You donít hear about actors who are also gangsters do you? Here I am outside the tiny mews house in Belgravia where John Bindon lived. He worked on the edges of the underworld, was in and out of prison, thought nothing of knocking someone unconscious....yet he appeared in fifteen films and a few television dramas. He compressed many lives into his five decades - actor, debt collector, drug dealer and gangster. He knew Princess Margaret, the Krays and the Richardsons, had an aristocratic girlfriend, was a tour manager for Led Zepplin and David Bowie. Here I am outside his former home in Londonís snazzy Belgravia.
John was born in Fulham during World War 2 and raised on a council estate. He could have remained an unknown criminal but director Ken Loach spotted the menacing hulk of man in a London pub. He was known was casting "unknowns" and John was put in the main role in the film Poor Cow. It was about a London villain with a penchant for domestic violence. Well cast - John was this person and had been put in a Youth Offenders Institute as a schoolboy (before many spells in prison.) One nickname was Biffo and he could easily knock someone out with one right hook. Once he bit off someone thumb in a fight and taunted them by keeping it in a matchbox.
Oddly this smiling affable chap was well liked in London's social circles and he mixed with low-life criminals like The Krays to royalty. In prison he read voraciously, feeding his thirst for knowledge and was a raconteur when out socially. There were lots of girlfriends (Christine Keeler David Bowieís wife, Playboy bunnies) but for 12 years it was Vicki Hodge, the daughter of baronet Sir John Hodge. On the run once he fled to Mystique in the Caribbean and met Princess Margaret who wanted to see his famously and well-used huge 11" sausage (pub party-piece: hanging six half-pint glasses on it.) Itís thought the Queenís sister jumped up and down on it and - later on back in London - they continue their friendship/relationship. John the rough-n-ready geezer was a blazing muse for the stiff royal and he often visited her at Kensington Palace. Many people were afraid of him though - MI5 were, too. Allegedly he possessed some explosive photos of the princess and although he was discreet MI5 called on him one day to ensure nothing came to light. It was his turn to be frightened and it's thought he burnt the photos.
In the late 1970s John provided personal security for rock stars. He was sacked from Led Zeppelinís 1977 tour for brawling. When the acting dried up due to his volatility he ran a protection and debt collection racket in West London. However friends noticed his social appearances were getting rarer and he looked thin and gaunt. After packing in a colourful life he spent the last few years fading away here at this quiet mews house in poverty. With the end coming the 6 feet 2" bear of a man was moved to hospital where he died aged of 50. He was cremated at Putney Vale Crematorium with hundreds of mourners packing the place (I read the state paid for the funeral.)
The mews house sits at the end of a dead end. Belgravia is probably London's most expensive district and in 2007 John's house sold for £1.7 million. Nowadays houses on this row sell for £3 - £7 million. A short walk from the house is The Star Tavern and if you read lots of crime books like this was the watering hole where the top-end thieves, safe-blowers and the cream of cat burglars met to get sozzled and show off. I didn't stay long in the mews as I'm sure stranger appearing in the cul-de-sac are under observation within seconds. I had one last look at the house. Sadly John returned home once in a snow blizzard to find his brother in front of an electric fire. He was dead and had fallen into it partially cremating himself. I did a salute and left.
Not much has changed...a photograph of the house from the seventies....and now...
With Princess Margaret...