When I met “Mad” Frankie Fraser

Just over ten years ago, I co-wrote the biography of the 1980s middleweight boxer Errol Christie. To promote the book, we did a series of films on issues around boxing and racism plus recorded meetings with people of interest in Errol’s life. One of those was Frankie Fraser – the diminutive ‘enforcer’ for the Richardson gang in the 1960s.

Frankie Fraser
Frankie Fraser (left), me and Errol Christie

The Richardson brothers – Charlie and Eddie – were south London gangsters over fifty years ago. They faced off against the Kray twins in east London. And like all gangsters, they were big supporters of the boxing scene. I got to meet Eddie Richardson a couple of times at boxing reunions and he featured in the book I co-wrote with Errol.

Then the opportunity arose to meet Frankie Fraser. He was notorious for the methods used to terrorise anybody who crossed the Richardsons. This famously included pulling teeth with pliers and alleged removal of toes. Frankie spent half his life in prison, a total of about 42 years behind bars. So to say he was a hardened criminal would be putting it mildly.

I organised a day of filming with him and Errol at the office I was based in at that time. On the morning, he wised up to the fact that I hadn’t offered him any money. “I don’t get out of bed for nothing,” I was informed. So I waved £100 in front of him but that was turned down quickly. Realising that £200 would get me nowhere, I jumped straight up to £300 – out of my own pocket I hasten to add. I then got his final demand:

“Three hundred and two pounds and twenty pence.”

Well, I didn’t refuse. The result of our filming is down below. When we’d finished, I was a little tardy putting my hand in my pocket and he sidled over, looking up at me with what I can only describe as very dark, lifeless eyes. “You got my charitable donation?” That is actually what he said. And I meekly forked it out for him.

There was then an amusing taxi ride back to Camberwell with him and Errol – as we all lived in south London. The taxi driver recognised my two accomplices and for once, a London cabbie said nothing. Amazing!

Frankie Fraser died in 2014 at the age of 90. Sadly, my boxing buddy and subject of the book Errol Christie succumbed to cancer in 2017. He was the same age as me – just three weeks younger – and it was a terrible blow. Such a nice guy and we’d become close friends before then. But I often look back at the very odd day I spend with a great boxer and a legend of the British gangster scene.

Here’s the film I produced that day with Jermaine Allen and Adam Evans on camera.

World Trade Center – a year before 9/11

World Trade Center 2000

In 2000, I went to New York for a short holiday meeting up with friends and paying my first visit to the World Trade Center. I sat with a buddy underneath the looming towers and gazed up at them. They almost seemed to touch the heavens – no wonder buildings like that were called ‘skyscrapers’.

Me and a buddy with the World Trade Center behind in 2000

We went up the South Tower to what was called the Top of the World observation area. I remember the lift was like being in a wind tunnel – it really clanked and moved around the shaft as we shot up. Quite unlike the Empire State Building.

The cafe at the top was very 1970s beige. And there were smoked-glass windows with a slight curve that let you look down to the ground. In some ways, being inside and not able to venture out on to a balcony diminished the sense of awe. But it was still pretty steep.

That would have been in early June 2000. I can confirm that because we attended the Puerto Rican Pride parade in the centre of New York, which was huge. The musician Tito Puente had just died and there were lots of tributes to him. I’m not Puerto Rican myself but the parade was something amazing to see. Unfortunately it was marred by a series of assaults in Central Park but we didn’t mercifully see that. My sympathies to the victims however.

And then just over a year later – the horror of the Al Qaeda attacks, which ushered in a new political era. I think of the period from 1991 (collapse of the Soviet Union) to 2001 (the 9/11 attacks) as a time when big politics died. But actually, new and often dangerous ideas were growing under the surface. As we know only too well today.

World Trade Center in 2000
Gazing up at the World Trade Center – photo with my digital camera in 2000