Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz, too.

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.

Stratton has written op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



The FBI building in Cleveland on Lakeside Avenue is on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie.  The building is outside the downtown district by a few blocks and somewhat secluded.

I went there to see the head man.

To get to him, I went through two minutes of various security checks in the lobby.  Then I was in the boss’ office, overlooking the lake.  Nice.  If the sun had been out, it would have been Santa Monica.

The boss, Gary Klein, and I were old friends from high school.   Gary had been a fearless JCC-league basketball player.  After high school, Gary went off to Annapolis, where he got his nose broken by a Southerner in a boxing match.  Gary told me some of the students had razzed him because he was Jewish.  It didn’t faze him.

Gary was tough, but not greaser tough.   He was smart and bowlegged like a cowboy.

Gary Klein, 2004. (Photo by Ted Stratton)

Gary showed me the FBI’s war room and the bug-proof room.  He said FBI life looked glamorous but wasn’t.  In 19 years he had lived in Boston, New York (Cosa Nostra and Russian mob work), Phoenix, Houston, Washington and Cleveland.

His new job was snooping on potential terrorists in northern Ohio, from Cleveland to Toledo.  He said, “Ninety-nine percent of it is B.S. leads, like somebody dumping burial ashes over Parma Heights.”

Fighting terror was job one, forget about The Mob, he said.

Gary, how can we forget The Mob?  They’re a lot more fun than Islamic terrorists!   We grew up on The Mob.  Hollywood wouldn’t exist without Mob movies.  I had been inside the Little Italy house of James Licavoli (aka Jack White), the last head of the Cleveland Mob.  Licavoli made wine in his cellar.  Drinks all around.

Gary asked me to keep my eyes open.

I said I would.  (This was 2003.)

So far nothing but B.S. leads, thank God.

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1 Mark Schilling { 09.07.11 at 10:25 am }

Bert, the sentence beginning “In 19 years he had lived…” should logically end with “… but he had never drawn his gun,” no?

2 Bert { 09.07.11 at 11:05 am }

To Mark Schilling:

You’re right.

I wish I had asked Gary if he had ever drawn his gun. I know he took required shooting practice regularly.

My guess is he never drew his gun, or he would have told me.

3 marc { 09.07.11 at 3:21 pm }

A few weeks ago, I had a investigator come into my store and ask me questions about a former employee who was going for a higher security clearance. He works for a defense contractor.

The federal investigator was not from the FBI, but from another agency that just does security checks. It’s part of federal government human resources.

So he began with all the standard questions. What kind of employee was he? Etc. Then he asked me if the guy did foreign travel.

And I told him about a ski trip I know he went on with my son to Vancouver, Canada (a known gathering area for terrorists).

At the end, he asked my favorite questions, which are the same questions they asked me in the 1970’s at my draft physical. Is he a member of the Communist Party, etc.?

And by the way, Bert, can I sell you some Viagra?

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