But for each “King”, on every street; life was as dangerous as it was short, and often messy. During the 50’s and 60’s, Italian-born “King of Sleaze” Anthony Mulla ran most of Soho’s hostess clubs. As his name suggests, “Big Tony” was tall and muscular, he was an ex-boxer who sparred with the infamous enforcer for The Richardson Gang - “Mad Frankie Fraser”, and was feared and respected.
In 1963, “Big Tony” bought the Grill Club at 48 Dean Street, which he renamed The Bus Stop. It comprised of a law-abiding café on the ground floor, a drinking den serviced by scantily clad ladies in the basement, and comfortable offices above for himself and the club’s manager, his life-long friend, Alfred Melvin.
Police suspected this was the work of rival gangsters hoping to muscle in on Big Tony’s patch. When questioned, a waiter at The French House said he’d heard shouting, followed by four loud pops. At Melvin’s feet, the killer had dropped a small calibre Browning pistol, and with fingerprints on the butt & trigger, this confirmed their suspicions. But, as the Police were reminded by anyone who knew the two, no-one was stupid enough to take on “Big Tony”. No-one. Or so you’d think?
Upon examination, in the breast pocket of Alfred Melvin’s jacket, Police found a hastily scrawled note, detailing to his wife how he pressed “Big Tony” into repaying a £400 debt, as Tony, now flush, had the funds to afford it, but had refused, and had humiliated Alfred Melvin in front of the hostesses. In a fit of anger, Alfred shot his best friend three times in the back, then fearing retaliation, turned the gun on himself.
But... in a rare act of forgiveness, Tony’s wife sent a wreath to Melvin’s funeral and visa-versa. But before either of their husbands were even buried, “Big Tony’s” patch had already been carved up, and a new “King of Sleaze” was crowned. Life went on, and soon, both men were forgotten.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious (and often forgotten) murder cases, featuring 18 murderers, 3 serial killers, across 21 locations, totalling 75 deaths, over just a one mile walk.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime historian, writer and tour guide of Murder Mile Walks.