TV legend Fred Dinenage brings fascinating Krays show to Portsmouth

For 60 years he’s been talking to TV cameras – and being beamed into the living rooms of viewers of shows ranging from kids’ favourites to sport. Now he’s looking at live audiences sat in front of him, talking about one of the subject he knows most about – and is loving it.
The Krays, whose life story has been told by Fred Dinenage | Library pictureThe Krays, whose life story has been told by Fred Dinenage | Library picture
The Krays, whose life story has been told by Fred Dinenage | Library picture

And this time Fred, veteran of How!, Meridian Tonight and a host of other hit TV shows, is the interviewee rather than the interviewer, another change he has taken to like a duck to water.

Fred is taking on tour a theatre show – which comes to Portsmouth Guildhall this Friday (March 1) – in which he talks about the work he has done with Ronnie and Reggie Kray and other notorious names from the underworld of criminal gangs.

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He can tell the stories like no-one else – for this definitive insight into the real life of Britain's most notorious gangsters comes from the Krays’ trusted official biographer.

Fred Dinenage is quizzed on stage by Alex Dyke | Submitted pictureFred Dinenage is quizzed on stage by Alex Dyke | Submitted picture
Fred Dinenage is quizzed on stage by Alex Dyke | Submitted picture

Fred did a handful of shows in the autumn in the south and they proved so popular Fred’s now embarking on a wider tour taking him to new venues right across the south of England.

He can’t wait – and is blown away by how much interest there still is in the subject.

"We’ve had a wonderful response to the talks about the Kray twins - and also about some of the highlights (and bloopers!) of my 60 years on TV which come into the event too,” he told us.

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"I particularly remember the audiences at the delightful Shanklin Theatre on the Isle of Wight, the Concorde Club near Southampton and the Saga cruise ship, the Spirit of Adventure.

"The audiences have been a nice mix of all age groups and I’m so grateful people bothered to come. I’m looking forward now to more venues in the south and a mini tour of England and Scotland, in March and later this year.

"I love talking on stage to a ‘live’ audience as opposed to a piece of metal and glass in a TV studio. I’ve always loved performing ’live’ and meeting people. It’s a challenge, of course, but it’s where I’m happiest.

"It still amazes me that people are still so fascinated by Reggie and Ronnie and London‘s underworld in the 1950s and 60s. I even get students writing to me who are studying crime and the Krays – these students weren’t even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes when the twins were in their prime.

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"I’m looking forward to meeting many more people In the coming months. And hopefully I will be able to answer their questions!”

For decades the Krays were feared as the ultimate ganglords of the London underworld, but their reign of terror came crashing to an end when in 1969 both they were given life sentences by a judge at the Old Bailey.

Reggie went on to serve decades in some of the toughest prisons in the country, while Ronnie became a patient at Broadmoor with an insanity only kept under control by massive doses of drugs.

Fred was chosen by the twins to tell their official story and he became one of the very few people allowed into their inner circle. He gained an unparalleled insight into the real lives of the kings of crime, and in his show he reveals stories and incidents that have never been aired publicly before.

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Presenting the show is another broadcasting giant, stalwart DJ Alex Dyke, known to radio listeners across the south.

Fred will disclose what it was like to venture into some of Britain's toughest institutions and meet the most foreboding twins in criminal history – a pair who other journalists just couldn’t get close to.

The stories will fascinate and intrigue, while audiences will learn about the gritty reality of being a gangster in the criminal underworld of the swinging 60s – from the only man they trusted to tell their tale.

Fred told us: “I got involved with Reg and Ron because when I was at TVS presenting Coast To Coast, one of our reporters went and did a piece on the Maguire family in Gosport, whose daughter had had a life-saving transplant at the famous Addenbrooke’s Hospital and her parents wanted to raise as much money as they could for the unit.

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"Some days later I received a letter which was franked ‘HMP Parkhurst’ – it was from Reggie and in it he said he and others at the jail had seen the report and wanted to help raise money. They had some very talented artists there and wanted to do some paintings that could be auctioned off.

"When we saw the paintings some of them were very good indeed, but one was really like a child’s drawing, very simple. But it was signed by Reggie and it was the one that went on to raise a really large sum. That was how my relationship with them started but I never imagined I’d remain friends with them until they both passed on (Ronnie died in 1995, Reggie five years later).

"It took me three years to write their life story because I could only see them once every month – and they kept changing their minds about who’d been loyal to them and who hadn’t!”

Fred is relishong being on the other side of an interview to the one he has been used to in six decades on the TV. "I’ve interviewed pop stars, film stars and politicians, including every Prime Minister since the mid-1960s – and I find it easier to ask questions rather than answer them! But I can talk about the Kray twins and other top villains forever!”

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He promises some wonderful anecdotes in the show – he almost has too many to tell in one night on stage, but crams in as many as he can.

A sneak preview for readers, Fred? "When I first went to meet Ronnie at Broadmoor I was walking towards the huge black gates at Broadmoor when I became aware of a chauffeur-driven white Rolls Royce with blackened windows alongside me. One of the rear windows opened and a puff of cigar smoke came out,” Fred recalled.

"I heard a voice say: “Fred Dinenage?” I replied ‘yes’. The voice said: ‘I believe you are writing a book about Ron Kray?’ ‘That’s correct,’ I said. Well I’m a close friend of Ron’s,’ the voice said, ‘and I hope your book will be fair and honest.’ ‘It will,’ I replied. ‘I hope so,’ the voice said, ‘because I will be watching.’

“With that, the car drove off. I later discovered I’d been talking to the boss of London’s underworld! Did he contact me again? Did he like the book? Or was I in serious trouble? Find out by coming to the show!”

Spring dates for Fred Dinenage: Reggie, Ronnie and Me

March 1 – Portsmouth Guildhall

March 8 – Basingstoke Haymarket

March 10 – Christchurch Regent Theatre

March 15 – Eastbourne Devonshire Park

March 20 – Exeter Corn Exchange

March 21 – Tavistock Wharf

March 22 – Paignton Palace Theatre

April 6 – Banbury Mill Arts Centre

April 16 – The Lights, Andover

April 24 – Wimborne Tivoli Theatre

See facebook.com/ronniereggieandme