Meet the rudest landlord outside of fiction: Norman Balon. This month marks 70 years since London's rudest landlord took over the reins of the Coach & Horses pub in Soho.
It's hard not to admire anyone who greets a visiting rugby player's request for a Snakebite with "We don't do cocktails here. Get out!", and anyone nostalgic for the old Soho circuit that comprised the Coach, the French (House), and the Colony (Room Club) can only have fond memories of Norman Balon.
Balon started work in the Coach on 1 February, 1943, when his father took over the lease. He remained a much-feared presence behind the bar for over six decades, until in 2006, fed up with his regulars dying, he sold up.
One of a generation of old school Soho characters, like Muriel "Hello cunty!" Belcher, Balon could deliver lines such as "The beer is meant to be cloudy. I suggest you go elsewhere," with a hauteur that matched the sozzled dignity of his most famous regular, Jeffrey Bernard.
Despite the odd contretemps - Balon once barred Bernard from his pub, only to serve him a drink when he wandered round through the second door - while he was most underwhelmed when Customs & Excise arrested Bernard for illegal bookmaking in his pub - the two men were genuine friends.
During Bernard's extended death throes, Balon would bring lobster salads to his flat, and patrol his hospital ward being unpleasant to fellow patients.
Balon rose to fame by a combination of luck and wit: the founders of the satirical magazine, Private Eye, kept offices round the corner from 1962, and across the road from 1969, and held weekly lunches at the Coach & Horses.
The Eye immortalised him as the pub landlord in the strip The Regulars; Jeffrey Bernard referenced him in his Spectator column; and he's the off-stage presence in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, famously played by Peter O'Toole, who knew and liked both men.
O'Toole was not, however, Balon's most famous customer. Balon once opined that "Soho is for prostitutes, gays, lesbians and a bit of the theatre community", and in the old days of Soho Betty Grable used to drink in the Coach, alongside generations of artists, among them Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud.
It is unlikely that Balon, now into his 80s, is hugely whelmed by the Coach & Horses' current incarnation, featuring gimmicks such as Norman's singalong, a cosy huddle around the piano, and - awe-inspiringly to anyone who remembers the bar snacks of yesteryear - a full gastro menu upstairs.
Times change, however, and folk move on. Or, as Balon would probably say, "Here's your money. Fuck off."