NEW YORK was an amazing place in the ’70s, which is the period Mary Reinholz is writing about in “Exit From Eden.” Xaviera Hollander, the so-called “Happy Hooker” was a figure in the NYPD’s corruption scandals of the 1970s.
Corrupt NYPD patrolman Bill Phillips, charged with murder back in the day
Frank Serpico (testifying above) seemed like the one honest cop in the corrupt 1970s NYPD.
It felt lonely that New York night after I left Ted Katz and went prowling for pimps to question for my upcoming cover story on runaway girls.
All I found in the East Village was a wiry black apprentice in the trade, a mere boy of about 19 wearing a baggy three piece suit too big for him as he bought sodas for himself and a little flower child in a deli near St. Mark’s Place. She couldn’t have been more than 14. Read more
PIMPS STRUT THEIR STUFF
About an hour before the meeting with Ted Katz , I got a call from Jason Slade at my new sublet near the Chelsea Hotel, saying he was having problems with my magazine piece on runaway girls in the East Village.
“It has some holes in it, Ryder,” he grumbled. “You should try to interview more pimps who take those little girls in from the cold and then turn them out as street prostitutes. You just have one quote. I want to nail those guys. ”
“I’ve only seen a few small time pimps in the Village,” I told him. “They look pretty down and out themselves.”
“I’m thinking of someone known as Midtown Slim, a flashy pimp,” Slade said. “I hear he generally dresses to the dimes in a three- piece suit and carries around JP Donleavy’s cult novel, ‘The Gingerman,’ He might tell you about his fellow gents of leisure.” Read more
Soon enough that night, the East Village block where I was standing became a blur of noise and furious confusion: first a cascade of lights from darkened windows as several retirees shouted into the street below, hurling obscenities at Daniela to stop honking the horn as she sat inside the car of her biker boyfriend, Veto Bandito. “We can’t sleep, you little bitch!” one of them yelled.
When Veto appeared on the street, waving his shot gun wildly, Daniela screamed at him, “Get me out of here, Veto! Now!’’
He glared at me for a second as I hunched against a brick wall, then climbed into the driver’s seat, gunning the engine.
As he drove forward, I could see two Hell’s Angels advancing on Veto’s Ford sedan. It sped past them, careening down the street. Someone fired several shots as the car turned a corner. Then there was silence and the lights of the retirees went out.
The Angels stopped to chat. “You alright, lady?” one of them asked. He was a big guy with shoulder length brown hair, an unlikely prince charming. On another night, I wouldn’t have minded having a drink with him. Read more
Wild Woman Of Yore
A few snow flakes were falling at noon when I found Sean Collins in Tompkins Square Park, letting his dog Mistake run loose as he threw bread crumbs to the pigeons. I sidled up next to him and asked if he’d help me ice Sargeant Battaglia. I was only half-joking.
He shrugged, looking like he had heard similar requests once too often. Finally, he asked, “Are you one of these off-the-pigs radicals?”
Collins sat down on a park bench, lit up a cigarette and stretched out his long legs on the pavement. I suddenly wanted them wrapped around me.
“I’m not a total cop hater,” I said. “But I think this undercover cop I’ve run into wants to kill me. He thinks I might write about his dope habit and how he blackmails girls to have sex with him by saying he’ll bust them for buying drugs. He’s an ex-narc, a pretty boy drunk with power. I think he’s a psychopath.”
I must have sounded hysterical because Collins took my hand and pulled me down on the bench next to him. He spoke soothingly. “He’d have to be a very stupid cop to go after a reporter in this town. I read your story on the mafia killings yesterday and it mentions a plainclothes cop with an Italian name. Is that the one you’re talking about?”
I nodded. Read more
the author back in the day
Around 2 am I drifted into a fitful sleep. Sargeant Battaglia and Doria Nune appeared in my dreams wearing clown costumes in a mirrored funhouse, their privates exposed like overripe fruit. Battaglia advanced with his night stick raised, about to arrest me for killing a rapist in Arkansas.
It was around 7 o’clock when I woke up, convinced that Doria had given her pot-smoking cop lover the number of my room which was only two floors down from hers at the Chelsea Hotel. It was time to get out of this pitstop in my fugitive’s life before Battaglia came banging on my door —maybe with a search warrant and his other gun drawn.
Frantically I rummaged through my wallet and found Dr. Grobnik’s card with the name of Danny Schultz on the back. During the business hours, I would call Schultz about the apartment Grobnik said he wanted to sublet. I needed to get out of The Chelsea—away from Doria and her scene, away from the junkies leaving blood and vomit in the communal toilet outside my fourth floor room, away from the squalid horror of Battaglia who was more dangerous than any addict in this boho hotel.
At least the sun was shining brightly in the early winter morning. I slipped into jeans and a thick sweater and walked out into the nearly vacant street. A half block east towards 7th Avenue, I bought a copy of The Daily Bugle at a newsstand and read it over my first cup of coffee at the nearby Horn & Hardart automat.
The double murder of Vinnie DeQuattro and his still unidentified mob associate was front page news with my pictures of the two slain wise guys splattered across the cover, the headline in red ink. Ted Katz and I shared a byline just as Katz had promised. There, on page three where our story continued, was an artist’s sketch of the burly hit man with a pullout description of how he strode military style towards his targets wearing gray sweat pants and holding a .38 revolver. And there was my pen name—C.J. Ryder—standing alone for the photo credits. Read more
A glimpse of the Chelsea’s Inner Sanctum
By Mary Reinholz
The Chelsea Hotel’s house shrink was an uptown psychiatrist named Murray Grobnik who held fourth in a penthouse suite a few blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue. His was a world away from my grubby little room at the boho hotel where I had recently considered a swan dive from the fourth floor balcony after learning that an undercover cop from the NYPD’s anti-crime street unit was looking for me.
Richard, the hotel’s desk clerk, said that Grobnik could prescribe something more effective than aspirin to relieve my headache and “obvious anxiety attack.” He made the appointment for me from his phone in the lobby, whispering that the good doctor was a patron of the arts who grew marijuana on his terrace and sometimes forgot to charge patients for treatment.
“He’s overextended and absentminded and some of his patients here really take advantage of him,” Richard confided. “They steal his prescription pads and one of them took his opiates when he wasn’t looking and threw a party on the 7th floor that lasted all night.” Read more
Storm clouds had gathered in a slate gray sky at noon as the yellow cab barreled out of the meatpacking district, spitting up gravel on the rutted streets. Ted Katz sat beside me in the back seat. I could smell his shaving cologne and the acrid scent of tobacco. He told the driver to take us to the Daily Bugle.
“I forget where that rag is— so many newspapers in this town, all of them tell lies,” the driver said. He was a hard bitten Chinese guy about 35, wearing a black sock cap pulled down past his forehead. He radiated fury at his circumstances.
Katz rattled off the midtown address of The Bugle. He winked at me, confiding in a stage whisper that we’d be sharing a byline on the crime story I had witnessed. It would be a hot and heavy write up, he predicted, all about two wise guys getting whacked in the mob warehouse filled with pornographic books and magazines that we had just left. Police were still questioning Harvey Jewell, publisher of the notorious sex tabloid F.U. who was present during the mob rob-out. This would be a cover story with screaming headlines. There would be plenty of red blood and black ink.
Amazing how Katz, the Bugle’s chief investigative reporter, had taken over my story in the same self-assured way that he had gotten me out of trouble with an FBI agent who had nearly blown my cover at the mafia run warehouse that served as Jewell’s distribution center. Katz said nothing else as the driver headed up the West Side Highway. In the silence, he seemed like a different man than the brash dude who had come on to me at The Bugle, acting like a star reporter asserting male privilege. There was something almost comforting about his firm jawline in profile and his domed forehead with the receding hairline. I felt a brief moment of peace listening to the whooshing sounds of the cab’s windshield wipers and Katz breathing next to me as a light rain began to fall.. Read more
Ever since she arrived in the Big Apple, the author of “Exit From Eden” has hung out and interviewed some tough customers. Here, she’s interviewing the leader of the New York City’s Hell’s Angels.
By Mary Reinholz
It generally breaks my heart when tough guys cry.
So I felt a twinge of sympathy as corpulent New York porn king Harvey Jewell shed copious tears over the murder of his wise guy distributor in a double homicide. I didn’t know what to say or do as he sat bawling on a wooden work bench a few yards from VdeQ’s office where the capo de cino also known as Vinnie DeQuattro still sat at his desk, shot dead by a single bullet to the jugular.
But when Jewell’s nose started running, I handed him some Kleenex from my shoulder strap bag, patting him on the head as if he was a small boy stricken with grief over the sudden loss of his favorite choo choo train.
“VdeQ helped me launch F.U. nationally,” Jewell blubbered. “Nobody else would distribute it except him. Together we put an honest sex tabloid on the map. . He was a sensitive guy. I brought him a gift today. A cigarette lighter with his initials on it. It’s sterling silver and it cost me. But VdeQ was worth it.”
Jewell heaved dry sobs as he showed me the lighter. Yes, I mused, here was a smut merchant with a deeply sentimental side. There was something endearing about his feelings for a thin well dressed mafia killer who was probably getting ready to slit his throat for bringing me unannounced to his mob warehouse. Meanwhile, the shooter of VdeQ and another man in his office was at large and the cops were on their way. Jewell needed to get himself together for a grilling. Read more
EXIT FROM EDEN: The Author During The Times She’s Writing About
El Quijote restaurant was right next door to the Chelsea Hotel. I’d been told it was a well established joint with chandeliers, exotic wall hangings and moderately priced Spanish cuisine. So I checked out the menu and ordered seafood paella with a pitcher of white Sangria, figuring such a feast would fortify me through the night and into the next morning for my meeting with porn king Harvey Jewell and his mafia distributors.
“Make that two pitchers of Sangria,” I told the solemn Spanish waiter, who was decked out in a black jacket. I brazenly pinched his cheek. He scurried away, muttering, “Si si, Senorita.”
A swarthy man in blue jeans and a turtle neck sweater raised his glass in salute from his place at the crowded bar. I could barely make out his features from my booth. But when I nodded to acknowledge his greeting, he came over to me still holding his drink. He was about 40, with high cheekbones and a full head of black tousled hair streaked with white around the temples.
“I’ve seen you at the hotel near those creaky elevators,” he said. “I’m Peter Gasolini, and I know where most of the bodies are buried at the Chelsea.” He paused and smiled at me as if we shared a secret joke. “Between you and me, I think the corpses are down in the basement with all the old furniture. Chairs and sofas with torn cushions are lying around like broken dreams.” Read more
By Mary Reinholz
Jason Slade’s corporate cubicle at The Daily Bugle had a bay window with an expansive view of The East River. I could see tugboats through that window towing freight cars on barges heading to the Hunters Point section of Queens on the other side of the river. There the cars were lifted by giant float bridges on the water’s edge and connected to railroad tracks bound for Long Island.
For a few seconds, I was transfixed by the scene. After all, I was carrying my own heavy boatload of information, hoping for an uplift, a big picture of it all from the mind of Slade, my editor. But he looked frazzled and not especially organized in his blue jeans and work shirt.
“I’m moving into a larger office,” he explained, greeting me with an apologetic smile. “Everything is a shambles right now.” His voice conveyed both amusement and despair. He was somebody who didn’t like messy personal situations.
But Slade perked up when I mentioned my lunch with porn king Harvey Jewell from the day before, noting Jewell’s proposal that I join him and two of his Mafia distributors for a shark fishing voyage on Long Island Sound. Read more