|Stanley Green, the Protein Man|
Oxford Street, 1977
22 February 1915|
|Died||4 December 1993(aged 78)|
|Parents||Richard and May Green|
For 25 years, from 1968 until 1993, Green patrolled Oxford Street in the West End, carrying a placard that advocated "Less Lust, By Less Protein: Meat Fish Bird; Egg Cheese; Peas Beans; Nuts. And Sitting". Arguing that protein made people lustful and aggressive, his solution was "protein wisdom" a low-protein diet for "better, kinder, happier people". For a few pence passers-by could purchase his 14-page pamphlet, Eight Passion Proteins with Care, which reportedly sold 87,000 copies over 20 years. Its front cover observed that "[t]his booklet would benefit more, if it were read occasionally."
Green became one of London's much-loved eccentrics, though his "campaign to suppress desire", as one commentator put it, was not invariably popular, leading to two arrests for obstruction and the need to wear green overalls to protect himself from spit. He nevertheless took great delight in his local fame. The Sunday Times interviewed him in 1985, and his "less passion, less protein" slogan was used by Red or Dead, the London fashion house.
When he died at the age of 78, the Daily Telegraph, Guardian and Times published his obituary, and his pamphlets, placards and letters were passed to the Museum of London. His biography was added in 2006 to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
|Green's printing press, Gunnersbury Museum|
|Green's sandwich board, Museum of London|
|Footage of Green on YouTube, Oxford Street|
Green was born in Harringay, north London, the youngest of four sons of Richard Green, a clerk for a bottle stopper manufacturer, and his wife, May. He attended Wood Green School before joining the Royal Navy in 1938.
Philip Carter wrote in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography that Green's time with the Navy affected him deeply. He was reportedly shocked by his fellow sailors' obsession with sex, and by 1958 had come to believe that their libido had been dangerously heightened by the intake of too much protein. "I was astonished when things were said quite openly – what a husband would say to his wife when home on leave," he told the Sunday Times "A Life in the Day" column in 1985. "I've always been a moral sort of person." He began to protect himself against erotic excess with a daily diet of porridge, home-made bread, steamed vegetables and pulses, and a pound of apples. "Passion can be a great torment," he told the newspaper.
He left the Navy in September 1945 and worked for the Fine Art Society. In March 1946, Carter wrote, he failed the entrance exam for the University of London. He later worked for Selfridges and the civil service, and as a storeman for Ealing Borough Council. He said that he had lost jobs twice because he had refused to be dishonest. He had a job with the post office in 1962, then worked as a self-employed gardener until 1968, when he began his full-time anti-protein campaign at the age of 53. He lived with his parents until they died – his father in 1966 and his mother in 1967 – after which he was given a council flat in Haydock Green, Northolt, Middlesex.
On the streets
Green began his mission in June 1968, initially in Harrow on Saturdays, becoming a full-time human billboard six months later on Oxford Street. He cycled there from Northolt with a sandwich board attached to the bicycle, a journey of 12 miles (19 km) that could take up to two hours, until he was given a free bus pass when he turned 65.
He rose early, and after porridge for breakfast made bread that would rise while he was out on patrol, ready for his evening meal. He then prepared his lunch on a Bunsen burner, eating at 2:30 in a "warm and secret place" near Oxford Street. He walked up and down the street six days a week, reduced to four days from 1985 onwards, campaigning until 6:30 pm among the shoppers. Saturday evenings he would spend with the cinema crowds in Leicester Square. He would to go to bed at 12:30 am after saying a prayer. "Quite a good prayer, unselfish too," he told the Sunday Times. "It is a sort of acknowledgment of God, just in case there happens to be one."
Peter Ackroyd wrote in London: The Biography that Green was for the most part ignored, becoming "a poignant symbol of the city's incuriosity and forgetfulness." His advice to young women that they should eat a low-protein diet – because "you cannot deceive your groom that you are a virgin on your wedding night!" – was not always appreciated, and led to his being arrested twice for public obstruction, once in 1980 and again in 1985. "The injustice of it upsets me," he told the Sunday Times, "because I'm doing such a good job." He took to wearing overalls to protect himself from spit, several times finding it on his hat after a day's work.
Sundays were spent at home, not always quietly, with the printing press on which Eight Passion Proteins was produced. Waldemar Januszczak described it as worthy of the cartoonist Heath Robinson (1872–1944), who was known for his drawings of ancient contraptions The racket it made on print days caused trouble between Green and his neighbours.
Eight Passion Proteins went through 52 editions between 1973 and 1993, and was noted for its eccentric typography, including the apparently random capitalization of words. Raising the price only slightly over the years, from 10 pence in 1980 to 12 pence 13 years later, Green sold 20 copies on weekdays and up to 50 on Saturdays, a total of 87,000 copies by February 1993, according to Carter.
The booklet identified the eight "passion-proteins" as meat, fish, birds, cheese, eggs, peas, beans and nuts, arguing that "those who do not have to work hard with their limbs, and those who are inclined to sit about" will "store up their protein for passion", making retirement, for example, a period of increased passion and, therefore, marital discord. "Use your unaided will, for as long as you can, to develop your character; but do not let passion defeat you, ALONE, nor with a sexual friend," his pamphlet advised. He singled out the BBC for particular criticism, accusing it of spreading "indiscretion, indiscipline, and indecency".
An appendix to the protein booklet advocates that parents, instead of wearing themselves out with married love, should pay more attention to their children. "When the children become teenagers; then we shall see how bad their parents were; then children start smoking and drinking and using drugs, become vandals, thieves, gamblers and motorists."
According to Carter, Green was unable to find a publisher for his only novel, Behind the Veil: More than Just a Tale, which Carter described as a "colourful account of the danger of passion and the possibility of redemption". Two other manuscripts remained unpublished, a 67-page text called Passion and Protein, and a 392-page version of Eight Passion Proteins, rejected by Oxford University Press in 1971.
Green's efforts on Oxford Street were augmented by a letter-writing campaign to the great and the good, Carter wrote, and over the years Eight Passion Proteins made its way to five British prime ministers, the Prince of Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Pope Paul VI.
Green enjoyed his local fame. The Sunday Times interviewed him in 1985 for its "A Life in the Day" feature, and his "less passion, less protein" slogan was used by the London fashion house Red or Dead.
When he died in 1993 at the age of 78, the Daily Telegraph, Guardian and Times all published obituaries. His letters, diaries, pamphlets and placards were given to the Museum of London, and other artefacts to the Gunnersbury Park Museum. His printing press was featured in Cornelia Parker's 1995 exhibition, "The Maybe", at the Serpentine Gallery, alongside Robert Maxwell's shoelaces, one of Winston Churchill's cigars, and Tilda Swinton in a glass box. In 2006 he was given an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Two decades after his death he was still remembered by writers and bloggers, fondly for the most part, though not invariably so: artist Alun Rowlands' documentary fiction, 3 Communiqués (2007), portrayed him as trawling the streets of London, "campaigning for the suppression of desire". Musician Martin Gordon included a track about Green on his 2013 album, Include Me Out. The 2013 BBC2 TV series "Count Arthur Strong" has a character called Eggy who is clearly based on Stanley Green.
Items belonging to Green, Museum of London, 2012.
- McKie, David. "Pining for the boards", The Guardian, 21 July 2008.
- Green, Stanley. Eight Passion Proteins, accessed 6 May 2011.
- Also see Ackroyd, Peter. London, A Biography. Vintage, 2001, p. 189, and the image pp. 664–665.
- Carter, Philip. "Green, Stanley Owen (1915–1993)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, May 2006. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/92286
- Green, Stanley. "My own message to the streets", The Sunday Times Magazine, 14 April 1985.
- Weeks, David and James, Jamie. Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness. Random House, 1995, pp. 194–195.
- Ackroyd, Peter. London: The Biography. Vintage, 2001, p. 189.
- Quinn, Tom & Leaver, Ricky. Eccentric London. New Holland Publishers, 2008, p. 14.
- Januszczak, Waldemar. "Making an exhibition of herself", The Sunday Times, 10 September 1995, cited in Pearce, Susan M. and Martin, Paul. The Collector's Voice: Critical Readings in the Practice of Collecting. Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2002, pp. 293–294.
- Lake, Matt; Moran, Mark; and Sceurman, Mark. Weird England, Sterling Publishing Company, 2007, p. 115.
- Green, Stanley. Eight Passion Proteins, pp. 1–2, 14.
- Blanchard, Tamsin. "Culture clash of the catwalk Titans", The Independent, 23 October 1995.
- "Londoners", Museum of London.
- Also see Carter (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography) 2006; and Campbell-Johnston, Rachel. "The Galleries of Modern London", The Times, 13 May 2011.
- Rowlands, Alun. 3 Communiqués, Book Works, 2007.
- Include Me Out, martingordon.de.
- Cumming, Valerie; Merriman, Nick Merriman; and Ross, Catherine. "The Protein Man", Museum of London. Scala Books, 1996.
- Donaldson, William. Brewer's Rogues, Villains, and Eccentrics. Cassell Reference, 2004.
- Lloyd, Felix. "I’m in training to be an old eccentric", London Evening Standard, 3 December 2008.
- Nevin, Charles. "The Third Leader: Street scenery", The Independent, 13 June 2006.
- Ross, C. "The scourge of sex and nuts and sitting", The Oldie, March 1997.
- The London Traveler. "The Less Protein Man – a sight of old London", accessed 7 May 2011.
- Truss, Lynne. "Stanley Green", The Times, 25 January 1994.
- Weeks, David Joseph and Ward, Kate. Eccentrics: The Scientific Investigation. Stirling University Press, 1988.
- Wicks, Ben. "Come on up and see my collection of passion fruit", The Toronto Star, 8 March 1986.
- Willis, David. "A consuming passion", obituary, The Guardian, 26 January 1994.