Lenny McLean (1998) The Guv’nor.

On the cover is a picture of Lenny McLean, with a banner, The No.1 Bestseller and a quote (from Lenny) ‘I look what I am, a hard bastard’. The book has been ghost-written by Peter Gerrard who has worked with Reggie Kray and Ronnie Knight. The back cover shows a picture of a glowering Lenny with a sweep-over bald patch, wearing a white t-short, hands clenched as fists. The background shot is the sign for The Blind Beggar pub where Ronnie Kray walked in and shot George Cornell in 1966. Nobody agreed to come forward as a witness. A barmaid that knew Ronnie Kray was made to say she didn’t. I’ve been watching the programme on STV (and ITV) about The Rise and Fall of the Krays. A voyeuristic element, but also educational and entertaining. Lenny McLean died of brain and lung cancer on 28th July 1998.

I can get away with saying that the writing reaches mediocrity. But that’s not Lenny’s fault. In Get Carter, Michael Caine plays a gangster on the rampage in the North East of England. He comes up against a character much the same height, but carrying a few more pounds (Bryan Mosley who was Alf Roberts from Coronation Street) and Carter tells him, ‘Don’t even think about it. This is what I do for a living. Hurt people.’

Lenny McLean, six-foot-two and twenty stone is proud of that. Claimed to be ‘the hardest man in Britain’. Had 2000 to 3000 fights. And never lost, but does admit a draw with fellow Eastender, and fellow hardman Roy Shaw, who also said he’d never been beaten, and makes claim to also be the hardest man in Britain. I’m sure Ronnie and Reggie Kray would claim to be the hardest men in Britain. It’s about respect and I wouldn’t argue with any of them.

  In the third, deciding, bareknuckle bout, Lenny said he smashed Roy Shaw. It’s there in the warm-up bout, before the main story. Joe Pyle described as a promoter and businessman tells the reader:

I used to manage and promote the original Guv’nor, Roy Shaw. At that time, Roy was unbeaten, and unbeatable. He was taking on challenges, and the first thing I would ask was: ‘Can you sell at least £6000 worth of tickets?’ If they couldn’t they didn’t get the fight. Roy was riding a crest, then along came a young fellow from Hoxton. His name was Lenny McLean. I’d never heard of him. Roy had never heard of him. We took up Lenny McLean’s challenge. After two fights and a win each, a return was arranged and Roy walked straight into a right-hander. Lenny became the Guv’nor.’

The king is dead. Long live the king. Lenny’s proud of his uncle from the East End of London. You’d need to come ten-handed to take him down. Even then, you’d be short-handed, but not short-changed. Lenny is old school. He’s like that. There’s a lot of hate and uncontrolled aggression.

Take a step back and play amateur psychologist. Both Lenny and Ron lost their dad at a very early age and idolised them. Lenny’s stepdad was a brute. He beat all of his family and broke Lenny’s arm and leg before he was ten. Injustice grows arms and legs. Lenny learned how to hate at a very early age. His idea of justice was giving someone a slap. By that he means something short of a full-scale beating and his opponent needing several nights in a hospital bed. You don’t need to like Lenny, but you need to fear him. Respect him.

‘Faces’ are somebody of note. Villains. But in the world in which they lived a bit of sprauncing, lying and fibbing, a bit of graft was the way to get on. The busies were the enemy. And a grass lost all respect and had went over to the enemy. Disputes were settled like men by fists, bottles, knives or guns.

The straight world that most of us live in was where sheep gathered. They were there to fleece us, but they meant us no harm. Lenny was up for most work as long as it brought in a bit of money. The closest he came to insight was when he stood beside a businessman crook that had a won a council contract and was ripping of the workers who did the decorating they hadn’t been paid for. Underpaying them and telling them to take it or leave it. With Lenny beside him, they took it. But Lenny reassures the reader it’s a moral world he lives in, because he gave the dodgy business a slap, when he started working for himself and had to distemper a ceiling, and his boss told him he’d missed a bit.

Lenny McLean wasn’t going to be told what to do. Not by him. Not by anybody. When  he was in prison he would have given the guy that had ghost-written a book for him a slap for suggesting his dear old mum had a drink problem. When he went to America and met with Mafia bosses—who offered him a role in Sylvester Stallone’s next picture—he was going to give them a slap. He’d raised £200 000 and needed their money to make a film about his life. They weren’t coming across. He gave a slap to someone the other bouncers had said was giving them a bit of agg in the Hippodrome. Lenny had to take care of it, because he was head bouncer. His word was law. And if you didn’t like it you got slapped.

‘Me and Robert get down to the dance floor sharpish, and there was this geezer stark bollock, naked, pissing and wanking in front of all the young girls. Dirty slag. We went to get a hold of him and he did a little dance and ran up the stairs. That’s all I needed, I was tired.’

The little ‘backhander’ turned into a murder charge when the dirty slag died.

‘I’ve belted hundreds of blokes over the years, and I mean really belted, and as far as I know, none of them died.’

The Old Bill pulled him in. Lenny got charged with the murder of Gary Humphries. That meant he was looking at life. Forty-years old he’d be drawing his pension when he came out. But the screws did a number on him. They had his nuts on a grinder, threating to pull in another bouncer that had small children to look after. Lenny did the right thing. He took the fall.

I can write this stuff all night. But you know how it goes. Good triumphs over evil. The naked guy was straight out of the nut house. If he’d been normal, he’d have dressed like the Krays in a sharp suit and behaved himself with extortion, torture and blackmail as a sideline. That way he wouldn’t have been a psychotic psychopath that murders folk instead of being murdered by the busies, while trying to frame a law-abiding hardman. Lenny took a rest from his violent life and died peaceably in his sleep.  Lots of faces, old and new, attended his funeral to pay their respect.     

The Keeper, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, written by Michael J Schofield and Marcus H Rosenmüller, director Marcus H Rosenmüller.

The Keeper, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, written by Michael J Schofield and Marcus H Rosenmüller, director Marcus H Rosenmüller.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000zhk8/the-keeper

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Trautmann

I usually check out late-night films to see if there are any worth watching. I wasn’t sure of The Keeper. Advertised as a biopic of Bert Trautmann, my first thoughts were it was something to do with music, and I probably wouldn’t like it. Before I pulled up the preview, I realised it might have something to do with goalkeeper, Bert Trautmann, (yeh, I know, it’s in the title) but I didn’t remember his name. My memories are as fragmentary as the bones in his neck. I couldn’t remember what team, but knew it was a post-war English team.

Celtic’s John Thompson died as a result of an accidental collision with Rangers player Sam English during an Old Firm match at Ibrox on 5th September 1931. But not many English players played in Scotland. Our best players usually went the other way, to play in England, where players were paid two or three times as much as a normal working man, down the pits. Example Jock Stein, Bill Shankly and Matt Busby.  The Celtic team that won the European Cup was famously made up of eleven players that lived with twelve miles of Glasgow. Bobby Lennox, being the furthest, living in Saltcoats. Even the quality street Celtic team that destroyed Leeds but lost the European Cup final to Feyenoord in 1970 was also home grown. We’d have probably won that game if instead of Evan Williams in goal we had Billy the Fish, or Rocky and Rambo combined in Sylvester Stallone who famously made the Nazis pay by not only saving everything flung at him in a match against the guards, but also sneaked out of the stadium, incognito, with Pele in  Escape to Victory.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_Half_Times_in_Hell)

I can’t think of any other films about goalkeepers. Bernhard Carl ‘Bert’ Trautmann played for Manchester City from 1949 to 1964. He’s played by a fresh-faced David Kross in the film. Lots to work with here. But, basically, it’s a love story.  He falls in love with Margaret Friar (Freya Mavor).

The ‘meet-cute’ is he agrees to a wager. He’ll save penalties taken by other inmates in the prisoner of war camp in Lancashire between St Helens and Wigan, and if the taker scores he will give them a cigarette, if they miss, the inmate pays double. Margaret Friar watches him making save after save. She steps up to take a penalty. I expected him to let her score, but no. We know he’ll score with her later.

A few rudimentary obstacles stand in his way. Firstly, he’s interred and classified as a Nazi. Evidence of this is he won a handful of medals, including the prestigious Iron Cross. His past was later to surface, and crowd protest took place outside the Manchester City ground when he signed.  

The war ends, he can go back to his homeland. First, he’s got to win the heart of the number one babe. He’s a bit of help from her dad, Jack Friar (John Henshaw) an Arthur Daly type with ties to the camp and his own shop. He’s also manager of non-league St Helens. A team struggling and in a relegation battle. They have a goalkeeper, but you guessed it, he’s the type of keeper Celtic signed from Greece and couldn’t catch a cold.  Of course, Friar brings in Trautmann, ‘Bert’, to his new pals and he plays like Billy the Fish.

Bert, of course, has other fish to fry with Friar’s daughter. But she’s got a boyfriend. And her best pal, Betsy Walters (Chloe Harris) is snuggled up with the current, woeful, goalie. Ho-hum, kick up the park and he moves in with his boss. Only a blind goalie would miss what happened next.

How to deal with collective guilt and the Nazi murder of six million Jews? Bert had previous; he’d spent a few years on the Eastern Front, where a large part of the genocidal killing took place, arguably, more than took place in concentration camps.  His argument that he’d just followed orders had the familiar ring of an Eichmann before being hanged by Albert Pierrepoint.

Bert, being a good German, and not a Nazi, suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He suffers flashbacks of the boy he couldn’t save. Shot dead by a Nazi, who stole his leather football. The same boy turns up later in the film. A cosmic equaliser and forbearer of bad tidings. Hokum.

Bert wins over the Manchester City fans by his performances. He was simply an outstanding goalkeeper, and innovative in his use of flinging the ball out to a wing-half (as they were called in those days) to start attacks. Simple. You’re no longer a Nazi when your team keeps winning. In the same way, the current Manchester City team is sponsored by a Saudi regime that has committed mass murder and sponsored one of their citizens Osman Bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida, who helped plan bringing down the Twin Towers, the Taliban and most extremist Muslim groups that follow their brand of religion, but nobody seems to care. There’s some archive footage, as football was played then. Not only was it a black-and-white world, but seems in slow motion. Maybe we could send our Greek dud out on loan to 1950s Manchester. He’d fit in just great.   

The Bleeder, BBC iPlayer, Director Philippe Falardeau.

the bleeder.jpg

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0006wg1/the-bleeder

Sometimes you just hit upon a movie you know you’re going to love. Here it is. As surely as any movie written or starring Simon Pegg (or even an actor that looks like Pegg) is going to be a going to be a stinker, The Bleeder is a knock-out. I’m not a big boxing fan. Yeh, sure I remember the Rumble in the Jungle and Ali v’s Frazier. I watched them on BBC in the same way that I later watched Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe playing tennis. I didn’t care who won and if I never saw another boxing or tennis match for the rest of my life I wouldn’t be bothered. So I’d heard of Muhammad Ali, I’d heard of Joe Frazier. I’d heard of George Foreman, but I hadn’t heard of Chuck Wepner. There’s no reason why I should. That would be the equivalent of expecting me to know who the tenth seed at Wimbledon was in 1974.

Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber) known as the Bayonne Bleeder was in the top ten of heavyweight champs in the early 1970s. He was known as the Bayonne Bleeder because he came from the city of Bayonne in New Jersey and when he fought he never went down, but bled copiously. In an early scene the fight ref asks to look at his eye injury. It looks like there’s too much blood and he’ll be asked to retire from the bout. His corner-man flings a towel over his bad eye and the ref looks at his other eye, which is also a slit running with blood, but he’s declared fit to fight. That reminded me of when a referee asked to see our stud football studs at the beginning of a match on the gravel parks. Martin McGowan showed him his good boot, with no aluminium studs in it, then put his hand on the ref’s shoulder as if to support himself, twirled around and showed him the same boot, but from a different angle. If we were making a movie of it, McGowan would have went on to score a hat-trick with his illegal boot. The Bayonne Bleeder also goes on to win his bout. There was talk of him getting a title shot and pay day against George Foreman, who’s knocking everybody out for fun and thought to be unbeatable. Chuck knows his chances aren’t good, but like most other boxers, he’s got a day job and it would be a big pay day. When Ali does his rope-a-dope on Foreman, Chuck things his chance of glory is gone.

He’s a delicious looking wife Phyllis (Elisabeth Moss) to support and they have a daughter they adore. He writes his wife poems telling her how much he loves her, but he’s a man’s man that likes to play. He’s took a toot of this new wonder drug they call cocaine and it really does make the routine day wonderful. Chuck also has problems keeping his hands in the mitts. He likes to go the full fifteen rounds with any willing female. Phyllis catches up with Chuck and one of his floozies in a diner. There was only going to be one winner.

Remember when Rocky chases the chicken, but can’t catch it. Phyllis dumps the Bleeder. She’s had enough and goes to live with her mother. Then this match comes. Don King plays the race card. Muhammad Ali after beating Foreman is on a high and they want to cash in on some easy money. Ali versus the Bleeder. It’s Chuck’s big chance to be heavy- weight champion of the world. We know that Rocky goes into serious training and starts hitting rumps of meat in the deep-freeze. Chuck goes to the Catskills and does what a real professional is meant to do, he trains hard and just hopes he’s be able to finish the fight. Odds of 40-1 are being offered for Chuck to go the full fifteen rounds.  Phyllis his wife is back on board. And to quote another great film, Someone Up There Likes Me.

In the first fight after Foreman, Muhammad Ali fought Chuck. Chuck didn’t win. This isn’t Rocky, although the film was a what-if, what-if when Chuck really did put Muhammad down, Ali stayed down and Chuck became the new, white, heavyweight champion of the world, spawning a whole franchise of movies in which Rocky fought everyone from the Russians to the man on the moon and still bled and found himself, after a typically bruising  and bleeding encounter, still on top of the world. For the record, Chuck lost and was knocked out with 20 seconds remaining of the fifteen rounds. A moral victory, of sorts.

Part of the greatness of this film is what happened next. Chuck snorted and womanised and pissed it all away. The teeny tiny figure of  Sylvester Stallone   (Morgan Spector) offers him a part in his latest movie, but the big, for real, Bleeder, can’t stay straight enough to make the cut. The next time Stallone offers to meet Chuck is when the former is filming his latest movie, Prison Break, in the same prison where Chuck is serving time for dealing drugs.

This being America, Chuck does find redemption in an old flame, Linda (Naomi Watts) who waits for him and puts him on the straight and narrow. Billed as Rocky for real, this is much better. WATCH and WEEP. No bleeding about it.