❉ Swinging Sixties pinup Flanagan on life with the Flying Circus.
” I hit it off at once with John Cleese… I met Terry Gilliam and always thought he was the brains behind Monty Python.”
Fashion model and pin-up Maureen Flanagan made several brief appearances in early episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus – credited under her modelling moniker ‘Flanagan’ – that can now be enjoyed in High Definition on Blu-Ray thanks to Network Distribution.
As well as her career as a popular model in the 1960s and 1970s, Maureen appeared in TV series such as Dave Allen At Large and The Benny Hill Show, and Derek Ford’s 1970 cult exploitation Groupie Girl. More recently, she was a talking head in Simon Sheridan’s acclaimed 2016 documentary Respectable – The Mary Millington Story.
As hairdresser to the Kray twins’ mother, Maureen had an insider’s eye-view of the underworld of East End gangland, immortalised in her memoir, One of the Family: 40 Years with the Krays, published in 2016 by Cornerstone. Earlier this year, she contributed Krays memorabilia along with prizes donated by East End traders for a Macmillan Nurses fundraiser.
A few years ago, Maureen shared her recollections of her memories of working with the Pythons with We Are Cult editor and Monty Python expert James Gent, published here for the first time.
“I first went for an audition at BBC Shepherds Bush and met five crazy men. I think I hit it off at once with John Cleese, I’m a bit gobby and like a laugh. He asked me why I was known as just ‘Flanagan’ and I told him I’d married into a crazy Irish family in 1961 and their lives would have made some terrific sketches, not what they usually heard from a glamorous blonde model!
“They took me to Southend to do the Hell’s Grannies sketch, people walking along thought they were ‘old thugs’ riding and roaring on bikes, the police were out and about and watching. I chewed gum in my leathers, great fun! The following month I was asked by my agent if I’d do a bed scene with Michael Palin, I said yes straight away. I knew all the boys and the crew and Palin was much more embarrassed than me! I did have a sheet over my boobs as I hadn’t done Page 3 of The Sun till 1972! No topless girls had appeared on TV in 1969.
“They booked me for a sexy nurse, which we did in front of a live audience at TV Centre, afterwards Cleese brought us all out and introduced us as three sexy models who made them look good.
“I met Terry Gilliam and always thought he was the brains behind Monty Python. When they wanted six glam girls for a beauty paegant line-up, I was booked as one and knew then I was one of their favourites. Being upfront and a Cockney I asked Cleese if I could possibly say “and now for something completely different”. He spoke to the director and I got my wish, I have it on video and now DVD.
“We drank in the BBC bar where they introduced me to Dave Allen. I think he liked my looks, but really liked my name, so three months later my agent said I’d been booked for a bed scene with Dave Allen for a sketch on his show. Remember, he was very handsome and full of blarney, I got on so well he booked me for six more shows! I went on to do six Benny Hill shows after Benny saw my Monty Pythons so really, the crazy lads started me on another career, on top of modelling!
“It’s nice to remind myself, I was a part of TV history!”
❉ Maureen Flanagan runs Hackney’s Paragon Trust charity shop in Well Street, London, raising money for Bethnal Green’s Repton boxing club, as well as funds for Victims Support and St Joseph’s Hospice. Her memoir, One of the Family: 40 Years with the Krays, was published in 2016 by Cornerstone.
❉ James Gent is the Editor of We Are Cult, and is the co-editor of Me and the Starman, (Chinbeard Books, 2019) Available in paperback from Amazon: All profits from this book go toward supporting the work of Cancer Research UK. James wrote the biography for the official Monty Python website. He also acted as consultant for the documentaries ‘Monty Python: And Now for Something Rather Similar’ (BBC) and ‘Monty Python: The Meaning of Live’ (GOLD).