RUTH ELLIS: THE LAST TO HANG
The Sponger and the Ponce
Only enemies speak the truth; friends and lovers lie endlessly, caught in the web of duty.
Moving back into the shady world of Conley, Ruth began hostessing for him at Carrolls. Now, refurbished with a restaurant, cabaret and dancing, it stayed open until 3 am. Ruth became a favourite again with the regulars, and soon developed a wide circle of friends. There was a banker from Persia, an oil tycoon from Canada and a businessman from Switzerland who always sent notes to her signed, always, your naughty Norbet. Conley arranged for Ruth to move into one of his properties -- Flat 4, Gilbert Court, Oxford Street, a block of apartments owned by his wife, Hannah.
In December 1952, Ruth became ill and in due course, specialists discovered she had developed an ectopic pregnancy. She was operated on and hospitalised for two weeks, early in 1953. By April, she had returned to work with her associates, Vicky, Betty, Michele, Cathy, Jacqueline and Kitty. The summer and autumn of that year was a good period financially for Ruth. She returned from a holiday with one client who gave her a cheque for four hundred pounds for services rendered.
Business was good at Carrolls mainly because of her boundless enthusiasm and effervescent personality. Ruth had a knack of making her customers relaxed, happy and most important, loose with their money. She is photographed at the Club, surrounded by smarmy, lecherous men, smirking into the camera, looking sexually expectant. She catered to the needs of her patrons, and on occasions would hand out small printed cards that read:
Why women over 40 are preferred.
THEY DONT YELL!
THEY DONT TELL!
THEY DONT SWELL!
And they are as
GRATEFUL AS HELL!
As the long, hot summer of 53 developed, Ruth was herself developing a group of new friends who were lot more interesting than the paunchy businessmen and manufacturers who she normally socialised and occasionally slept with. They were a group of young, noisy, exuberant thoroughbreds, which raced cars for a living. Led by Mike Hawthorne -- a twenty-three-year-old, six feet two inch tall, blonde Adonis type -- this group based themselves at the Steering Wheel Club, located across the road from the Hyde Park Hotel.
Hawthorne drove for the Ferrari racing team and his fellow driving enthusiasts included Sterling Moss, Peter Collins, Roy Salvadori and the Italian up-and-coming ace, Alberto Ascari. They would drift into Carrolls late in the afternoon along with the groupies and wannabes, to drink and socialise. Sometime towards the end of 1953, possibly in September, a young man wandered into the club to drink with this group. Ruths first impressions of him very not very favourable:
He strolled in wearing an old coat and flannel trousers. He greeted the other lads in a condescending manner...I thought he was too hoity-toity by far.
Soon, he was antagonising Ruth, who on this particular day was not there to work, but was simply enjoying a drink with some of her friends. His sarcastic, pithy comments about the club and the staff soon had her riled up. She turned to one of her companions and in a loud voice said, Who is that pompous little ass?
David Blakely stood five feet nine inches tall and weighed about 154 pounds. He had deep brown eyes, and long, almost silky eyelashes. His face was lean and his thick, dark hair was brushed back from his forehead. In his photographs, he looks exactly what he was: the product of a public school education and the result of a wealthy middle-to-upper class background. He had enjoyed an indifferent school career, his only interest being racing cars. He left Shrewsbury School blessed with the classic public school aura of self-confidence , but with no power of analysis or debate, being weak and rudderless when engaged in serious conversation. He was a child of a broken marriage and most of his life he had been spoiled by his parents.
It seems hard to comprehend why Ruth Ellis would even contemplate having a drink with a man like this, let alone falling hopelessly in love with him. But this is, in fact, exactly what she did. It is possible that all of her life, she was a woman who yearned for more than just love. She appears to have lusted after the respectability of romance and was drawn time after time, into affairs that were, in reality, the passions of her partners infidelities. A woman of unstable temperament, she became a victim of her insatiable yearning for happiness at any price.
She would find it only in fleeting moments with this man, who would come to cause her more heartbreak than probably all the other men in her life combined. All he would offer her was endless miles of travel down a bad road.
Sometime in October, Conley offered Ruth the job as manager of a club he owned called the Little Club. It was situated at 27 Brompton Road in Knightsbridge. As the name implied, it was too small to have Conleys usual complement of a manager, directing anywhere from ten to twenty hostesses. Ruth would have a staff of just three to embellish its flocked wallpaper rooms and little gilt electric candelabra mirrors. A two-bedroom flat above the club went with the job and it was rent-free. She moved in here along with Andy. Her daughter was at this time being cared for by her sister, Muriel. To Ruth it must have seemed like heaven. It was in the posh West End, close to Mayfair and Belgravia, and it was her club.
Ruth later claimed that the first person she ever served here was David Blakely, who was already a member when she assumed the managers position. She remembered that he looked surprised and nervous when they came face to face and he recognised her as the platinum blonde he had verbally scrapped with at Carrolls. What triggered their attraction to each other will never be known. Sometimes you dont have to look at or even relate to another person. The lightning strikes, and that is it. Their allure for each other may well have been hammered out on an anvil of lust. Both of them were victims at different times of each others carnal desires. They would be sleeping together within two weeks and nineteen months later he would die in a pool of blood, as she stood over him with a smoking gun in her hand.
Who was David Blakely?
Ruths daughter, Georgina, referred to him as: a sponger and a ponce, who would feed his drinking habit at anothers expense. Another writer referred to his basic lack of masculinity.
Cliff Davis, a racing car driver, saw a lot of David. He said of him, He liked his boozehe wasnt averse to poncing it, and he certainly ponced off RuthDavid was a good-looking, supercilious shit, but you couldnt help liking him. I knew he used to knock her aroundtheirs was a love-hate relationship, as unstable as a stick of dynamite. Ruth, in her evidence in court, said of Blakely, He was very persistent and jealous.
David Moffatt Drummond Blakely was born in Oakland, a private nursing home in Sheffield on June 17th, 1929. He was the youngest of three sons and a daughter, the family of Dr. John and Annie Blakely. When David was five, his father was arrested and charged with the murder of Phyllis Staton, 25, an unemployed waitress. It seemed that they had been having an affair and she had become pregnant. The doctor had illegally prescribed drugs to abort the pregnancy and the young woman died suddenly of septicaemia. After a brief hearing, in February 1934, the Sheffield magistrates dismissed the charges. They felt the case was too weak to prosecute, and it appears that Davids father carried on his medical practice, unaffected by all the adverse publicity.
Why she waited so long is hard to fathom, but on May 24th, 1940, Mrs. Blakely was granted a divorce and remarried in 1941. Her new husband was Humphrey Wyndham Cook, a successful businessman and one of Britains best-known racing car drivers. Davids mother moved to London along with her four children.
David was sent off to boarding school at a small, second division public school in Shrewsbury, a town near the borders of North Wales. He was an average to low achiever there, his only real interest being racing cars. After leaving school and serving two years doing his mandatory National Service in the British Army, he found work, through his stepfathers influence, as a management trainee at the very fashionable Hyde Park Hotel in London. He had little interest in this job however and would swan off at every opportunity to spend his time and money with the men he most respected and admired -- racing car drivers.
Like so many men who were educated at private boarding schools, David Blakely enjoyed schoolboy horseplay, squirting people with soda fountains or putting ice-cubes down their necks. He did this once with Mike Hawthorne, who chased David around the Steering Wheel Club, threatening to thrash him. David was basically a whinging coward, who would hide behind furniture or womens skirts to escape the fights he provoked. Some of the drivers enjoyed his boyish high spirits, others despised him.
His salary was augmented by donations from his stepfather and an allowance from his mother. He was able to scrape up enough money to maintain a second-hand sports car, bought for him by his stepfather as a twenty-first birthday present. He entered it in races, which gave him some experience, but no victories.
In February 1952, his father died suddenly, and in due course, David received seven thousand pounds as his share of his fathers estate. He had also by this time met and formed a relationship with a regular visitor to the Hyde Park Hotel, a Miss Linda Dawson, the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer from Huddersfield in Yorkshire. This did not stop David from sleeping around with other women however. At one time he was having an affair with an American model, going out with a theatre usherette, having another affair with a married woman as well as spending time with Miss Dawson. His sense of morality was loose and his commitment to anyone was tenuous to say the least.
In October 1952, the hotel finally gave up and sacked him after he had a particularly violent row with the banqueting manager. As compensation for this interruption to his life, his mother took him away with her on a world cruise. When they returned, he joined a manufacturing company in Penn, Buckinghamshire, called Silicone Pistons. Although he had access to a flat attached to the new family home nearby, he spent most of his time in London, staying at his stepfathers London address, 28 Culross Street, which runs west from behind the American Embassy on Grosvenor Square to Park Lane.
A month after Blakely and Ruth met, he became engaged to Linda Dawson. On November 11th, 1953, an announcement appeared in the London Times.
So here was Ruth Ellis, still officially married to George and David Blakely now officially engaged to Linda, sharing a bed in the two-room flat, with son Andy and daughter Georgina, taking up some of the small space that was available. David would stay overnight through the week and then go and stay with his parents in Penn for the weekend. He would have had no patience with the children, and Ruth must have found her time management squeezed thin between the demands of her managers job, her childrens needs and the sexually demanding tantrums of a man not renowned for equanimity and understanding.
Then just to compound and confuse matters, there was the other man who came into her life.