Several years back we had a client called First Telecom.
Customers could make cheap international phone calls.
We wrote a script featuring ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser.
Frankie Fraser got his nickname because he’d been certified insane, twice, while in prison.
In the 1960s, Frankie had been an enforcer for the Richardson family.
They were a south London crime family, the equivalent of east London’s Kray brothers, who were in fact their biggest rivals.
As long as each gang stayed on their own turf there wasn’t a problem.
But one night they bumped into each other in Mr Smith’s club in Catford,
Everything kicked off, and the evening ended with one of the Kray gang shot dead.
Frankie Fraser was arrested and tried.
Much to everyone’s surprise, he was found not guilty.
Later, Frankie was being interviewed by a journalist about that night.
The journalist asked Frankie “Was it the gun that killed him?”
He answered “Well the gun, the knife, the hammer, the whole lot really.”
So ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser aptly named.
And we thought we could use his notoriety to get extra exposure for our First Telecom.
The radio script we wrote went something like this:
“Hello, Mad Frankie Fraser here.
They used to call me ‘Mad’ Frankie, but the truth is I wasn’t really mad.
I was upset.
I was annoyed at the rates BT used to charge me for overseas phone calls.
I felt like I was being robbed.
Well I’ve just found out First Telecom only charge a fraction of what BT do.
That’ll save me some loot.
So thanks to First Telecom, I’m not ‘Mad’ anymore.
You can just call me ‘Normal’ Frankie Fraser now.”
That was very roughly the script.
But the first problem was the radio censorship authorities turned it down.
We couldn’t understand why: First Telecom were cheaper than BT.
We figured the reason must be that BT spent millions of pounds advertising, whereas First Telecom spent hardly anything.
And the advertising authorities knew which side their bread was buttered.
Which meant we had to make it more uncomfortable for them to turn down our script than worry about BT.
We found that not allowing us to explain a product advantage counted as ‘restraint of trade’, and eventually they backed down.
So we got ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser in the recording studio.
What we hadn’t allowed for was that he wasn’t a voice over artist.
He was a criminal.
And it took absolutely ages to get anything usable in the can.
But what fascinated me most about the whole process was after it was all over.
We were having a chat in the studio and Frank was telling us a story.
It was about the killing at Mr Smiths Club.
Frank told us he was in the dock at the Old Bailey.
He was on trial for murder.
I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask.
I said “Did you kill him, Frank?”
Frank stopped in mid sentence and looked at me a bit irritated.
He said “Yes, yes, but you’re spoiling the story.”
Then he went on to tell us that the real reason he got off was that he suddenly caught the eye of the foreman of the jury.
They recognised each other.
They’d been at the same school and even played football together.
And Frank laughed a lot at what he thought was a great story.
What fascinated me was that he thought that story was more interesting than the story about murdering a man.
He was irritated because I was asking him about the boring part.
His day job, what he did for a living.
And I was spoiling the really interesting part about the amusing coincidences in life and how interesting it is.
I think it’s strange what different people think is interesting.
I think Frank was wrong about which story was more interesting.
But I wasn’t going to tell him.