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Bully Beef

By Phil Thornton


It’s one of the great gangster clichés that they are never bullies, infact if there’s one thing a gangster despises, it’s a bully. Lenny MCLean, the self-styled ‘Guvnor’ hated bullies, even arch bully Combo in This is England informs the gang of skins how much he hated the bullies in the jug as he bullies the black skinhead, Milky with tales of bullying ‘coon’ prisoners. I knew  a very large fellar who boasted that while he was inside he bullied the bullies. He was a bully bully. Surely it’s a gangster prerequisite to be a bully, to portray an air of menace, the threat of violence or else what’s the point of being a gangster? Only in Hollywood are gangsters not portrayed as bullies. In Godfather 2, De Niro’s Don Corleone is  presented as an utterly upright and honourable man  forced into murdering the evil neighbourhood bully and thereby becoming the local ‘man of honour’ and padrone.  Ofcourse the mafia are bullies, that’s why they’re the fuckin mafia.

No bully likes to admit they’re a bully and bullying takes different forms.  Bizzies are bullies, screws are bullies, squaddies are bullies, teachers are bullies, judges and magistrates are bullies, bosses are bullies, football managers and refs are bullies; anyone with  power over others is prone to bullying. I’ve been bullied and I’ve been a bully. I hated being bullied and enjoyed being a bully, regretting it years later, once it was too late. Now we have cyber bullying which sounds trivial but is still as horrible as name calling in class, in work, or physical bullying or emotional bullying. Every family is a breeding ground for bullying, between parents and kids, between siblings. It’s where you learn about power and influence and manipulation and getting you’re own way, or not.

What made me laugh about the BBC’s anti-bullying crusade is that they had the gall to get that bullying twat, Chris Moyles to perform the regulation ‘bullying stinks’ (it’s ‘pants’ in BBC speak). Maybe Moyles was himself bullied as a kid, just as his hero, Chris Evans was and therefore now rejoices in his  power to mock and abuse others.  The advice these whoppers give is always simplistic and dangerous nonsense; stand up to bullies and they will back down! No, they won’t.  Tell teacher about a bully and they will deal with it; no they won’t! Grass up the local dealers, burglars, mobsters and they will go to prison and the streets will be safe; no they won’t. Ofcourse this is defeatism but also realism.

Whistleblowers do not always triumph, sometimes they get ostracised, intimidated, jailed and even murdered. Ring any bells Alistair Campbell? And class geeks do not always triumph over jocks as in Napoleon Dynamite and other  ‘geeks win thru’ films. They get humiliated and beaten down and ridiculed, same as they ever did.  

When I was a union official I had to take on a blatant case of bullying by our most senior member of staff and had to take the complicated but clear cut matter of intimidation to the head of personnel, a man who went to the same public school as the bully. Guess what? He got his wrists slapped and sent on a course to improve his ‘interpersonal skills’. Then he got promoted.  We got sacked. That’s called Investing In People!

Trade Unions, especially those out on strike are always portrayed as bullies. Take the recent postal strikes where local news reporters  portrayed the striking posties as reckless idiots playing with peoples lives by pointing out that cancer letters from hospitals have been delayed by a few days thereby preventing emergency treatment - never mind that it probably took 9 months to get a fucking check up in the first place, it was the posties who are to blame. Then in the same report ‘selects’ four negative emails from viewers complaining about everything from CRB checks not coming through to tickets for the fucking Police concert being stuck in sorting office somewhere in Speke.

Is that not a form of media bullying? Propaganda is bullying. So is kicking your nan in the neck. So is txting U Stnk to the ginger kid in class. But remember, no-one likes a bully. Wrong!  Ramsey. Sugar. Cowell. Trinny and Susannah. Kyle and many more have gone along way and made plenty dough from being bullies.  Politicians are bullies. The whips bully MPs all the time. That’s why they’re called whips. They get people to do things they don’t really want to do, to vote for things they’re not in favour of. That’s our fabulous democracy and while it’s ok for governments to bully its own citizens and other countries, it doesn’t want to be seen to be going soft on kids with itchy text fingers. When we see institutionalised bullying all around us, tv bullying that’s not only encouraged but rewarded, when we see the horrific price some people pay for standing up to so-called ‘yob culture’ the same yob culture that’s always been around, then isn’t it  unreal to expect moral leadership from discredited members of the so-called great and good.

Bullying will always be with us for as long as there are some people who are weaker than others. It may not always take the same form but it always has the same effect. Now where did I put that Sopranos box-set?

OOOOhhh Ronny!

5 great gay gangsters not based at all on Ronnie Kray

Once it became common knowledge that one of Britain’s top gangsters was an out n’ out dinner masher, film directors got carried away with the idea of masculine but moody cons who liked a spot of cock.

Johnny Shand as Harry Flowers in Performance (1970) –  As James Fox’s boss, Harry cuts a particularly intimidating figure with Nic Roeg’s camera work playing up his curious mix of sinister old skool brutalism and campy peccadilloes.  Still he would’ve bitch slapped Charlie for putting on make-up and acting all poofy.

Richard Burton as Vic Dakin in Villain – this 1971 film had a scene cut where Dicky B gets to grips with Ian McShane (see below) – I can still recall a shiver going up my spine as a kid when Burton tells Lovejoy not to make too much noise as it’ll wake mum up or words to that effect! What’s he mean dad?

Paul Freeman as Colin in The Long Good Friday (1982) – ok, only a small part of the film but as Harold Shand’s trusted right hand man, Queer Col thinks he’s on for a spot of water sports with 007 in the cubicles but gets a provo ‘rent overdue notice’ in his guts instead. Liberty!

Malcolm Tierney as Tommy McArdle in Brookside (1983-87) – the smallscreen’s attempt to portray lavender hill hoods was well served by the well manicured but brooding presence of yet another mother obsessed mobster. Always had a poxy bunch of flowers for Sheila. Still, Tommy scared Barry, Terry and indeed me.

Ian McShane as Teddy Bass in Sexy beast (2000) McShane’s oily but sauve super-boss gets his revenge on Richard Burton by getting to bum (or get bummed by, I couldn’t tell) Edward Fox’s super sauve society banker at a swanky orgy and then gets to rob and shoot him in the swede. Just for the sheer fuckoffness of it as Don Logan would say.

Be warned; don’t fuck with gay gangsters or they’ll fuck you up, sometimes literally.  








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