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Esmeralda’s Barn: The Hijacked Casino (Part 2)

Esmeralda’s Barn: The Hijacked Casino (Part 2)

1960-1963 Esmeralda’s Barn in London, England initially flourished under the ownership of twin brothers and gangsters, Reggie and Ronnie Kray. The place to be seen in the West End, famous politicians and celebrities frequented it — such as actress/author Joan Collins, actor George Raft, singer Judy Garland, actress Barbara Windsor, along with painters (and compulsive gamblers) Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud.  Then former boxer William Ives worked the door. Cy Grant was the resident singer. Others who performed at the club included Noel Harrison, Lance Percival, even a young Eric Clapton, who was in the band, Casey Jones & the Engineers, at the time. Then Reggie went back to prison (he’d gotten out sometime in 1961), leaving Ronnie to run amok at Esmeralda’s. And he did. Unintentional Sabotage He began extending credit beyond the house limit and to people for whom it was beyond their means. This left the casino having to cover whatever Ronnie’s thugs couldn’t collect. This new credit policy opposed that of the manager, Laurie O’Leary, who knew that carrying huge losses for too long would put a gambling house out of business. When the markers amounted to £2,000 in one week [about $5,700 then, $46,000 today], O’Leary […]

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Esmeralda’s Barn: The Hijacked Casino (Part 1)

Esmeralda’s Barn: The Hijacked Casino (Part 1)

1960-1963 Twins, Reginald “Reggie” and Ronald “Ronnie” Kray, gained notoriety as powerful and murderous gangsters in London, England in the 1950s and 1960s. During their reign of terror, their involvement in organized crime included protection rackets, drug running, money laundering and even gambling. (The 2015 movie, Legend, which features actor Tom Hardy as both men, depicts their story.) By 1962, the Krays would own a casino, Esmeralda’s Barn, in the West End. Typical Shady Activity The events leading to it began when Reggie, the “more reasonable” of the two — Ronnie was a paranoid schizophrenic frequently off of his requisite medication — was serving a sentence in the prison at Wandsworth. Ronnie crashed a party to extort Peter Rachman, a West London extortionist himself who was profiting off of charging tenants exorbitant rental rates. Ronnie demanded Rachman pay him £5,000 (about $14,000 then, $114,000 today) immediately or he’d take over Rachman’s Notting Hill territory; Ronnie would have his own heavies force out, violently of course, Rachman’s rent collectors and take their place. Rachman gave Ronnie a check for £1,000 (about $2,800 then, $23,000 today). When Ronnie went to cash it the next morning, it bounced. He was irate; no one […]

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