Crime: The Way It’s Done
Whether it's armed robbery or running a brothel, there's a right way and a wrong way.
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(BRUCE JACKSON IS A WELL known expert on criminology and folklore. What follows are excerpts from interviews he conducted with inmates of Missouri and Texas prisons for his book In the Life.)
Bob and Ray
BOB: WHEN WE STARTED WITH OUR first robbery, if it hadn’t been successful we would have probably quit. A lot of times people will hit a place and get just $40 or $50. We got $7200 on the first one.
We were broke at the time. If it had been someplace where we got $30 or $50 we might have hung up right there and said, “The bother isn’t worth it.” I don’t know. Have you ever had $7200 in cash in your hand at one time?
RAY: And no bills to pay.
BOB: …no taxes…
RAY: …just money, there in your hands?
BOB: We had $15 to pay for room rent and that was it, that was all we had.
You’d be surprised how something like that will change your outlook. I seriously think if you had been with us or if I could take you out to California right now and put this kind of money in your hands, take you out and let you rob somebody and see how easy it is, and show you how it is twice as easy the next time, I mean, you’d be surprised how much money is out there, you know, if I could show you that stuff, your attitude would change too.
Of course we got busted. We were at it four years to the month before we were ever busted. I’d been arrested numerous times, questioned, but no convictions. That’s all it was. They say our record looked like a Mickey Spillane novel, but no convictions. When you get that kind of money it’s awful hard to do without it.
BOB: When my partner and I first decided to go into crime, the first thing that we had to decide was just what branch of crime to go into. You’ve got car theft, you’ve got burglary, stealing, stealing money or rolling drunks or whatever you call that, armed robbery, what else…
RAY: A number of things.
BOBS Checks. Having past experience in them which was rather disastrous I gave that up.
RAY: Backtrack here. You might be interested in our mental attitude at this particular time. I mean why we even considered going into crime at all.
I had been separated a few months from my wife; Bob had left number three or four at the time. I’d lost an exceptionally good job and had been blackballed for a year in my field because they’d found out I’d done time some years back on auto theft. Had a little trouble over a little bit of embezzlement that was embarrassing and pulled out. We were at a pretty low ebb, because we knew that using our own names and giving our own backgrounds and everything we couldn’t do what we were used to doing and have the amount of money that we were used to making. So we were forced to do something in order to live in the manner to which we’d become accustomed.
BOB: Not actually forced of course. We weren’t broke, we were far from out. We had a little bit of money and I had a job at the time. And I think you’d just lost one?
BOB: I’ve never had any trouble getting a job. Anybody can work, but of course I don’t dig working. I mean, not that type of manual work. And then when we got together and talked it over and decided that in order to get the amount of money we wanted in the shortest time, that crime was the way to get it.
And crime, we feel, is just like any other business. In other words, there’s setbacks in crime and there’s deficits, just like you run a business and there’s a chance that you might burn down or you might go bankrupt or your employee might have embezzled everything you got without the insurance to cover it, and it’s the same way with crime.
Of course the penalty for going bankrupt in crime is much stiffer, but at the same time your material gain is much more than it is in a regular business.
When we decided to go into crime, we were both what you might call inexperienced criminals at the time, so we decided that to decide what branch we wanted to go into we should first do as much research as we could and find out which made the most money the fastest and percentage-wise was the safest.
I think you’ll find that every public library in the city has the statistics on the number of crimes committed the previous year, approximate value of each crime, and you could figure out from the number or amount stolen, the number of crooks caught, the number of convicted, all types of things, what was best for you. We spent four days at the public library and researched and we came up with armed robbery as the best.
Now you’ve got to take this into consideration: There are crimes that are pulled and got away with, but one man might have pulled 20 armed robberies before he’s caught, so they got him on one and there’s 19 unsolved. Statistics-wise it looks like everybody’s getting away, but actually they’re not. And you’ve got to take that into consideration when you check into it.
RAY: We found that armed robbery is by far the best as far as getting away with it is concerned. Unlike burglary or breaking and entering, you don’t take anything that you have to convert into cash, thereby putting something into somebody else’s hands, and you’re taking nothing but money, which is spendable any damn place, I don’t care where you go, that money’s going to be good. And unlike stealing cars, you don’t have to worry about transporting the car to wherever you’re going to sell it, and unlike strong-armed robbery—which I tried once—you don’t have to worry about knocking some sonofagun in the head and maybe causing him a hell of an injury or maybe even killing him when you didn’t even intend to. But still, there is always that chance.
BOB: There’s that possibility in armed robbery, too. Of having to shoot somebody.
RAY: We discussed this a great deal. What we would do if and when. And luckily, in all this time, there’s only been one or two slight instances where we’ve had to worry about it. And I think we came out with flying colors. We could have very easily killed a couple of people, but we never did.
BOB: We made up our minds to begin with: If we ever got surrounded and in the position where the police said, “Come out with your hands up,” that we would come out with our hands up. There’s none of this Custer’s Last Stand type bit. If I walked into a place and the man actually got the drop on me where I knew if I tried to shoot him he was going to shoot me, then I’m giving up because I can see no point in getting killed. And I’m not the hero type. In other words, I’m somewhat of a physical coward or I wouldn’t pick up a gun in the first place. That’s the way I look at it.
But we’re not heroes and we took all this into consideration before we ever went into it. And as I said, after we did our research and we settled on armed robbery, then the thing we decided was we had to have some weapons. I mean, if you’re going to armed-rob somebody you’re going to have something to armed-rob with. Neither one of us had any weapons at the time. And the easiest way to get them was to go buy them. So we did that. We went out and bought one to begin with, one between the two of us.
RAY: That’s interesting too, especially with all this gun-control talk nowadays.
So many people say it’s hard for a man intent on something like this to be able to arm himself. It really is the simplest thing in the world. We got our first weapons on the West Coast. Both of us had records in Los Angeles, in the city. Yet we went to a town out in the county and there was a very thorough check made in the town where we bought the guns, but simply to see if we’d ever been in trouble in that particular town. That’s as far as they checked.
BOB: We went in and we bought the gun and we paid for it. It was almost our last dollars at the time. And we bought a box of ammunition. The ammunition they let us take with us. The gun they kept for 72 hours. So we had to come back three days later to pick up the gun. Three days later I came back and they said, “Here’s your gun, thank you very much.” And that was it. That was a Friday. Friday night we pulled our first holdup.
Another thing that came up when we were discussing crime and stuff is what we were going to rob. After we decided to go into armed robbery and decided we’d need a gun and went out and bought the gun, we had three days to wait. So then the question came up, who and what we should rob. Was it your idea or mine to pick the place?
RAY: I think the first one was yours. We decided from the first that we wouldn’t limit ourselves for several reasons. But mainly because that’s the simplest way to get an M.O., modus operandi. If you stick to just one type of place that’s where they’re going to be looking.
BOB: In other words, not one robbery, but one type. If you run around robbing all liquor stores or all supermarkets or all hotels. Our first one was a service station that cashed payroll checks. I happened to be in the place two or three times before when I’d worked as an accountant nearby, but time enough before that the new man wouldn’t know me. We looked it over three or four times, we went down and checked it out, and of course we knew he picked up his bank deposits for the bank money on Friday to cash payroll checks Friday night, Saturday and Saturday night, and Sunday. There’s a lot of big businesses around there that get paid on Friday and they’d come in there and cash their payroll checks. From being in there before I know approximately what time he came back from the bank. So we just waited for him.
That day he came back and we relieved him of his money in the same bank bag he’d brought it in and we left.
It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment robbery. Nor was it a real planned robbery, I mean one that was rehearsed. We played it by ear. Every robbery—no matter how much you’ve rehearsed it—you’ve got things come up you didn’t look forward to or into. And you’ve got to be, I guess you’d call it cool enough to play these things by ear and handle them as you go.
Each one of us has more or less a certain assignment in a robbery. In one particular supermarket we robbed my job was to get the manager and get the money. Ray’s job was to keep an eye on everybody else. I was so intent upon this manager when I was getting the money that one of the clerks walked up from the back room and he walked not ten feet from me and I didn’t see him. Of course my partner did, and he prceeded right there to take care of him, keep him at bay, so to speak. But I was so intent upon my job there and I know my back was taken care of that I didn’t have to worry about anything else that I never seen the man and he wasn’t ten feet away from me and almost in my line of sight. I had no idea at all that he was there because it wasn’t my job to watch him. That was his job.
RAY: One thing that kept us out of trouble all those years, probably the main thing, was we never once went back to any old hangout. We never went back to the old bunch we used to hang around with.
BOB: You’ll find in crime you move in different circles. In other words, when you first start off, you’re a working man and you’re accustomed to $70 or $100 a week take-home pay, whatever it is. And when you get the extra amount to where you can afford to spend $200 a week, well, you’re way up. But it don’t last long, maybe six weeks or two months. And then you get accustomed to that $200 and you start looking for something a little bigger and better to hit. Which you do. And then you move up into the $300-a-week spending bracket. And this continues, there’s no stoppage. It’s a plant that just keeps advancing. And as you advance, your mode of living and your clothes change in accordance with it, and your apartment changes. And you can’t go back. In other words, if we went back to the first place we hung out, the first cocktail lounges and stuff when we were making $100 a week, and were going in there in a $500-a-week suit, somebody says, “Mmm, what’s going on?” We’re driving a new car, wearing new clothes, we got tailor-made clothes on, I got a monogrammed silk shirt on, and right away you get raised eyebrows.
So you got to drop your friends, too. What friends you make at each level, you got to leave at that level. You just disappear. That’s what we always did and I think that’s one of the things that kept us out of trouble so long.
Of course, at the stage we were living at about the only way we could of got any higher was to rob Fort Knox. But I couldn’t find a way to get in there.
RAY: We never even associated with thieves or anything. If we had to have anything to do with them, we did it and that was it. We never ran around with them.
BOB: If we needed a third man or something, we’d call Eddie and Eddie would fix us up with somebody.
RAY: But we never socialized with those people.
BOB: We had a pretty good way of splitting money, Ray and I. We had a drawer in our desk at home and we usually kept about $2,000 in it. We had a safe deposit box too. When he’d go out or I’d go out at night, we’d take what we thought we needed, anywhere from $50 to $200 usually. When we came back in the morning, what was left over we’d put back in the drawer. When the drawer got down to $200, we’d stop down at the bank and bring it up to $2,000 again. And that was it.
I never knew what he spent, and he never knew what I spent. We never knew what we spent. The only thing we discussed is when he wanted to buy his girl a $700 stereo set she wanted, something with stereo hi-fi and FM and tape. Fine. We went down and bought it. And I bought mine an outfit to go out in. And so on. That sort of thing we’d discuss. But our evening’s expenses, a date, always ran from $50 up, but usually it wasn’t much more than $60 or so. A lot of times we didn’t go out, we’d stay together. But that’s the way we handled our money. That way we were never worried about “Did he get his cut?” or “Did I get my cut?” or “Is he spending more than me. Really, we didn’t know.
When you’re going out three or four nights a week, you can’t keep track of how much you spend anyway. And there was no reason to bother with it. When we got low, we’d get money from the bank safe deposit box, and when the safe deposit box got low we’d go out and get it filled up.
We got three places in one day one time; I robbed one at eight thirty in the morning and one at two o’clock in the afternoon and he hit one at nine o’clock that night.
RAY: We were busy that day.
BOB: We were in three different parts of town. Three different places and three different cars. All three of those places had the money on the same day and it was either hit them now or wait a week. Financially we couldn’t wait, so he hit one and I hit the other two. Boom, boom, boom. I was tired that night. It takes a lot of energy.
RAY: It does. There’s a certain strain that you feel physically when it’s over with.
I LIKE CREDIT CARDS.
I could take one of your cards and go down the street with it here and make $400 or $500 in a couple of hours. As long as it don’t have a picture on it. You know, something like an Enco card. You just go around buying tires and stuff like that and reselling them. You resell them at the next station.
Diner’s Cards and American Express, they’re no good because they’ve got the owner’s signature on them, but a lot of cards don’t. I got one guy’s wallet once and it had about forty-five of those cards in it and a lot of them were unsigned even though there was a space, so I just signed there so the signatures matched.
I used that batch for about sixty days and it was worth—for my part of it—about $18,000. The FBI brought the cards in for me to identify and those onionskin papers measured about 123/4 inches high. That’s a lot of those papers.
I got everything from watches to a girl. I was in the Hilton in Los Angeles and spent $75 on a girl there and got $4.25 change off of her. That’s the way they operate there. They’ll come up to your room with a voucher—they check to see if you’ve checked in on a credit card—and they just bring the voucher up there and write the card number in the space and fill out some money and you sign it.
This guy had good cards, all of them. One had an airplane rental thing, and he has a gas card for every kind of gas company I ever heard of. Even those little old DX cards. He had a Sohio card too and that’s one of the best cards you can get. It covers lots of stations and you can travel with it.
I had a girl with me and I’d drive up to a service station and I’d put a story on these service station men. I’d say, “I just picked up this broad and she’s on the make and I need a little cash. I can’t write a check, so how about putting me down for four or five tires and giving me $70 or $80 and you just keep the tires.” They do that. And we’d do it for eight hours a day.
I HAD A WHOREHOUSE ON Hardy Street in Houston. And I pushed dope, I had pills, I had weed. Anything you want, just come to Sal’s. That was the rumor around town. But, hell, there was a dope connection on every corner, it wasn’t nothing to have dope. So I run that whorehouse. It was a real big house on Hardy Street. I had nine girls. And I had a payoff. It was $125 a week.
I was real funny about that. The Federal man came down here when I got my time and tried to get me out and testify against the men that I had the payoff with. I told him, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” These same policemen had helped me get out of a lot of scrapes, because I did them a favor by saving their reputation as policemen. And what good would it have done me to send somebody, even a policeman, to the penitentiary?
I’ve never been bitter toward the police. Hell, if we didn’t have police we’d have an animal world. Really. We’ve got an animal world anyway. Dog eat dog.
Whatever the girls made in that place, I took $2 off $5. If they lived there and paid roof and board, they’d pay $10 a day and the same $2 off each $5 they made. But there were no $5 dates in my house. I lived by the railroad yard where the railroad men got paid twice a month and came down. It was a good go. Girls who walked the streets and wanted a room for an hour or two, whatever they made was theirs, they just paid me for the room. But there wasn’t but two girls I’d rent rooms to like that. If any others come off the street, I didn’t know what they was talking about. I wasn’t allowed to. We had rules on my payoff. I had to operate in such a fashion and keep it like a family rooming house.
When I got the house it was a boarding house. This old woman had died and her son had just kept the roomers there. They’d been having roomers there for years. The same ones. There was one gambler that knew me, and when I moved in, he said, “Sal, what are you up to?” He knew.
I said, “I’m fixing to open this sonafabitch up.”
And he told me, “I thought so. Well, I can’t stand the heat, baby.”
And I told him, “I need your room anyway.” It was understood. So he moved. He left the front room for my hustling parlor; that faced the street, which made it convenient. Upstairs I had six roomers. I got them all together in the parlor that night and I told them, “I don’t know who’s going to stay and who’s going to stay and play, but it’s going to be a playhouse from now on.”
And this little bitty guy, I never will forget him, he was about 920 years old, he says, “Well, I can’t play—I gotta work tonight.” Just so serious.
I told him, “Well, we’re going to play every night, honey.”
And he told me,” Are you going to sell beer?”
I told him, “I don’t have no license to sell beer.”
He got mad and he said, “Have you got a license to run a whorehouse?”
I told him, “Honey, I’m not running a whorehouse. It’s a playhouse. Don’t you understand?”
We made friends before he left. The rest of them, they all said, “Well, if we want a girl we’ll come back and see you.” Laughing. I never did have no rumbles out of them. They never did run and call the police like a lot of people would. I don’t know, maybe it was the neighborhood. Around there, there was a colored house on one street and then another one that was all Mexican. And there was so many connections around there. Even the drugstores—they sold pills. It was just a real regular whoretown, I guess, right in that vicinity. What made my place look good, I had my kids with me.
You know, that’s why I think my kids turned out to be squares, both of them. The oldest one married a policeman’s daughter. I don’t know, they just don’t want no part of that kind of life. They’ve seen it with me.
I HAD MY FIRST PROSTITUTE at sixteen. At that age, she had me.
That in itself is a profession and when you’re young like that, you make all the mistakes. You have to make all the mistakes even though you’re advised to avoid them.
There’s a very definite line there. Because a woman gives a man money, that doesn’t make him a pimp in the professional sense. If he compels her through a physical threat, a threat of violence, that’s not accepted either. I’m talking about the people who are more or less successful at it.
It’s a mental thing. A woman usually turns to prostitution because of some inadequacy, some inability to adjust or cope with society. As a result, prostitutes are always strange. Just one step away from a mental institution. A lot of them probably should be in a mental institution. Some of them I had should have been. Naturally I had no qualms about taking money. They want to give it to you.
It’s another world. I’ve read a number of books by people who aren’t in prostitution or even in drugs and I know they’re not right. It’s not for real in those books, but the average reader doesn’t know that. He has to accept it as being valid where it isn’t. With all those little discrepancies. I don’t know if I can bring the whole philosophy down. Let’s see. A prostitute needs a man. There’s a big difference between colored and white prostitutes. The colored prostitutes, honestly, it’s almost like they accept their fate, you know. And there’s a great deal of homosexuality that exists among prostitutes of both colors.
You ever hear of what they call a “jasper broad”? That is one who is bisexual, she likes both men and women. And since she’s a prostitute she can entice other prostitutes to work for you or even turn them out and make them prostitutes for you. If she’s your woman you’re all set. She can get you a stable and maintain the stable and keep it under control. There is little or no responsibility for you, all you have to do is get the money.
You don’t have to worry about putting them to work or when they get sick. All these problems she takes care of. That’s the ideal situation. They accept this stable type proposition easier among the Negro than the white prostitutes. White prostitutes have a tendency to be more possessive. They don’t like the idea of having to compete with other women.
But you have to set up some kind of competitive system. To the average person it must seem incredible that a woman should think that way or be induced to think that way, but she can.
And you have to be supportive. I once thought you have to prove yourself to be real capable sexually, but sex is no problem because a prostitute who’s been out working all night is not interested in sex when she comes in. There are those tricks she’s had and they’ve done things you never thought of doing. So it’s not a question of that. It’s that she needs a support, she needs someone to handle her. She’s like a robot and she has to be guided. She has to have support all the time. I think everybody makes that mistake in the beginning. They think that if they lay on her all the time, it’s taking care of business. But if you make yourself too common with one and she’s been out there quite a while, she will lose respect for you and eventually you will find somebody is shortsocking some of that money you’re supposed to be getting. I tried to tell some of these guys and it was hard for them to understand what I mean.
I had one girl. She was about your shade. She was colored and Mexican, a very exotic-looking girl. She was a jasper and very intellectual, very smart, a chic person. She was fabulous in bed, but rather than lose respect and lose the discipline and control of the situation, I avoided her. I wanted her and I would a lot of times be aroused and I’d get up out of bed and leave rather than touch her because I knew that as soon as she became conscious of the fact that I had weakened in that respect, they figure they’re out working and you’re out chipping someplace. So what good are you? If that’s the kind of person you are, they don’t need you. You know what I mean. Consequently the respect is not there.
I’ve had a beaucoup of them, some for just a short time, and I’ve taken money off some I don’t know if it was a man or a woman because I was never in bed with them. That sounds strange, but it’s true.
Now a prostitute takes pride in a man she wants. You’ll find in the world of pimps and prostitutes that certain pimps gain a certain amount of prestige. A prostitute will be going to him just because she can say later that she had him. She’ll stay with him a while and give him her money and then she’ll say, “Well, I had him.”
So it’s an important thing how a man carries himself in this element, in this environment. His conduct, the way he dresses, the way he carries himself, the way he conducts himself around people, around his own people. It’s an important thing. He gains a certain amount of prestige. His woman wants to see him in a nice automobile, she wants to see him dressed nice. She wants to see him go into a place and pull out a roll of money and look good, because that makes her look good. It’s her man, she represents him, that’s her.
THERE’S AN OLD GAME CALLED the American Services Association. Generally, the way it is, you get you a lot of pamphlets and things made up. Say you got an insurance policy and you have a pamphlet showing a lot of stores and businesses and things. You go, you knock on a door, a lady comes to the door and you say, “Good evening, madam.” You start conning them. “Good evening, madam, is the lady of the house here?”
And she say, “Well, I’m the lady of the house here.”
So first thing you did, you paid her a compliment, so she’s all ready, at ease almost. You give her some, you know, “Well, you sure look young to be the lady of the house,” and so forth. And then you tell her, “Well, I’m with the American Services Association. We are in connection with the American Automobile Association and the NAACP, and I’d like to interest you in a project which will enable you to benefit yourself. I’m going to give you—” then you stop and say, “I’m not going to give you anything. I’m going to put you in the position to grab some of the goodness this organization has to offer.” And you proceed to tell her how you get a discount on everything from a shoeshine to a hairdo. And you show her your pamphlets showing her all the stores and if she’s a member of this club all the thing she can get. And you show her all the benefits that you can get from it and it only costs $37.50 a year. She can either pay all of it or half of it. Anything you get is a gift, you know, so you accept it. So now most of the time if you actually get them in this mood and show them all the facts that are connected with it, they’ll pay the whole thing. So if they pay the whole thing you tell them, “If you pay the whole thing, the whole $37.50, you don’t have to worry about any additional cost that comes in. You get a $500 bail bond certificate. You know, in most states if you have a wreck you can’t be moved until the police officers arrive, but if you happen to be a member of this club and have a bail bond certification, then you can be moved right away.”
You explain to them that if you’re a member of this organization, then if you happen to have a wreck any bond that you would have to pay up to $500 you can get out without having to pay one penny. And then you explain to them that your lawyer for your organization is an ex-judge and he’ll fight a traffic ticket if necessary. And if they have a gas war on, you get a percentage still for your gas. Anything, anything you can think of that there could be a percentage for it, you tell them they get a percentage if they’re a member of this organization. And usually they pay the whole thing.
I’ll tell you, most any game that’s played, there’s more than one way to play it. That’s with the Drag Game—there’s several different branches to it, and the Pigeon Drop, they’re all different, and even the O’Grady. It all depends on who’s got the game, who knows it, and how they play it. But mostly any game used can be used on white or colored, except that one I was just telling you about, the American Services Association thing. Mostly that is used only on colored because now there’s this integrational crisis and you make sure you tell ’em, say, “Most white people already have this benefit, they been having it for years. But now, with the NAACP’s official okay, the Automobile Association has banded together with several other millionaire businessmen to give the colored people the same benefit.” Now this automatically gives a little boost.
How many of these can you make in day?
Usually we go to a project area. Like there’s middle class people, they all live in these government projects. They automatically looking for some help. You know this from the neighborhood. You make a door-to-door call. Sometimes I’ve seen in the run of a day where I’ve made as much as $600. All depends on how hard you’re willing to work, if you’re willing to go make these calls, just go from door to door. Some doors you might not make it, then next two houses you might make it. And you’d be surprised how those $37.50’s run up.
I’VE NEVER HAD A JOINT. I am a nickel-and-dime pimp who has been built up in the papers to be more than what I was. The only thing I’ve ever had was an apartment where I had three girls at one time. And that was a very short time. I mostly had one girl and that’s it and I became strictly a pimp. I didn’t write checks, I didn’t rob. A lot of pimps are like burglars and they’ll have an old lady, they’ll send her to work only when they need bond money in the event they get busted trying to make a joint.
I’ve been called the vice lord of Harris County, I’ve been called the Lucky Luciano of South-Central Texas, and I’ve never had over three girls in my life. That really annoys me.
The only time I made good money is when a perfect square turned out and while I was with her she would make anywhere from $500 to $1500 a week. We were only together for about a month because I was doing a jail sentence in Houston there for a while. I have had some girls who could make close to that for short periods, but most of them, it was between $300 and $450 a week, that’s all.
Everybody thinks being a pimp is easy; it’s not easy.
There is more headache in pimping and prostitution than you’d have if you were working on a space problem over at NASA. Probably you’d have less headaches at NASA because with the whores you’ve got their emotions to contend with.
And I’ve never had a dope fiend whore and never will, this is just regular whores I’m talking about. (Though they all eventually get on pills, on Nembutal or barbiturates of some kind, most of them that I’ve seen.)
I’ve had call girls and this is the best area. And I’ve had what I call “joint girls,” and I’m one of the kind of pimps that over the years I’ve felt if a girl will be a good whore she will work in a joint. It’s a test for me. If she’s there working in one of those places when I come by, fine, and if she’s not, fine. But I would, when I could, put a girl in a joint first. If I got a girl to start with, when I first got with her, that’s my test.
In a joint you meet every kind of situation, perversion, and what have-you, and if a girl’s going to be a good whore, then before I put her on a phone or a trick book this is what I do. I don’t know what others do.
A pimp in Texas, in my school of discipline, if you want to call it that, doesn’t do anything. He just takes care of her in the sense of maintaining whatever needs to be maintained in the apartment, he makes sure that they have that. If you’re working on the phone he makes all the necessary business arrangements. He does make contacts, say, if you’re on the phone, to different porters, hotel porters, key people that generally have use for that business.
Part of a pimp’s job is protecting the girl from men who are giving her trouble. Did you ever have any?
Rumbles? Yes. This is what a pimp does, Texas-style. And I’m sure that this style does not just stay here. I know some pimps in California: same thing. Many times, over a period of ten, 15 years, many times I’ve had this type situation.
One time in particular I got busted for. I was with Terry, she was in this hotel in Houston and it couldn’t be worse. It was a skid-row area, but the hotel spot is not bad. Money-wise the spot is not bad, but the location of the hotel is terrible. And there was a rumble there and it happened to be a pimp.
He was just passing through and what he did is one I’ve played myself. A lot of times you’ll go to a hotel or spot where you know you can make out with the gal, and you might even trick her and play the role of the square with the intent of stealing the whore. In other words, winning her affections, trying to get her to join up with you.
So Terry had the trouble with this dude in the room and she came back up to the room where I was at. I wasn’t staying there but I was there that evening for a few hours. And she told me about it, so I go down there. I had my pistol and she had told me that it was a character, although she didn’t know who it was, nor did I.
I go into this room and he’s about half-juiced. And he opens the door. When he sees me—he’s in his shorts, his undershirt or pants, and he had a bottle of beer I think in his hand—he tried to shut that door shut. Well, I took that pistol and, believe it or not, I just went like that, pointed it at him and pulled the trigger.
I don’t know whether the bullet wasn’t in the chamber or it didn’t fire for some reason, but it did not fire. And after that, oh, man, about a week later, it shook the hell out of me. I actually got afraid, scared. I could have shot that guy.
Anyway, we tussled and I ended up whipping him over the head with the pistol and he took the bottle and he tried to hit me over the head—and may have. I don’t remember. We all ended up in jail eventually because the manager—not the porter, the porter tried to cool it—he called the police while I’m up there cursing and carrying on and whipping on his head and all.
This is a trick of whores, you know. They’ll rib you into these kind of positions. Many a pimp and many a character has been killed, shot and killed, because of some whore playing a trick like that.
It seems to me that some women thrive on that sort of thing. Some whores are nymphos, they say, I don’t know. Some say they’re frigid, some say they hate their father, I don’t know. But some, I think, thrive on thrills, and they get some sort of bang out of getting their old man and another man feuding and they become the center.
So when I look back on this one particular case, I think maybe that’s what she did. Anyway, we all went to jail and I got filed on. As I told you. there’s a popular misconception—not that anyone is particularly interested, but it is a misconception-about pimps going and saying, “Say, buddy, you like my sister two pesos,” or “How about spending the night with my old lady for a hundred.” They don’t do that. What they do is they make the contacts with porters and madams, people like that, they make contacts with people who set things up. They do not themselves call up the customers.
You may work a trick book. You may work that up yourself or you may buy it. In the trick book there are alphabetically listed different tricks, or customers, and these vary from $20 to $50, or there’s one in Oklahoma that’s $5000. I know a girl who made a dude in Amarillo for $55,000 over one week’s time. That man, the trick, is from Canyon, there’s no sense mentioning his name, what matters is that tricks like that are rare.
You buy a trick book. You buy one in Chicago or you buy one in Dallas or you buy one in Hollywood. And these say who goes for what. Like the Hollywood trick book says that — goes for three girls, freaks, you know.
That’s one of my kicks too. I’m sure there’s a deep Oedipal complex involved, or some terrible side of. me, but I became freaky in this sense myself. I just can’t dig a kick with one girl.
In fact, that’s what got me into trouble this last time. This girl made a pass at my woman, my old lady, which I don’t mind, but the point was she didn’t know it was my old lady. Secondly she wanted to get this stripper and they were going to some stag party and they would each make a hundred or so after the party. I know what that means and one thing led to another and I guess I got kind of brutal. I told her, “You want to play pimp, I’m gonna help you,” and we got into a beef and that was it. I didn’t want to let her go because of what would have happened when I let her go, but I couldn’t keep her either. A real switch.
I’M GOING TO TALK ABOUT dope, narcotics. Having been an addict I know something about it, one of the narcotics especially: heroin. Some people call it “the Big Boss: Horse.” “Horse is Boss.”
I’ve had several bands, been in several bands. I’m called a pretty good musician. I’m a horn player. And I have known some of the greats. Some of them were junkies, they used dope. I’ve seen a lot of pictures, movies, and I’ve read a lot of books, but I haven’t read one yet that actually told about dope like dope is. I don’t know, I think that all of the people that are doing the research, they never put themselves in the position that a junkie or a dope user is usually in when he is using dope, so they really don’t know.
I feel very strongly about this because I don’t feel that dope was the cause of me coming to prison. I don’t feel that dope has caused me to do anything that I didn’t want to. I don’t think that dope is the controlling factor.
I’ve heard it said that reefer, marijuana, makes people act different or peculiar. Well, so does whiskey. If a person is gonna steal something, if he’s gonna rape somebody, if he’s take and beat somebody’s brains out, he’s gonna do that whether he has a reefer, horse, or whatever, because that’s his nature. I don’t feel that my nature is to kill a person, so I don’t think I’d do it if I shot all the dope in the United States.
I’ve never seen people shoot dope and go completely crazy like they say. (I don’t know about teen-agers because I’ve never been around them.) I know heroin makes you soothed, it gives you a soothed feeling, you want to sit still and relax. I like to get high and listen to my record player, listen to music. There’s no violence in it. I enjoy sitting listening to people talk and trying to analyze what they were saying.
I like to listen to music especially. That’s my business and my joy. And if I follow one horn down one time through, maybe I’ll listen to one record 50 times and listen to each individual instrument. I feel that dope, as you call it, enables me to center my mind, pinpoint it in other words. I could sit up and the whole band would be playing but I could hear any individual instrument that I wanted to hear, and hear it exact without all of the other distortion.
So I’m in complete disagreement with all of these doctors and all these reports. These people don’t know what they’re talking about, I don’t think.
I’ve met an awful lot of junkies. I know ’em from New York to Mexico, all through Mexico. I know fellows who steal much more and do all the crimes and they don’t do nothing. Some of the worst people in the world, the sickest people I’ve seen in my life, were winos, drinking that fifteen-cent-a-quart wine. I’ve never seen junkies in that shape.
Most of the time a junkie will get up. If he has to go steal something to get that dope, he’ll get up and do it. I’ve seen winos lay around so sick till they couldn’t move. In bars in New York or by my home in Detroit, you can see them in every alley, sleeping out there. A junkie can’t afford to sleep in the streets—you get chills when you get sick, and as the dope recedes your body and you need a shot you start having chills and your legs ache, your stomach turns over, you vomit, I don’t know the technical term for vomit but you what we call puke your guts out. And your nose runs, your eyes run, and you can’t afford to be out there, you would catch double pneumonia or something. A junkie is going to get him some money if there’s any money. And there always is money.
I wouldn’t sit here and say dope was detrimental to me. I will say this: Had I been a millionaire and had I accomplished in life what I wanted to—which is to become a good musician, I’m 38 now and still have a few years left—but if I had had a million dollars and a place to be left alone with it, I would prefer shooting heroin and cocaine than drinking Scotch, Black and White or Black Label, what-have-you, or smoking reefers or any of it. I prefer it to any high there is because it treats me better. I don’t wake up in the morning with a hangover, I don’t wake up with all the nervousness, all the hassle.
I don’t know. Were I saying this to some reformer or something I would talk a whole lot different, but I’m just talking, I’m speaking my mind.
On dope, when you don’t have it, you don’t sleep, you can’t eat, you can’t do much of anything, you’re a nervous wreck. It won’t let you lay still. It’s just like butterflies or ants or something crawling around in your stomach. Your stomach turns over and over and over and a green type mucus comes out your nose, out of your mouth. Your eyes steadily run water. Well, you’re just a nervous wreck, especially if you’re hooked.
Sometimes you see guys beat their heads on the walls. Well, they’re just weak lilies. If you pinch ’em they’d holler. You know, some people put on a show about anything. I’ve seen grown men out in the street actually hungry—I think little of a man like that. If he’s grown and talking and he’s asking for money to go and get him something to eat, why he’s no man, he’s nothing. And that’s the way I feel about these fellas—they holler if you stick them with a pin, they hurt.
My wife used to go to bed for a cold and I never could understand it. Weakness in people. I don’t know, my dad was so strong. I guess it was the way I was raised that caused me to feel this way. But I don ‘t believe a person is supposed to show all of their emotions to everybody, you know.
Well, a junkie is a junkie. There is a true junkie, a person that just won’t do without dope. I’ve known fellas that would die rather than give up dope, they’d rather be dead. It’s a kick and it’s pleasurable.
See, it’s such a powerful thing until you never actually get completely rid of it. You hear people make these statements about “I’m completely cured, I’m this, that, and the other about dope,” but to me it is the greatest high in the world.
If it was just legal, like wine. I think wine is twice as detrimental. I’m no authority, I’m going only by what I have seen. My brother is an alcoholic, the only brother I have, and I’ve seen him go completely blind at the wheel of his car just because of alcohol. Completely blind, driving his car 50 miles an hour! Now I’ve never seen a junkie do anything like that in my life, and I’ve been around all types of junkies—women, men, and whatever.
I know a bunch of women prostitutes, whores I call them, that are junkies. But I’ve never known one yet that was a junkie when she started or that she started in the business because she wanted to get some dope. They say that. But I know women that will do anything to prove that they love you, I mean women that are old women, middle-aged and on up, that have never used dope, there’s nothing that they wouldn’t do to prove to me right now…There’s several men in this country that I could get in touch with and tell them to turn tricks all the way up here from California and bring me whatever they made and they would jump up there if I would promise them we’d be together after that. So it isn’t the dope, I don’t think, that makes those women get into prostitution. Most of the girls that use dope that I’ve talked to have used it because it was a kick. And they find that they can turn tricks and center their minds on their man and believe that it’s him. You see they make-believe—as I said in the beginning—I’m able to pinpoint things much clearer, even when I smoked marijuana, it enables you to pinpoint.
When I’m playing, I stand on the bandstand, if I’m tired, I’ve traveled maybe 300 miles that day and I’m tired, it’s the same thing over and over every night, you play the same tunes and things, so I’m just beat. It isn’t a big town, there isn’t a bunch of friends there, bunch a people you don’t know is all, so you feel let down, you need something to give you the lift because you’ve got to put on a good show. And you know if you drink a bunch a that whiskey you’re not going to be able to drive on that next 300 or 400 miles that same night. You’ll likely have to leave right after the gig, which lets out about two, and drive on through today or maybe ten or eleven o’clock before you’ll get a chance to rest. So I want something to keep me up, to keep me spry. So I get me a couple of benny tablets, I know I’ll be woke then. Then I got to get something to lift me, not to get high. Juice [alcohol] will make me sluggish, I’ll go to sleep. I take me a little heroin, mix it with a little cocaine, and it’s such a lift.
When I hear people—get around reformers, whatever—talking that talk: “That dope really brought me down to this and it brought me down to that,” well, then, I think they’re just blaming their weaknesses on something else, they’re just passing the buck.