Joe OrtonJanuary 1, 1933 – August 9, 1967“The kind of people who always go on about whether athing is in good taste invariably have very bad taste.”
With big recognition going to John Lahr, author of the biography, Prick Up Your Ears.
I met Lahr, briefly, last year. I work presently as a bartender at the Royal Court Theatre, in Sloane Square, London.In the restaurant, we have a bookshop, and recently they sponsored John Lahr to come and do a chat about a new book hehas out. I spoke to him about Orton, and his notorious escapades in the London public toilets, and the fact they weretorn down. I grabbed a glass tile from the site, and asked John Lahr to autographit for me, with an appropriate sentiment.
With a grin on his face, he signed it, proving that he is indeed a goodguy. And he looks just like his dad, Bert, the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz.
Kenneth met Joe in 1951, and they were together for 16 years. Joe was a very successful playwright, and Kennethwanted to be. Joe got very famous, and Kenneth wanted to be. Joe was horribly abusive and rubbed it inKenneth’s face.Joe was attractive and Kenneth looked more like this, with a bad toupee.
Kenneth was notemotionally equipped to deal with Joe.
Joe wrote such plays as Loot, Entertaining Mr. Sloane, and What the Butler Saw. He was hot hothot.
Joe and Kenneth lived together in Noel Road, in Islington,north London.
I live there too. Not that road, but near enough. Their house was located atnumber25, and here is the front door.
They shared the topfloor flat.
This plaque now adorns the wall in remembrance of Joe.
But I’mgetting ahead of myself.
Updated September 2003 – Thanks toFindadeath.comfriend Darren Boakes who is a big admirer of Joe. He sends us this amazinginformation: “I met the guy who owns the flat now, and his wife. Their maid lives at 25 Noel Road now, and they live in the next street. Itfelt so eerie going upthe stairs to the flat,and then going in.
They were really helpful and told me bits of info that they knew. Forinstance, when they bought the place that Kenneth’s signature is on the deedsfor the property. Also nearly all of the place has been refurbished butthey lifted the carpet tiles in kitchento show me the originalfloor.
Also wentup to the roofterrace where Joe used to
Here is the toilet.
It was so exciting to go, to know that Joe lived and died there. It wasspecial for me. Hard to explain but I will always cherish.
Thank YOU Darren. Top stuff!
On the night of August 8, 1967, Kenneth flipped. There must be something with the planets that date. Two years lateron that same night, Helter Skelter happened, a few thousand miles away. But, the similaritydoesn’t end there.Sharon Tate had another connection to Islington,literally steps from Orton’s and Halliwell’s front door.
Back to the story: This is taken directly from JohnLahr’s book. I hope he doesn’t mind.
“The note was found on top of the red grained leather binder which heldOrton’s diary. The words, fastidiouslywritten, had none of the horror that the scene did.
“If you read his diary, all will be explained. KH PS: Especially the latter part.”
Halliwell lay nude on his back in the centre of the room, three feet fromOrton’s writing desk. The back of hishands, the top of his chest, and his bald head were splattered with blood. Except for his arms, rigor mortis had set in.Halliwell’s gory pyjama top was draped over the desk chair. On the linoleum floor near him was a glass and a can ofgrapefruit juice which had speeded the twenty-two Nembutals intohis blood, killing him within thirty seconds. Halliwellhad died sooner than Orton, whose sheets were still warm when the police discovered him in bed, his head cratered like aburnt candle.”
Halliwell used a hammer on Joe, and bashed his head in 9 times with it.
Joe was going to work on a screenplay for a new film starring The Beatles.He’d already met the fab four, and goton well with them. On the morning of the 9th, a chauffeur was sent to pick up Joe to take him to the studiofor a meeting. At 11:40 a.m., the driver walked up the three flights of stairs, and knocked on the door of the flat. Afterno answer, he left, and made a call. He was told to try again, and when there was still no answer, he peeked in theletterbox. Whoops.
They were indeed in a relationship, but Joe was not the monogamous type. He shagged everything that moved. His mostnotorious stomping ground was the public lavatory located at the Islington Green. He would sit in acafé,and watch the guys going in.
If there were someone that struck his fancy going in, offhe’d go to join the fun. Thetoilets are now demolished. L
Thisshit drove Ken insane.
Joe Orton’s funeral took place at Golders Green Crematorium,on August 18th.
Two dozen people showed up, and they played The Beatles’ A Day In The Life. Halliwell’s cremation took place at Enfield in Middlesex, on the 17th. Two people showed up. Their ashes were combined, andscattered in the Garden of Remembrance, at Golders Green.
Trivia: Joe and Kenneth were sentenced to six months in prison, for stealing, defacing and then replacing librarybooks. Most of them were taken from this library.
The altered versions wereusually very funny, and from what I understand now, the books are on display in a local museum. The fact that thecouncil is now using them as a tourist attraction is sort of interesting.
Trivia: British actor Kenneth Williams cracks me up.His diaries: vile and hysterical. He knew Joe and Ken well, and hisobservations will leave your jaw on the floor.