‘We lived like kings and partied like animals. We spent fortunes on tailor-made clothes and ran about in Porsches, Mercs and BMWs. Women seemed attracted by the aura of violence and they threw themselves at us wherever we went. And I mean really good-looking girls, not Essex-girl slappers.’

Gangsters’ Molls

The first-hand account of Carlton Leach

The little blonde behind the bar at an Essex nightspot hadn’t taken a blind bit of notice of me when I was just an ordinary punter. But the moment I turned up as the new doorman – tuxedo, bow-tie and bulging biceps – it all changed. Rapidly. It was as if I was wearing some magic aftershave or had undergone a Linford Christie lunchbox transplant. Half-way through the evening she was slipping cute little smiles my way. With half-an-hour to go, she was suddenly wanting to know which was the best taxi firm to use to get her home. Never one to miss an opportunity I volunteered my services with a nonchalant, ‘Oh, it’s on my way home... see you later.’ It was, in fact, in the opposite direction. She was waiting in the car park beside my Granada Ghia when I left. The time-honoured formula, that aura of power and danger that some women seemed to find irresistible, had worked the oracle.

I’d gone from nondescript also-ran to macho man with the pulling power of a Ferrari in a matter of hours! I don’t even know what the attraction is myself but, throughout the annals of crime, bad men have always attracted good women. And not so good women. Plenty of evil, manipulating bitches have joined the gold rush to become as dangerous and ambitious as their menfolk. No self-respecting gangster would be seen out partying without a dolly bird on his arm. They are as much a trophy of villainy as the Mercedes, the mansion and the yacht. No, I don’t have any of those. Just a comfortable flat tucked away on the edge of a small Essex village with a second-hand car and enough money for my everyday needs. Not because I haven’t made a nice few bob over the years. No, I’ve had it but I’ve blown it, mostly on women. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

It all started with that little nightclub blonde who wanted a lift home. She made me realise that there is a lure about the world of muscle, the danger factor of gangland, that some women just cannot resist, from the famed white stiletto scrubbers of deepest Essex to society blue-bloods who really should have more sense. Been there, done those.

[ ... ]

As I was drawn deeper and deeper into gangland and more dependent on the use of steroids, there was this dangerous chemistry at work which made pulling new women absurdly easy. I’d seen them flocking round the hardcases I knew, big Pat Tate being a classic example, like moths to the candle flame, and now I was into two-timing three-timing, four-timing with an endless succession of women.

I suppose that, because I was in a violent world, women thought I would be a violent lover throwing them round the bedroom like Tarzan, having passionate sex up the wardrobes or whatever. If that was their turn-on, they’d have been sadly disappointed. I was always gentle in bed, I cared about the women’s emotions, I cared that they got satisfaction, too. I got enough violence at work, I didn’t need it in the bedroom. The continual use of body-building steroids, is I’ve said before, made my sexual appetite insatiable. I lost count of the number of casual encounters I had. At 5ft 9in tall and built like a brick shithouse, I was no film star. It didn’t matter a damn.

[ ... ]

In gangland, image is all important. Your mistress is often your status symbol, your trophy that shows you’re doing the business, making a nice few bob; you’ve got the four-wheel drive and luxury home conversion in a couple of acres of security fencing in Essex, a few ponies grazing, a pair of Rottweilers and, quite often, an unsuspecting wife happy not to wonder too much about where the bundles of readies for the designer kitchen and Neff oven are coming from. It was like you wanted the best of both worlds. The loyal wife at home with the kids, the piece of totty to impress your underworld cronies.

In my case, there was one simple reason why I never involved my wife or any of my long-term partners in my business activities – they would be far too vulnerable. One sure way for an enemy to hurt you hard would be to go for your wife. If you keep her away from the danger zone, she’s not going to be susceptible. If she’s up front, part of your business world, she’s in danger. If you were on the door at a busy club, she’d be a big distraction because you’d always be looking out for her and not doing your job properly At home with the kids she’s safe. I know it sounds chauvinistic, but it’s practical.

So it’s the totty, the girls who lap up all the danger and excitement of gangland, who generally get to see the bright lights and the gangsters’ get-togethers in dimly lit clubs. That’s OK as long as the tail doesn’t start wagging the dog. I’ve seen time and time again how girlfriends start getting their claws in, how they try to influence important decisions, how they try to exercise their own likes and dislikes about different members of a firm.

One girl who was sleeping with a gang boss I know used to go out with one of the underlings in the firm, but they’d fallen out over some jewellery. She’d moved on up the gangland social ladder, so to speak. One night during pillow talk, she said, ‘You know that Dave, he told me once he was going to shoot you...’ Whether it was true or not, the cat would be well and truly among the pigeons and poor Dave’s future would be looking exceptionally dodgy.

It’s amazing the loyalty that some of gangland’s women can show and frightening how fickle others can be. I’ve seen them stick devotedly to some of the most horrible bastards you are ever likely to encounter, yet others seem to make that switch of allegiance at the drop of a hat and for the weirdest of reasons. I’ve known several who have not only ditched a long-standing boyfriend when he’s ended up in nick, they have jumped into bed with the copper who nicked him. I think perhaps there may be a parallel attraction of cops and crooks. They are both involved in danger, intrigue, the thrill of the chase, just operating on different sides of the fence. There is a very fine line between a good policeman and a good crook. They think the same. It’s the hunter and the hunted. I think women find both a real turn-on.

[ ... ]

The influence of gangsters’ molls can never be underestimated. I’ve seen the hardest of men break down and cry over a woman. I’ve known one man try to kill himself when his mistress said goodbye. The toughest of gangsters are capable of deep emotions and can be destroyed by women.

Equally, women have the capability of inflicting great damage. There never was a truer saying than ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’

Pillow talk is the most dangerous of all romantic activities and it has betrayed many a villain over the years. A crook is likely to tell a mistress a lot more about his activities than his wife. When the day comes for them to part company, she has confidences to betray that can spell danger to his lifestyle that might even land him in jail. We’d all like to think it would never happen to us, but look at the number of cases where a police prosecution relies on the word of a disgruntled gangster’s moll, spilling the beans to get her revenge. They can really fuck you up.

My policy was always to be a bit careful over what I said. If it was serious stuff, the kind of things they didn’t need to know about, I’d play it close to my chest. With Denny and Lynn I had two of the most loyal women you could ever wish for. But I still had to play around. Not because I didn’t love them – and I did love them equally – but because I was driven by this terrible sexual urge that came from using steroids month after month and I couldn’t keep my hands off other women.

I remember several times going to bed with three or four different women within 24 hours and hopefully leaving them all with a smile on their face. I was totally selfish, I wanted more and more sex, I was notching up women like a Wild West gunfighter. I was like a schoolboy in a sweetshop. And I was helping myself to all the Smarties going.

But that’s the way it was. The club scene, the underworld. are male-dominated zones, it’s the jungle culture, the lion king syndrome, not just one female in tow, but three, four or five at a time. It could be ferocious at times. You want them all. You want to protect your harem. You see someone moving in on your territory and – Bang! – they’re out.

I liked to stop it before it became a problem. If I saw someone making a move on any of my women, I’d walk over and say, ‘Do yourself a favour, mate, or you’ll get hurt.’ That was usually enough. Presence, aura, image was so important in that world, like street actors putting on a show; who’s the hardest, who’s the most dangerous, whose firm is the biggest. There was something sinister, the ever-present threat of danger hovering over things, that made it like an aphrodisiac cocktail for some women. And many drank deeply.

[ ... ]

I was working down the dock earning regular money, we had a house and mortgage and then baby Carly came along. I should have been content with that. It’s a lot more than many men achieve. But from the moment I started on the club doors, once I got the adrenalin rush, once I discovered how the women flocked round Mr Danger Man, I lost it. From being a football thug with an aimless delight in causing havoc, I was suddenly a superhero in my mind, standing supreme on the doors believing I was God’s fucking gift to women. So it went on for most of my years in the muscle game.

The first door job, at Mooros in Stratford, came with built-in violence. The regular doorman, Kieran, a big lump of a rugby player, had been KO’d by a firm from Custom House, which included a semi-pro boxer, and the club were looking for a replacement. And they knew more trouble was brewing. I was a regular in there and one of the security blokes rang me and asked if I would like to work the busy Saturday night stint. I said, ‘How much?’

‘Forty quid.’

So I reported for duty, not really knowing what to expect, but full of anticipation, ready for anything. Suddenly, there were about 20 geezers at the door and things started getting nasty. But I recognised two of the mob as brothers I’d known for years. It was Dave, a shit-hot fighter, who’d knocked Kieran spark out the previous night. Would I be the next for a right hook now I was there as the new bouncer? They recognised me.

‘Hello, Carlton, how you doing?’

‘I’m the new doorman.’

Peace broke out. Trouble was avoided. The club were well pleased. And I’d got respect. I was hooked on the buzz of it all. And it wasn’t long before the additional perks of the job, in the form of pretty blondes, brunettes and redheads, made me realise this was the life I wanted, not sweating in the bowels of a ship at the Royal Albert Docks.

I’m no great Adonis and my battle scars are evident to see, but the change in the attitude of women once I started door work was nothing short of remarkable. Barmaids, waitresses, dancers and drinkers – whoever – were not just available but gagging for it. Mooros carried a staff of around 15 girls, and they all wanted to be seen leaving with the doorman. An after-hours shag was regarded as a regular everyday bonus. And if I could get three or four door shifts a week at £40 a time, I could make darn sight more than working as a ship’s engineer. Three sessions netted me more than I got in seven days in the docks. That was it. I was muscle for hire from then on.

With my new-found status came attitude. You might not realise it, but you get that swagger, that arrogance that sets you apart from the flock. And it’s not always a good thing. It makes you a nasty person. It may pull the birds, but it’s disastrous for your home life. Karen, Denny, Lynn and many more all found to their cost that they were playing second fiddle to my ego as I strode upwards and onwards into violence and crime.

Carlton Leach, Muscle, John Blake Publishing Ltd. (2003) pp. 195-209.

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