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I'm seeing American Gangster, the Ridley Scott film about Frank Lucas, the Harlem don who used to smuggle dope out of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War in military coffins. The film is based on Mark Jacobson's New York magazine … Read More

By / November 2, 2007

I'm seeing American Gangster, the Ridley Scott film about Frank Lucas, the Harlem don who used to smuggle dope out of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War in military coffins. The film is based on Mark Jacobson's New York magazine profile of Lucas, which is of the caliber of journalism that Ron Rosenbaum talks about in wistful, romantic tones.

Here are a few clips:

"That's because with Blue Magic, you could get 10 percent purity," Lucas asserts. "Any other, if you got 5 percent, you were doing good. We put it out there at four in the afternoon, when the cops changed shifts. That gave you a couple of hours before those lazy bastards got down there. My buyers, though, you could set your watch by them. By four o'clock, we had enough niggers in the street to make a Tarzan movie. They had to reroute the bus on Eighth Avenue. Call the Transit Department if it's not so. By nine o'clock, I ain't got a fucking gram. Everything is gone. Sold . . . and I got myself a million dollars.

[...]

"There was a lot about Bumpy I didn't understand, a lot I still don't understand . . . when he was older, he'd lean over his chessboard in his apartment at the Lenox Terrace, with these Shakespeare books around, listening to soft piano music, Beethoven — or that Henry Mancini record he played over and over, 'Baby Elephant Walk' . . . He'd start talking about philosophy, read me from Tom Paine, 'The Rights of Man' . . . 'What do you think of that, Frank?' he'd ask . . . I'd shrug. What could I say? Best book I remember reading was Harold Robbins's The Carpetbaggers."

[...]

Of the dozens of smuggling operations he ran from Asia, Frank still rates "the Henry Kissinger deal" as an all-time favorite. To hear Frank tell it, he and Ike were desperate to get 125 keys out of town, but there weren't any "friendly" planes scheduled leaving. "All we had was Kissinger. He was on a mercy mission on account of big cyclones in Bangladesh. We knew a cook on the plane and gave $100,000 to some general to look the other way. I mean, who the fuck is gonna search fucking Henry Kissinger's plane?

". . . Henry Kissinger! Wonder what he'd say if knew he helped smuggle all that dope into the country? . . . Hoo hahz poot zum dope in my aero-plan? Ha ha ha . . ."

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