Posts Tagged ‘trial’

The Flamingo Club in Wardour Street and the fight between Johnny Edgecombe and ‘Lucky’ Gordon

Sunday, June 7th, 2009
Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames at The Flamingo Club

Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames at The Flamingo Club

It’s not widely known but Georgie Fame was slightly connected to the Profumo affair, the political scandal that led to the resignation of John Profumo the Secretary of State for War in October 1963 and ultimately the fall of the Conservative government, a year later, in 1964.

In 1962 Georgie Fame had started a three year residency at The Flamingo Club – famous for its weekend all-nighters where it stayed open ’til six in the morning on Friday and Saturday nights. It was situated at 33 Wardour Street, a building which also housed the Wag Club during the eighties and nineties, and is now the Irish-theme pub O’Neills.

The police outside The Flamingo in Wardour Street

The police outside The Flamingo in Wardour Street

The Flamingo Club which originally specialised in modern jazz was opened by Rik and John Gunnell in 1959. The club quickly became popular with West Indians and also black American soldiers that were still stationed in quite large numbers just outside London and who had few other places to socialise. Georgie Fame once recalled:

“there were only a handful of hip young white people that used to go to The Flamingo. When I first went there as a punter I was scared. Once I started to play there, it was no problem.”

Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames

Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames


Fame, who was born Clive Powell but was instructed to change his name as part of Larry Parnes’ stable (he was originally Billy Fury’s pianist), often employed black musicians, one of which was the strikingly named ‘Psycho’ Gordon – a Jamaican who come to the UK in the late 1940s.

Psycho Gordon often brought to The Flamingo Club his brother ‘Lucky Gordon’ a part-time jazz singer and drug dealer. Lucky had also been a boyfriend of the infamous Christine Keeler and it was at one of the hot and sweaty ‘all-nighter’ Flamingo sessions in October 1962 when Gordon bumped into another of Keeler’s black lovers – Johnny Edgecombe.

Gordon and Edgecombe started arguing and it soon developed into a vicious knife fight. The fracas ended with Edgecombe badly slicing the face of, this time a rather unlucky, ‘Lucky’ Gordon. No one knew, least of all the two protagonists, but the fight started a slow-burning fuse that eventually caused the explosion that became the most infamous political scandal of the twentieth century.

Aloysius 'Lucky' Gordon the sometime lover of Christine Keeler

Aloysius 'Lucky' Gordon the sometime lover of Christine Keeler

Gordon was treated for his wound at a local hospital but a few days later in a fit of jealousy, and rather unpleasantly, he posted the seventeen used stitches to Keeler and warned her that for each stitch he had sent she would also get two on her face in return.

Meanwhile a scared Edgecombe, along with Keeler, went into hiding from the police. Keeler even bought a Luger pistol in a bid to protect herself from the dangerous and still threatening Gordon.

On December 14th 1962 Keeler finished with Edgecombe, after finding him with another lover, saying that she would testify that it was he who had attacked Lucky Gordon at The Flamingo two months previously.

Keeler went to visit her friend Mandy Rice-Davies at Stephen Ward’s flat in Wimpole Mews with Johnny Edgecombe following her there in a taxi. When Keeler refused to speak to him he angrily shot seven bullets at the door of the flat. Frightened, the girls called Ward at his surgery and he in turn called the police who soon came and arrested Edgecombe.

Johnny Edgecombe

Lucky Gordon and Johnny Edgecombe

Before Edgecombe’s trial, Keeler was whisked off to Spain, one assumes because somebody, somewhere, thought various people would be badly compromised if she was allowed to talk in the witness box. Conspicuous by Keeler’s absence Edgecombe was found not guilty, both for assaulting Lucky Gordon and the attempted murder of Keeler. He was, however, found guilty of possession of an illegal firearm, for which he got seven years and served five.

Christine Keeler in Spain

Christine Keeler in Spain


On April 1st 1963 Christine was fined for her non-appearance at court and Lucky Gordon was bundled away by the Metropolitan police, shouting “I love that girl!” Not long after Keeler bumped into Gordon back at The Flamingo Club and again he had to be dragged away from her by other West Indian friends of hers.

The police struggling with Lucky Gordon 1st April 1963

The police struggling with Lucky Gordon 1st April 1963

In June 1963 Gordon was given a three year prison sentence for supposedly assaulting Keeler and in the same month Stephen Ward was arrested for living off Christine’s immoral earnings.

By now the whole story involving Profumo and the Russian attache/spy Ivananov was emerging, drip by drip. The chain of events that started with the fight of Keeler’s jealous ex-lovers at The Flamingo Club eventually caused the infamous resignation of the Secretary of State for War John Profumo, the suicide of high society’s favourite pimp, portrait painter and osteopath Stephen Ward, and ultimately, it could be said, the fall of the Conservative government.

Christine Keeler outside the Old Bailey 1st April 1963

Christine Keeler outside the Old Bailey 1st April 1963

Christine Keeler with friend 25th April 1963

Christine Keeler with friend 25th April 1963

Stephen Ward unconscious after his suicide attempt. He died a few days later.

Stephen Ward unconscious after his suicide attempt. He died a few days later.

In December 1963, after a drunken tape-recorded confession that she had lied about Gordon assaulting her, Keeler pleaded guilty of perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice at Lucky Gordon’s trial. Her barrister had pleaded to the judge before sentencing:

“Ward is dead, Profumo is disgraced. And now I know your lordship will resist the temptation to take what I might call society’s pound of flesh.”

It was to no avail and Christine Keeler was sentenced to nine months in jail which ended what her barrister termed, a little prematurely:

“the last chapter in this long saga that has been called the Keeler affair.”

Lucky Gordon after his release from prison

Lucky Gordon after his release from prison

Christine Keeler arriving at court, October 1963

Christine Keeler arriving at court, October 1963

29th October 1963

29th October 1963

Just before Christine Keeler’s trial Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames recorded a live album entitled Rhythm and Blues at “The Flamingo” and it was released in early 1964. The following year Fame had a number one hit with his version of ‘Yeh Yeh’.

After the publicised trouble at The Flamingo, American service men were banned from visiting the club. However, drawn by the weekend all-nighters and the music policy of black American R ‘n’ B and jazz, The Flamingo Club was already becoming the favourite hang-out for London’s newest teenager cult, the Mods. But that’s a different story…



"What if I sit astride the chair? It might just work."

"What if I sit astride the chair? It might just work."


Georgie Fame – Night Train (recorded at The Flamingo)

Derrick Morgan – Fat Man

Derrick and Patsy – Hey Boy Hey Girl

Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland – Turn On Your Lovelight

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles – I Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying

Kim Weston – Looking For The Right Guy

John Lee Hooker – Tupelo

Brenda Holloway – I’ll Always Love You

Marvin Gaye – Pride and Joy

Buy some Georgie Fame stuff here


The Murder of Ali Fahmy At The Savoy Hotel

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

“What have I done, my dear! What have I done!”


Marguerite Fahmy

The two court cases were over seventy years apart and the LA suburb of Brentwood is a long way from the relative sophistication of London’s Savoy Hotel in the 1920s but when OJ Simpson was infamously acquitted in 1995, despite seemingly overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the shocked reaction around the world would not have been dissimilar to when Marguerite Fahmy was sensationally found ‘not guilty’ of the internationally reported murder of her Egyptian playboy husband at the hotel in 1923.

The Savoy Hotel in 1923

The Savoy Hotel had opened in 1889, and had been no stranger to scandal – it was at Oscar Wilde’s infamous trial where it came to light that he had entertained a succession of rent-boys at the hotel’s room 361. After Wilde had been arrested for gross indecency the presiding magistrate said “I know nothing about the Savoy, but I must say that in my view chicken and salad for two at sixteen shillings is very high. I am afraid I shall never supper there myself.”

However it was still the place to stay for celebrities and royalty visiting London. In 1923 the hotel was still seen as one of the finest in the world and in that year, amongst others, Walter Hagen, Fred and Adele Astaire and the opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini (as in chicken) had all stayed there.

Walter Hagen on the roof of the Savoy

Fred and Adele Astaire

A typical dismal drizzly April in London that year had only been brightened by the wedding of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon to the Duke of York, Prince Albert – known as ‘Bertie’ to his family and close friends. The house band at the Savoy Hotel – The Savoy Havana Band – made its debut on the BBC on 13th April 1923, not least because the BBC at the time was next door and shared its generator with the hotel.

A few weeks later on the morning of Sunday 1 July 1923 a limousine drove into Savoy Court and the Hotel doorman helped out a couple who were known to the hotel as the Prince and Princess Fahmy. They were accompanied by the Prince’s private secretary, Mr Said Enani. Accurately Prince Fahmy wasn’t really a prince but he did little to discourage the use of the title when away from Egypt.

Savoy Court – the only road in Britain where drivers are required to drive on the right.

The 22 year Egyptian had met his bride to be, a woman ten years his senior, in Paris the year before -incidentally the year that Egypt was granted independence, if not overall control, by the British Government. To many people Marguerite was seen, at best, as a flirtatious gold-digger and more in love with his not inconsiderable fortune than the man himself. They had married in Egypt, first by a civil ceremony on 26th December and then followed by a Muslim wedding in January 1923 where Madame Fahmy, modestly veiled, proclaimed in Arabic ‘There is one God and Mohammed is His Prophet’.


Mr and Mrs Fahmy in Egypt

After a few days in London, which was experiencing a heatwave, Marguerite Fahmy summoned the Savoy’s doctor – she was suffering badly from external haemorrhoids. She alleged to Dr Gordon, while he was treating her, that her husband had ‘torn her by unnatural intercourse’ and was ‘always pestering her’ for this kind of sex. Already thinking about possible future divorce proceedings she repeatedly asked the doctor for ‘a certificate as to her physical condition to negative the suggestion of her husband that she had made up a story’. The doctor, although respectful, ignored her request.

On the 9th July the couple went to Daly’s Theatre on Cranbourne Street off Leicester Square (where the Vue West End cinema now stands) to see, with hindsight the darkly ironic ‘The Merry Widow’. It had been an incredibly hot day and you can only imagine how uncomfortably warm the theatre must have been in those pre-air-conditioned days (although as far as a lot of the West End is concerned we’re still in those days). Not the ideal conditions for someone suffering from piles I would imagine. The main performers in Lehar’s popular operetta were the 22 year old Evelyn Laye and the Danish matinee idol Carl Brisson.


Carl Brisson


The beautiful Evelyn Laye

Daly's Theatre

The couple returned to the Savoy after the theatre for a late supper, however the meal was disrupted by a huge argument which had recently become almost a daily occurrence. Ali had even appeared in public with scratches on his face and Marguerite had been seen with dark bruises on her face ill-disguised with powder and makeup. The row this time degenerated to such an extent that Marguerite picked up a wine bottle and shouted in French ‘You shut up or I’ll smash this over your head.’ Ali replied ‘If you do, I’ll do the same to you.’ They eventually calmed down, not without the help of the head-waiter, and went to the ballroom to listen to the Savoy Havana Band. The house band no doubt would have been playing at one point Yes, We Have No Bananas or perhaps Ain’t We Got Fun both big hits that year. It wasn’t long before Marguerite, after refusing the offer of a dance with her husband, retired to her room.

Mr Said Enani, as a witness in court a few weeks later, said that Mr Fahmy, in full evening dress, had decided to take a cab in the direction of Piccadilly even though the hot balmy weather had now turned into one of the worse thunderstorms in living memory. When asked the reason why he went, he said he did not know. Although we can perhaps presume that Ali was either visiting an unlicensed nightclub or on the search for either a male or female prostitute both of which frequented the area in high numbers around that part of the West End.

At around 2.00am the hotel’s night porter passed the door to the Fahmy’s suite but heard a low whistle and looking back saw Ali Fahmy bending down apparently whistling for Marguerite’s little dog that had been following the night porter down the corridor. After continuing on his way for just three yards he suddenly heard three shots fired in quick succession.

He ran back and saw Marguerite throw down a black handgun and also saw Ali slumped against the wall bleeding profusely from a wound on his temple from which splinger of bone and brain tissue protruded. ‘Qu’est-ce que j’ai fait, mon cher?’ (what have I done, my dear?’) Marguerite kept saying over and over again.


Sir Edward Marshall Hall - The Great Defender

Marshall Hall was almost 65 at the time of Marguerite’s trial and was a household name. He was six feet three, handsome for his age, and a commanding presence in the courtroom. He was commonly known, after being responsible for several famous acquittals, as ‘The Great Defender’. Marshall Hall’s final speech to the jury in defence of Marguerite, or Madame Fahmy as the press were now calling her, slowly became a character assassination of her dead husband. he portrayed him as a monster of Eastern amoral bisexual depravity. (Not too) subtly Hall accused both Prince Fahmy and his private secretary of being homosexuals.

Ali Fahmy

The public gallery consisted of many young women some of whom were noted to be barely eighteen. Marshall Hall looked up to the gallery saying ‘if women choose to come here to hear this case, they must take the consequences’. None of them left. Meanwhile he turned the attack on Ali to sodomy. Fahmy, said Hall, ‘developed abnormal tendencies and he never treated Madame normally’ Asking them to disregard the fact that the victim was younger than his wife. ‘Yes, he was only 23 years old,’ he told them. ‘But he was given to a life of debauchery and was obsessed with his sexual prowess.’ He went on to remind them that, as an Oriental man, his wife to him was no more than a belonging and that however much he may have acquired the outward signs of urbanity and sophistication, he was forever an Oriental under the skin.

When Marguerite took the stand, she was encouraged by the Great Defender to describe her life as a Muslim bride and to a lot of observers this was when the case turned her way. She testified at one point how she had been sitting ‘in a state of undress in which her modesty would have forbidden her facing even her maid’, she had noticed a strange noise and she pulled aside the hangings that screened an alcove and ‘saw crouching there, where he could see every move she made, one of her husband’s numerous ugly, black, half-civilized manservants, who obeyed like slaves his every word’. She screamed for help, but when her husband, appeared from an adjoining room he only, laughed, saying that “He is nobody. He does not count. But he has the right to come here or anywhere you may go and tell me what you are doing.”

It was like a scene from Rudolph Valentino’s The Sheik, the extraordinarily popular film released the year before, and the women in the gallery were treating it as such.

Before he summed up, the judge, referring to the public gallery said, ‘These things are horrible; they are disgusting. How anyone could listen to these things who is not bound to listen to them passes comprehension.’ However he had been swayed by Marshall Hall’s defence, that pandered to the prejudices of the tie, and during the summing up endorsed Marshall Hall by saying ‘We in this country put our women on a pedestal: in Egypt they have not the same views…’

The jury, after less than an hour’s consideration, announced ‘not guilty’ to both the charges of murder and of manslaughter, and Madame Fahmy was discharged and was now a free woman.

The prosecution was refused by the judge, seemingly in awe as much as anyone else to the Great Defender, to cross-examine Marguerite ‘as to whether or not she had lived an immoral life’, to show that she was ‘a woman of the world, well able to look after herself’.

If she had been cross-examined properly the jury would have found out that not only had Marguerite been a teenage common prostitute in Bordeaux and in Paris and had an illegitimate daughter when she was just fifteen, but she had also become a trained high-class courtesan (it was said that she always spoke in a rather stilted French because of elocution lessons). Not only that but Marguerite’s husband was not alone in having inclinations towards the same sex: it was found out by a private detective hired by the prosecution that it was well known in Paris that Madame Fahmy “is addicted, or was addicted, to committing certain offences with other women and it would seem that there is nothing that goes on in such surroundings as she has been moving in Paris that she would not be quite well acquainted with…”

The world’s press reported the case with undisguised glee, mostly portraying Mardame Fahmy as less than innocent in more ways than one. The French newspapers concentrated on the fact that the jury considered the case as if a crime passionnel defence was allowed in English law.

Marguerite Fahmy after the trial

Marguerite Fahmy after the trial

After the verdict Marguerite soon left for Paris where she found out that she had no claim to her late husband’s fortune as he had left no will. After a failed, and slightly ludicrous plot where she pretended that she had been pregnant and subsequently borne a son (who would have been entitled to his father’s fortune). She was now almost a laughing stock in Parisian society and became relatively a recluse. She died on 2 January 1971 in Paris. She never remarried.

A big debt to this post is Andrew Rose’s excellent book about the notorious murder entitled Scandal at the Savoy originally published in 1991. The author has copies still available and can be contacted at

Billy Jones – Yes, We Have No Bananas!

The Savoy Havana Band – I’m Gonna Bring My Girl a Watermelon Tonight

Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and Bessie Smith – Sugarfoot Stomp (Dippermouth Blues)

Jeanette MacDonald – Merry Widow Waltz

Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra – Happy Feet

Erik Satie – Gnossiennes No. 1

Benson Orchestra of Chicago – Ain’t We Got Fun