STANDING ROOM ONLY AS PLUCKY TEDS WED
From the South East London Mercury, 1976
It was South London’s wedding of the year, and everyone who is anyone in the world of 1950s-style rock’n’roll was there to see Leonard Potts marry his beautiful bride Susan Smith.
The story of their romance is worthy of the silver screen. Leonard, aka ‘Legless Lenny’, is a teddy boy of 21 years’ standing – and for most of them, he has been standing on a pair of metal legs, after a motorcycle accident in his teenage years. But although the crash left him ‘All Shook Up’ for a while, he underwent a miraculous recovery at the Manor House rehabilitation centre in West Drayton.
Lenny was soon back on the rock’n’roll scene, and has stayed there ever since. He organised last year’s Teddy Boys’ Picnic to raise money for the Manor House, and invaded the stage at Bill Haley’s recent London concert to shake a collection bucket. When the teds marched on the BBC this year to protest at the lack of their favourite music on the airwaves, it was Lenny who led the way – at a pace that left his able-bodied comrades ‘Breathless’.
He can still be found bopping with the best of them at The Castle and The Black Bull, displaying the ‘propeller’ technique that has made him a legend – straightening his legs in opposite directions and spinning around on the floor. No other dancer comes close – quite literally!
It was a highly unusual combination of charity work and propellers that brought Lenny and his future bride together. For some years, Lenny had been performing at charity events with his old friend the Reverend ‘Skinny Jim’ Laine. Laine was a colleague of the Rev. John Robertson, better known as the ‘Rocking Vicar’ who hit the headlines in the 1950s when he greased his hair and motorcycled around his parish at the Elephant and Castle.
Lenny raised money by sitting astride an upturned aeroplane propeller attached to an engine. Once strapped on, he would spin to the sound Danny and the Juniors while Laine, clad in his ‘Heaven’s Angels’ jacket, collected money in his crash helmet. It was during one such performance that disaster struck – and Cupid fired his bow. As Lenny spun around, Sue Smith, who was taking part in the ‘sponsored swing’ nearby, flew from her seat in mid-air and collided with the propeller, losing both legs in the process.
In scenes reminiscent of ‘Reach for the Sky’ Lenny guided Sue through the dark months that followed, and helping her to walk again on prosthetic limbs. At Sue’s suggestion, a second propeller blade was added to the routine, and the pair went on to raise thousands of pounds for disabled children with their double act: ‘Legless Lenny and Runaround Sue’.
The wedding congregation included many of those who have benefited from the couple’s efforts, and the bridesmaids all came from the Roland Henry home for disabled children. Hundreds waited outside the church to see the couple emerge to the sound of ‘Love Me Tender’. The teds performed a guard of honour, and a bright red Cadillac waited by the gate.
Then, to loud laughter, Lenny invited everyone to ‘come and get legless’ at The Castle.