Olliver Reed pointed a rifle at me until his wife disarmed him saying ‘Don’t be silly dear’


The story my former colleague John Jackson told about Brendan Behan’s boozy blockade of his lunch reminds me of the time I met another athlete of the alcohol stakes – Oliver Reed, who apparently held a grudge against me.

I had been sent to interview him about something lost in the mists of time (and drink) and so arrived at his Guernsey home on a frosty winter morning to be confronted by a cast-iron door knocker in the shape of a penis and a papier-maché rhino that dominated the front garden.

It was 9am but as the hellraiser extraordinaire greeted me it was obvious a little celebration was already under way.

He glared at me before offering the option of either fighting him on the lawn or going inside to have a drink — a welcome I’m sure he gave to everyone including the milkman and postie.

Of course, I went for the fisticuffs and after knocking him down twice … No. I settled for the drink which was either Grolsch or Grolsch. There were crates of it scattered around the kitchen, bottles bulging from the overloaded fridge and even an exquisite vintage car in the garage was barricaded by dozens of boxes of the swing-top lager.

So, I took a pew in the kitchen along with Reed and two male cronies and settled in for a twelve-hour session while his lovely wife Josephine occasionally dropped in to keep a careful eye on events just in case something kicked-off – which it later did.

It was nigh impossible to get Ollie to focus on any question I asked but he was very keen to show me his equivalent of the door knocker – several times. He was desperate to put it on display because of its tattoos. According to Reed he had been in Los Angeles, drinking with the local chapter of Hells Angels, when they all decided to go under the needle.

“I held on to the curtain rail when they did mine,” he told me. “It was so ….ing painful I pulled everything off the wall! But isn’t it good?”

If you want a series of lobsters and crabs indelibly inked on the end of your appendage then, yes, it was the dog’s bollocks as they say. 

Having revealed this most extreme piece of artwork conversation meandered and while I tried to write a few things down the notes were not the clearest I have ever penned.

Most of the day had been reasonably good-natured until suddenly around 9pm Reed disappeared from the kitchen and returned with a rifle which he pointed at me. His two friends became disconcertingly quiet as the irate actor shouted: “I hate you Gardner and now I’m going to shoot you!”

I had no idea if the gun was loaded and even if it was, I was too inebriated to do much about it.

As the tension tightened Josephine suddenly wafted in, casually disarmed her husband and said: “Don’t be silly dear.”

Surprised and apparently still annoyed with me, Reed pulled me off a stool, dragged me along the hall, opened the door and threw me out. I bounced a couple of times along the gravel drive but slowly regained some decorum and got a cab back to base.

With the help of a kindly copytaker I eventually managed to file something — but I never found out if the gun was loaded.

28 February 2024