At Courier-Life I met two interesting subjects who would change my life. One was Dave Greenberg, aka Batman, a hero cop who helped inspire the character of Starsky in Starsky and Hutch. Thanks to Greenberg, I was involved in rescuing his wife from a kidnapping, I worked as a private investigator, as a bouncer at Studio 54, and for one night as Mick Jagger’s bodyguard.
The other interesting character was Mike Hardy, a mob strongarm who claimed to have killed four people. I used to joke that if I grew up in Colorado, I would have known the Grand Canyon and nature. But I grew up in Brooklyn in the 70s, so I knew wise guys and the Mafia. A variation on that old advice of “Write what you know.” My contact with Mike led to my jump to the writing big leagues. More on that later.
Dave Greenberg was a charismatic sort, confident and brave. He had been paired with Robin Hantz and been a passionate crime-fighter. Even making arrests before he officially was sworn in as a cop. For full details on his slam bang career, read The Super Cops by LH Whittemore. Or see the movie based on the book, directed by Gordon Parks and starring Rob Liebman. The book was prophetic in saying that the duo became cops, but if they had been born in a different era, “they might have turned into Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
In Play it to a Bust, the Super Cops sequel, the book boasts that Greenberg and Hantz “established a four-year record of 600 narcotics and weapons arrests, lived through several assassination attempts, and have obtained convictions in 93 percent of cases.” They also were in constant conflict with police administration, which Greenberg presented as gutless bureaucrats trying to reign them in. Looking back, there probably were enough violations of civil rights to horrify all but the most jaded Dirty Harry fan. Their names came from their razzle dazzle methods which including grappling hooks and swinging off of rooftops.
I wrote about him and was pulled into his vortex of charm. He had left the force and built a successful private security business. There were great times on his boat, liquor flowing and all sorts of characters. His father and brothers were steelworkers, genuine tough guys.
Dave told me that this nightclub that was opening was looking for security. I had done a couple of private investigation jobs for him-the best took me to a stakeout in Aspen, Colorado where I gathered info that discredited the opposition’s expert witness.
I had grown up in a rough and tumble neighborhood, and taken judo starting when I was eight, but was far from a tough guy. But Dave was looking for applicants to appease the owners who wanted “Tall male whites who didn’t look too ethnic.” I figured, “What the heck. I meet the basic criteria.” I had reddish brown hair, hazel eyes, and was 6’2”.
So I stood with three other guys in front of Ian Schrager. He sat on a couch in the darkened club, with a flashy disco dolly under either arm and construction going on in the background. He pointed at me and two of the other candidates, without asking a single question. The rejected guy had bad acne scars, looked very Italian and probably was the toughest of all of us.
And thus I became a bouncer at Studio 54.