Mar 28, 2017
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Is America Still the Place?
by Doniphan Blair, with research by Jay Randy Gordon
'America Is Still the Place’ actor Charleston Pierce (2nd fr lft), who plays Charlie Walker's friend, and the real-life Charlie Walker (cntr), with some of the film crew. photo courtesy P. Gilles
YET ANOTHER BAY AREA INDIE HAS
been picking up awards around the country: Best Feature at the San Francisco Black Film Festival in July, at Austin’s Capital City Black Film Festival in August, and at the Harlem International Film Festival in September. And it has been invited to the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles in February.
America Is Still the Place
” (2015), it is a very green film, given it concerns when two Standard Oil tankers collided in the San Francisco Bay and
dumped 800,000 gallons of crude
, in January 1971, and the cleanup crews and now-wellknown environmental groups which emerged to deal with it.
It is also a very black film. Although written and directed by Patrick Gilles, who is white, “America is Still the Place” is about a black, former-Air Force entrepreneur, who barnstormed his way through the institutional racism — much more egregious 50 years ago than today— into a contract to clean up the beaches north of the Golden Gate Bridge and keep the peace between the mostly hippie crews and the oil men managers.
To do a thumbnail sketch of Charlie Walker, the entrepreneur who was born in Mississippi but raised and still residing in San Francisco’s new premier black neighborhood, Bayview-Hunters Point, is a fool's errand, with yours truly as the fool, as you can see, if you skip ahead to his provocative interview below.
Suffice it to say, the film is based on his real life account, also called “America is Still the Place” (2003), which he wrote while doing three years in Folsom, and the book is selling on Amazon for 35 dollars for a USED paperback, with new copies starting at $99!
The mere outlines of the story are incredible—a feisty underdog overcoming racism, hippies, sex and drugs on the beach, rich white men getting their comeuppance, and, of course, everyone getting together to sing "Kumbaya" and save the planet. Director/writer Gilles was pretty brave jumping in, having come up through music videos, with only one previous feature under his belt.
That film, “Olive” (2010), which he co-wrote, directed AND shot, features Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes’s incredible wife, as well as star, and concerns a ten year-old girl with mystical powers who convinces people to appreciate life again. While a tad too metaphysical for CineSource’s reviewer, it was pretty amazing, especially having been shot on a Nokia phone.
The executive producer was Bill O’Keeffe, owner of a local commercial glass company,
, who also executive produced “America is Still the Place”.
Mike Colter as Charlie Walker and the Honorable Willie Brown, who once drove cab, as his driver, in 'America Is Still the Place'. photo courtesy P. Gilles
Playing Charlie Walker is the established actor Mike Colter, who has been cleaning up on television lately: “The Good Wife” (2011-15), “The Following” (2013-15) and now the new Netflix hit “Jessica Jones”. He also has parts in “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012) and “Men in Black 3” (both 2013) among others features.
Meanwhile, Dylan Baker, J. Edgar Hoover from “Selma” (2014), is the uptight oil man who eventually lets his hair down; the beloved local Carl Lumbly, well-known as Mark Petri from “Cagney & Lacey” (1981-88), plays one of Walker’s friends, Willie; and Steven Wiig, one of the hardest working AND best bit part players in the Bay Area (“Sacred Blood”, “Yosemite” 2015, among others), renders nicely Walker’s loyal accountant.
Even the Honorable Willie Brown (former-mayor of San Francisco) cameos as a cab driver, which he, in fact, was while studying law in the Bay Area in the ‘50s, a nice, inside joke since Charlie Walker used to drive for Brown and they remain close friends.
Aside from the above-the-line talent, the production is almost completely Bay Area. Director Gilles rented a big house on Dillon Beach, west of Petaluma, and, much as Walker did 50 years ago, “We would shoot all day and party all night in this beautiful beach house on the cliffs above the Pacific,” he told CineSource via email.
“This is a Bay Area indie film by all measures,” he continued, about the 22 day shoot. “The crew was local. Most of them worked on, or are working on, just about every project that shoots in the Bay Area. We used friends’ homes for locations, friends’ cars for period-correct vehicles, friends and family as extras and minor speaking roles.”
“Our friends from Alice Radio [97.3] helped out. Sarah does the voice of the radio dispatcher/narrator. Vinnie and Uzette had on-screen roles as the 'King of the Hippies' and 'Super Hot Bar Girl,' respectively. Both my brothers Bob and John worked on the film. John's wife and kids show up. My wife and kids are in it.”
Indeed, the Monophonics, from San Rafael, did most of the excellent period-sounding score, while producer O’Keeffe's fiancé, Tiger Lyn, contributed three excellent songs. Also providing musical support was super-producer Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson, among others), who plays drums in a scene.
Model coach and actor,
, who grew up in Bayview-Hunters Point and has known Charlie his whole life, plays Charlie's friend; renowned lighting expert
handled lighting and cinematography; and Frank Simeone provided production and casting and appeaers on screen as one of the Tower oil men.
When the oil spill happened in 1971, Northern California’s biggest ever to-date, volunteers flocked to help. But no one was keeping tabs and when the oil company had to start paying them, that was a problem, especially since Charlie Walker was already feeding and housing many of them while trying to keep the peace.
The party has arrived: (lft-rt) Dylan Baker, Steven Wiig, Mark Leslie Ford, Mike Colter and the women, Hannah Rose and Mariel Neto. photo courtesy P. Gilles
Although the hippies didn’t believe him at first, the real-life Walker convinced them he was there to clean their beach AND get them paid, which means “we can’t have you guys roughing up oil people,” all of which provides a great, central drama for a film without gratuitous violence.
A secondary story concerns Walker putting together a paper trail to show expenditures. Some might call it embezzling or money laundering but when the Standard Oil (Tower Oil, in the movie) accountants found over $375,000 missing and Mr. Walker, in turn, "found" photos of Big Oil execs coking and whoring with the hippies, it was decided that the $375,000 was, in fact, money well spend on a job well done.
Indeed, some of it was simply creative entrepreneurialism like selling oil-tainted sand from the beach to road paving companies.
The execs cared little about West Marin, a backwater at the time, since its beaches were deemed too difficult to get trucks into and the cherry contracts all went to white truckers working between Ocean Beach and Half Moon Bay.
That the film has been cleaning up, as it were, at African-American-focused film festivals may be a testament to the paucity of good black dramas, especially ones without murders, rap music or gangs.
Although Walker is an incredible character and the story is fantastic, it is has a few longueurs, notably the absence of dramatic foreshadowing for Walker’s secret photographing of the oil men with their hair down, which contradicts Hitchcock’s “Bomb Under the Table” principle.
There is certainly a bomb under the table when it comes to talking to Charlie Walker, who talks the talk AND walks the walk. Indeed, the film starts with an interview with the actual Walker and that footage could have run longer.
To find out more about this Bay Area icon, Mr. Walker agreed to meet me at his favorite cafe, Le Central, at 453 Bush Street in downtown San Francisco, a spot favored by literati, cognoscenti, celebrities and millionaires, of which Walker is/was all four.
When I walked in, Walker was at the tiny bar with none other than his close friend, the Honorable Willie Brown, once mayor of San Francisco (1996-2004) AND head of the California Senate (1980-'95), but also the state representative for the Western Addition when I lived there. An incredibly friendly guy, I thanked him for his service.
As we were settling into a table, in the small, low-ceilinged joint, Walker was hailing all the regulars, including San Francisco’s most famous haberdasher, Wilkes Bashford, who made Mayor Brown look so sharp, and Scott Farnsworth, Walker's favorite waiter for the last ten years, who joked that he wanted to audition for the movie and planned use shoe polish to play Charlie.
Charlie Walker, the subject and original author of 'America Is Still the Place', at his favorite upscale eatery. photo D. Blair
We were number one.
At the Harlem Film Festival?
In Austin, we were number one. In San Francisco, we were number one. Everywhere we go, we are number one. It’s a good movie.
What do you attribute that to, some sort of feeling that people are into now?
Yeah, and that nobody gets killed in the movie. You see, in all the movies we saw, they killed everybody but the audience. And people are tired of that.
It’s an uplifting story and it looks back on a fun time.
Yeah, a lot of shit went down that everyone is going to forget.
The depictions in the film of the partying, are they pretty realistic? You were working in the day—
And partying at night. 6 o’clock in the morning you had to get up.
But you were younger then and could do it?
You were in the air force in Alaska?
Our home base in Fairbanks and then we flew reconnaissance in Korea and everywhere.
You were the only black guy on the squad, I am guessing?
No, there were three of us.
My dad used fly on B-17s during the Second World War as an aerial photographer, scary shit.
I did aerial photography and sketching.
So you were an artist?
No, I don’t say that. I did what they taught me.
So they wanted photos and sketches, interesting. How did you segue into trucking and the cleanup thing?
Well, I did a lot of things but I decided, after I got out of the service, I wanted to be in the trucking business. I was really looking for a job driving but then I found out they didn’t let black people into the teamsters.
Walker and his favorite waiter, Scott Farnsworth (in the mirror), about to pour a glass of wine on him. photo D. Blair
Here in San Francisco. So I went down to the Chronicle [newspaper]. The guy who was the manager and editor was man named Gilroy. I went down and said, ‘You haven’t got one black driver, can I drive for ya’ll?’
He said, ‘No one ever came up here and asked—you are hired!’ That is how I got job, just like that.
So you have always taken the position that you are going to ask, that you are not going to be dissuaded by racism?
No, I don’t bother with it.
By the way, anything you say I will check with you.
I don’t care. Do what you want. If you ask me something I don’t want to answer, I will let you know right then and there. [Indeed, Mr. Walker made no changes to the proof CS sent him.]
I haven’t read your book but my associate Randy Gordon has [he said, 'It reads like a movie!'] and I saw the movie. I know you have a policy about being very open about anything, even illegal.
White people know everything, anyway.
You mean about black people?
About black people, yeah. The same attitude as during slavery, they still got it.
Really? That is your feeling? You feel the current Black Lives Matter is—
Bullshit. We have multi, multi, multi-millionaire black people who will not come back around their own people, where they grew up, and invest.
You feel some of the responsibility is on the community to—
Yeah. Of course.
Walker and Scott, the waiter, indulged in a running, meal-long banter, replete with racial teasing, widely considered politically-incorrect. photo D. Blair
I was thinking perhaps it is more the Black Lives Matter people are a little spoiled because when you came up it was really tough.
No, it wasn’t like that. It was just that everyone knew their place, that was all.
Just because a person tells me, 'No,' that doesn’t mean the end of it with me. It might be the end of it with them but not with me.
The teamsters said, 'There was no getting in the union.'
Jack Golberg said, ‘That was bullshit.’ He was the head of the union. When I showed up, he said he had a meeting with all of them and said, ‘Don’t fuck with this guy [Walker].’ That was the end of it.
And when you were getting into the trucking and cleanup you had to do a protest. You parked your truck in front —
Right there on Leavenworth and Hyde, where they were bringing the dirt out of the tunnel for BART [subway] and wouldn’t let us work. They didn’t want blacks on the job [although] they didn’t say it like that.
I had just gotten back from from overseas and I saw it like this: If these motherfuckers don’t want me in the union, I have been shooting at the wrong people. That’s how I feel.
We have to look at things differently. I see that today with young blacks, they aren’t looking at it right.
What is their basic mistake would you say?
Their basic mistake is they sell drugs. Italians sold liquor and they took the money and invested it. We don’t do that. You get the money and the police come and take it.
Well, a few dealers invest. There is a guy in Oakland, Charles Cosby, the subject of ‘Cocaine Cowboys II’ . Some of these guys are entrepreneurs but they don’t have any place to do business so they go into drugs. But not many, you are right.
They are doing it wrong. There is nothing wrong with selling drugs ‘cause someone is going to buy it. If there is a market for it—no problem!
Exactly, and you yourself have been involved?
No, never sold drugs in my life. Didn’t find it necessary. When I got married, I had three daughters. I figured it like this: If I didn’t want my daughter to fuck with drugs, I didn’t want your daughter to.
I never had a taste for it. I snorted some cocaine but I wasn’t crazy about it.
I think it is overblown, to use a phrase, but a little weed—
I smoke weed, even today.
And when did you start?
When I was about 14.
Here in SF? Who was your first—
I don’t know. It was just there and I smoked some.
Walker with his old friend, the honorable Willie Brown, ex-mayor of San Francisco. photo D. Blair
You were talking about racism in San Francisco, but was San Francisco also a little more tolerant than other—
This is most racist town in California. They do not like black people here. Chinese people don’t like us. Some don’t even speak to us.
The black population of San Francisco has gone way down. I used to live in the Fillmore, Willie [Brown]’s old district, and they already tore down a lot of buildings but there was still a lot going on. I was able to hear some jazz, had some neighbors who were musicians. Now it is much, much less.
Look what happened. White people took our music, what little culture we had. Bands all got integrated but white bands don’t let blacks work with them. If you don’t believe that look at the hillbillies that play music. They don’t have black people in their bands.
There is one black hillbilly band, I think. [Carolina Chocolate Drops]
Sure, there is always one.
There was some integration in the ‘70s, Sly and the Family Stone. What did you think about, in the ‘70s, the Black Panthers?
I knew all of them, Huey [Newton], Eldridge [Cleaver]. They never bothered me.
What were they like?
I was never friends on a social basis. I just knew them, seeing them in different places.
How did their ideas relate to your ideas?
No comparison. They wanted to fight; they didn’t want to make money. They wanted to beg. Like right now, there’s a place down the street called Glide Church. Taking black people back a hundred years.
They feed people and expect nothing of them. I don’t want you to give me nothing. I would rather rob you than you give it to me.
That was your difference with the Panthers?
Well there are a few like minded, like Willie [Brown]. When did you first meet Willie?
When we were going to school around ’67. Willie Brown chose to stay out of it. He knows how to get something done, how to deal with white people. I [also] knew.
How did you learn that, from experience, your mom told you?
It is something you just learn, you don’t know how.
Was ‘America is Still the Place’ the first film you were involved in? How did you enjoy that?
Yes. I thought it was humorous.
Steven Wiig, Johnson's accountant, and Mike Colter, Johnson (both seated) blowing 'gage' with the hippies, a practice the real Walker continues to this day. photo: Josie Rodriguez
I wish they had more of you in the movie. Were you on the set? As their consultant?
And the film turned out pretty much as you remember it?
Uh-huh, although they had to change some things around to make it appealing to white people.
Yeah? But the prostitution and drugs, that was happening —
Uh-huh, the nightlife.
And there would be hippies camped out on the beach and you would be hiring them in the morning?
Uh-huh, I got along with them.
Were they space out, drugged out? They worked?
They were cool to me. Everyone was happy because no one could get along with them but me.
Part of that working together is part of the appeal of the film?
But then, at the end, you kind of give it to the man, as well.
What do you mean ‘give it to the man’?
Well, you kind of blackmailed them.
That’s a white man’s vision of what I did. If I was white, you would say I am a business man. The problem with what you say is that you are white and you always look at anything we got we beat it out of them.
But that is the question, I was wondering when you were going to ask that. How do you beat something out of someone when you are doing business with them? It is a business deal, right?
I was under the impression from the movie that you had some documents on them—
Yeah, but that’s doing business. That’s the American way. That is all that is, the American business way. When a guy’s got you by your nuts and he wants something, he just reminds you of it. Then he gets what he wants.
All the American businesses do it like that but when black people do it, they want to make you into a criminal. 'You beat him, didn’t you?' Hell no! I did a business deal with him.
I don’t remember the details from the film but my impression was—
I know what your impression was but I am just telling you, it was business deal. Strange of you to take that view.
Maybe I am misremembering the film.
It is not that. It is just your innate opinion of black people.
I grew up in Harlem so—
Don’t make no difference: You are white.
That’s what a lot of people try to tell me.
You act like a white man, you look like a white man.
I know but having grown up on the streets, been mugged 20 times, dealt drugs—
But you never stopped being a white.
That is true, that’s true. But being white, that is the genetics of it. Then there is the culture and having had some of the culture of—
That is American culture, not the culture of one human being to another.
Color is a climatic thing, that is all. If you moved to Africa today, in the hot sun, and have a baby, he is not going to be as white as you.
I would hope I would have an African wife.
If you had a white wife, the baby would look different than both of you. The sun would do that, a climatic condition.
OK. So any other movie projects on the horizon?
I am writing another book.
You want to tell me a little about it?
[It’s titled] ‘The Perfect White Man’.
Is it novel?
Just like the other book.
It was based on the truth but it was not an autobiography, it was about that incident, the oil spill.
This one will about the perfect white man. Like being here with you. You display a shady view of black people. Either you don’t understand them or it is just the way you are.
OK. I was under the impression that there was some illegal activity by you depicted in the film.
It speaks for itself. Pat [Patrick Gilles, the director/writer] did a great job—
Of bringing your story to the screen? So none of his adjustments, his liberties—you’re happy with what he did?
He’s not like you or most white people. He takes it on face value of what it is I did. He’s a very, very intelligent and smooth man. But you got that everywhere. It makes no difference that he is white.
Any discussion of turning your new book into film?
I got someone who wants to buy it already.
What do you think of the general filmmaking scene in San Francisco?
I think that every black [character] I see in movies is bullshit.
You have to look at what America is about. They never talk about that. Slavery set them up pretty good. You got people for 300 years with no damn nothing, then you let them out of slavery and don’t give them none of the proceeds and tell them, ‘Now go get your own.’
That is why I always say, ‘Slavery ain’t over.’ That is why there are so many problems. White people don’t want to admit how wrong they were and what to do about it. They think that they might have to give too much money.
What is too much money? They give other people money. [The Germans] gave the Jews money. They gave the Filipinos money, the Japanese did. But it is too good for black people. You know what I mean?
Yeah, sure. That is pretty much central to the Black Lives Matter and some of the themes they are exploring.
No. You are putting it in another frame. I was willing to give my life for this country and to come to back to a country that says, just because you are black, you can’t work, that’s a real wrong.
So I think people are going to have to start to re-assess what this country is really about and where we fit in. White people will say I am mad about it but I ain’t mad. The reality is: That is the reality.
White people say everything belongs to them and they are right but when are they going to share it? They didn’t get there by themselves.
That is like having a wife and you get a million dollars and she was there taking care of the kids. Is any of that hers when you decide to get another woman?
Why, then, do you use the title ‘America Is Still The Place’?
Cause it ain’t changed!
But that [title] sounds positive.
It is positive! It ain’t changed! America is still the place.
But it sounds like you are saying that America is still the BEST place.
It might say that to you. You may interpret it like that, that’s your right. But I don’t look at it that way.
But looking at the movie [it seems that way]. And that was the title of your book.
Yeah, I understand, I am just saying. I can turn that around to a negative but I would rather it be a positive.
Your story suggests that it is positive.
Yeah. You can [make] it here.
It is like when Ford made the first car, nice car, but a lot of changes have been made in that car since he first made it. You know what I mean? From telephone to camera. So you have to understand, things change.
So what would you say to young African-American entrepreneurs today, that America is still the place?
It is still the place if you got the money and get something with it and get away with it. It is still the place where white people are doing that. You got to figure out what you want to do and go about your business. It is still the place that America is for sale, right?
As a poor person myself—
It is for sale. You can buy anything you want.
Ah… I look at it a little differently but I understand.
How do you look at it?
Well, I look at California as a type of freewheeling place. I grew up in Harlem, going to Little League during the 1964 riots, cops everywhere, place burning down. But I also went to a fancy, rich, white private school. So I saw both sides and both sides were very closed but California is more open. Different things can happen.
They hate you out here but they don’t tell you they hate you like they do in the South.
You think so? I understand that but can you really compare? The South is so bitter and vicious and small.
The problem with you is that you don’t want to believe that. You want to believe that everything is alright. But it ain’t.
My mother is survivor of the Holocaust. Israel is about to experience another Holocaust. I am completely broke; I am bankrupt; my film magazine has not made a dime, I lost 50 thousand bucks on it. I am living in constant—
Fear. But I am also living in California. I can drive to LA, camp on the way, interview some Hollywood folks, come back via Big Sur, and for 200 bucks have a fantastic vacation.
Those are the two sides of California I am talking about. I am guessing you have those two sides, too.
Now you think I am just a white guy and we are on two different sides but I am hearing you say that California is still very racist but also that it is still the place.
Right. But you know one day you might hit.
What? [café is very noisy]
Hit. H. I. T.
Maybe, I am hopeful, but I am not counting on it.
But you are still out there pitching.
I am an artist. I have 20 big ideas, and, until I go to the grave, I am going to keep on pitching, as you say.
One of my big ideas is about making movies by the Bay, little independent films, like what Pat [Gilles] and Bill [O’Keeffe] made with you. I find that is great.
This movie is going to be big. We are going to Los Angeles on the 4th to the 12th [of November].
That is fabulous. That is when you are going to find out something?
All the big wheels are going to be there. It costs $40,000 to get your movie in.
American Film Market
The thing of it is they got a rich, white man involved: Bill O’Keeffe. He ain’t gonna accept no.
How about some of the other incredible stories from that period? Remember the Marin Courthouse Takeover from 1970 with Jonathan Jackson.
I think that was crazy. I am not going to fight no losing battle.
You know Angela Davis?
Personally. I know all of them.
They proved that she bought all the guns that Jonathan Jackson used [in the Marin Courthouse Takeover]—
That’s what THEY say. If they made the mistake of letting her come in there with a gun, that’s their problem.
They say she had a gun in her hair but I don’t believe that.
They proved the paperwork for all the guns was in her name but she was acquitted. One of the jury members said, “All the state could prove is that she loved George Jackson, that she was a romantic.” It’s a pretty amazing story.
I am not going into the jungle to fight a lion with a switch [blade].
That is what you compare that to, you see it as a Don Quixote thing?
Now you did some time. Did you run into Black Guerrilla Army members in prison?
I was there three years, I took over. I had everything, all the dope and all the money.
Scott Farnsworth [the waiter interrupting]: Don’t look at me like that.
What did I do now?
Scott: You are looking at me like you are in love with me but I know you are not.
I love you darling.
Scott: I know. Are you going to have anything more? [All Charlie and I had was a lentil soup each.]
I am good.
I thought they were crazy, George Jackson and all them. I knew them. Like I know OJ Simpson.
When his momma died, I went to the funeral—she was a friend of the family. I told him. I said, ‘Hey man, the white people are going to kill you. If you want to die, do what you want, otherwise they are going to lock your ass up.’
He said, ‘Why do you say that?’ I said, ‘One of white man’s biggest hangups is white women. They don’t like that.’
He didn’t kill [Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman] and they know he didn’t. The people didn’t hear all the testimony and the press wouldn’t print the whole story. He didn’t do that; he couldn’t do that.
Yeah? He didn’t kill—
Hell, no. I know who did.
Do you want to tell me?
No. You know that was a ‘Colombian neck tie.’
Like piano wire?
That’s all that was. That boy [Goldman] was an athlete. He stood around and said, ‘When you get through killing her let me know I am ready for mine?’ No, it didn’t happen like that.
She bought dope on credit, didn’t pay the bill. He had been paying, he said, ‘I’m not paying anymore.’
Yeah. ‘If you don’t pay we are going to kill that bitch.’ He said, ‘I am not paying,’ so they killed her. That’s all.
But he said he was going to search for the killer but—
They told him, ‘You better stay the fuck out of there.’
You are still in touch?
No. We never were friends, I just knew him when he lived in Protrero Hill. But I got common sense. I knew that he was going to be killed or locked up. What he did was a misdemeanor. Just like me.
How many black people went to jail for perjury? That is what they put me in jail for, perjury, lying to white people, that’s all. My base case was perjury. The slave ain’t suppose to lie to the slave master, you know.
The [Folsom Prison] warden told me, ‘I don’t know why they sent you here. I don’t want you and no one else wants you so I am going to keep you. But if you start a problem, I am going to have you killed. Do what you want, but keep your nose clean.’
I did what I wanted but kept my nose clean.
But you said you dealt drugs in prison.
Look, drugs come in. I worked in the recreation department. If your woman brings some drugs in, I am not going to tell her, ‘Don’t leave them. Don’t put them over there under the flowerpot.’
And when the guy comes in, I say, ‘The flower pot or the heater.’ And that was it. You keep peace with everybody. It was very simple.
I knew all of them in there and most of them were dummies, most of the blacks. They were dumb, that is why they were there.
[Senator Dianne] Feinstein told them, ‘I want a favor. I want you to take that n****r and lock him up.
Feinstein said that?
The warden told me that. I stopped her from doing what she thought would solidify her reelection: moving all the porno movies, clubs and everything to Bayview-Hunters Point. That was not good for my daughters and my wife or the black women out there.
I said, ‘Naw, you’re not coming out here with that shit!’ I got with an Italian guy and we said, ‘We’ll burn ‘em down.’’ So that was it. She came to me one night and said, ‘Do me a favor.’ I said, ‘Naw, we ain’t gonna do that.’
Uh-huh. Now was there ever a fully developed mafia in San Francisco, Italian, black, Irish?
Yeah, they were here but they didn’t bother me; I didn’t bother them. They all loved me. I knew how to make money. I knew how to do the trucking business. I knew how to do a lot of things. They fuck with you but I wasn’t scared
They never asked you for ten percent?
Naw, the only person who did that was Eldridge Cleaver. He asked all the black bars and liquor stores to give him five percent of their income.
I said, ‘You come over to get your five percent and you will get a bullet with it. Get the fuck out of here with that bullshit!’ And that was the end of that.
Eldridge came to you personally?
Naw, I think it was Bobby Seale. I didn’t care, I just told him, ‘No!’
Have you see Bobby lately?
He’s making a movie. I looked him up on Facebook, sent him a note, he responded, ‘I am very busy.’ He’s about 80.
Yeah, I know.
I said, ‘I would love to interview you a little about the history and the movie.’
Good for him.
But he never got back to me. Bobby seemed the most together of them.
He’s a dummy, all of them. They are not business-minded. You always got to have a business-minded person. Just like all of [the mafias]—Al Capone, the Godfather— had a Jewish guy who took care of the business. Someone’s got to look out for the business.
Huey knew a bunch of rich, white people down in LA and when he got out of jail he could have become business-minded.
He could have but he didn’t.
He decided to become a gangster that was kind of tragedy because he seemed like a very smart guy.
He never was smart, none of them. They got thrown in a position in life and once they got there they didn’t know how to handle it. White people get mad at me because, when I get thrown in a position, I know how to handle it.
And what are your basic tricks for handling that?
I just handle it. If I have to get a Jewish boy or a white boy to do what I need done, I pay him whatever he wants.
You just find a professional and pay him his hourly and get the job done?
Yeah. That is just common sense.
That’s good advice for anybody.
And with that Mr. Walker was on his way, leaving me with the bill of $71.24 for a beer, a glass of wine and two lentil soups, certainly the most I've ever paid for such a repas but, even with the generous tip for Scott, well worth it.
Doniphan Blair is a writer, film magazine publisher, designer and filmmaker ('
Our Holocaust Vacation
'), who can be reached
Posted on Dec 09, 2015 - 05:19 PM