Wednesday, January 19, 2022

A Perfect Ending

Text by Julius Klein
Photo by Tom Warren

It was around 5:30 a.m. and time for me to go home. I was leaving “Delia’s” on East Third Street, one of the many after-hour joints on the Lower East Side in the late 1980s (though with the night’s cocaine use, I probably could have hung out another couple of hours or so). I didn’t even bother to zip up my jacket against the cold and sleet, the coke’s superman quality, and as I was just a block and a half skip (or stumble) away from my apartment on Avenue B and Fourth Street.

Walking east toward Avenue B in the vacant, orangey street-lit darkness, I heard a siren screaming toward me. I was at the corner, in front of the rolled-down Chinese take-out place; I could see lights speeding my way up to Third Street. A cop car in hot pursuit of a goldish Cadillac Eldorado, with a deep, mustard-colored, gold “Landou” roof, a classic “gangster ride” of the time.

Abruptly, the Caddy made a left, tires screeching, fishtailing south down Avenue B. The cop car screamed to a stop in the middle of the intersection. Two cops jumped out, guns drawn. A block away, I saw a police van flying through the intersection at Second Street and B in an attempt to head off the Caddy.

As the Cop van smashed into the rolldown of a storefront on the east side of the street, the Caddy crashed into a light pole, its hood popping up and small flames jumping out. The guy staggered out with a shotgun, and as he shoots (I was then crouched behind a convenient mailbox), the cops nailed him from both sides.

Before falling flat back, the “perp” gets off one more blast towards the sky. BAMM! “Fuck heaven, I’m going to hell” might have been his very last, tapering off thought?

The cops cautiously moved in, guns, wisely still drawn. I followed behind a dozen paces or so. The guy was clearly dead, lying face up, eyes open, in the wet gutter; snowy water pooling around his husky body as his blood joined the little, frosty stream.

Lit by the small fire under the smashed hood, and the now tilted street light, as well as the disco-y, red and blue, swirling siren lights, I could see a man, 50, 60ish, tan, in his leather, cream-colored “members only” jacket, open, his grey knit shirt slightly pushed up, exposing his belly. He had a thick gold chain around his neck, a gold belt buckle, a gold bracelet peeked out of his sleeve, a gold watch on the other. Maybe an Italian guy? Dressed very neatly and expensively in the style of his glory days, a decade or so before.

As a fire engine rolled up and several other vehicles arrived, a cop, now telling me to get back, I asked, “what’d he do?”

The cop answered that the guy “dumped a body, in an empty lot, over by Avenue D,” something fairly common at that time.

I took one last look down at the fellow and could see that this was his perfect ending, something he probably thought of many times through his years, an ending he probably discussed frequently with his criminal colleagues.

Some months later, maybe even a year or so later, I saw in some East Village gallery, a large photo print of the end of that very grim scene, by my colleague, the excellent photographer, Tom Warren, who kindly gave me the OK to use it to illustrate my little recollection.

The book, “The 1980s Art Scene in New York,” can be viewed through Jan 31, and ordered online at (Germany)


JAMES said...

Pretty much every other day when I grew up on Avenue D in the early 60's -70's

Anonymous said...

Love the story writing - please !
Write a book !

Annie said...

Great story! Thanks for posting this.

Penny said...

Fascinating read. Great Stuff!

Anonymous said...

I lived on Ave B & 5th St in the 1980's. It was wild. You captured it well!

Unknown said...

Wow. Thanks, Julius.

Anonymous said...

Great tale!

Anonymous said...

Betcha that guy didn't have a scratch on him after he hit that pole, back when cars were built to last.