Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Krays: That's Showbusiness!

In 1965, David Bailey, already Britain’s most fashionable photographer, took a portrait of the gangster twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray, who looked fiercely well-groomed in suits and narrow ties... The portrait became gangland’s Mona Lisa: copied, pirated and imitated, it was central to their image and their brand... “Their big mistake was posing for me,” Bailey told the BBC last year. “If you’re a real gangster nobody knows who you are.” The Krays, of course, wanted everyone to know who they were... If Bailey’s photo was the first stage in the construction of the Krays’ enduring image, stage two came in 1967, when the Krays approached John Pearson, and asked him to be their biographer, focusing on their clubs, their celebrity chums and their charitable works. (Truman Capote, who had just published In Cold Blood, had been their first choice, but he declined the commission.)... They felt like they were in the big time, even though the bank robbers of the era looked down on them as mere bullies, called them “thieves’ ponces”, and “Gert and Daisy” behind their backs, claiming that they didn’t steal their own money and attracted too many dodgy hangers-on... George Cornell, a gangster from south London, had called Ron a “fat poof” – Ron used to say “I’m homosexual but I’m not a poof”... on 9 March 1966, when he heard that Cornell was in the Blind Beggar pub, which was on the Krays’ patch, he went round and shot him dead in front of shocked witnesses... In May 1968, Ronnie and Reggie Kray were arrested... Ronnie gave a spectacular but crazed performance in the witness box, name-dropping the boxing champions they knew and portraying himself as an innocent East End philanthropist. They were jailed for life... (At his trial, Ron cheerfully told the judge, “If I wasn’t here, I could be having tea with Judy Garland.”)... I was introduced to Ron by a former inmate who had been a friend in his earlier prison days... [he] talked about where he would go if ever released – “Morocco, for the boys”. He added, “Don’t print I’m mad.” ...

From a brilliant essay by Duncan Campbell, The Selling Of The Krays, on Ronnie and Reggie as rubbish gangsters, but great brand managers - part of Guardian online's The Long Read series.

I bet everyone told Ron he was really good at painting.

1 comment:

  1. Yes something the Krays and the Royal Family have in common. Everyone tells Prince Charles how good he is at painting.