The Bouncer Who
Bought the Cavern
By Bill Harry
There are other stories which illustrate the tough scene in which gangsters and villains abounded, including the time the Krays thought they could come to Liverpool and begin a protection racket.
Roy had been tipped off that London gangsters were coming to Liverpool to start a protection racket.
Initially, Reggie Kray and a group of men came to Liverpool and went to the Cabaret Club in Duke Street. The owner told them it was his territory and he wouldn't let any out-of-towners take over - and several of his men escorted Kray and company to the railway station.
At the Blue Angel one night came a group of men, one called 'Tank' who was as wide as he was high, with Reggie Kray, one of the Nash Brothers, Dave Scott, Eric Mason and a few others.
A number of local hard cases were at the bar and one of them walked over and ripped one of the beer pumps out. One of the bouncers was asked to throw him out. He turned to a colleague and asked him to do it. Another hard man, Davy Chand, entered and they asked him if he would throw the man out. He went to the group at the bar and asked one of them, Tommy McDonald if he would take his friends and leave. McDonald pulled out a gun and hit him over the head with it. Davy then head-butted him and a big fight started which spilled into Seel Street and the surrounding streets.
As Roy described it: "The fight got really heavy, ears and noses getting bitten off in the process. The police arrived and closed off Berry Street and Seel Street. They called in the fire brigade who were looking for bits of ears, noses etc. The Kray lot never interfered, they just stood and watched...Two enormous policemen arrived in trilby hats. One was detective inspector John Ralphson. He went over to the Kray crowd and said to Reggie Kray: 'I want a word.' they went into a telephone booth at the club and Ralphson produced a gun saying, 'If you don't get out of town I'll blow your head off.'
Later, someone commented, 'There'll never be a protection racket in Liverpool.' When he was asked why, he said, 'How can you run a protection racket in a town where when you pull a gun on someone they head butt you!'
Roy became a doorman for Yankel Feather at his Basement Club in Mount Pleasant. He recalled his friend John Chase from Liverpool College of Art was the barman: "He ran the little bar with one of Yankel's sisters, Nellie. I, of course, manned the door. Yankel's other sister Sarah, ran the food counter and looked after the record player, which was at the rear of the counter.
Yankel had painted the brick walls in sort of geometric, almost Moroccan-style shapes. He'd used oddments of furniture, including a couple of old sofas, and all in all the entire place had a great atmosphere with a mixed clientele: artists, pop groups, university professors and comedians - a sort of upmarket hippie place. My job was to keep up the standard of the clientele."
He was also to relate: "I learnt a lot from Yankel in the way he handled people. I'd been on the door six years before this so had fairly considerable experience, but because of the type of person he was, avant-garde in the extreme, he showed me a new slant on things. One night he said to me 'I want you to start charging everyone who comes in, no walkovers.' I said, 'OK, no problem.' Well, the first person to come in was Brian Epstein who'd recently launched the Beatles. We had a little counter about
four feet long, which I stood alongside after I opened the door. Yankel sat on a cushion on a little bench seat three foot behind the counter. He wore a little pork pie hat and a cardigan and always sat with one leg curled under him.
"I said: 'That's half a crown please Brian.' Yankel was staring straight ahead. Brian looked at him and said, 'Yank!' in a drawn out voice, 'me?' Yankel turned his head to the right lifting his chin and stared at the wall. When he heard the half crown hit the counter he turned back to the front. His whole attitude said: 'If you can't pay me half a crown what sort of friend are you?'"