Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Macc Lads Vs The Bronx Warriors

This is from my 1st book STAB PROOF SCARECROWS, published in 2010. It's reappearing here now because, despite being amusing, it is a terrifying reminder that two (or possibly more) senior police officers lived in such a limited, closeted world that they believed the Bronx Warriors were a real gang.

A Chief Inspector is the equivalent of a Captain in the US police. While an Inspector would be about the rank of Lieutenant.


The Macc Lads Vs The Bronx Warriors

In 1982 Enzo G Castellari, an Italian exploitation film director made a movie based loosely on both Walter Hill's The Warriors and John Carpenter's Escape From New York. The title of the movie was 1990: The Bronx Warriors.

The movie's plot is that it is the future. New York's Bronx district has become so crime ridden that it has been officially declared “No Man's Land” and the Police no longer exist there.

Starring Vic Morrow and Fred Williamson the movie topped the American Billboard charts for three weeks in 1983 and spawned a sequel in 1985 named Escape From the Bronx.

At the age of 13 there was virtually shite all to do in my home town. It was and still is a monotonous dump with no night life beyond the pubs. The Youth Club had a film night on Mondays (remember this was 1984 and a VCR was still an expensive luxury). We would pack the TV room in our sweaty hordes to watch whatever they'd got for us out of petty cash. Usually it would be crap like “Splash” or “Flashdance” but once this film got rolling we were presented with a synthesised music score showing a montage of weapons the various gangs in the movie use. Then the opening five minutes had me and everyone else hooked as the Riders despatched the Zombies in some atrocious martial arts choreography.

I was completely blown away by this film and had never seen anything like it before. Decades later when DVD was born the movies came out but alas and foresooth only in German. I bought them anyway and when they were finally released in English I put the two German versions on Ebay.

The winning bidder was the director Enzo G Castellari.

After some email exchanges where I ascertained this was really him and not a fan taking the piss he endorsed a website I set up for the movies at and in 2004 I flew out to Rome to meet him where he autographed all my memorabilia, posed for photos and let me interview him for the site. A year later I met him again and Enzo's son Andrea has told me that his father now considers me a friend and was very flattered to have the website set up in his honour.

In 1988 I was sitting in a mate's bedroom reading comics and he asked if I wanted to listen to a new punk band he'd recently been introduced to. He put on a cassette of a song called “Sweaty Betty” by The Macc Lads and I had never heard anything like it in my life. Before the term politically correct had reached my ears the best way to describe this band would be “very rude” as the song was about an enormously obese woman that the singer had apparently shagged (think AC/DC's 'Whole Lotta Rosie' but funny). It was as if Bernard Manning or Chubby Brown had picked up a Gibson guitar and hired a drummer.

I immediately burned my Climie Fisher collection and for the next six years was a massive fan of the band, following them on tour and eventually getting to know one of their roadies who got me into gigs for free where I would help out or even do security in the pit occasionally to prevent the fans climbing on stage.

Formed in 1981 and hailing from Macclesfield in the north of England they were completely offensive to all and sundry. The subjects of their songs being alcohol and sex in the mainstay (first album was called Beer and Sex and Chips 'n' Gravy), fighting, football and even sheep shagging. The lead singer/ songwriter/ bass player and manager was Muttley McLad, on guitar was The Beater and drums was Stez Styx. They packed out mid-size venues all over the country in the late 80s and early 90s, despite getting no radio play due to the profanity and vulgarity in the songs and being banned from ever appearing in any college or university affiliated to the National Union of Students.

In 1998 I found a website set up by a 19 year old fan who had never seen the band perform but loved their stuff and had put the word out for info on them. I emailed him with my involvement, we renamed the site The Bear's Head (The Macc Lads' local pub) and over the next two years succeeded in getting various ex band members, roadies, support acts and associates to do interviews. In 2001 Muttley McLad, created his own Macc Lads website where The Bear's Head now resides as a tribute to our efforts.

Muttley to this day insists that most of the fans 'got the joke'. My argument that they wouldn't have turned up to gigs in their hundreds, got completely drunk and moshed their heads off if they thought he was insincere, is something we still have to agree to disagree on.

Fast forward to 2007 and a former Macc Lads roadie and Bronx Warriors fan is now PC Manley.

One morning me and Jacob were out in the ERV and had set up by the side of the road to see if we could catch anyone using a mobile phone while driving. Jacob's Job mobile was in the hands-free cradle and at about 10am we got an unexpected call.

“Hello this is Chief Inspector Nutall are you 10/8?”

“Hello Sir, yes I am” Jacob replies.

“Is Lance with you Jacob?”

“Yes Sir, he's next to me, do you want to speak to him?”

“No, it's ok. Can you get him to come and see me at 12pm please in my office”.

“No problem, will do Sir”.

The CI rings off and I look at Jacob. “What's that about?” feeling a little nervous.

“It's OK, he probably wants to just meet you to say hi. They do that sometimes with probationers. It's probably just a 'handshake' to welcome you to the Nick”.

I think on this. Doesn't quite gel. “But we've already had that with the Super' a few months ago. Who is he anyway?”

“Joined same intake as me. SUPER Fast Track that one. He's OK...look don't worry. If it was important they'd have requested it in writing”.

Half an hour later and we both end up nicking two blokes on suspicion of Theft after one was caught with money hidden in his shoe and the other dropped £200 in twenties on the floor during a search by his firm's security guard which I was overseeing. Jacob calls the CI back who tells me to come tomorrow instead at 11am.

At this point in my career I was not yet used to the underhanded ways of my PDU Sergeant, Kerwan and his deputy PC EsobĂ© and of being lied to or deceived about what to expect. This time I trusted Jacob's reassurance that it was probably only a chat and although nervous to be heading up to the SMT floor, was confident it wasn't anything to get worked up about. As I left the Writing Room Jacob called after me “don't worry it'll be fine. Meet you back here later”.

I approached the SMT secretary, a serious woman who told me that they were all in their daily meeting and to take a seat. After about 20 minutes an Indian CI entered the room. He looked about late 20s early 30s and was tall and thin. I got to my feet as he entered, as per etiquette and he smiled and then said “hello Lance, I've just got some things to take care of and then I'll be with you OK?”.

Friendly and no trace of any annoyance so maybe this is just a chat. Jacob had told me to carry my cap under my arm as I entered the office and wait to be offered a seat before sitting down, just to give a good impression. The brim had practically worn a groove in my the soft skin of my upper arm when he returned a few minutes later and told me to follow him.

As we entered his office I was surprised to find PDU Ma'am sitting on the other side of the desk.

“Ma'am” I nod to her and she nods back.

“PC Manley”.

The CI takes his seat and motions me to sit. I put the cap on my lap and they both look at me.

He begins. “Now Lance the reason we've brought you in here today is that we understand that you're involved in a couple of websites. The Macc Lads and the Bronx Warriors”.

“Yes Sir, that’s right” I answer nodding. Jesus! Why the hell are Senior Management bothered about this?

“We're not sure what they are, we wondered if you could explain it”.

“Well they're just a couple of fan sites. They've been on the Net for years”.

After a pause he opens a cardboard folder and takes out two photocopied sheets of A4. I've always believed since then that he wanted to see if I'd deny involvement so he could pull them out and go “WELL, WHAT'S THIS THEN?”.

One is the main page of the Bronx Warriors website, with the adline from the first film about the Bronx being No Man's Land, below are two images from the German DVD covers that I sold to Enzo and at the bottom is a photo of me and Enzo outside his office in Rome plus a counter to monitor how many people have visited the site.

The other is a page from the The Bear's Head and is a list of contributors to the site with photos.

“Can you explain your involvement in The Macc Lads please?”

“Well the Macc Lads are a band I used to work for when I was younger. I haven’t been involved with them for about seven years”.

PDU Ma'am who until that point had simply sat there looking at me, reaches across the table and without saying a word takes the piece of paper from the ACI’s hand in her bony fingers and glares at me malevolently. She then coughs slightly and with a voice that could fossilise dogshit says:

“But PC Manley if I could just read you what's written about Rachel, one of the contributors to the site who's listed two below you”. She puts on her glasses and squints at the page. “Apparently, according to this 'Rachel is our own Miss Macclesfield. She has taken a break from giving blow jobs and doing the washing up to help us with the website. She has real big tits and lovely slappable arse which are yours to do what you want with for the price of a Dry Martini'.”

She then slaps the paper down hard on the table and glares at me. “PC MANLEY do you REALLY think that's appropriate for a Police officer to be associated with?”

I am currently writhing in embarrasment and wishing the floor would swallow me. Making this worse is the fact that PDU Ma'am looks at least 55, is female, of senior rank and talks like she went to Debutante School and attends Ladies Day at Ascot. I know blokes who would pay good money to have that kind of prurient filth read to them by a posh, late middle-aged woman that has to be addressed with an honorific and stood up for.

She didn't look like this.

“I didn't write that” I manage to stammer.

She continues to glare at me and replies “I know you didn't”, practically hissing the words. “If you had we wouldn't be talking like this. However you are associated with it. What if Rachel finds out what you do for a living now?”

“It's been seven years since I've been involved with them at all” I protest.

“Yes, I do grant you that that photo was probably taken a long time ago” she concedes, pointing to the black and white photo of me taken in 1991 and about two stone heavier, mainly around my face.

“Yes, Ma'am when I was 20”

“You student days are over. Get your photo off there immediately”. She sits back and glances over at the ACI.

Me and The Beater, The Macc Lads guitarist. Backstage Manchester International II. 1991

The CI then picks up the other piece of A4. “Now the Bronx Warriors, what's that about?”

“It's a film Sir, I saw it when I was about 13, I've set up the website as a tribute”.

“A film?” the CI says looking surprised.

“Yes Sir. Have you seen The Warriors?”

He shakes his head.

“Escape From New York?”

He looks blank.

“Err...ok well it's a bit like both of them. It's about the Bronx being lawless and the gangs controlling it. It's a sci-fi film”. I decide not to go into plot details but instead say “I know the director, I've met him twice and he gave me permission to set up the website in his honour. He's a cited influence on Quention Tarantino and Tarantino's about to remake one of his films”.

CI Nuttall and PDU Ma'am glance at each other quickly.

“From what we're aware of it's a website about a gang called The Riffs who live in the Bronx”.

“No Sir, Riffs is German for Riders, the name of the gang in the film. Those two photos are of the two German DVD covers for the film and the sequel”.

There is a pause. They glance at each other again and he again asks “it's a film?”

“Yes Sir. You can buy it for a tenner in HMV. It came out in the budget range about four years ago”.

Reading this back now, I can see the ammunition I was providing them with through mentioning lawlessness, gangs and Police in one sentence.

“We understand there's also film content on the website but we are unable to access it to see if it's innapropriate due to our firewall”.

Jesus! How detailed was this investigation I wasn’t even aware of?

“Sir that's the trailer for the film”.

I have by now realised what they thought the site was about, but am avoiding focussing on that thought for fear of bursting out laughing and not being able to stop.

“It's not copyrighted which means I didn't need permission to use it. If you take off the firewall I'll access it now on your computer”. I point to his PC in the corner.

“No, if you promise me it’s not inappropriate then we’ll believe you” he assures me.

They then start to wind up the cogs in hastily re-edited “advice” around an officer of Her Majesty’s Police being involved in such a website.

PDU Ma'am then enquires “what does 'Die Gewalt Sind Wir' mean?” pointing to the picture of the German DVD cover for the first movie. This is the caption below the words 'The Riffs'.

“Ah, that means roughly 'We Are Scary' in German” I tell her.

Rallying magnificently in the face of their concealed embarrasment she comes back with a superb flanking manouvere.

“Ah, but PC Manley, what if you arrest someone who speaks German and they know you run this site and they think 'is this officer going to be scary with me?”.

The ACI then says “can you see it from our point of view? How do you think it would reflect on the Force if someone knew you were involved in this site about gangs and there being no law and order?”

“Sir, it's only a film. It was number one at the American box office for three weeks”.

There's a pause then he adds “well maybe you could stay in overall control of the site but not run it on a daily basis. Obviously a lot of people have visited it, you've had errm...” He consults the photocopy “1734 visitors since 2005”.

Ma'am then says “if a journalist puts your name in Google then they'll find out that you run these sites”.

“Someone's obviously already done that” I reply

The ACI glances at the sheet again and says “I'm not prepared to go into that now”.

PDU Ma'am then adds “yes, if a journalist knows you run this site and decides to put it in the papers you will, without having meant to, have brought the Force into disrepute and you'll be suspended”, still glaring at me with a stare that would make Medusa seriously consider retirement.

We wrap things up with the ACI changing the subject completely and telling me to remain focussed throughout probation. I tell him about yesterday's arrest of the thief and that the security guard had told Jacob that he was well impressed with how I'd handled it and had said he was going to write saying so to the Chief Super'.

“Good, good that's excellent, that's what we want, you're are a young officer who’s just come to us, you need to work hard and get some good work reports and then think about moving on”” the CI replies, smiling while shoving the photocopies back in the folder.

“Yes” the Inspector snaps “focus on what you’re doing now, before you think about promotion”.

None of this last bit had any bearing on Rachel’s slappable arse or The Riffs and was basically a distraction technique.

Ma'am repeats that it's time to leave my student days behind and we conclude.

Jacob is smiling when I see him but his jaw drops with an audible thud when I tell him what happened.

“What? Seriously? How the hell did they find out? It's not like you've done anything illegal. That’s stupid” he gasps. “What’s it got to do with them what you’re involved with outside work?”

I then ring Muttley McLad and ask him to remove my name and photo from the site. He listens to my reasons and then replies “they're angry with you because of something someone else wrote about you? That's just SAD”.

The fact that the ACI had a page of A4 with detailed (but highly innacurate) synopses made it clear to me that someone in a damp, darkened basement office somewhere in the vaults of the Professional Standards Department had typed my name into a search engine and found me in all my chubby, punkified, early 90s glory.

The content on The Macc Lads site was clearly offensive and I understand completely why they didn't want one of their cops to be associated with it.

The saddest and funniest thing though was that they clearly believed was a site set up to glorify a real street gang, with me as an affiliate.

Enzo G Castellari is now lecturing in film studies at Cinecitta Film Studios in Rome. Whenever he gets a new class he tells the students this story and they apparently always piss themselves laughing.

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