This article is posted for the benefit of those who have popped up to comment on this site about how this or that musician cannot possibly be fascist "because they are gay", or "they support gay rights".
|Nicky Crane as Oi! pinup boy|
"Adolf Hitler was my God," he said in a 1992 television interview. "He was sort of like my Fuhrer, my leader. And everything I done was, like, for Adolf Hitler."
Within six months of joining the BM, Crane had been made the Kent organiser, responsible for signing up new members and organising attacks on political opponents and minority groups.
He was also inducted into the Leader Guard, which served both as McLaughlin's personal corps of bodyguards and as the party's top fighters. Members wore black uniforms adorned with neo-Nazi symbols and were drilled at paramilitary-style armed training weekends in the countryside.
By now working as a binman and living in Plumstead, Crane quickly acquired a reputation, even among the ranks of the far right, for exceptionally brutal violence.
"By appearance and reputation he was the epitome of right-wing idealism - fascist icon and poster boy," writes Sean Birchall in his book Beating The Fascists, a history of AFA.
Unbeknown to his comrades, however, a very different side to Nicky Crane was emerging.
He appears to have thrown himself enthusiastically into the gay scene around this time. His imposing frame meant he easily found work as a doorman at gay venues through a security firm.
But if the neo-Nazi world would have abhorred his sexuality, the vast majority of London's gay scene would have been equally horrified to learn that he was a neo-Nazi.
Among the leadership of the largely liberal-left gay rights movement that was growing in London during the 1980s, fascist symbolism was an obvious and outrageous taboo - a reminder of the persecution that lesbians and gay men had suffered.
According to feminist scholar Sheila Jeffreys' book The Lesbian Heresy, a commotion unfolded in 1984 when a group of gay skinheads turned up at a gay bar in London's King's Cross and began sieg heiling. She also records that a well-known far-right youth organiser was thrown out of the same pub after taking off his jacket to reveal swastika tattoos.
By the mid-1980s, a gay skinhead scene was beginning to flourish in London, says Murray Healy, author of Gay Skins: Class, Masculinity and Queer Appropriation.
Gay men had many different reasons for adopting the look, he says. Some had been skinheads before they came out. Others found that, in an era when all gay men were widely assumed to be camp and effeminate, "you were less likely to get picked on if you looked like a queer-basher". There were also "fetish skins", attracted to the "hyper-masculinity" of the subculture.
Against this backdrop, even the swastikas and racist slogans inked on Crane's body could be explained away, at least initially. During the 1980s, says Healy, "gay Nazis were assumed to be left-wing even if they had Nazi tattoos".
"People refused to read these tattoos politically. People thought it was part of the authenticity ritual. People thought he was just playing a part."
"A lot of skinheads that weren't right-wing used to wear Skrewdriver T-shirts," Byrne adds. "It was about the fashion of being a skinhead."
But Crane wasn't just playing with the imagery of Nazism. He was living it. His decision to start frequenting venues such as Heaven wasn't the only thing that had changed since before his sentence.
On the surface, the idea of a gay man embracing neo-Nazism might appear baffling and self-defeating. Just as Adolf Hitler's regime had thrown gays and lesbians into death camps, the neo-Nazi movement remained staunchly homophobic.
He had, however, chosen fascism long before he had embraced his sexuality, and much of his social life and prestige was bound up with his status as a prominent neo-Nazi activist.
To maintain his cover, Crane would often appear in public with a skinhead girl on his arm. "He often had a so-called girlfriend but they were never around for long," says Pearce. "Nicky had no chemistry with girls."
Certainly, after coming out, Crane always described himself as gay rather than bisexual.
His closest affiliation, however, was with the neo-Nazi rock band Skrewdriver. Originally the group had been apolitical. In 1982, however, singer Ian Stuart Donaldson came out as a supporter of the National Front.
Opposition from anti-fascists meant gigs had to be forcefully stewarded. Donaldson appointed Crane as Skrewdriver's head of security, and he became a trusted lieutenant.
Reportedly, Crane wrote the lyrics for a Skrewdriver track called Justice and provided the cover art for the albums Hail The New Dawn and After The Fire.
Archive footage of their concerts shows Donaldson barking neo-Nazi lyrics as he loomed above Crane who stood, arms folded, at the front of the stage. The T-shirt on his chest said "Skrewdriver security" in Gothic script.
Crane wasn't playing an instrument, but it was as though he was part of the performance.
His status as a neo-Nazi icon had never been more secure. But for the first time, the twin strands of his double life were about to intersect.
In 1987 Crane and Donaldson set up a group called Blood & Honour. It was a cross between a White Power music club and a political party.
It staged concerts for Skrewdriver and other neo-Nazi bands with names like No Remorse and Brutal Attack. T-shirts, flags and records were sold by mail order through its magazine. The operation had an annual turnover of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Searchlight reported in October 1987 that "Crane, the right's finest example of a clinical psychopath, is also engaged in building a 'gay skins' movement, which meets on Friday nights" at a pub in east London.
Crane's sexuality might by now have been obvious to any interested onlooker, but the neo-Nazi scene remained in denial.
The Channel 4 programme was called Out. It featured a series of documentaries about lesbian and gay life in the UK. The episode broadcast on 27 July 1992 was about the gay skinhead subculture. Its star attraction was Nicky Crane.
First the programme showed recorded interviews with an unwitting Donaldson, who sounded baffled that such a thing as gay skinheads existed, and NF leader Patrick Harrington. And then the camera cut to Crane, in camouflage gear and Dr Martens boots, in his Soho bedsit.
He told the interviewer how he'd known he was gay back in his early BM days. He described how his worship of Hitler had given way to unease about the far right's homophobia. He had started to feel like a hypocrite because the Nazi movement was so anti-gay, he said. "So I just, like, couldn't stay in it." Crane said he was "ashamed" of his political past and insisted he had changed. "The views I've got now is, I believe in individualism and I don't care if anyone's black, Jewish or anything," he added. "I either like or dislike a person as an individual, not what their colour is or anything."
Crane reiterated that he had abandoned Nazi ideology. "It is all in the past," he told the paper. "I've made a dramatic change in my life." The reaction from his erstwhile comrades was one of horror and fury. Donaldson issued a blood-curdling death threat on stage at a Skrewdriver gig. "He's dug his own grave as far as I'm concerned," Donaldson told the Last Chance fanzine. "I was fooled the same as everybody else. Perhaps more than everybody else. I felt I was betrayed by him and I want nothing to do with him whatsoever."
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