In my last two blogs, actor/producer/writer Terry Stone was talking about his new movie Once Upon a Time in London (released in the UK two days ago), which told the story of Jack Spot and Billy Hill, the dominant figures in London crime before the Kray Twins managed to capture the headlines in the mid-1960s.
I thought it would be interesting to watch Once Upon a Time in London with Micky Fawcett, who was an associate of both Billy Hill and the Krays and who wrote arguably the most factually accurate book on the Twins: Krayzy Days.
So we watched Once Upon a Time in London and had a chat.
MICKY: There was a lot of money spent on it.
JOHN: All the main Jack Spot stuff is before your time.
MICKY: Yeah. All the pre-War stuff.
JOHN: What did you think of it?
MICKY: It’s like a violent fairy tale. Not my cup of tea. There was so much of it.
JOHN: The violence.
MICKY: Yeah. Too much. It cheapened it, in my opinion. It devalued it.
MICKY: All that violence was too much for me. I mean, the violence didn’t work, did it? It’s no good unless you’ve got thoughts and reasons; plotting and scheming. But they did the fight scenes pretty good.
JOHN: You seemed amused with one bit where someone was just hitting and hitting and hitting someone else.
MICKY: You’d have only had to do it once.
JOHN: You thought all the hitting people over and over was too violent?
MICKY: Yeah. And throwing darts in people’s faces… I thought it was over the top. But they put it in to appeal to the audience, which is fair enough. Most of the violence was over the top, though the fight with the Twins at the end was very realistic and the Twins were very realistic in the way they were talking. The Krays was a good bit of casting.
JOHN: The actors are real-life twins.
MICKY: And Jack Spot was a good bit of casting. Terry Stone acts the role of Jack Spot very well. He’s very believable. Though Spot, what I saw of him, he wasn’t quite as outwardly aggressive. A bit shrewder. I only really knew him for about five minutes when I was 17. And I met Spot again when he was old. He came in the gym one day. He was all bent-over. Hillsy was quieter. He was very smart.
MICKY: Yeah. His attitude. He would have shirts made. Very, very smart. He paid his bills and played the game. Jack Spot knocked everybody.
MICKY: He didn’t pay any bills. Wouldn’t… you know what I mean? He was a totally different type of person to Billy Hill. That sounds like just an on-the-surface thing, but it shows you their natures. Billy Hill was very keen on his clothing. All that beating up and getting back up. He wasn’t into that. He was a bit of an actor too.
JOHN: Acting the part of being a gangster?
JOHN: There must have been lots of actual violence, though.
MICKY: Well, in his book, Billy Hill says whenever you cut somebody (with a razor), always do it this way. (HE DEMONSTRATES)
JOHN: Vertically down the cheek?
MICKY: Yes. Because, if you do it this way (diagonally) and you happen to cut them here (round the bottom of the chin) you’ll probably kill them and only a mug kills people. That’s what he said: “Only a mug kills people for no reason”.
JOHN: Billy Hill’s book was called Boss of Britain’s Underworld.
MICKY: Yeah. That book. Hillsy said to me: “It’s the biggest load of bollocks ever written: don’t believe a fucking word in it.”
JOHN: When you have to choose between history and legend, print the legend.
MICKY: I knew Albert Dimes as well. He was very hot-tempered was Albert: typical Italian. In the fight in Frith Street in Soho, in the film, they didn’t show Spot getting hit on the head with the scales or some big metal scoop. There was a woman in the shop called Sophie Hyams. She hit him on the head.
JOHN: She’s mentioned but you don’t see her hitting him. Bad for his image in the film, I guess. I didn’t really fully follow the stuff on the racecourses.
MICKY: That’s where it kicked off. The racecourses. The sponges. They can’t just demand money off you. At the racecourses, the bookmakers had to write the odds up on the board and they had a man who went along and wiped it all off. The bookmakers had to pay and there was a squabble with Albert Dimes at a racecourse.
The Twins backed out of that. They didn’t want to know. And they were afraid of Billy right until the end. Right till the very end. The Twins didn’t want to know when it kicked off in 1955. They were 22 at the time. All the big men were fighting. The Names.
I was told there was a phone call made to them and they said: “It’s nothing to do with us.”
I was with Reggie one day in their Double R club and Big Pat said: “Jack Spot and Johnny Carter have come in the club!” It was like God had come in. They looked up to him and Billy Hill.
JOHN: What did Billy Hill think of them?
MICKY: He told me he suggested they write the letter to the Home Secretary about Frank Mitchell. He told me: “You don’t think those two brainless cunts had the sense to do it, do you?” He didn’t have no time for them at all.
JOHN: You went out to Spain with Billy Hill. (MENTIONED IN A 2017 BLOG)
MICKY: Yeah. He told Teddy Machin to invite me out. He was 58 at the time and he seemed like an old man to me. One day we were lounging round the pool – me, Machin, Hillsy – and I said: “I was coming out here with a mate of mine anyway. He’s opening a shooting club up near Madrid.”
And Hillsy said: “Mick, you may have said something that’ll set you up for life.”
I said: “What?”
It was when General Franco was in power.
Hillsy said: “In Spain, the only licensed gambling allowed is in a shooting club. There’s nowhere else you can gamble. I’m with a mob, the Unione Corse; we fucking run the West End (of London)”
JOHN: What’s the best film you’ve seen about this era?
MICKY: None. There are some good French gangster films I like. The Godfather is a good film but things like the wedding and that are not to my taste.
JOHN: It’s a very Catholic film. Lots of ceremonial-type stuff. Did you see The Long Good Friday?
MICKY: Yeah, but I can’t remember it.
JOHN: The Wee Man?
MICKY: Yeah. I thought it was good.
JOHN: Good. But not necessarily spot-on with the facts: very much Paul Ferris writing his own version of events and creating his own legend.
MICKY: I thought it was… realistic. I think the best gangster film I’ve ever seen was Casino.
JOHN: Oh, yes. Lots of true stories. The bit about the eyes popping out was true, wasn’t it… Why did you like it?
MICKY: Well, it was all sort-of reasoned. And the woman playing-up. The wife. They weren’t like gangsters; they were like cafe owners. The best bit was when they were talking and someone said: “He won’t talk. He’s a good kid. A stand-up guy. He’s solid.” And one of the others says: “Look… why take chances?”
JOHN: So they get him killed.
MICKY: Yeah. Why take chances?
JOHN: Did you ever see Donnie Brasco?
MICKY: Oh yeah! Maybe that’s a better one. Maybe that’s the best one. Very, very good. Al Pacino was the best in it. A feller I knew – he’s dead now – he was exactly like that.
JOHN: Someone should film your book Krayzy Days.
MICKY: Yeah, but it’s all different things, ain’t it? It’s not one story.
JOHN: The unwary would assume it’s all about the Kray Twins, but it isn’t. There’s the Unione Corse and…
MICKY: Well, nothing much happened with the Unione Corse. Billy Hill wanted me to… I was going to do the Unione Corse thing here, but I got in trouble – I wish I hadn’t – and Hillsy kept away from me, because he knew the feller I was arguing with – Teddy Machin – and he knew something would go down not-too-good and Machin got shot.
There’s all that stuff in the book and the Tibbses are at the end of it. Someone put a bomb in his car; dunno who. The best story, though is the Banksy one which doesn’t involve any violence. I sold one of his old pictures the other week – a print that he’d done – numbered.
JOHN: All legal and legit and above-board?
MICKY: Yes. Of course.