After just a few hours' sleep he returned to the club. A phone call
came from one of the sound technicians, who had heard from
one of the lighting technicians, who had heard from one of
the waiters, that there
had been a shooting in the club. They were now referring to the place as "the scene of the crime."
It was 10:00 in the morning. He called Richard (the public
relations dude) and asked him what he expected to find in the morning
papers. Richard couldn't answer. This was not good. Not good at all.
The boss would want to know which papers carried the story. Each and
every one. In fact, should the Hebrew Times carry a line about
want to know. Now, the boss wasn't a micromanager at
all; much to the relief of all who toiled for him. But something like
this, he wanted to be intelligenced on, but good. Should boss's asshole
buddy Liz Smith give a call, he had to know what the papers said
'cause he'd know she already knew what the papers said.
A Different Kind of Crowd at the Door
There were two uniformed New York City Police Officers stationed
at the small side door to the club. They'd finally brought the city
gates in front of the entry doors down and got rid of the yellow crime
scene tape, much to his relief. However, crowding around the two
officers, who, by the looks of them, were earning overtime pay, was a
crowd of people. Not just any people, weird people. Journalists from
the bottom of the barrel. Two waitresses from the diner across the
street who'd asked if they could "see where the guy got shot." A bunch
of nicely dressed Puerto Rican ladies and gentlemen, apparently
relatives of the deceased, were irate because they had to leave their
collection of candles, crosses, cards, dolls, articles of clothing, and
other various and sundry items outside the building; and not at the
very spot where their beloved said his final "via con Dios."
Inside, the guys who'd worked all night extracting bullets from the
walls, floor, ceiling, and furniture had proven what the shaken young
waiter said to him last night. This was no "pow-pow" and run; it was a
hail of bullets. The shooter had confronted the victim, shot
him in the back, emptied the gun, reloaded, shot the victim in the head
as he lay dying, (just to make sure) and emptied the gun yet again on
his way out. He thought it noble of the doormen who were packing that
night that nobody decided to play hero and make this a shoot-out.
He jumped upstairs to find Jeff sitting idly at his desk, smoking a
cigarette and drinking a fragrant cup of coffee. Jeff was the General
Sales Manager for the club, and a Vice President, as was he. Upon
Jeff's prodding, he gave up the details of what had transpired the
night before and what was going on now. After a pregnant pause, the
officious young man cooed at him
"just make sure it's cleaned up for the party Wednesday night." Now,
this guy the details by way of rehearsing them both for when the bosses came
in. It backfired. Now there was pressure on him from this idiot. There
was little possibility that he could effect a total cleanup in two
days, especially since they weren't finished with the
To tell the truth, even though his job involved management of people
to a small extent, he was a poor manager. He simply refused to ask
someone else to do a thing that he'd refuse to do himself. But thinking
back to his dramatic reaction to the even more dramatic mess of bloody
fingerprints, all manner of body tissue, a pool of coagulating blood on
the carpet, and what seemed like at least one bullet hole in each of
four of the expensive metal panels in the entrance way, he had no
choice but to delegate this out. Of course, one alternative was to
order the panels, have the carpenter install them, and then hire a
company which specializes in "disaster recovery" to finish the job on
the carpet and surrounding areas. But this would have to be handled
very delicately, and not farmed out to just any company found by
throwing a dart at the Yellow Pages. The answer would be to block off
the entire area with plywood, conduct the party and just post "under
construction" signs on the plywood. The grand main entrance, all silver
panels, floodlights and intricate chromed chain-link fencing would have
to be taken out of service.
"But that's where people coming in can pause for the
paparazzi and be seen! Can't you do something?! Jeff's whining
certainly wasn't impelling him to come up with an answer. Conversely,
it was impelling him to go downstairs and seek solace in a bottle of
Johnnie Walker Black.
A Little Background
He held a glass of Scotch, neat, in both his hands, and inhaled as
he drank deeply. He walked up the stairs and into the hallway created
by the chrome fence. Some cop said "you still here?" He mumbled
How many times had his agoraphobia caused him to select this very
spot to watch the milestones in the club's brief history. Nancy
Wilson looked right at him as she begged in her inimitable voice,
"Guess Who I Saw Today?" George Clinton and the Parliament
Funkadelic went on after a young woman from Brooklyn with
blonde hair, black roots and weird makeup sang her very first hit, "Holiday." He
remembered how much he loved that song and couldn't believe that all of
that expression came from such a winsome, tired looking little figure.
Count Basie had been wheeled out to the piano onstage, right in front
of his eyes, to do a commercial for some product or another. The music
was brief, cut-takes mostly, but he recalled being mesmerized. He
recalled his buttocks being pinched by the sons of Arab oil magnates,
the daughters of Society Matrons, and Lorna Luft, who genuinely
wanted him to join the party and not be so distant. But those were the
Another Day, Another Dollar
The fickle A-list crowd had recently fled this place for
greener, newer, more visually breathtaking pastures. With them
went the wanna-be crowd; the ones who paid the door fee willingly after
waiting outside in the cold a half hour, and spent hundreds on
minuscule cocktails served by surly waiters or even surlier bartenders.
This led to the arrival of Fran. She was a party promoter who specialized in organizing Latin
free-for-alls that typically featured a name player and two or three conjuntos who were "popular
crowd-pleasers," more often than not (only in someone's basement
in one of the outer boroughs).
Sunday nights had become "Latin Nights" at the club. The novelty
wore off fast, and the crowd got, well, cheesier, for lack of a better
word. This was fact; not racism. The folks who had to show up for work
early in the morning just got sick of showing up on Mondays with a
hangover. Which left behind the lurid underbelly of the Latin-circuit
followers. It came to the point where cheap cocaine was being snorted
on makeup mirrors in public and the Security staff had either gotten sick of
telling the violators to go elsewhere, or worse, were imbibing
Little hard liquor was being purchased, and the stink of
carelessly spilled beer lingered even after the steam-cleaning was
finished Monday mornings. Customers were sneaking in their own hip
flasks of cheap rum, and even a few empty fifths of Night Train could
be found hidden behind the potted plants. Worst of all, fights
abounded. Not just the guys. Women were constantly going at it. Police
calls escalated from one or two a month to five on Sunday nights alone.
The horrible joke among the security staff went something like, "Q:
what's more dangerous than a jealous lover with a black-belt or a
crack-head with a knife? A: A Puerto Rican with a 64 (ounce bottle) of Rheingold."
Propriety forbids this writer to detail the far
more raunchy, offensive versions of that joke.
Some years before this, a notorious case of arson had hit the
media nation-wide. A regular-guy, ostensibly harmless looking Latino
fellow had gotten a bit too drunk and was asked to leave a Latin-themed
dance club in the Bronx. He returned an hour later with a gallon of
gasoline and set the doormen, and eventually the entire front of the
club, on fire. The problem was, the back doors; the fire doors, were
chained and locked, to keep people from sneaking in without paying a
cover. Dozens of lives were lost. This case was brought up by one of
the bosses when Fran first appeared, introduced to the powers-that-be
by no less than two of the leading floor managers, to make her
case for the "Latin Sundays" concept. The whole arson argument was effectively swept
under the carpet by the gung-ho threesome.
Now, the floor managers had no
experience with the Latin crowd, except for an occasional sexual
escapade with a handsome Spanish-speaking young man. Typically, the
young man in question had been coaxed easily into these experiences
with the aid of a quarter-ounce or more of very fine quality cocaine,
and other nefarious substances. Fran, too, it turned out, had a soft
spot in her heart for swarthy, muscular young men with dark hair and
eyes and, as she put it "fire in their hearts."
Therefore, in a nutshell, the entire "Experiment in Cultural
Diversity" that Fran spoke about had, with a few moments of violence, become
a pox upon the good name and
image of the club. The shooting was the straw that broke the camel's
back. It was yet to be seen whether or not the camel's back could be
He awoke in the middle of the night a day later covered with sweat.
All he could recall of the dream he had was that he was in a courtroom.
On a table labeled with a huge sign "exhibits for the
prosecution" was the body of the deceased, his cranium still
missing. Surrounding the grisly sight were all manner of weapons,
pistols, shotguns, machine guns. The judge had his back to the
courtroom, and was uttering something from the New York State Liquor
Code about "criminally negligent failure to conduct a lawful premises
and egregiously failing to care for the safety and well-being of one's
patrons." He woke up as the judge turned around and pointed a finger at
him, yelling, "YES, I MEAN YOU!" The judge in his dream, by the way,
was Harold the lawyer.
From Bad to Badder
Let's review for a moment what happened the morning after the
shooting. The press was there, along with other interested parties, but
most importantly a few people who were as fascinated with the whole
incident in the same way that normal people, guiltfully curious, slow down a bit while
driving, upon seeing an accident in the other lane.
There's truth to the advertising business adage that "bad
press is better than no press at all." Attendance at the club
skyrocketed. Marie, the coat-check girl who'd been grazed by a stray
bullet, returned and relished the lucrative job of showing arriving
parties "where it happened." It got so bad that the other coat-check
personnel began forcing her to share the fives, tens and twenties that
were being pressed into her palm. One of the idiots got the bright idea
that if he drilled a hole in one of the $2,500 stainless-steel panels
along the entry wall, they'd make more money. The hole was patched and
buffed out almost immediately, putting an end to that.
Latin Sundays were replaced by a series of appearances of various
"girl groups" from the late '50s and early '60s. It worked for a while.
The demographics of the Friday and Saturday club-goers changed
slowly but visibly. Where once Armani and Halston
suits were the outfit of choice among the male club-goers, polyester
(gasp!) wide-lapel coats and matching pants, probably purchased on
Orchard Street in lower Manhattan's garment district, or worse, in
fad-fashion outlets on East 8th Street, began showing up. Silk ties
done in perfect windsor knots were replaced by hairy chests loaded with
cheap gold jewelry.
The ladies looked pretty much the same, only there was something
"more" about them. Higher heels, higher hair, and more makeup.
In the vernacular of the night club world, this demographic was
called the "Bridge and Tunnel" crowd, merely because it was assumed
that those who chose this mode of fashion were from the outer boroughs
or worse, New Jersey. The good thing for the club was that these
people were spending money to come in and, well, act like
mobsters and molls. The bosses couldn't be more pleased with
the bottom line. The staff, however, were collectively aghast. Their
hopes of eclipsing the fame and notoriety of Studio 54 were dashed to
smithereens like two champagne glasses pressed together just a little
too firmly during a toast.
Suffice it to say that the club's liquor license remained intact.
The incident made its way around the rumor mill of nightclub goers and
nightclub employees, keeping it going for quite some time. He remembers
being seated at a restaurant in Greenwich Village and being asked by
the hostess if he knew where he could find "the handsome Latin guy who
won the duel." He responded by claiming that the story of the shooting
was mere rumor and innuendo and actually had occurred outdoors and a
block away. He washed that statement down with more Scotch.
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