Everything I will tell you in this story is the truth. Even the parts that are hard to believe are the truth – the gospel truth.
Right up the street from the Oakland airport is Hegenberger Ave. it’s a long street that runs right into the heart of East Oakland. One side of Hegenberger is dotted with restaurants, banks, hotels, gas stations, fast food spots and the entrance to the Oakland Coliseum. Just over the hill is where things get residential. That’s where the hood starts.
But back down toward the airport on the corner of Hegenberger and Edgewater is a motel that has seen better days.
In the 70’s and ‘80’s the Lucky Lion was a notorious underworld hangout spot. Every pimp, player, mack, hustler, drug dealer and anyone else into something crooked could be found in there right beside the hard working everyday man. Jheri Curls, finger waves and ‘Lord Jesus’ hairstyles dotted the clubs interior, while the flashing lights from the disco ball illuminated the shadows of people sipping champagne and secretly snorting cocaine.
At one table could be the gentlemen drug kingpin Felix Mitchell, head of the then infamous 69 Mob, surrounded by his people. Somewhere else in the house on the same night seated at another table could be Rhythm and Blues musician turned cocaine cowboy Mickey Mo, head of a rival organization called ‘The Family’. Across from them could be members of the notorious Ward Brothers (Ted, Frank and Jimmy) ever see the 70’s flick ‘The Mack’? All three of the brothers were in it – they were pimps. Somewhere in between the clouds of cigar smoke and whatever else would no doubt be undercover law enforcement.
Besides cocaine Oakland was more so famous at that time for being the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. But by the ‘70’s and 80’s the Panther Party was over. Huey Newton had a raging cocaine addiction. Sometime during the fall of the Panthers, Huey took to extorting drug dealers. Pushers had to pay a tax to the party in order to operate in the city. However, like any other group of Americans, Black drug dealers took serious exception to paying tax to anyone. Therefore they went to war.
According to legend, Huey Newton, high or sober didn’t mind a good fight. In fact from what I hear he went looking for fights. As crowded as the Lucky Lion would be with pimps and drug dealers (who couldn’t stand him) Huey would go there with a gentleman in tow named Big Hurd – 6’8 and strong. So dig this atmosphere: Felix Mitchell at one table, Mickey Mo at another and Huey across from them.
Now like I said, Huey was extorting drug dealers back then, not just any drug dealers mind you, but those drug dealers. Guns were pulled, tables were turned over, shots were fired it was like the Wild West.
Right next door to the Lucky Lion was an establishment called the Edgewater Motel. Now you can only imagine with all the pimps, drug dealers and gangsters right next door what was going on at the Edgewater, right?
Fast forward to late October early November of 1989. I was a twenty-year-old security guard. One night I got a call from the company I worked for – ABC Security, to go work at the Edgewater.
“What does a motel need security for?” I asked.
“I don’t know but their regular guard Muhammad is unable to make it, can you go?”
When I got there I thought the place looked familiar. At that time there was a Crab Shack restaurant in place of the Lucky Lion. When I opened the front door there was a lobby full of impatient East Indians.
“Where is Muhammad?” Asked a man with a thick Punjabi accent.
“I dunno.” I responded. ‘Who’s Muhammad?”
“Go away we only want Muhammad.” They said.
“Hey, Muhammad couldn’t make it so you get me. Mind you, I don’t want to be here either, so let me do my job.”
They congregated for a minute and then came back to me with a beeper and a key.
“Here is a key to a room, you can take your breaks there, please patrol the pool area and make sure no one breaks into the rooms.”
“Ok you got it.”
I walked out into the night air. Mind you I’m wearing a thick jacket. I hear the music from the Crab Shack. I was too young to go to the Lucky Lion when it was open, so I got my stories about the place second and third hand. There is a sliding glass door in the back of every room that faces the pool area. From what I could see all of the lights were on in every room. They told me to patrol the pool area so I did. Mind you there wasn’t that much to patrol.
I sat there listening to the music for a while thinking about the stories I heard about the fights and champagne and cocaine. I remember the pictures in people’s houses of groups of guys with finger waves and heavy-lidded eyes, posing while flashing their jewelry and fat stacks of money. Photos of Felix Mitchell and his crew of lieutenants seated at a table smiling for the camera while holding up glasses of bubbly. It must’ve been a good life.
Now all of that is over.
While rounding the corner on my first patrol I heard some finger snaps: pop, pop, pop to the beat of the music. As I’m approaching the room I notice the lights are on and the curtains are open. As I get to where I can see into the room I notice a light- skinned black woman somewhere in her mid-30’s, she wasn’t obese, she was plump, or as they like to say she had some 'meat on her bones'. She was dancing in front of a mirror in the center of the room wearing a mans dress shirt. Well, as I get to where I’m parallel with the mirror I notice that the shirt she is wearing is open. And not only that but she ain’t wearing a bra or drawers. I quickly looked away, because I didn’t want to be accused of peeping in anyone’s room.
So there I was bewildered by what I saw, when just then as I’m approaching the sauna area, I see a brother standing there with a towel around his neck. As custom I greet the brother with ‘Hey what’s happenin’ bro…”
As I’m passing the brother I notice something…this fool ain’t got on no drawers!
It was damn near winter, I was wearing a heavy jacket and this guy was standing outside at night while the cool breeze was blowing with nothing on! “What the hell is going on here?” I thought to myself.
I immediately went to the management office, but gone was the East Indian family and there in the lobby behind the desk was an Asian gentleman – watching a porno with the volume on full blast.
‘What the fuck?” I thought.
Now you and I when we watch porn we ain’t trying to have that shit so loud that anyone could hear it. You wanna be discrete when you view that shit. But not this guy. Here he was – at work mind you, watching porn, this chick had a mouthful of dick and all the sounds and whatever have you, and he acted like I disturbed him!
“Hey man, what kind of place is this?” I yelled.
“What do you mean?’ He replied without turning his back to see who I was.
‘Hey man, I’ve been seeing people walk around out here without clothes on and shit man, what the fuck are y’all doing out here?’
He turned around and looked at me while grabbing his remote control.
“You don’t understand”, he said to me calmly while only slightly adjusting the volume, ‘this is an adult motel, we let our patrons do as they please.”
“Tell you what this what I want you to do. Go sit by the pool and watch. Just make sure no one breaks into the rooms.”
“Ok.” Outside I went. And back to full blast the porn went as the door swung open.
I took a seat by the pool and was shocked by what I saw that night. It turns out the Edgewater Motel was a swingers motel. People had sex in the rooms with the lights on and curtains open. There were mirrors on the walls and on the ceilings. People would gather round and watch couples engaged in the act. Often times the people would join in. That was the craziest shit I ever saw in my life.
To be honest with you after that experience, I could never be involved in swinging. First of all your typical ‘swinging couple’ – for the most part, ain’t the most attractive people. Like people in nude beaches, it’s never someone that looks like Buffie the Body; they usually look like Broom Hilda or something like that. And besides the idea of having sex while a bunch of morons stand and watch just doesn’t sit right with me.
Sometime around three in the morning I called into the headquarters and told them what was going on there. They had no idea what kind of establishment this place had been. Thirty minutes later a lieutenant and two field sergeants showed up, they couldn’t believe what they had heard over the walkie-talkie. They needed to see for themselves.
I went back there a few more times, I finally stopped going when on one slow night this dude decided he wanted somebody to watch him wack off. ‘Oh hell no’ I said to myself, this fool would start wacking off everytime I walked by. Nope, I ain’t into no homo shit. To make matters worse there was these two guys hanging outside their room in their bath robes – I dunno about you, but that wasn’t a good sign to me. I left there and never went back.