“They were the best years of our lives,” said Ronnie Kray in his 1993 autobiography My Story. “They call them the Swinging Sixties, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were rulers of pop music. Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world…and me and my brother ruled London. We were fucking untouchable.”
It was a hell of a run. Ronnie and Reggie Kray, identical twins born in 1933, ran nightclubs and gambling spots, rubbed elbows with Frank Sinatra (for whom they provided a host of bodyguards during an English nightclub tour), Judy Garland, George Raft, Jean Shrimpton, and heavyweight champ Sonny Liston, broke bread with American Mafiosos, inspired a shelf of books and even wrote three themselves (a collective memoir and an autobiography apiece), had sex with British politicians, murdered rival gangsters with impunity, and dominated British tabloids for nearly two decades.
Their portrait was taken by celebrity photographer David Bailey, the inspiration for David Hemmings’s character in Antonioni’s Blowup, and they were very nearly the last prisoners held at the Tower of London.