! Speaking in tongues. So I think: What’s the fuck’s going on here? and I go to the policeman and says: Help me! Help me! The policeman told me to piss off.

Policemen are supposed to help society. He just ignored me.

After two days of this crazy woman – completely out to lunch – I got her to the doctor’s and the doctor was saying: Right, we’d better get an ambulance here – and she jumped out of the doctor’s window. Fortunately, it was on the first floor. But I grabbed her and she was that strong she dragged me out the window too, pulling my trousers down to my ankles.

I fall on the other side of this window. She starts to run. I start chasing after her and the doctor starts chasing. It was like a scene from Benny Hill. He grabs her; I pull her down to the ground. The medical staff turn up and they get this syringe of something, inject it in her leg and it makes her totally zonked. I was trying to get the name of it from the bottles. I thought: I could do with some of that myself.

They put her in a mental ward in Falkirk. She got sectioned for two weeks. That was the first one. Then, every eight months, something would trigger it off and I’d have police at the door.

Basically, we had all these break-ups, right? Because being married to me isn’t easy, right? And we had temporary break-ups. One time she went to Turkey and I thought that was the relationship finished, but she came back and said: I really love ya. God knows why. She wanted us to have a baby to try to save the marriage.

I should have known having a child with a psychotic patient was not the wisest idea.

So, when the baby started to grow inside her, I had to say I thought it would be a good idea to go and be a hotel entertainer in Majorca. I left her and went to Majorca to train as a dancer in Grease – I was 34. For six weeks, I performed in Grease. I was John Travolta at one point. It was awesome.

But she came out there after six weeks. She packed up the house to rent it out to have the baby in Spain but, after a week, she had another mental breakdown.

So I didn’t go in to work that night because I had something to deal with – I got her to hospital.

This is funny, isn’t it? This mental shit was good.

Billy at The Grouchy Club last month

Billy Watson at The Grouchy Club last month

I got her to hospital and then, the next day, when I went in for work, the woman – the boss of the hotel – says: Why didn’t you come in to work last night?

Well, my wife had a mental breakdown. I had something to deal with.

The boss, she says to me: Oh, I think you are finished.

I got a major red eye; tears were pouring down my face. My bottom lip was trembling: My wife’s in hospital.

She said: I’ve got a hotel to run here.

I said: Well thanks for your boundless compassion.

She’s just sacked me. I’ve got red eye. Then she says to me: By the way, for the rest of today, can you take the Killer Darts? This game. The fucking Killer Darts.

I said: Aye. I’ll take the Killer Darts. Here, you hold the fucking board. We’ll start with the eyes closing. Whoever throws the killer dart wins.

Basically, I didn’t go to work for the next six months. I had to hang around Majorca while my wife had the baby there. Then, six weeks after having the child, she had another breakdown, right? I grabbed the baby off her. There’s this guy at the door saying: What’s going on there? I say: Phone an ambulance! Phone an ambulance!

This ambulance comes, takes her to hospital again and I’m left with a six-week old baby in Spain and I know nothing about babies. I’ve got to try and look after that child for a week while she was in mental hospital.

This woman who rented me the apartment got some of her friends and came to see me and I just cried and said Why did I bring my schizophrenic wife to have a baby in Spain?

(At this point, a member of the audience interrupted Billy and asked: “Did you know she was schizophrenic when you dropped her some Acid?”)

No, but…

(“Well, it was the acid,” said the man in the audience.)

That… You would… Maybe, you see…

(“The kind of causation ends with you,” said the man in the audience.)

That’s why I probably stuck with the marriage for fourteen years, to be honest with you. I felt guilty.

Billy Watson at The Grouchy Club last month

Billy Watson at The Grouchy Club last month

But, after that, right, listen to this… She has had the baby. She has had a caesarean. And now I’m looking after the child. Then, after that, she was having a check-up for the caesarean. The pediatrician – or whatever the doctor’s called that deals with that part – he tests her and discovers she has cancer.

She’s got lymphoma, so we had to go back to Turkey, where she had an operation to take out the cancer, but she wanted to go back to Scotland to see what the doctors there said.

So we took her and her mother – who doesn’t speak English – back to Scotland and she got chemotherapy and all her hair fell out and I was working in a call centre and that was pretty bad.

So we decided to go back to Turkey and after about a year there I got a job as an estate agent and, after two weeks of me working, she had another mental breakdown.

At one point, she decided to jump out a fourth floor window. She was going mental, right? Basically, her dad wouldn’t take her to hospital for three nights. One night she had this purse on round her shoulder and she wouldn’t take it off: a very small purse. But then the next day, when the medical people eventually came… Remember, every time she sees the medical people, she runs away… I realise – Fuck! The window of the kitchen is open! She runs past me, heading straight towards the window. I grabbed the strap of the purse she had refused to take off… I grabbed that, pulled it, pulled her to the ground… another injection in the leg.

Afterwards I thought maybe I could have done something differently because, if she had jumped, about 50 of my problems would have disappeared just like that. Though probably it would have created 100 new ones.

The thing was we got her to hospital that day and this big, new, huge hospital said they didn’t have a bed for her. The ambulance people just dropped her off, then the psychologist people wouldn’t take her in and wouldn’t even explain to me what the situation was because she didn’t speak perfect English. Turkish people are a bit embarrassed if they’re not perfect.

The doctor said to me: Ask your father-in-law.

I said: He doesn’t speak English.

Anyway, they refused to take her and made us go to this other hospital out in the sticks.

Billy Watson (left) & Mr Townkey (right) (Photograph by Kate Copstick, courtesy of Billy Watson)

Billy Watson (left) with me and Mr Townkey (right) (Photograph by Kate Copstick, courtesy of Billy Watson)

We get there. I think: Great. I’ve done my job. She’s saved. She’s gonna be locked up.

I get a call two days later. She had escaped from the hospital, jumped into this big thing, broke her back and busted her leg all up, right? She still walks with a limp.

After that, I said: I don’t think this relationship’s doing either of us any good. Moreso you. So that’s why I ended up getting divorced. It wasn’t going too well.

Is this comedy gold??


Two days after this gig in Edinburgh, Billy Watson returned to Turkey where, as I understand it, he intends to stay.

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Filed under Comedy, Marriage, Mental health, Mental illness, Scotland, Spain, Turkey

I don’t care who my dead relatives were, but comedian Charmian Hughes does

My parents after their wedding

My parents after their wedding

My mother was born with only one hand. Her brother died of pneumonia when he was, I think, around 16 and she was around 11. She had no other brothers and sisters.

When he was in his early teens, my father ran away from home to join the Navy. But he was too young and they rejected him.

Eventually, he joined the Royal Navy when he was 16 in 1936, just in time for the Spanish Civil War in which British forces were not involved – although his ship dropped men off the Spanish coast late at night for reasons he was never told.

In the 1950s, he got tuberculosis and had to go into a sanatorium for a while.

My mother’s father, was a joiner and carpenter. He lived with us after he had a stroke.

My father’s father was a Merchant Navy captain

My father’s father was a Merchant Navy captain

My father’s father, was a ship’s captain. He died when my father was aged about three, so I never knew him.

Beyond my parents and grandparents, though, I’m not really interested in who my ancestors were. They’re in the past.

As far as I know, I am not in any way related to either Sir Alexander Fleming or Ian Fleming – therefore I am not due any money from penicillin or the James Bond books – and so I don’t much care what happened to unknown members of my family in the past.

About 20 years ago, some Canadian members of my Fleming family – whose existence we knew nothing about – tracked down my father and his sister in England. These Canadian Fleming’s were creating a family tree which they later sent to us. There was a surprising number of men in the family – about 3 or 4 – who died as a result of falling into the holds of ships – presumably while very drunk.

Arguably, other people have more interesting members of their families.

Charmian inherited her Victorian relative’s chest

Charmian inherited her relative’s chest

Last night, I went to see Charmian Hughes perform a rough run-through to an audience of six in her kitchen of her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe comedy show Raj Rage, about her trip to India to find out what happened to one of her female forbears caught up in the Indian Mutiny.

It’s a cracker of a story and I would not want to give away the twists and turns, but Charmian has more than one bizarre forbear in her family.

On the wall of the stairs at her home is a portrait of a distinguished-looking, uniformed man.

Charmian’s distinguished grandfather

Charmian’s distinguished grandfather

“That’s my grandfather,” Charmian told me. “My father’s father. He was Irish and was Postmaster General of India for about a week. He was supposed to be from Dublin, but you can’t find him anywhere if you try to look up records of his past. I think he re-invented himself. I don’t know why.

“And this oval portrait,” she said, “is either my mother’s great grandfather or her grandfather. My mother told me he was at medical school and, because he wanted to marry a woman his parents didn’t approve of, they refused to finish paying his fees so, my mother told me, he became what she called That other thing when you don’t qualify as a doctor.

Charmian’s less-distinuished relative

Charmian’s rather less-distinuished relative

“I asked my mother: What do you mean? A nurse?

Don’t be stupid! she told me. “Men aren’t nurses!

A physiotherapist? I asked.

No, no, my mother told me. You know… When girls don’t want to have their babies.

“He was a back-street abortionist when abortion was illegal. Women paid him with their jewellery. He lived in Cricklewood. They all lived in Cricklewood. The ten brothers and sisters all lived in neighbouring streets. I think he was the one who drank himself to death and, as a result, my grandparents didn’t have a drop of drink in the house.”

Charmian also pointed out to me an ornate carved hat stand in her hallway.

A hat stand nicked from the Russians?

Hat stand nicked from the Russians by Charmian’s granddad?

“My mother’s father,” she explained, “was a mercenary who went to Russia during the Civil War between the White and Red Russians after the Bolshevik Revolution and he came back with… well… with stuff. I think he was on the White side. Then he lived in Hertfordshire and he was a travelling salesman for a building materials company.”

Interesting.

Even fascinating.

And it is a very nice hat stand.

But I still have no interest in my own family background.

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Filed under Nostalgia, Russia, Spain

UK comedian Sarah Hendrickx setting off on a 800 mile cycle ride having only previously ever cycled for 38 miles

SarahHendrickxBlog

Sarah in Spain 12 years ago, when it all went wrong for her

“So just to check,” I said to comedian Sarah Hendrickx on Skype yesterday. “You’ve gone mad. On Monday, you’re going to start cycling 800 miles to Barcelona and you’ve never done anything like this before. You could go by train but, no, you’re going to cycle.”

“That wouldn’t be quite such an adventure,” Sarah explained. “That’s not so much of a personal, physical and mental challenge.”

“So remind me why you’re going…?”

“It was about the terrible thing that you blogged about,” said Sarah, “when I got stuck up the Sagrada Família in Barcelona and ended up going a bit mental and getting agoraphobia. So this is me going back to sort it all out and become a brave person.”

“And you’ve never done anything like this cycling before?” I asked Sarah.

“Oh, absolutely not,” she said. “I’ve never even slept in a tent before. I put the tent up in my back garden to try it out a few weeks ago, but I was too frightened to sleep in it.”

“This was in your back garden in Worthing?” I checked.

“Yes,” confirmed Sarah. “Ten yards from my own back door. The trip to Barcelona is going to be quite a challenge.”

“Have you been testing your legs,” I asked, “so you’re sure you really can cycle for 800 miles?”

“Noooo!” said Sarah. “I’ve been extraordinarily lazy… The weather’s been crappy and… no… I… erm… I’ve been working away from home a lot and the weather’s been shit and I’ve been lazy and… No…Not in any way or shape or form have I prepared for this. I went out once for a bike ride… Oh! And I also cycled to the beach, about a mile away from my home and had a cup of coffee and a cake.”

“So what’s the furthest you’ve ever ridden?” I asked.

“38 miles,” replied Sarah. “Once. In Oxfordshire. It was very sunny. And flat.”

“How much do you intend to ride every day?” I asked.

“I’ll have to do at least 50 miles a day for at least 16 days,” explained Sarah, “so, by Day Three, there are going to be children in campsites going: Maman! What is zee matter with zat lady? She appears to be paralysed from head to toe and unable to put her tent away!

“The main question,” I said to Sarah. “My main question is: Why? Just Why?

Sarah Hendrickx ponders her cycle of life on Skype yesterday

Sarah Hendrickx ponders her cycle of life on Skype yesterday

“Last year,” explained Sarah, “I went to this thing called The Adventure Travel Film Festival and there were all these absolute nutcases who had canoed down the Congo and suchlike on their own.

“None of yer Bear Grylles support vehicles. Just individual people who had headed off alone to do this mental stuff. And I was inspired by this. But I’m not brave enough to go down the Congo in a boat.

“So my slightly more sedate adventure is to cycle across France back to this place in Barcelona where things all went a bit wrong for me 12 years ago.”

“So the furthest you’ve ever cycled,” I re-checked, “was 38 miles in…”

“In Oxfordshire,” Sarah interrupted. “It was very flat. I’m allergic to hills. I don’t think there are any in France, so I think it’s going to be fine. And it’s all downhill to the Mediterranean, surely?”

“Do the words Pyrenees Mountains mean anything to you?” I asked.

“I think I might go round the edge of them,” Sarah told me.

“Can you?” I asked. “You can out-flank them?”

“I don’t know!” laughed Sarah. “By the time I get that far, I’ll either be dead or I won’t care! “

“When are you back in the UK?” I asked.

“I’ve got a flight booked home from Barcelona on Sunday the 16th of June.”

“So how long are you going to be in hospital in Barcelona?” I asked.

“The food’s gotta be better than it will be on the trip,” laughed Sarah. “Though I have been thinking of just hiding in my house for three weeks and randomly sending Tweets as if from France and Spain.”

“You’ll be doing things on your Twitter @sarah_hendrickx?”

“Possibly. And I’ve been doing a few little blog posts in preparation for it.”

“What’s your blog called?”

A Bird on a Bike.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “Are you raising money on this? You should be doing a charity thing.”

“No,” said Sarah. “If people want to give money to charity, they can just do that anyway without the excuse of me having to go and half-kill myself.”

Sarah preparing for her Edinburgh Fringe show

Sarah preparing for Edinburgh Fringe show Time Traveller

“But,” I asked, “ultimately all this is going to end up in your jaw-dropping and jolly jape-filled Edinburgh Fringe show Time Traveller in August?”

“It will,” said Sarah.

“Does your Edinburgh venue have wheelchair access in case anything goes wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“What do your two children think about it?”

“They’re both grown up. They’re not worried about the physical challenge. It’s more my mental well-being: the fear that mother will go even more mad. I think the fact I can’t cycle that far is almost a done deal. They’re more worried by Do you think she’ll be OK out there on her own?

“I’ve never been anywhere for three weeks on my own. I think most people haven’t. Not without anybody. No structure. No plan apart from just to keep going. No-one to talk to. No-one there. That’s something I’ve never experienced for that length of time.”

“Can you speak French or Spanish?” I asked.

“I can speak a bit of French, though probably not the kind of French vocabulary I will need, which involves punctures and mental illness.”

“What happens if you really don’t make it? If you get stuck halfway?”

“I don’t mind. It’s the sense of adventure and what happens along the way that’s the point of it, really. If it becomes completely undo-able – physically or because it pisses with rain – I shall just dump the bike in a hedge and get a train and that will then be part of what the Edinburgh show’s about. It’s not about me finishing. It’s about me going for it and having a crack. People don’t push themselves out of their comfort zone. I want to. What could possibly go wrong?”

“Have the two words Cannibal Frenchmen ever crossed your mind?” I asked.

“A tough old bird like me?” said Sarah, “Anyway, I’ll be road kill by the time I meet any.”

“Are you going to be sending me regular updates?”

“Certainly,” said Sarah.

“You can Skype me,” I said.

“Then you’ll be able to see me crying in real time,” said Sarah. “I have a solar-powered phone charger. I’m hoping for some sunshine.”

“Normally,” I told Sarah, “I would say Break a leg, but that’s probably not a good thing to say. Lots of people do far more adventurous things than this, but they’re probably a bit more prepared. If Ranulph Fiennes were to do this, it would not be very impressive. But, if you do it, it’s bloody impressive because your adventure threshold starting point is lower.”

Sarah Hendrickx is not sad any more

Sarah Hendrickx has a message for you

“I have prepared a little,” said Sarah. “I’ve been reading this morning about how long your pubic hair should be to avoid pulling, chaffing and all sorts of unpleasantness. There’s all sorts of medical things you need to know if your backside is going to be on a saddle for 800 miles over 16 days. There’s all sorts of things you really wouldn’t want to know about, John.”

“The pubic hair detail is already more than I wanted to know,” I told her.

“Well,’ said Sarah proudly, “that’s the sort of preparation I HAVE been doing instead of going cycling.”

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Filed under Bicycles, Comedy, France, Spain, UK

The link between gangland Edinburgh and “The Sex Life of a Comedian”

Comedy performer Dave Thompson has been telling me more about his new novel The Sex Life of a Comedian, which I blogged about yesterday. Dave famously got fired as Tinky Winky in the TV series Teletubbies because, after a lengthy period playing the iconic purple creature, it was suddenly said his “interpretation of the role had not been accepted”.

The plot of his novel involves a stand-up comedian on the UK circuit who gets a job wearing a blue furry costume in a world-famous television show but then gets fired. The story involves drug-fuelled celebrity sex romps, the Mafia and wild parties aboard luxury yachts.

Dave tells me: “Although the novel is fictitious, I’ve drawn from the landscape I’ve worked in and mixed real events with made-up ones. That’s why one of the main characters is a promoter from Edinburgh with gangland connections.”

So I was particularly interested to hear more about the section of the book in which the central character, at a celebrity sex party, accidentally spurts on a member of the mafia…

“Well, yes,” Dave tells me. “I have done gigs overseas for promoters who were organised criminals. In one country which shall remain nameless, I found myself working for comedy promoters connected to the IRA.

“The local mafia had tried to extort protection money from them, but found themselves up against IRA tactics. The mafiosi came round to ‘teach the promoters a lesson’ for not paying them protection money, but the IRA guys beat up the mafia guys with baseball bats and threatened far worse if they ever came back. The beating was so severe the mafia left them alone after that.

“I had a great gig that night and, after the show, there was a party in the nightclub where the gig was held. I had some business to sort out with one of the promoters and we went back to my hotel room to do this. He and I hit it off and had a convivial chat and a drink from my mini-bar. When we returned to the party, people who knew the promoter looked very anxious.

“As soon as I was separated from the promoter, I was asked if I was okay. I said I was fine and didn’t understand why they were so concerned. It turned out that the man I’d invited to my room was notorious for his temper and they thought we were gone so long because I’d offended him and he was beating me up.

“There’s a lot more about their criminal activity that I can’t talk about because they could recognise themselves and I might end up like the mafiosi who annoyed them.

“I think there’s a mutual attraction between organised crime and show business – each lends glamour to the other.

“At the height of their power, the Kray Twins used to hang out with celebrities in the West End of London and Barbara Windsor was married to East End villain Ronnie Knight, who was jailed for his part in the £6 million Security Express robbery in 1983.

“He escaped and whilst he was on the run in the Costa Del Sol, taking advantage of the lack of an extradition treaty between Britain and Spain, he owned a nightclub called ‘Club R Knights’.

“I was invited to the opening night party and met Ronnie. He was very pleasant and pulled me a pint of lager. Barbara Windsor had already left him because she couldn’t stand the Spanish heat and he had another blonde partner, who looked very similar to Barbara Windsor. I had a long conversation with her and was impressed by how well-read she was.

“I had been invited to the party because of my girlfriend at the time – a pretty blonde actress and singer who appeared in West End musicals. Her mother and stepfather owned a villa near Fuengirola on the Costa Del Sol. The stepfather was from Essex, had a huge black Rottweiler and was a friend of Ronnie Knight’s. He took us to lots of parties thrown by ‘geezers from Essex’.

“We were warned never to ask anyone what they did for a living as this was contrary to etiquette. The stepfather told me that, whenever I took my girlfriend to a restaurant, I should tell them he had sent us. That way, we got the best table, free drinks and the meal was be less than the menu price.

“One evening we were relaxing by her mother and stepfather’s pool and the English language radio station was running a phone-in competition for couples in love. The stepfather told me to phone in and mention his name and, immediately, my request was played on the radio and we won a bottle of champagne.

“I never saw the bottle of champagne because, soon after we got back, the girl dumped me in favour of a criminal, who subsequently beat her up.

“That relationship is long over but she and I are still good friends. Years later we posed naked together for the News of the World.  One of the characters in the novel is partly based on her.

“As for Ronnie, the News of The World later paid him £45,000 to stage-manage his return to Britain, so he could see his mum before she died.  He was arrested and sentenced to another seven years in prison.”

Dave also tells me:

“I’ve checked the sales figures on the book again and it’s looking very encouraging!”

I am not surprised.

You can buy The Sex Life of a Comedian here.

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Walking the plank, ten years of comedy awards and cataract operations

Yesterday afternoon, I went to Gordon ‘Bres’ Breslin’s annual get-together for former hecklers at the late Malcolm Hardee’s comedy clubs. There was talk of legendary heckler The Pirate and questions about where he was now. I vaguely remember Malcolm telling me The Pirate had, in his ‘real’ life, been a City of London stockbroker and that, once he made his mint, he retired early and went to live in Spain.

I could be corrected.

Also at the get-together, I got chatting with that wondrous act Frank Sanazi (he sings like Frank Sinatra, looks like Adolf Hitler). He told me a prominent comedy critic had come up to him after a show and said: “You know, secretly, I like your act!”

SECRETLY?

He’s a comedy critic!! Why secretly??

Frank Sanazi – real name Pete – also told me a tale of chatting on the Wibbley Wobbley floating pub with Malcolm (who drowned a few feet away in 2005). Malcolm was lamenting the poor standard of some of the Open Spot acts who appeared there.

“What can I do?” he asked Pete. “They’re shit.”

“You could make the worst ones walk the plank,” Pete suggested jokily.

“That’s a thought!” Malcolm said, seriously.

When we met yesterday afternoon, Pete said that, as was often the case with Malcolm, he possibly took this idea too far by drowning.

With luck, though, Malcolm’s memory will be kept alive by the Malcolm Hardee Awards which I started in 2005 or 2007 (depending on how you calculate it).

Another reason for starting the Awards was that I realised they meant I could get free tickets for any comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe for at least ten years. (I know Malcolm would have approved of this scam.)

I decided in 2007 to get a decade’s worth of trophies made in advance in case I encountered some serious financial embarrassment in the future so the Malcolm Hardee Awards (unlike some other lesser awards at the Edinburgh Fringe which rely on sponsorship) will certainly be awarded until 2017.

Coincidentally, last night, I went to the annual Fringe Report Awards masterminded by the remarkable John Park. He announced on stage that next year – 2012 – after ten years – both Fringe Report and the Fringe Report Awards would stop. A great pity, as Fringe Report encourages theatrical talent on the way up (as the Malcolm Hardee Awards try to do with comedians) rather than awarding trophies to people who are already vastly successful.

Now, I am off to have what I hope is a routine follow-up check-up on my eyes.

Last year, I had two cataract operations.

I hope I’ll be seeing you soon.

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“Killer Bitch”, a UK crime crisis and “Citizen Kane”

I was talking to one of the Killer Bitch cast yesterday and (as one who knows) he came out with the legendary line: “I’ve got no money at the moment and xxxx xxxxxxx ain’t got no money either. The bottom’s fallen out of Crime.”

Has Britain fallen this low? Sir Francis Drake made England great by robbing Spanish ships of their gold and the East India Company built Queen Victoria’s glorious British Empire on the heroin trade.

We live in difficult economic times. Or do we? Opinion varies.

A recent report said organised crime caused “an estimated £30 billion a year in social and economic harm” to the UK. I’m not quite sure what “harm” means in this context. Presumably it means there is a £30 billion black economy underpinning the ‘legitimate’ economy. But it’s all guestimates on guestimates. A recent report by the Association of Chief Police Officers claimed the UK underworld economy is now worth around £40 billion a year.

I’m more concerned that fake DVD production is now reckoned to be worth £300 million in the UK. I had vaguely hoped Killer Bitch might be fairly immune to this because I had hoped that the people most likely to rip us off were actually involved in the movie in some way – and therefore highly unlikely to rip us off. I had, however, reckoned without the international nature of modern movie rip-off-dom.

Still, I am filled with hope for the future of Killer Bitch because Michael Deeley, the highly-regarded head of British Lion Films reportedly said, when his company released The Wicker Man in 1973, that it was the worst film he had ever seen. Years later, the equally highly-regarded Cinefantastique magazine devoted at entire issue to The Wicker Man, famously calling it “the Citizen Kane of horror films”, while the Los Angeles Times said it was: “Witty & scary! No one who sits through it to the end is likely to find it easy to shake off.”

Likewise, no-one who sits through Killer Bitch with an increasingly dropped jaw and open mouth is ever likely to forget it. Bland it is certainly not.

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