‘Rise’—‘Fear and Fame’—‘Fall. The first episode charts how the Kray twins with a propensity for violence rose from a humble working-class background in the East End of London. We’re on familiar territory here. The wife-beating father, who kicked their mum in the stomach, and caused her to miscarry. But no mention of their older brother, Charlie. Her hairdresser told viewers, she never had the little girl that she craved. Pictures of the twins Reggie and Ronnie shows two cute and dark-eyed babies. Ron caught tuberculosis, a killer then, but Violet brought him from the hospital, and tucked him in beside Reg and he recovered. They were inseparable. In the boxing ring Reg had a bit more guile, and was under-17’s champion of England. Both their grandparents were boxers. Ron was more of a berserker. But they never stopped battling each other and the world. When Ron was sent down to Wandsworth and then sent sideways to a psychiatric unit, what he didn’t know—because One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest hadn’t been written or made into a film yet—was that time stopped. Prison time only started again when he was deemed medically cured of his psychosis. He never was, but as long as he kept taking the tablets, the voices inside his head wouldn’t always manifest themselves in violence.
Reg did a swap with Ron in the visiting room. Ron pulling on Reg’s overcoat and swanning out. They couldn’t hold Reg, and Ron had escaped. He couldn’t have been that mad after all.
The Krays ran their nascent empire from a snooker hall. They taxed local crooks, in much the same way crooked cops taxed the same crooks and sellers of porn and brothels. Career criminals paid their cut or they got cut. In much the same way, the entertainment industry was targeted. No trouble if the owners paid tax and fealty to the Krays. Muscling in on businesses and taking them over.
The 1960’s director of a film starring Barbara Windsor laughed as he told viewers how a couple of cars appeared and asked about having permission to film on their turf. He said he’d squared it with the police. But he had to employ two of the Kray’s henchmen. He told how a barman who’d charged him for a drink was taken from behind the bar and severely beaten by the Kray twins because the film crew were ostensibly their guests.
The Queen’s Counsel who represented the Krays and Barbara Windsor’s husband told how she was verbally abused when it got into the press that ‘the little sparrow’ of the East End, Bab’s husband was a gangster. But it added kudos to the film. More generally, it added grit to the hedonistic mix of new money and power. Their criminal empire began to shift beyond the East End with the acquisition of a casino and nightclub in the West End of London were the richest socialites and money-class lived and worked. It was in the former Ron hooked up with the upper-class homosexual and Tory peer Lord Boothby. The Kray’s mum, Violet, stayed in the same house they were born in, but the twins brought her hero Judy Garland to have a cup of tea and she crooned ‘Over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz. Nothing could stop them, and more importantly for the media, they dressed well and had that criminal swagger.