Thus went the prosperous career of Tony B. He made enough money in the Fish Market to live a very comfortable life. In 1961, when a new housing development called Chatham Green was build on Park Row, Tony B got himself a nice two-bedroom, 12th floor apartment. He also bought a lakeside house in Greenwood Lake, New York, 50 miles north of the George Washington Bridge. With it’s mountains, 9-mile long Greenwood Lake (which was once called Long Pond) and snake-like roads, Greenwood Lake was light years away in style from New York City.
The town of Greenwood Lake is located on the New York side of Jersey Avenue, which connects New York and New Jersey. On the New Jersey of Jersey Avenue side sits the tiny town of West Milford, which is the gateway for New Jersey residents to enter into New York State. The separate drinking laws of the two states is what made Tony B a ton of money in the 1950’s through the 1970’s.
In New Jersey, the legal drinking age was 21. But the law in New York state lowered that age to 18. As a result, on Friday and Saturday nights, people from all parts of Northern New Jersey sped through West Milford, down twisting Jersey Avenue, to New York to drink in one of the about 50 establishments within a five mile radius of Greenwood Lake, New York.
There was the Long Pond Inn, a motel/bar/restaurant, where prize fighters, from heavyweight champions Rocky Marciano to Floyd Patterson came to train. The Club Car was another hot spot and was known for showcasing new bands. In the early 60’s, the rage was the Sterling Hotel/disco, which featured topless dancers, which was not allowed in New York City at the time..
Greenwood Lake was quite frankly a gold mind for the New York City mob. Almost every drinking establishment was owned by New York City mobsters and Tony B himself was sole owner of five of them himself.
Tony spent the weekdays in NY city, but when the Fish Market closed from Friday morning around 10 am, to around 10 pm Sunday night, Tony B sped off to the friendly confines of Greenwood Lake to enjoy the weekend.
Summers in Greenwood Lake were idyllic. Because of the cool breeze that emanated off the lake, most homes didn’t have air conditioning. The winters were cold, but even when the temperature dipped below zero, it felt warmer in Greenwood Lake, than during frigid 20 degree days in New York City .
Tony B’s four-bedroom lakeside home was smack on Jersey Avenue, two miles from the town of Greenwood Lake. In the back of his house, he had a dock where he kept his pontoon boat — the “Ba Fongool.” Tony B loved going out on the lake to spend some quite time with nature. And for other important things too.
After dark was Tony B’s favorite time to take his boat out for a spin. Crickets chirped softy and the waves gently massaged the sides of the boat. When the moon shone on the lake, it was the perfect time for Tony B to dump the dead body, weighed down with concrete blocks, of anyone who had not been too nice to Tony B. Even though Greenwood Lake had been used as a mob burial ground since the 1920’s, not one a body deposited in its green waters had ever risen to the surface. It was as if the lake had just swallowed them up whole.
Tony B’s home was built in the Roaring Twenties and had a secret room behind a phony wall in the basement, that he could access by pressing a hidden button behind a bookcase. This room had been used as a speakeasy during Prohibition, but in the 60’s it was Tony B’s war room, where he counted skim money from his Greenwood Lake bars, and conducted meetings of his crew. The room was also sometimes used to straighten out a delinquent payer, or maybe a bartender who was acting like a partner.
Although Tony B owned five bars in Greenwood Lake, he was never actually on the premises, except to collect his weekly cut. Each bar had a bartender/manager, who ran the joint and reported back to Tony B if there where any problems that needed to be straightened out. Whenever Tony B bounced around town, he followed mob commandment 1, concerning ownership of places where alcohol is served; which is — never drink in your own bar. .
As for the bartenders, they couldn’t drink in the bar they worked in either. Both instances were invariably bad for business. Get drunk in your own bar and people considered you weak. Get drunk in someone else’s bar and they consider you a good sport.
As for the bartenders, if you let them drink when they were off duty in a bar they worked in, their brother bartenders would serve them free drinks all night. One hand washes the other in the bartender business. That was OK on the face of it, but it was not OK, if all the hand washing was done with Tony B’s booze.
Then there was mob commandment number 2; never hire a broad as a bartender.
Invariably, the male customers ogled the female bartenders and sooner or latter guys got into beefs over the broad, which usually initiated the destruction of Tony B’s furniture, which was not good for Tony B’s bottom line.
Another reason not to hire skirts is very simple. Due to the laws of Mother Nature, when they got their monthly visit from “their friend”, they were useless for several days. When this happened, even if they did show up for work, they were mean and nasty and ready to chop off the head of anyone who even looked at them cross-eyed.
Female bartenders aside, anyway you cut it, bartenders are born thieves. One way or another, they all instigated assorted types of chicanery, intended to take money out of Tony B’s pockets. Their tricks were too numerous to count, but the bottom line in the bar business is that a little robbing is sometimes tolerated, but please don’t make yourself a partner on the cash register. Then bad thing could happen to you.
Take the case of Teddy Muldoon, a refugee from Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, who made his home in Greenwood Lake. Teddy came with good references and Tony B put him to work behind the stick of his Greenwood Lake gold mine —- The Pink Pussycat. Teddy was real good with the customers and didn’t have a strong pouring hand, which suited Tony B just fine.
Soon, Tony B made Teddy his manager, in charge of ordering, scheduling, and the hiring and firing of the other thieving bartenders. During the summer months, Greenwood Lake was hopping every night of the week. During the other months, the weekends were the moneymakers and some clubs closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, just to save on electricity.
In the summer of 1960, Tony B noticed his weekly cut from the Pink Pussycat had dropped more than 30 percent from the summers of previous years.
He confronted Teddy with this fact, to which Teddy replied, “Yeah, things are slower than last year. All these new bars popping up are cutting into everyone’s bottom lines.”
The only problem with that line of reasoning was that Tony B’s other four bars were doing just fine. Like they had done every other year.
Terry Muldoon knew about Tony B’s other bars and should have know his explanation was weak. But an Irishman born in Hell’s Kitchen didn’t exactly possess the mental capabilities of Alfred Einstein, or whatever Mrs. Einstein’s son’s first name actually was.
“I smell a rat,” Tony B told Skinny Benny, who also owned a couple of Greenwood Lake bars.
“I don’t like rats,” Skinny Benny said. “They sneak in at night and eat all the food. Especially the cheese.”
Tony B was not as brain dead as his longtime friend, so he put a plan into place to find out exactly how Teddy Muldoon was robbing Tony B blind. Tony B hired Patrick Casey, a retired New York City cop, whose private detective business’ specialty was clocking bars, for owners who were having inexplicable cash flow problems.
Pat Casey visited the Pink Pussycat at different hours, on different days of the week, for more than a month. But he could not detect any one of the several tricks bartenders employ to finger their bosses’ cash.
Finally, Pat Casey set up a meet with Tony B to report on his progress. They sat in the hidden room in Tony B’s house and sipped from snifters of Remy Martin Louis XIII, that had fallen off the back of a fat liquor truck.
“I’ve been to your joint more than a dozen times and for the love of me I can spot a thing,” Pat Casey said.
“That can’t be,” Tony B said. “Someone is robbing my eyes out.”
Pat Casey said, “I’ve clocked all the different bartenders, including Teddy Muldoon, and they’re all operating on the up and up. I even had two of my guys visiting at different times on different days, and they can’t come up with anything either.”
“Impossible,” Tony B said. “You’re missing something.”
“What could I be missing?” Pat Casey said. He took another sip from the snifter. “Your joint is packed every night and all the bartenders are playing square. Your three cash registers are clanging like crazy and I can’t spot a damn thing.”
A bell went off in Tony B’s head. He took a sip of Remy. “Say that again.”
Pay Casey downed the Remy and poured himself another drink. “I said, all your three registers are clanging like crazy. You should be making a mint.”
Tony B threw his snifter against the wall. “The Pink Pussycat has only two cash registers. Only two freakin’ cash registers.”
A few days later, Tony B invited Teddy Muldoon to his house in Greenwood Lake for a barbecue in the back yard. Skinny Benny was there flipping steaks, shrimp, burgers and franks. Richie Ratface mixed the drinks.
Bloody Mary’s. Pina Coladas. Mai Tai’s. Boilermakers .
Whatever drink Teddy Muldoon desired, he got. And plenty of them too.
Muldoon ate like a pig. Three steaks. Four hamburgers. Two pounds of shrimp and about a half a dozen franks. And why not? After all, it was Muldoon’s going away party; going-away-for-good party. So why not let the man enjoy himself one last time?
And go away he did. Like Houdini disappearing from a locked coffin. Only Muldoon’s coffin wasn’t locked. In fact, it was quite wet.
Tony B, with special help from Skinny Benny and Richie Ratface, took care of the initial festivities. Then the magic of the “Ba Fongool”, in conjunction with the wide and deep expanse of Greenwood Lake, took it from there.
Tony B figured, now there was one less crooked bartender for the world to worry about. And nobody could complain about that.