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|Born||John Dennis Arthur Bindon
)4 October 1943
|Died||10 October 1993) (aged 50)
|Resting place||London, England|
|Other names||Biffo, The Guv'nor, Big John|
|Occupation||Actor & bodyguard|
|Height||1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)|
|Parents||Dennis Bindon & Cicely Bindon (née Monaghan)|
John Dennis Arthur "Biffo" Bindon (4 October 1943 – 10 October 1993) was an English actor and bodyguard who had close links with the London underworld. The son of a London cab driver, Bindon was frequently in trouble as a youth for getting into fights, and spent two periods in Borstal. He was spotted in a London pub by Ken Loach who asked him to star in his film Poor Cow. Other film and television productions followed, with Bindon sought after to play gangsters or tough police detectives. He played a violent mobster alongside Mick Jagger in Performance and a London crime boss in Get Carter. Philip Hoare described Bindon as "the archetypal actor-villain, and an all-round 'good geezer'".
He was also known for having a large penis and many socialite girlfriends, such as Christine Keeler, the former Playboy "Bunny Girl" Serena Williams and Vicki Hodge, who had a 12-year abusive relationship with Bindon. Through Hodge, Bindon gained access to British aristocratic circles, which culminated with him meeting Princess Margaret in the late 1960s, at her home on Mustique in the Caribbean. Bindon claimed he had sex with the princess, whilst Margaret later denied the meeting ever took place despite photographic evidence.
Bindon lived his hard man persona on and off screen. He was believed to be running protection rackets in West London pubs and have alleged connections to the Kray twins and the Richardson Gang. In the late 1970s in addition to acting work he provided security for actors and musicians, most notoriously for Led Zeppelin on their 1977 US tour, where he was sacked for brawling backstage. In 1978 Bindon was tried for the murder of London gangster Johnny Darke. Bindon pleaded self-defence and was acquitted, but the case damaged his reputation, and this coupled with being seen as difficult to work with by directors meant his acting career declined. In the 1980s Bindon became reclusive and died in 1993 from an AIDS related illness.
John Bindon was born in Fulham, London, and was the son of Dennis Bindon, a merchant seaman and engineer, turned cab driver. The second eldest in a working-class family of three children, Bindon went to St Mark's Church School in Fulham where he became a noted rugby union junior, but left at the age of 15. He was given the nickname "Biffo" for starting or getting into fights.
As a teenager, he served time in a Borstal institution for possessing live ammunition. After jobs ranging from laying asphalt to dealing in antiques (his best friend for several years was the glamorous and now-infamous international antiques dealer John Hobbs) Bindon pursued a career in acting. Director Ken Loach, spotting him in a London pub in 1966, considered him perfect for the role of a rough husband in the film, Poor Cow, released the next year. His next big break came with a role in Performance alongside Mick Jagger, where he played a violent mobster. His portrayal earned him critical praise and typecast him for future roles.
In 1968 he met Vicki Hodge, a baronet's daughter turned model and actress, who introduced him to British aristocracy. However he had been previously invited to the Caribbean island resort of Mustique, where Bindon claimed to have had sex with Princess Margaret. He went back for a second time in 1969 and took girlfriend Hodge with him. The princess later publicly denied meeting Bindon (despite pictures of them next to one another) and was reportedly unimpressed to hear stories of their sexual encounters in the press. Bindon's name was also linked with a succession of models, including Christine Keeler, the former Playboy "Bunny Girl" Serena Williams (not the US tennis player), and also Angela Barnett, then girlfriend and future wife of pop star David Bowie.
Bindon was awarded the Queen's Award for Bravery, a police bravery medal, for diving off Putney Bridge into the River Thames to rescue a drowning man, in 1968, although some said he had pushed the man in and only rescued him when a policeman appeared.
Bindon had a violent temper and a natural intimidating personality, and he was accused of running a protection racket in west London, targeting pubs, restaurants and cafés. There were also suggestions of connections to the Richardson Gang and the Kray twins, who supported his control of west London, as well as rivalries with gangs from South London. The South London rivalries were suggested to have contributed to his bankruptcy, when he accrued drug debts. The extent of his involvement in the English underworld has never been reliably established.
Bindon's best known film role was his appearance in the Who's film Quadrophenia as a drug dealer. He also appeared in television series such as Public Eye, The Gold Robbers, Department S, Dixon of Dock Green, Z-Cars, Paul Temple, Special Branch, Softly, Softly: Taskforce and Hazell playing out his usual tough-guy role, and again in Get Carter in 1971. Despite a productive film and television career, Bindon felt he needed a break from acting, and went into organising security. It was to be a move which would have disastrous personal and financial consequences.
The Oakland incident
In early 1977, Bindon was hired by Peter Grant on advice from tour manager Richard Cole as security co-ordinator for English rock group Led Zeppelin during their concert tour of the United States. He had previously provided security for actors Ryan and Tatum O'Neal. Bindon took his job to the extreme, developing an addiction to cocaine and heroin during the tour and much violence occurred behind the scenes directed mostly at journalists, bouncers and concert staff. The band did not realise the extent of what was happening until their concert at the Oakland Coliseum on 23 July 1977, near the end of their US tour. Upon arrival at the stadium, it is alleged that Bindon pushed a member of promoter Bill Graham's stage crew out of the way as the band entered via a backstage ramp. As a result, tension had been simmering between Graham's staff and Led Zeppelin's security team during the day, and as Grant and Bindon were walking down the ramp near the end of the concert, words were exchanged with stage crew chief Jim Downey, which resulted in Bindon knocking Downey out cold.
Just minutes later a separate off-stage incident occurred. Bill Graham's security man Jim Matzorkis was accused of slapping Peter Grant's 11-year-old son Warren for taking a dressing room sign, and the ensuing argument escalated into an all-out brawl. Led Zeppelin's second Oakland show took place only after Bill Graham signed a letter of indemnification, absolving Led Zeppelin from responsibility for the previous night's incident. However, Graham refused to honour the letter and assault charges were laid against Grant, Cole, Bindon and John Bonham when the band arrived back at their hotel. The four received bail and later pleaded no contest, receiving suspended sentences. Bindon was dismissed by the band and returned to England. Grant later said that allowing Bindon to be hired was the biggest mistake he ever made as manager.
Darke murder trial
In 1978, Bindon became involved in a fight with John Darke, a London gangster, outside the Ranelagh Yacht Club, in Fulham, London. Darke was stabbed nine times, resulting in his death, and Bindon managed to flee to Dublin with his own knife wounds covered up. He gave himself up to police and in the subsequent trial at the Old Bailey in November 1979. The prosecution claimed that this was a £10,000 contract killing over drugs, with the fight as a cover for the death. However, the defence argued that Darke's death was in self-defence, saying Bindon was in fear of his life as he was being blackmailed about losing drug money and cocaine worth thousands of pounds (though his defence might have been hindered amid allegations of bragging to a cellmate that he was a hitman while on remand awaiting trial). Bindon was acquitted of Darke's murder. It was reported that the "substantial appearance" of actor Bob Hoskins as a character witness at the trial helped sway the jury's verdict and that the judge Sir William Mars-Jones "had been sympathetic towards Bindon in his summing-up and unhappy with the ragbag of witnesses produced by the prosecution".
Media reports of the trial, along with the Oakland incident, seriously damaged Bindon's reputation (there were other various allegations of a similar violent nature against Bindon) and he found it increasingly difficult to find work in the entertainment industry. This was partly attributable also to his reputation for being difficult to work with on set, as much as his alleged connections to organised crime.
Later years and death
During the 1980s, Bindon became a more reclusive figure spending more of his time at his Belgravia flat. He died in London at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. His death appears to be the subject of some debate. Some sources (including the 2005 ITV Real Crime: Starring John Bindon documentary) say Bindon died from an AIDS-related illness, while others (including Wensley Clarkson's biography (citing the now defunct UK newspaper Today) claim he was suffering from liver cancer. It is possible, of course, that the cancer was a symptom of HIV/AIDS. Bindon's funeral was attended by over 200 people, including his friend and neighbour Matthew Freud.
References in popular culture
In 2002, a Carlton Television documentary of John Bindon's life entitled Real Crime: Starring John Bindon was screened in the UK on ITV. It featured archival footage of Bindon behind the scenes and interviews with Angela Bowie, Vicki Hodge, Billy Murray, George Sewell and James Whitaker. Bindon also featured in the Carlton documentary for ITV, The Secret Life of Princess Margaret, broadcast in 2005. Bindon's relationship with Princess Margaret was the further the subject of Channel 4's documentary The Princess and the Gangster which was broadcast on the 9 February 2009 and repeated on 17 August 2009 when hits to Bindon's Wikipedia page peaked at 6,100 on that day as against a daily average of 100 viewings. The Princess and the Gangster was part of the Toffs and Crims series.
In 2005, Wensley Clarkson published a biography of Bindon entitled Bindon: Fighter, Gangster, Actor, Lover - the True Story of John Bindon, a Modern Legend (London: John Blake. ISBN 1-84454-116-9 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]).
The 2008 film The Bank Job is based on the 1971 robbery of Lloyd's Bank in London to steal photographs kept in a safe deposit box, and subsequently hushed up by MI5. The photographs were rumoured to be of Princess Margaret in a compromising position set on a Caribbean beach with Bindon, although Bindon was not specifically named in the film. Another theory has it that Bindon, aware of an ongoing investigation into his involvement in a serious crime, arranged for clandestine photographs to be taken during one of his London trysts with Margaret. He then had the negatives stored in a bank safe deposit box, intending to use them as a bargaining tool in the event that he was ever charged.
A biopic of John Bindon, entitled "Mugs", written by Christopher Brand, is currently in development by Gateway Films.
In September 2010, Franklyn McCabe's play, 'Ten Men: The Lives of John Bindon', with Matthew Houghton playing Bindon, was staged at the Open House, Brighton. It was later presented at the Old Market, Hove, in November 2011.
- Poor Cow (1967)
- Inspector Clouseau (1968)
- Performance (1970)
- Man in the Wilderness (1971)
- Get Carter (1971)
- No Sex Please, We're British (1973)
- The Mackintosh Man (1973)
- Love Thy Neighbour (1973)
- Juggernaut (1974) (US title: Terror On the Britannic)
- Dead Cert (1974)
- 11 Harrowhouse (1974) (US title: Anything for Love)
- Barry Lyndon (1975)
- Trial by Combat (1976)
- A Choice of Arms (1976) (US title: Dirty Knight's Work)
- Quadrophenia (1979)
- Department S (1969)
- The Gold Robbers (1969)
- Z-Cars (1969)
- Softly, Softly: Taskforce (1976)
- The Racing Game (1979) (mini) TV series
- Hazell (1980)
- Clarkson, Wensley (2005). Bindon: Fighter, Gangster, Actor, Lover - the True Story of John Bindon, a Modern Legend. London: John Blake. ISBN 1-84454-116-9 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]
- Hoare, Philip (6 November 1993). "Independent obituary, 6 November 1993". The Independent (London). Retrieved 6 May 2010.
- "Aged 14, and already a harder man than most". Daily Telegraph. 1 Aug 2005. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
- Leigh, Wendy (26 May 2007). "The moment a princess fell for a gangster". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
- Leigh, Wendy (26 May 2007). "Daily Mail, 26 May 2007". London.
- Times of India, Princess Margaret's 'relationship', 29 August 2008
- Daily Telegraph, 15 October 1993
- Welch, Chris (2002). Peter Grant: The Man Who Led Zeppelin. p. 201. ISBN 0-7119-9195-2 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- Williamson, Nigel (2007). The Rough Guide to Led Zeppelin. p. 248. ISBN 978-1-84353-841-7 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- Morton, James (25 January 1999). "The Independent, 25 January 1999". London. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
- The Independent, 4 July 2005
- The Channel 4 program was repeated on 17 August 2009 and interest on Bindon’s Wikipedia page peaked at 6,100 hits on that day as against an average daily hit of 100 viewings. The Princess and the Gangster Retrieved 12 February 2009
- Daily Mail, ibid.
- Hollywood Today, Jason Statham Strikes Gold in "The Bank Job", 7 March 2008