Real East End Publican Eddie Johnson: .Angie Watts was EastEnders. most realistic landlady.

By Larry Jaffee

Much of EastEnders is centred around the Queen Vic, so I figured it made sense to see how an East End publican might view the series.

As fate would have it, I found the publican through a book called Tales From the Two Puddings, which I came across while web-surfing about one of my favourite bands, The The, something of a collective masterminded by musician Matt Johnson, whose highly recommended albums include Soul Mining, Infected, and Mind Bomb. Tales From the Two Puddings is available for purchase through his websites, and

In 2012 Matt edited and published Tales From the Two Puddings, which was written by his dad Eddie Johnson, who ran the Stratford pub from 1962 until 2000. Stratford, by the way, was home last year to the Olympics. When Matt and his brothers were young they lived above the pub. Among the bands that played the Two Puddings during the 1960s were The Kinks, the Small Faces, and The Who.

Johnson.s book chronicles the trials and tribulations of running a pub, and he colourfully runs through the cast of characters who were staff, including barmy bartenders, bouncers, cooks, and bottle washers. He also describes the punters, who drank night after night. It was their .local.. Eddie.s wife Shirley ran the place as well. Before getting the pub licence, Eddie was a dock worker. By the time the Puddings closed its doors for the last time, Eddie Johnson was the longest-serving licensee in London.

As Charles Jenkins, the Gazette.s resident native cockney, explains on page 12, the East End in the early 1960s was a rough place, and a lot of that roughness was attributed to the Kray twins, who also often made the scene at the Two Puddings.

Eddie Johnson, now 80, most kindly granted the following interview to the Walford Gazette.

WG: When EastEnders became popular in the mid-1980s, were you and your family horrified how unrealistically it depicted life in the East End (and a pub no less), or could possibly any of you be fans of the series?
EJ: I wasn.t horrified at the depiction of the East End, more amused. Most Londoners never took it seriously even if the rest of the country did. But, of course, the old adage .life imitates art. has come true as regards this programme. Many young East Londoners take the actors as their role models so the programme is more realistic than it was. Even speech patterns are a lot different now; the old cockneys spoke a mixture of slang and dropped their aitches but their voices were not as coarse and .in yer face. la Ray Winstone.

WG: Who were the most realistic Queen Vic publicans? 1) Den and Angie Watts; or 2) Frank and Pat Butcher; or 3) Peggy Mitchell with Alfie Moon as the manager?
EJ: I don.t watch now but Angie Watts was the most realistic landlady and probably Den the most realistic landlord.

WG: Barbara Windsor, Billy Murray, and David Essex all made the scene at the Two Puddings and later appeared on EastEnders. Was that a sense of pride for you?
EJ: When people I knew, Billy Murray, etc., joined the cast list I never thought anything much, just wished them good luck. As I said, I rarely, if ever, watch the programme. I.m not against EastEnders but I tend not to watch any TV till 9 p.m. when I watch a play or film and then Newsnight before I go to bed. I.m also a fan of Russia Today. One gets an alternative view from the BBC, which nowadays is not very brave and is very pro-establishment.

WG: The Krays show up a lot in the book, and you always seemed to be on their good side. How did you manage that, and knowing how ruthless they could be, were you ever concerned or feel threatened that they would just take over the pub and harm you?
EJ: The Krays always treated me OK. I was very friendly with some of their key henchmen, maybe that.s why I never had any bother.

WG: What was the process like working with Matt on the book? Did he interview you, or did you write out some of the stories on a computer or on paper?
EJ: I wrote the book first on a typewriter and then on a computer. Many of the chapters were written over the years, the chapter about .The Colonel. for instance was written in the .70s for Port, which was a magazine for dock workers. Matt was a great help, he put chapters in order, cut down on the length of some chapters as they were a bit sprawling, and he also worked out the time sequence. His bands never played in the pub but as a young boy if any of the bands left their equipment he.d go down to the pub when it was closed and have a little practice.

WG: Was there a sense of pride on the streets of Stratford last year when it was hosting the Olympics?
EJ: Among the local shopkeepers, publicans, and ordinary people in Stratford there was very little sense of pride in the Olympics. Many people regarded them as a distraction; they told me they had no increase in trade, in fact business was quieter. Most visitors and tourists to the area confined themselves to the arenas and the new Westfield Centre which has torn the heart out of the old Stratford, and the ordinary residents are very resentful that whilst a lot are losing their homes because of the redevelopment, the new places are only going to those, mainly outsiders, who can afford the very high rents and costs compared to what we are used to . so many, unwillingly, have been forced to move.

WG: What did you miss most after you decided to leave the pub?
EJ: What I missed when we moved out were the customers. Me and Shirley, my wife, made hundreds of friends when we lived there, many of whom we never saw again.

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