LORD DRONE’S MIGHTY FLEET STREET ORGAN,
THE WORLD’S GREATEST ONLINE NEWSPAPER
THE ALTERNATIVE MEDIA DAILY
THURSDAY 30 NOVEMBER 2023
There’s no smoke without Fiery Frank of the Express
By BARRY GARDNER
Reading Garth Pearce's reminiscences of Daily Express days reminds me of one encounter with the brilliantly pugnacious and comically accident-prone Frank Howitt.
I knew Frank from Saturday shifts we both did for the Sunday Mirror and got to know him quite well, regaling me and others with tales of how he had snared Christine Keeler when she was hiding abroad and bringing her back to the UK for a world exclusive.
But my best memory of Frank is when I was on the Daily Star in the eighties, covering a ferry strike in Dover. Frank was also there — not sure who for at that stage — and we were joined by a Daily Mail reporter whose name is lost in the mists of time.
We had adjourned to a dark, miserable pub and were enjoying a few when the Mail Guy suddenly said: ‘What's that bloody awful smell?’
Frank and I looked vacant, both shook our heads and carried on drinking.
A few minutes later the Mail man again cried out: ‘What IS that f...ing smell?’
This time Frank, who had been standing imperiously like the captain on deck, looked around to see wisps of smoke rising from the back of the Mail reporter's coat.
Frank, who always had a fag going and usually held it behind his back had set light to the hack's coat.
Without hesitation he snatched my drink, threw it over the smouldering Barbour jacket — which was still on said reporter's back and — and said: ‘Just time for one more.’
►Howitt married Mirror reporter Paula James in 1975. Both took redundancy from Fleet Street a year later and moved to Deal, Kent, where they published The Channel Express newspaper targeting visitors to Dover and the Kent Coast from across the channel.
Frank joined the Daily Express in 1960 and three years later he broke the infamous Profumo Scandal by getting the exclusive story from call girl Christine Keeler of her illicit affair with a high ranking government minister. Paula died in 2017 aged 86.