Monday, 26 January 2009

215: Private Eye and the Krays

from "Private Eye" 21 August 1964

Private Eye’s take on the whole media ho-ha surrounding the Kray brothers revelations of 1964.

During the summer of ’64 the papers had been working themselves into hissy fits about London gangs that were now operating above the law. The papers were too cowardly to actually name who these criminals were – for fear of either being sued for libel, or having their legs removed with a meat cleaver. As it was, “Private Eye” boldly named the Kray Brothers as the guilty parties, and then the various editors of “Private Eye” all suddenly went on holiday out of the country. “The Sunday Mirror” alleged in a story titled "Peer and a Gangster: Yard Probe" that Scotland Yard was investigating a homosexual relationship between a peer and a notorious London gangster. It kept on making its insinuations and it was soon evident to almost everyone that the peer in question was the Tory, Lord Bob Boothby, a rapacious bisexual who would screw anything up to and including the former Prime Minister Macmillan’s wife. Boothby wrote an indignant letter to “The Times” denying all charges, and the proprietor and editor of the “Mirror” folded utterly paying him £40,000 in compensation. In retrospect it was of course true, but that’s neither here nor there. Incidentally, Tom Driberg, the Labour figure whom I covered last year, was also a gay friend of the Krays - so no partisan tendencies there.

So another homosexual-tinged scandal of the time. “Private Eye” focuses on the sensationalism and titillation by insinuation employed by the newspapers then ramps it all up a notch, and ludicrously smearing the journalists involved in the same manner.
“Hugh Cunp” is Hugh Cudlipp, editor of the “Mirror” (face on the right).
“Cecil Harmsworth Quean” is Cecil Harmsworth King, the owner of the Mirror newspaper empire (face on the left). Etymology fans might be interested to note that “quean” used to be the preferred homosexual variant of “queen”. Quean could mean a jezebel, prostitute, or female cat in heat, so with it’s connotations of effeminacy, sexual opportunism, and a feline counterpart to “bitch”, a jolly useful word, but in pronunciation impossible to differentiate from “queen” which it has now become. So a crappy pun is a little less crappy, when you know, eh?
The scribbles in the corner are a satire on the unprofessionalism of the “Mirror”’s behaviour since Cudlipp’s attention was distracted during most of this because he was either preparing the new “Sun” newspaper or off on holiday himself. Well that, and they're just scrawls calling one another poofs.

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