A Cleveland Cop Put Out A Hit On Sam The Barber’s Old Man

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I went to get my hair cut at Sam’s barbershop. I’d been there before and during my last visit Sam told me about his life. He was from Cleveland but moved here to LA when he was a boy because his dad had got into trouble. That’s as far as the story had got. Sam left me with a cliffhanger.

I reminded Sam of where we had got to. He picked up the story.

Sam’s dad was a gangster. Of Sicilian descent, he was connected to organised crime (Sam said he was related to Lucky Luciano). His dad was a violent man and he had used that violence to make money and to get what he wanted out of life. The police were always after him, but they could make nothing stick. Sam’s dad seemed almost untouchable, but then a Cleveland detective made it clear that whoever got rid of Sam’s dad would get a pass, that the police would leave them alone. The cop was offering up a real-world get out of jail card.
This was why Sam’s family fled west. Somewhen in the early 1950s, they packed up everything and moved to LA.

I asked Sam if his father was still involved in crime out here in California.

“He still got money from back-east – and I knew as a kid that you still didn’t mess with him. People were scared of him”.

I asked Sam if he liked Cleveland.

“I hate it. It’s a lousy place. People there either took what they wanted or you had your stuff taken from you. It’s a city full of bastards and losers”.

Sam went quiet for about a minute.

“My dad was a lousy sonofabitch. A real cruel bastard. He hurt people and he bullied everyone, including his family”.

What Sam told me next was horrific. Sam’s description of his dad made his father sound like a psychotic animal. Something sub-human. A monster. You don’t need to know the details. I don’t want to write them down.

“Not a model parent then” I joked, trying to drag the conversation away from the darkest corners.

Sam went with me “On my fifteenth birthday he gave me a carton of L&Ms and a quart of whisky and told me that today you smoke and you drink……. and you leave school.”

“Did you?”


Another silence.

After a while, Sam spoke again.

“He taught me to fight as well. He taught me that you fight to win. You use tricks, anything you can to stop the other person. Hit them from behind, scare them into submission and then hurt them bad. Whatever it took. I was a rough kid.”

Sam showed me a photo of himself from when he was about 20. He was handsome – greased back black hair and a razor-thin moustache.

“You were handsome.”

“Yeah. I was”.

“Once I started working as a barber I calmed down a lot”.

Sam concentrated on my hair. He asked me if I was happy with what he’d done so far. I was.
Out of nowhere Sam suddenly went on

“There are a lot of bastards in the world. When I was a young barber, in the late 50s, I’d cut the hair of all these guys that fought in the war. They’d tell me the stuff you never saw in the films. One guy, a tank driver told me about this German they captured. They tied him to the front of their tank and then just drove with him strapped on – all across France, through bushes and trees, through rivers, through those smashed in towns. They kept what was left of him on the front of the tank for as long as possible. You read the papers and you read about stuff but it’s always worse than what you read”.

Sam had finished cutting my hair. He cleaned up.

“Hey – did I show you this?”. He got a book from a bookcase he had in the shop. It was a collection of front covers from the LA Times going back well over 100 years, right back to the origins of the modern city. Do you want to borrow this – I trust you to bring it back”.

Sam’s shop is in a small building that stands alone between a parking lot and the road. Architecturally it is nondescript, little more than a box, form as function. LA is still a strange and alienating city full of empty spaces and nondescript functional buildings. Sam’s shop is one of the few places I’ve been inside where I’ve got to hear someone else talk about themselves.

I’m not sure I’ll ever feel at home in this world of parking lots and gangsters

Bauhaus on Top of the Pops doing Ziggy Stardust in 1992. And me.

Warning – this blog post has a self absorbed rating of about Ten


I can date my Bowie fandom from seeing Bauhaus doing Ziggy Stardust on telly on Top of the Pops in October 1982.

The day after Bauhaus were on telly a friend lent me the Ziggy Stardust LP. A few months later I bought it on cassette with my Xmas vouchers from the Virgin Store in Portsmouth. I also got a book called the David Bowie Black Book for Xmas. A few weeks later I picked up Lou Reed’s The Blue Mask from the WHSmiths at Ipswich Station (Lou Reed appeared in the Black Book – it was the first I knew of him). This in turn led to the Velvet Underground, Pop Art, all things New York and so on and so on.

I reckon that much of what has followed in my life, for better and worse, followed from that Bauhaus performance and from my ensuing Bowie obsession. The music I’ve listened to, the books I’ve read, the films I’ve watched, the people I’ve liked and even, in some ways, the places I’ve lived can also be traced back to seeing Bauhaus doing this song in 1982. This may seem like I’m overstating this but I think it’s true. I also think that the way most people are at 15 is fascinating, at least to themselves, and at least to themselves at both 15 and at 50.

I also bought the Bauhaus Ziggy Stardust single (with a cover of Eno’s Third Uncle on the b side – what an education) which I still have in my ‘Grave Goods Trunk’ along with the Black Book and the cassette of the Blue Mask (I lost the Ziggy S cassette years ago). I sort of liked Bauhaus a bit but grew out of them quite quickly. I’ve never grown out of Bowie and Reed and the rest.

The opening song on the Blue Mask is about the poet Delmore Schwartz. Earlier this year I read Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift which is about Bellow’s relationship with Schwartz so whatever was kickstarted by seeing Bauhaus on the telly 34 years ago is still unravelling and is still somehow all tied up together.

Olympic Park Flea Market. Munich. 25/11/16

Here’s some random photos from my trip to the Olympia Park Flea Market in Munich on the 25th November. 2016

Flea Market Art

Vicky at the Olympia Park Flea Market
Vicky at the Olympia Park Flea Market

This is Vicky

Vicky gave me first piece of proper German flea market advice: “If you want to make money head out to the big flea markets that are held in provincial Bavaria in the Spring and Summer” she told me. “Bavarians are rich – they just want to get rid of their stuff. That’s where you get the real bargains. You just have to get there early”.

She also told me to get a car. She was the first of 2 people to give me that advice this weekend.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be a true flea market insider in Munich, in part because I have other things I want to do with my life, but learning the language, and getting a car, and getting to know more people like Vicky would be the first necessary steps if I do want to become a Munich flea market face.


The weather was fiercely cold at the flea market with freezing fog and, weirdly, a biting wind.
The weather was fiercely cold at the flea market with freezing fog and, weirdly, a biting wind.
The weather never let up but there were loads of stalls spread out over the carpark











Random Flea Market Stalls

The Last Stall
The Last Stall
The Big Cigar
The Big Cigar