|Issue 2 - February 1972|
|It was about
quarter to ten at night when I met Leo. I left a cold mist flowing through
the streets of Newcastle for the hopped grimy warmth of the Victoria &
Comet. At first I could not hear what Leo was saying as he raised his
head from the glass.
He shouted for the second time above a well-fed juke box. Beer bubbles burst on his lips as he said: "So you want to naa about cardboard* - you naa, you asked aboot it the other week."
"Yes, what can you tell me about it", I said. This is going to cost me another few pints, I thought.
"Well I naa a fella in Gatesheed who flogs it."
This sounded interesting. I looked away from a grimy-faced man wiping his nose on a snotty wool cloth.
Another pint was bought. I kept to my bottle of Guinness. We talked above a babble of big dipper voices and the raucous laughs of the skinny and fat old tarts dropping to bits, sitting by the walls.
Leo told me that the man in Gateshead had a number of pictures which he was distributing to people to sell in the bars of Tyneside.
Leo wanted those pictures I wanted a story, so we both agreed to pay the man a visit.
We sucked the dregs clear from our glasses. We eased a passage past a big-bosomed bottomed tart, dancing to the juke box with her sad painted clown face thrown back in brown-aled abandon. We shoved our way carefully past her battered-faced admirers, happy in their slow-motion world. Out into the street. Past two tall constables, looking like twin Christopher Lees stamping the mist patiently outside the swing doors.
As the taxi glided over the iron bridge towards Gateshead, I thought about our plan. I was to pose as a representative up from the 'smoke' who was interested in recruiting girls for picture work.
The taxi stopped at the bottom of a row of grim terraced houses stumbling up a cobbled hill. Leo's features, the lean face and Billy Fury hairstyle, were barely discernible in the gloom.
He rapped on the door. A light burst through the window above the door. The door opened and a bleary-eyed buck-toothed woman peered into the night.
She took us up a flight of stairs, ushered us into a dishevelled room and turned a table light on. The only things which stood out from the assorted junk were a brand new TV set and radiogram and the man, a fat greaseball, sprawled out on the sofa, pissed out of his mind.
The buck-toothed woman shook him. The man emerged red-eyed from his oblivion. "There's some mates to see ya. Tommy, can ya hear what I'm saying?", she said.
Leo took the man into a corner and muttered a few words to him. The man seemed to understand. He told his wife to stay in the room.
We followed him along the narrow landing. He opened a door and a yellow hostile bulb on the end of a black flex burst into light to reveal a small grey bedroom.
The man flopped headfirst onto the bed. Leo pulled him up: "Where's the fucking pictures", he demanded.
The man reluctantly lifted the mattress off the bed and gave Leo some magazines with a swaying hand.
He brought out one of those pre-war books with its thick coarse blotting-like paper. In this case it was the "Golden Wonder Book of Trains".
A healthy looking girl and boy looked out from the cover with questioning looks. Above them an express roared down the line.
Photographs were crudely stuck on each page. The first few included girls aged about thirteen dressed in school uniform with their dresses hitched above their thighs with their legs apart, exposing their fannies.
"They're ten bob each," the man said. I nodded my head, pretending to view the pictures with professional detachment.
Further on, girls, partially dressed in uniform, were being screwed in various positions.
There were threesomes, lesbian love and a girl sucking off a man and a man licking a girl's genitals - nothing really out of the ordinary.
Then we came to it. Dogs and girls. A girl, she could only have been thirteen at the most, was on the floor on her hands and knees. A bulldog, with its stubby front paws clasped round the girl's stomach, was screwing the hell out of her.
The girl seemed to be enjoying the experience, at least Rover was. Its mouth agape and its tongue hanging out.
Two young girls lay partially clothed on a bed. Between them lay the bulldog. The dog lay back in ecstasy with the two girls grasping its bone.
The greaseball was sobering up by now. Suddenly, without any warning, he said he wasn't interested in my proposal. It's remarkable how guys like Tom can sense when something is wrong, even when they are pissed. They have this sixth sense, achieved after a lifetime of double dealing.
I left Leo to complete his business. My night had proved a failure. I learnt no names and addresses.
Further investigations revealed that the girls in Tom's Golden Wonder book were photographed in Sunderland by a photographer, his front was taking wedding photos and portraits. The girls were recruited from a local secondary school and technical college.
Middlemen like Tommy play an essential part in the cardboard game. It makes it harder for police to arrest the big fish - the photographers, when a seller is picked up for flogging pictures.
At the time of my investigation, Newcastle police were watching the movements of a number of middlemen in the city. They were reluctant to swoop in and arrest the men because they knew they would have forced the racket to earth. The difficulties faced by the police in a probe of this nature became apparent when the head of Newcastle's West End plain-clothes division confessed: "If they can smell out a journalist, imagine what it's like for a copper".
*Cardboard is the underworld term for pornographic photographs as opposed to pictures in pornographic mags.