Nobody wants to go to prison…
However you do meet some great characters at those joints. But it’s kinda like getting stuck too long at the neighborhood bar with only the one chick waitress and tons of guys that won’t shut up. This time of year I think about some of those inmates, either free, dead or back in the ‘crap house.’
Christmas was always a joy in the joint…
One year they came around with a box of gifts, NFL coffee cups. Yeah, I took the Chiefs cup. Must have been in 1986 or 1987. We saw lots of Chiefs games because the Raiders, Chargers and Broncos were in the Western Division with KC. I spent all my time in West Coast prisons so lucky me. Winter Sundays with the Chiefs. I kept that cup for a few years before a Raider fan stole it from me and used it for rock throwing practice. Damn, I wanted that cup for a memento – oh well.
Oddly I made some great friends in the joint.
Seth Jaffe, an actor, now with his own reality show, Relapse. Seth plays the lead counselor. In prison we saw him in a few films, including a small part in St. Elmo’s Fire. Seth wrote my comedy sketch for Toastmasters. I won the region with it and it got me two furloughs. We are still buds to this day.
I also met Warren Anderson, one of the nations bigger weed dealers. He was an American living in Asia and a cool cat that took me for a ton of dough in ‘gin rummy’ and too many other card games. I had to buy him a tennis racket in prison. Today he owns part of the beach area in Bali. He lost everything he owned during his 8 year stay in prison, but bounced back on the outside. New wife, kids, owns restaurants and even a 24 Hour Fitness on his Island. He’s quite a success story. That is rare with guys who leave prison. I may go visit him this year. Sounds kinda cool.
There were some name guys, like Ivan Boesky, the richest man to go to prison.
He was in my small dorm room at Lompoc for about a year. They used his character in the movie Wall Street. Too bad Ivan was not as cool as Michael Douglas. Ivan was a cheap bastard. I didn’t really care for him much.
There was Ed Miller, the first FBI man to go to prison. I met him at Lompoc, tough joint. He was in lock-down next to me. Poor old guy. They gave him a life sentence for selling training manuals to his Russian girlfriend. The old fella had just found a cute girl for once in his life and that’s what he got, LIFE.
I felt sorry for him and wonder if he’s still alive. Maybe the biggest name was John DeLorean. I spent a couple hours with John, he was leaving Terminal Island in Long Beach as I was coming in. I guess he did about 90 days there during his trial. Sharp dude. You never hear about him anymore, or Boesky.
There was Giuseppe Morello, a handsome low level mob kid who got out, became a gigolo in LA, married well, retired and inherited a small fortune. He was one of the lucky ones.
Paul Toomey was a San Diego Lawyer, great guy. He was about 10 years older than me and in the joint for giving advice on how to launder money to some offshore dealers. He got three years. We hung out in LA and San Diego together. He took over his brother’s business in Long Beach, then went back to prison for dealing in gold and silver contracts. I guess they didn’t have enough gold or silver to back up the certificates they sold. He’s out now – never hear from him anymore – but he did come to my wedding in 2003 and then I never saw him again.
Aaron Binder was about 25 years my senior and a pleasant man who was In for "racketeering." He was president of an LA corporation that raised more money than was needed for a new FED EX. Then some money went south and he took the hit. I think this guy was maybe ‘not guilty’ but I’ll never know. He became like an Uncle to me when we got out. His wife and he let me stay with them when I moved back to KC. Saved me lots of money. He was partners in film group with John Voight, the actor. Aaron even owned a bowling alley in Santa Monica. He too was at my wedding. Aaron died of brain cancer a few years ago. I flew in to say goodbye to the man.
I wrote a screenplay on Club Fed that was optioned by John Heyman (Passage To India) go figure. I used all these characters in the screenplay. Mine didn’t get made – a script that sucked did – with the same name. Oddly Seth Jaffe played a convict in the film. My pal. Oh well.
These were some of the rare breed who had a shot at a good life when released.
I know hundreds more who didn’t.
Most went back to prison, some are dead and a few did well. Prison in some ways is like the Army, you make friends that you believe will last forever. My best joke on stage at Boron Camp in 1988 was, "Hey my girlfriend said, Craig I love you, I will wait for you, forever. I never knew how long forever was….it’s 29 days."
Happy New Years to everyone and all my prison pals….hope things go great for you all in 2012!