The last of the famous international playboys
October 6, 2011 12:46 PM   Subscribe

"The Beatles and the Rolling Stones rule pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world...and me and my brother ruled London." Reginald "Reggie" Kray and his twin brother Ronald "Ronnie" Kray were the foremost perpetrators of organized crime in London's East End during the 1950s and 1960s.

As nightclub owners, they mixed with prominent entertainers including Diana Dors, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and politicians. They were were highly feared within their social environment, and in the 1960s they became celebrities in their own right, being photographed by David Bailey and interviewed on television. Arrested on May 9, 1968 and convicted in 1969 by the efforts of a squad of detectives led by Detective Superintendent Leonard "Nipper" Read, they were bothg sentenced to life imprisonment.

Morrissey sang of them, Blur name drops them. The 1990 film "The Krays" documents their lives with some dramatic license. Starring Gary and Martin Kemp of the band Spandau Ballet as the Krays, the film was never released on Region 1 DVD, but it has just been made available on streaming Netflix.
posted by punkfloyd (25 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Dinnesdale ...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:50 PM on October 6, 2011 [14 favorites]

They were also the inspiration for Monty Python's sketch about The Piranha Brothers.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:51 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some amusing anecdotes about them in one of the 'D' series episodes of QI.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:52 PM on October 6, 2011

I always get the Kray brothers mixed up with the brothers Quay, and The Krays (1990) mixed up with Let Him Have It (1991).

I love that they sent Bob Hoskins a note congratulating him on the verisimilitude of his performance as gangster Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:05 PM on October 6, 2011

From Wolfdog's link

There was a barracks there and that was their one; it was the City of London Regiment of the First Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, which is where people like Michael Caine had gone when they'd done their national service. People in the East End: that was their local barracks. But they were actually imprisoned there, because when they did their national service, [London accent] "they don't like it. Ron and Reggie didn't like it!" And they beat up their training sergeant and, er, [London accent] "and went home to have tea with their mum".

The weird thing about Ronnie is, he was pretty . . . pretty psychopathic and as most people know, he was gay, but he had this weird thing, that everyone had to admire his boyfriend. So they'd have a meeting of the Firm, and there'd be the heads of, [London accent] "Plaistow and Hackney and Dalston and all the local branches of the Firm" and there'd be Ronnie, the Colonel, and there'd be a seventeen youth called Cyprian or something. Standing there. [tosses hair and curls inward mincily] And Ronnie would go, [London accent] "Hello everybody, this is Cyprian," and they'd go, "Hello, Cyprian." And Ronnie would go, [London accent] "Inn'e gorgeous?" And they'd all have to go. [London accent] "Oh, he's lovely, Ronnie! Oh, he's . . . Oh, how you pick 'em! Oh, you lucky dog."

David Putnam, of all people, used to manage them for a very short period of time. I know; it's weird.


Yeah, he did. They wanted to go legitimate, and he tells a story of how they were with David Bailey, who took those famous photographs of the two of them in suits, you know, the . . . standing one behind the other.

And they were all in this pub; it wasn't the Blind Beggar, but it was a Kray pub. Ronnie had gone off--he was the insane one--so they were left with Reggie, who's supposedly the . . . the normal one. And these couple of drunks come in, and they suddenly spot David Bailey, and they go, [London accent] "Oh, you're David Bailey, ain't you? Go on, take me photograph." And David Bailey goes, "No, no." They said, [London accent] "No, don't be a fucking arsehole; take me photograph." He said, "No, no, I've run out of film." [London accent] "Don't be . . . give me that; take my photograph!" [straightens his tie, looking straight ahead] Reggie gets up and looks at himself in the mirror across the bar like that and suddenly goes--[punches the air beside him]--"baff", like that. And knocks him right across the room and he bangs his head against a piano and blood starts to trickle down, and his mate goes to him, and they just flee.

And David Bailey, to his credit, was very angry and says, "Reggie, you are a tosser. For God's sake, I get this every day; I'm a photographer; people know what I look like. I can handle it; you didn't have to do that; you could have killed him." There was this terrible silence that Reggie had been shouted at like this. And he gave a little shy smile and he said, [London accent] "Well, to tell you the truth, Mr Bailey, I'd had my eye on that cunt all afternoon; he'd been eating my sandwiches!"

Very extraordinary. Anyway.

posted by The Whelk at 1:13 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Krays is worth seeing if only for the wallpaper designs.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:19 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Kray twins were a very nasty pair of fuckers
posted by adamvasco at 1:21 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Part of the family continued in the same vein
(Daily Mail link)
posted by adamvasco at 1:30 PM on October 6, 2011

But did they use... sarcasm?
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:36 PM on October 6, 2011

My friend's grandmother went on a date with one of them (I forget which one, but whichever one wasn't the gay one). Apparently he was very charming.
posted by mippy at 1:39 PM on October 6, 2011

More on the Krays, specifically Ronnie and his relationship with the very randy Lord Boothby, from the always excellent Another Nickel in the Machine.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:42 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Kray twins were a very nasty pair of fuckers

...but fair.
posted by steambadger at 1:54 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Evil scum. I hate the way vicious trash like the Krays get glamourised by vacuous twats who never had the kind of life that meant they were at risk of suffering at their hands.

I grew up in a place where bastards like this could terrorise your parents, your friends, you and your entire neighbourhood. It was not a fucking joke, and it was not something to wax nostalgic about. The Krays and their ilk were inhuman, self-serving crooks. Don't you believe anything else.
posted by Decani at 1:55 PM on October 6, 2011 [17 favorites]

I first learned of the Kray Twins thanks to Renegade Soundwave.

Chicky Chicky Bow de Bowdebow Chicky!
posted by bpm140 at 2:49 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

It was not a fucking joke

Agreed - though I think Monty Python were merciless in their mockery of the Krays. They were very clearly laughing at them, not with them.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:02 PM on October 6, 2011

Mind you, they were in jail by then and couldn't very well object.

That Another Nickel in the Machine blog is incredible, oneirodynia! It sounds like the whole English Establishment was corrupt and more interested in suppressing scandal than in actually governing the country. Maybe the only real difference between the peers and the Krays was that the ruling class had to at least pretend that they were runnings things for the benefit of everyone else. The Krays had the freedom to extort and kill and run the underworld without bothering to pretend it was for the benefit of anybody but them.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:11 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

They remind me of Spandau Ballet.
posted by Chuffy at 3:54 PM on October 6, 2011

From the "very nasty pair of fuckers" link above:

"He said 'When I get out of this, I'm going to take you to the moon', and I'm quite certain he believed it."
posted by idiopath at 4:26 PM on October 6, 2011

The Krays were immortalized in song by Morrissey at the height of his fame...
posted by FeralHat at 4:34 PM on October 6, 2011

Agreed - though I think Monty Python were merciless in their mockery of the Krays. They were very clearly laughing at them, not with them.

Yes. I can't imagine a couple of psychopaths would be flattered at the picture of themselves be chased through the streets by a giant hedgehog called "Spiny Norman".
posted by steambadger at 5:53 PM on October 6, 2011

posted by Strange Interlude at 6:41 PM on October 6, 2011

In terms of infamy, I reckon the Black Panther is an underrated old school British crim.

What Decani said. Not glorifying. Just sayin'.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:44 PM on October 6, 2011

I'm closely related to one of their victims. Lots of family stories about them. They were not nice guys, not any kind of Robin Hoods or romantic figures. Lets not forget that they cut people up with knives and killed casually, extorted and threatened and generally spread misery.
posted by conifer at 2:07 AM on October 7, 2011

A contemporary of theirs, "Mad" Frankie Fraser, made something of a name for himself in the Mid 90s, trotting around various UK tv studios where gluey-eyed media studies graduates who didn't know the difference between fame and notoriety would stare dreamily at him. Chris Morris showed us how he should be treated : (jump to 10.20.)

He was called Mad because he had been declared insane during the War. His contribution to the war effort was to loot houses that had been recently bombed, just to make sure that the poor rumble owners now had no hope left. As a gangster, his signature move was pulling people's teeth out with a pair of pliers.

Monty Python did the number on these people years ago. The only story here is how craven and stupid celebrities are.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 2:59 AM on October 7, 2011

What a timely post! As we mourn the passing of Mr Jobs, it is so totally appropriate to pay homage to these pioneers in the early development of the Teraflop monsters that merged elegant design with almost unimaginable speed -- no doubt heavily funded by their ill-gotten gains, but there's that thing about ends and means.
posted by Mike D at 7:22 AM on October 7, 2011

« Older The Walk Again Project   |   The Baron does these things Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments