EastEnders star John Altman has revealed how notorious lag Charles Bronson contacted him from prison to warn him to “step down” from music.
Bronson delivered the message after the Daily Star Sunday told how the pair were locked in pop’s baddest battle when they both released songs at the same time.
And after reading our scoop, Bronson – who’s up for parole soon – made his feelings very clear…
John, who played Albert Square’s “Nasty” Nick Cotton, says: “We were up against each other in the charts, so he sent me a voicemail via a friend of mine Steve who knows him.
“It was a recording saying, ‘Nasty Nick, it’s Charlie here – do yourself a favour, a big favour. I’ve heard about your song mate.
“'Step down. Step down from the music world, I mean it mate – I’m taking over in the music world. Got it?
“'I could be out by the end of this year – we’ll have a Guinness then and we’ll have a chat, but take my advice, step down – this place ain’t big enough for me and you. All the best mate – your old china, Charlie.'”
The pair went head to head at the end of January when John released his single Love Of My Life, while Bronson recorded a charity single about his time in jail, Only Mad Men Crawl, with the band Lost Vegas.
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But John – who was killed off from EastEnders in 2015 – took the warning from Britain’s most violent prisoner in his stride. And he’d even be up for meeting for a drink.
John says: “I sent him a reply saying, ‘I’m afraid I ain’t stepping down. I’ve put too much time and effort into this, but I tell you what we’ll do Charlie, if my album sells a million around the world I’ll give you some money towards your charity.’
“If Charles wants to meet I wouldn’t say no. I’ve always been quite fascinated by him really, he’s quite an extraordinary character. There’s no-one quite like Charlie Bronson.”
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John played Dot Cotton’s drug-dealing son from 1985 until 1991 and returned a number of times before being bumped off via a heroin overdose. He’s since launched a music career with an album, Looking For The Love Of My Life, out now.
But if the star does end up chewing the fat with Bronson it wouldn’t be the first time he’s come face to face with an infamous lag.
In fact he once brought tobacco to Reggie Kray while he was behind bars, after the Kray twin asked to meet him. And if it couldn’t get any stranger, the late Barbara Windsor – who had briefly dated the East End gangster – went with him on the visit.
John, 68, says: “Reg said he wanted to meet me. So along with Barbara Windsor and a few other people, we went down for one of Reggie’s visiting days at Maidstone Prison in the mid-90s.
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“It was quite amusing really because most people only have one visiting table but strangely enough, Reggie had about four.
“I was asked to take some tobacco in which I did and went through all the security gates with Barbara and a few other people that Reg wanted to see. I took this rolling tobacco he wanted with me.”
Reggie, who was serving life for the murders of George Cornell and Jack “the Hat” McVitie, certainly made an impression on John.
“He was very smart, he was really fit and had shorts and grey hair and not an ounce of fat on him, along with piercing blue eyes,” says the Reading-born actor.
“You meet certain people, and he had a strong aura about him – a strong personality. We just chatted generally about EastEnders and things like that.”
John has also had his own brush with the law back in 1970 when he spent a month behind bars in Belgium, falsely accused of being an international drug smuggler.
He explains: “I was just travelling through a town and somebody had a little bit of dope on them. I got hauled in and they sent the other person home because I was the older one, so they thought I was an international drug smuggler – which I wasn’t!
“There was a moment when I had a run in with one of the screws. I wanted to get some books out of a bag that I had, because it was so boring in there, and I spent ages trying to get a special note from the prison governor.
“When I went to the room where the books were kept, this screw took my note and tore it up in front of me and threw it on the ground. He obviously wanted me to react, and give him a thump or something, but I didn’t.
“If I had had, who knows I might have been like poor Charlie Bronson… well not quite, but it would have added to my time in there.”
*John’s album Looking For The Love Of My Life is out now.
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