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INTRODUCTION:

Training Day’ director Antoine Fuqua had received the financing ($30 million) to bring the life of heroin kingpin Frank Lucas to the big screen. The film was entitled ‘American Gangster’ and Denzel Washington was going to portray Lucas.

Fuqua feuded with studio heads over where to shoot the film. He insisted on making the film in New York (authentic) but the studio wanted him to save cash and make the movie in Canada.

The arguments got so intense, that the film was sacked.

Update: Director Ridley Scott is in talks to direct Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in “American Gangster.” A Brian Grazer produced drama detailing the life of Harlem heroin kingpin Frank Lucas. Scott hopes to shoot this summer.

"Hotel Rwanda" director Terry George has also been brought in to rework the script and rein in the budget.  With the success of "Hustle & Flow," a story about a pimp who has aspirations to become a rapper, "American Gangster" will get made.  Expect an onslaught of movies about drug kingpins and pimps.

CREW BOSS:

During the early seventies, Frank Lucas (above) was the biggest heroin dealer in Harlem. He occupied a suite at the Regency Hotel with hundreds of custom-made, multi-hued suits in his closet; Lucas also owned a Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz and a Corvette.

Lucas also cleared $1 million dollars a day selling dope on 116th Street.

As the crew boss of the heroin-dealing ring called the ‘Country Boys,’ Lucas’ older brothers Ezell, Vernon Lee, John Paul, Larry and Leevan were known for restricting their operation to blood relatives and homeboys from their hometown of North Carolina.

In the 70’s, there were many brands of dope in Harlem but none sold like Frank’s ‘Blue Magic’ because this brand was 10 percent pure.

Lucas had so many buyers standing in the street, the Transit Department had to reroute buses.

Lucas made so much off his drug ring; soon, profits exceeded $52 million. He deposited most of the money in the Cayman Islands. He always kept at least a thousand kilos on hand with a street value of $300,000 per kilo.

Also in his portfolio were office buildings in Detroit, apartments in Los Angeles and Miami and a several thousand acre spread in North Carolina which had 300 head of Black Angus cows, including a bull worth $125,000 dollars.

‘The Country Boys’ operated in a blue frame house on West 123rd street, table workers included, ten to twelve women naked except for surgical masks, these women would package and cut the dope. They blended it with “60 percent mannite and 40 percent quinine.”

After a hard day’s work, Lucas and his ‘Country Boys’ would party at the hot spots among celebrities like Sugar Ray Robinson, Wilt Chamberlain, Howard Hughes, Ava Gardner and Joe Louis.

Lucas and Joe Louis became good friends. Louis would appear every day at Lucas’ many trials and Lucas returned the favor by paying off a $50,000 tax lien for the champ. He described Louis as a ‘beautiful man’ and was inconsolable when Louis died.

A narcotics prosecutor called the ‘Country Boys’ one of the most outrageous international dope smuggling gangs ever!

The ‘Country Boys’ even hijacked trucks on Route 1-9.

Due to his childhood, he never had enough of anything.

When Lucas was six, living in La Grange, North Carolina, the Ku Klux Klan came to his shack and killed his 12-year old cousin (Obadiah) because they accused him of looking at a white girl walking down the street. ‘Reckless eyeballing’ is what they called it.

Obadiah came out of the house sleepy; they put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

It was then, Lucas says, that he began his life of crime. He says, “I was the oldest, someone had to put food on the table.” I started stealing chickens, knocking pigs on their heads and mugging drunks when they came out of a whorehouse.

By the time he was 12, he was in Tennessee, locked up on a chain gang. At 14, after his release, he lived with a lady bootlegger.

While working as a truck driver, he started sleeping with the truck owner’s daughter, a fight ensued, Frank hit him on the head with a piece of pipe, laying him out. Frank’s mother told him to run and keep running.

He arrived in Harlem and got a job as an elevator operator but once Frank saw guys writing policy numbers, carrying big wads, his course was set. Within a few months, he was a one-man crime wave. He stuck up bars, stole diamonds and ripped off crap games. All the gangsters were looking to kill Frank.

A chance encounter with legendary black gangster “Ellsworth ‘Bumpy’ Johnson’ saved his life. As soon as everybody saw him hanging out with Bumpy, the contracts on his life disappeared.

After Bumpy died, Frank decided, he wanted to be super rich. He went to Southeast Asia to purchase heroin.

After his purchase, he came back to Harlem and assembled the ‘Country Boys.’ He went back to Asia and set up an international distribution system, moving heroin shipments almost exclusively on planes bound for Eastern seaboard bases.

Lucas purchased 32 kilos on each trip. At $4,200 per unit, compared with $50,000 that Mafia dealers charged Stateside competitors, it would turn out to be an bonanza.

Lucas was so creative in his drug smuggling, to get the drugs out of Asia and to the United States; he had 28 copies of government coffins made, with false bottoms. Big enough to carry six to eight kilos.

During the reign of Frank Lucas, the Feds estimated that half the heroin users were in New York.

Lucas became filthy rich. Flying to Paris to dine at Maxims, gambling in Vegas with Joe Louis and Sammy Davis, Jr., spending $140,000 on a couple of Van Cleef bracelets and squiring around his beautiful mistress, Billy Mays, step-daughter of Willie Mays. Lucas says, he stole her away from NY Knicks superstar Walt “Clyde” Frazier.

Lucas left his 116th Street operation in the hands of trusted soldiers. If problems arose, Lucas says, “we’d have 500 guns in the street in 30 minutes.”

Frank laundered his money by throwing duffel bags with cash into the back seat of his car and driving to Chemical Bank. Most of the money was sent to numbered accounts in the Cayman Islands.

Frank also ran a string of gas stations and dry cleaners.

He especially loved show business and started hanging out with gangster Zack Robinson. Their favorite place was ‘Lloyd Price’s Turntable.’ Frank recalls, on any given night, you might see, Muhammad Ali, members of the Temptations, James Brown, Berry Gordy and Diana Ross.

Lucas said he thought about quitting the drug business all the time and his wife begged him to get out, especially when drug lord Frank Matthews jumped bail in 1973, never to be heard from again. Lucas says, “Some say he’s dead but I know he’s living in Africa, like a king, with all the money in the world.”

For Lucas, the inevitable came on January 28, 1975 when an NYPD/DEA strike force staged a surprise raid on his house. Lucas’ wife tossed several suitcases out of the window. The cases were found to contain $584,000 in cash.

Headlines blared, ‘Country Boys, Called Number One Heroin Gang Is Busted And Indicted In $50 Million Dollar Heroin Operation.’

Chemical Bank, where Lucas laundered his money pled guilty to 200 misdemeanor violations of the Bank Secrecy Act.

Lucas admits to spending millions on high priced lawyers.

He would be convicted and sentenced to 40 years.

In 1983, his sentence was reduced.

Today, Lucas is in his 70’s and free and he refuses to reveal why his sentenced got reduced.

*Source: Mark Jacobson at NY Magazine, ‘The Return Of Superfly.’

INTRODUCTION:

Michael Krikorian of the “L.A. Weekly” newspaper recently wrote a fascinating piece on Raymond Lee Washington, the “original founder” of the street gang, “The Crips.” Contrary to popular belief, according to family and friends, Raymond Lee Washington, started the ‘Crips’ by himself, and Stanley “Tookie” Williams was “not” the founder nor co-founder of the ‘Crips.’ Below are excerpts from that story.

RAYMOND LEE WASHINGTON:

Raymond Lee Washington was born in Texas on August 15th , 1953. His family relocated to Los Angeles when he was three. He grew up on 76th street on the East side of Los Angeles, near Fremont high school.

The first gang Washington joined, was a gang called “The Avenue,’ led by Craig Munson but he left after he had a fight with Munson’s brother.

At this moment; Washington decided to create his own gang, he had a concept.

Groups like the ‘Black Panthers’ tried to protect their communities from the violence that was perpetrated against them in the name of racism. The demise of these groups led a young Raymond to create his own club with the same ideals and political ideologies that he admired. In 1969, unknown to him at the time, he created a group that would become one of the most infamous and feared street gangs in history. Over time, his club would become known as ‘The Crips.’

The club started off with several neighborhood kids in a click. The group was first known as ‘The Baby Avenue’ aka ‘Avenue Cribs’ but by 1971, they were being referred to as the ‘Crips’.

Washington started off by protecting his community, by keeping the bad guys out. Despite this, the police always turned up looking for him at the Washington home.

According to others, Washington was a neighborhood bully who could be very mean. He was also the best fighter in the neighborhood.

He stood a stocky 5’8 and preferred his fists to guns. Like Mike Tyson, Washington had 18-inch arms and a 50-inch chest and he weighed 215 pounds of all muscle. He never lost a fight, even against bigger opponents. He was known to fight, everyday, all day.

In another life, he could have been a championship boxer. He was a strong leader who was gifted with his fists.

Although he was an awesome high school athlete, mainly in football, every school he attended, he was kicked out for fighting.

He would go away to juvenile detention camps and be sure to let everyone know when he was back in the neighborhood.

Washington became such a street legend, whenever his siblings got into fights, once people found out that Raymond was their brother, they backed off and became friendly.

Raymond had a very effective tactic in expanding the Crips. He would go to the leader of another gang and fight him. After he won the fight, everyone in the gang leader’s gang would leave and join Raymond’s gang. He also went to different neighborhoods and said, ‘Either join my gang or become my enemy.’ Most kids joined up.

Although inspired by the Black Panthers, Washington and his group were never able to develop an agenda for social change within the community.

The Crips became so bloody that other gangs (The Compton Piru’s and The Brims near USC) aligned themselves and became the Bloods. The bloody battle of South Los Angeles, Watts and Compton was on!

Raymond’s crew got their first notoriety in March of 1972 when a rat-pack group attacked four youths for their leather jackets at the ‘Hollywood Palladium.’ One of the victims was killed when he resisted.

A frequent visitor to the Washington house was Stanley “Tookie” Williams, a member of the Crips.

Legend has it, that Washington approached Stanley “Tookie” Williams and asked him to expand his gang to the West side of the Harbor Freeway. This is how Tookie became the leader of the ‘West Side Crips.’

As the Crips became more famous for drive-bys and robberies, Raymond became disillusioned with the gang he founded and started hanging out with a black motorcycle gang.

But it was too late.

Raymond Lee Washington was killed by a shotgun blast on August 9th , 1979. Allegedly, someone he knew, called him over to a car.

Washington went over to the car, on the passenger side, and was shot in the stomach with a sawed off shotgun on the corner of 64th and San Pedro streets.

Washington was murdered five months after Stanley “Tookie” Williams was convicted and later executed for a quadruple murder. No one has ever been arrested in Washington’s murder and there was no mention of his death in any of the major newspapers across the country.

On the streets, his slaying was similar to a presidential assassination.

Washington’s murder was the end of the Crips as a united street gang.

Source: Michael Krikorian at ‘L.A. Weekly.’

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