Monday, July 5, 2010

My Friend was a Bank Robber...

In 1963, I was smack dab in the middle of an affair with my parents next door neighbor. I was 17 and she was 22. Her 22 years of life brought to me a whole new world. An old friend of hers from high school was 25 and 1/2 owner of a place called the Hidden cove Lounge on Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. When she was a freshman, he was a senior. There weren't a lot of places a guy can go with a 22 year old married woman/girl, when he's 17 and when the Hidden Cove was suggested, I jumped at it. I was like a lamb being lead to the slaughter. I was introduced to Fred, the friend and 1/2 owner of the lounge, along with his older brother and a myriad of new friends. A lot of Chicago cops hung out there and with my tender 17 years, I was pretty nervous. Naturally, being introduced to the owner by a friend of his, he never dreamed of asking me for my ID's. This was beyond COOL! The bar was kind of an icon for the neighborhood and it sponsored girls softball games and offered a band on the weekends. I was now a "regular" at a very cool bar, with a steady girlfriend that was 22. Life couldn't get much better than that. Fred, my newest friend, was about 25 and he and I, along with a few other guys, some Chicago police, would go bar hopping together and since Fred knew about everyone, no one ever asked to see my ID's.

Everything that Fred owned was in someone else's name and eventually it surfaced that the reason that the liquor license was in his brother's name exclusively, was because Freddie was a bank robber! In his teenaged years, Fred, along with some buddies, travelled Illinois, Indiana and some other southern states for the sole purpose of robbing banks and had done several years in the state penitentiary. Naturally, I didn't believe him, but it was confirmed by a group of cops one night. So, my new friend was a bank robber, big deal!

Fast forward to 1974:
My wife and I, along with our two sons and a cat named Mouse, moved to sunny Arizona. I think we were here for about 2 or 3 years, when we received a wedding invitation to Fred's wedding. He was marrying Lois, the (then) girlfriend of Mike, the guy who did the photography at our wedding. I met my wife at the Hidden Cove and a lot of our friends were patrons there also, although I never did see the parent's next door neighbor again. (thank God!). We actually attended the wedding, as it was summertime and our boys were visiting their grandparents in Chicago and we needed to pick them up anyway. A god time was had by all. We got to see a lot of old friends from Chicago and pick up the boys, all at one time. It was mentioned that Fred and his new bride wanted to settle, in of all places, Tucson. About a year later, I got a call from Fred that they had arrived. Fred, along with some partners, opened a place on Speedway, in Tucson, called the Chicago Bar and that we should come down for a visit.

We got someone to watch the boys and took a drive to Tucson to watch the Super Bowl and it was the Hidden Cove all over again, only it came to Tucson! Around 1979, my wife and I were getting divorced and Fred loaned me about a thousand bucks to pay for a lawyer. I paid him back. Since I was single, I started going to Tucson about every weekend and developed quite a few girlfriends there, while bartending at the Chicago Bar. Being an alcoholic, I loved that lifestyle. I'd be around booze all night and sleep all day, but it was just the weekends. I still maintained a car business during the week.

It was around that time that Fred started looking for a bar to buy in Sedona. I went along for the ride. Fred wasn't getting along with his partners in the Chicago Bar and wanted to get a place of his own. We spent quite a few days going to Sedona under the cover of buying a bar, but had only bought and drank the booze to go in it, at that point. Eventually Fred bought the Windsong Restaurant and Lounge for $65,000. He paid cash. Fred and Lois moved to beautiful Sedona and took over the place, only to find out that Fred's personality didn't "fit in", in this small town atmosphere. They literally wanted to tar and feather him and carry him out of town on a pole!

Try to picture Fred. He was a loudmouth type, that told jokes over and over again to large groups of people. Kind of like a comedian with written material. Well, eventually everyone in his bar had seen the show and he didn't have anything new of different to offer. His bar was boycotted by the locals and that was how a bar like that existed. Fred moved out and hired a manage to run the place in a last effort to make the place work, but the new manager was robbing him blind. That's when he called me. He was broke. He didn't have any money left after using his nest egg from robbing banks to buy the bar and restaurant. He couldn't even pay his state sales tax which will get you closed down in AZ. At the time I was doing pretty well and agreed to put up the money to get the place back on it's feet. I invested around $10,000 to pay past bills and more or less bought in. Our agreement was that I'd get my 10 grand back, along with another 10 for running the place and selling it. After about 2 years of running up and back to Phoenix every week, I was successful. I sold the bar to a young girl that wanted to own a bar. She was a former server in a Mesa bar or lounge, that saved her money and bought the place for $15,000 down and made rather large payments. She couldn't keep up the payments, as it turned out she was also a drunk and drank up everything. We took the place back. By the way, I still hadn't seen the first penny back. We sold the joint again and this time for cash. When it was time to settle, Fred gave me my original 10 grand and the petty cash box that held about $200. I looked at him with that look on my face that happens when someone takes the last piece of pizza. He said, what? I said, where's the other 10 grand? He claimed that we never discussed a second $10,000 and the subject was closed.

The moral to be learned here is, "Never go into business with a bank robber! I did a Google search for old Fred and typically there was no record of him, but his wife Lois now owns a big house in Tucson.

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