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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 it, he'd 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, he'd told 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 evidence yet.

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 "uh-huh."

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 better days.

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 themselves.

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 fixed.


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.

Chapter One    Chapter Two    Chapter Three    Chapter Five

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