Friday, March 16, 2007

Looking For Mr. Untouchable

At some point this summer in some obscure town somewhere in Middle America, an old unassuming Black man is going to have an acute interest in two movies. One of them is called ‘American Gangster’ and the other is a documentary called ‘Mr. Untouchable’. To the people in some quiet suburban section of the heartland, neither movie will matter to them.

For nine years this old, bald, bespectacled Black man, has lived quietly amongst them, far removed from the life he once lead a lifetime ago.

If for some reason, by some twist of fate, the old man would stumble upon someone over 60 years of age from Harlem, New York – he’d feel the kind of sense of danger that he’d hadn’t felt in many years.

Once upon a time a long time ago, in a different life, his name was Nicky Barnes. He was New York’s biggest drug lord. That was until he was bought down by the Feds and incarcerated for life. And then he flipped on his people and turned informant. That’s why he isn’t Nicky Barnes anymore. He’s been in the Federal Witness Protection Program and has been quiet.

Until now.

In March of this year Rugged Land Publishing released “
Mr. Untouchable: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of Heroin’s Teflon Don”. ‘Mr. Untouchable’ captured Barnes in all of his arrogance, cunning and shrewdness.

Barnes lived well. He had the best of everything: Rolex watches, mink coats, custom made Italian suits, platinum rings with huge diamonds and all the ‘zings’ he could smoke.

What is a ‘zing’? According to Barnes it was a joint rolled with hash oil, Jamaican Motah weed, angel dust and crystal cocaine sprinkled in for good measure. The high gave you an ‘Arabian floating feeling’ he said.

The 1970’s were a helluva time to be Black. The Civil Rights Movement, the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party emboldened African Americans like at no time before. Tremendous strides were made on many fronts. But if you were an African American drug lord in the ‘70’s, well, the world was yours as they say.

It was the first time in the history of organized crime that so many Black men were able to stand up and free themselves from being under the feet of the Italian Mob. There had always been organized crime in Black communities; the problem was Black racketeers were dependant upon the Italians.

This summer when the movie ‘
American Gangster’ starring Denzel Washington hits the theatres, it will be very difficult for Barnes, now 74 to stop himself from going to see the movie. ‘American Gangster’ is about one of Barnes old rivals Frank Lucas. In his day, the North Carolina born Lucas was as ruthless as they come. Barnes and Lucas didn’t care for one another at all. Cuba Gooding, Jr. will be playing Barnes on the screen.

The other movie Barnes – or whatever his name is nowadays, will be hard pressed to avoid is a documentary about his life called ‘Mr. Untouchable’. For the first time in years Barnes will get to hear from his former associates, and get their take on his rise and fall.

I’ve known about Nicky Barnes since the 80’s, I had heard he was a snitch. I never understood why a man of his supposed stature would turn on his people. After reading the book, I understand why.

The book ‘Mr. Untouchable’ is about loyalty, greed and revenge.


Michael Vincent said...

Don't forget Frank Matthews!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments bro, you obviously have the knowledge of Pee Wee on lock!

I can't get enough info on this guy. He is my role model.

Bit odd, the night before you posted the comment, I watched a documentary on DB Cooper, "The FBI Files", and it go me thinking, "Matthews is the black DB Cooper" too. We on the same wavelength!

Do you know any more sly or underground shit on Matthews? Only stuff I can find is online, and I really like to hear the deeper darker info if you catch my drift.

Michael Vincent.