A blast from the casino past – The Kray brothers

A blast from the casino past – The Kray brothers

The Kray Twins, as they were known in crime circles and casino scenes, were two of the 60s most notorious organized crime lawbreakers. The British gangsters, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, started their illegal activities in the 1050s and were soon the stars of the East End London stage.

Although best known for their ghastly violent crimes the twins had other ambitions planned out. Their most coveted ambition was to gain a high social standing. They were hunting for class, and the best way to do this was to invest in the purchase of Esmeralda’s Bar, a crime peppered establishment they acquired under dubious circumstances and turned into the most visited East End casino London had ever seen.

New gaming laws introduced in 1961 offered the Kray brothers the window for presenting their “clean-up” act during the management of Esmeralda’s Barn. Celebrities big and small caught wind of this new and luxurious casino and started paying regular visits. Among those spotted to frequent the casino were famous actress Judy Garland and Johnnie Ray who were reportedly also very close to the twins.

Among other names dropped were infamous Bob Boothby and Howard ‘Effing” Effingham and by this time Ronnie Kray was already honouring the House of Lords with regular visits. It occurred to the twins to offer some pretty hefty lines of credit to the more heavily infatuated casino players and, while most celebrities spent their time drinking a few cocktails and socializing, others were being pressured into paying back even larger amount of money, most likely in the back alley.

The likes of Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon also graced the brothers’ casino with their presence and while the first had the bad insight of accepting a line of credit, the latter was clearing his debt by bringing in characters from the high-class social scene.

Esmeralda’s was the center of casino activities, money laundering, extortion, and of course class act celebrity gatherings until 1963 when other similar establishments were starting to spice-up London’s nightlife scene. The Kray brothers sold the casino and today a hotel sits in his place- the Berkeley. The history of the place might long be forgotten if Brian Helgeland, writer and director, were not making a movie based on the scandalous twin’s story.

The movie, titled Legend, will play witness to the atrocities and injustices applied by the twins to various patrons of the casino and not exclusively. The director is looking to reopen Esmeralda’s Barn and besides touching upon the murders of George Cornell and Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie, will feature other interesting stories from the brothers’ tumultuous life.

Needless to say, in 1968 the brothers were caught and imprisoned for life. Ronnie died at the Broadmoor Hospital in 1995 while his older brother Reggie passed away 8 weeks after being released in 2000 due to spreading cancer in his body.

The story of the Kray brothers is nothing short of amazing but it does serve as an example to Mafiosos worldwide that crime really doesn’t pay.


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