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. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.
 

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 is an occasional contributor to the New York Times, the Times of Israel, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and City Journal. He won two Hopwood Awards.


 
 

THE SILVER FOX / THE CREEP

Charlie Broeckel was the Silver Fox or The Creep. He went by both names. He was a burglar and hit-man in Collinwood –- a neighborhood in northeast Cleveland.

Charlie Broeckel, Plain Dealer drawing by Dick Dugan, 7/7/74

I’m not sure where Broeckel is now. Maybe he’s dead. Or maybe he’s in a safe house in Ada, Oklahoma. For a while he was “John Bradford” (federally protected) in the Pacific Northwest.

Broeckel and Phil Christopher — another Collinwood burglar — did a bank heist at Laguna Niguel, California, in 1972. It was supposedly the biggest bank burglary of all time. Charlie and Phil flew to California from Cleveland for the job. California didn’t have quality bank burglars back then, I guess. Collinwood did.

I saw Broeckel and Christopher at trials in Cleveland. They would periodically come in from their federal prison cells or witness protection program locations. One trial was for murder: Christopher and accomplices took a pimp, Arnie Prunella, out on a boat, shot him and drown him.

Collinwood was “think ethnic”-to-the-10th power. There were four distinct neighborhoods in Collinwood: Slovenian (St. Mary’s parish), Italian (Holy Redeemer), black (west of the E. 152nd Street, aka the DMZ) and Lithuanian (Our Lady of Perpetual Help). Broeckel’s ethnicity was indeterminate. Maybe German, maybe Slovenian. Christopher was Italian.

Broeckel and his fellow burglars stored nitroglycerin — used for blowing up safes — on a Lake Erie beach. In 1983 a Cleveland policeman operated a backhoe at the local beach, searching for old, very unstable nitro. Traffic cops kept reporters and passersby at a distance. Charlie was supposedly in bad health and wanted brownie points for helping the cops find old explosives.

The chief cop in the neighborhood — Capt. Ed Kovacic — had a warm spot for highly skilled crooks. These thieves would drill out safes and jump burglar alarms. They weren’t entirely stupid. Kovacic often said, “If there was a hall of fame for burglars and safecrackers, it would be in Collinwood.”

In 2006, Lyndhurst police chief Rick Porrello wrote a book, Superthief, about Christopher. Then Tommy Reid, a Hollywood entrepreneur, made a documentary movie –- also Superthief — which came out in March. The movie is mostly talking heads: old cops and old thieves sitting in living rooms, reminiscing about old days.

The documentary ran exclusively in theaters in Euclid and Lake County — where many former Collinwood residents moved to. There were three people in the Lakeshore Cinema.  One elderly man, with a walker, said on his way out, “Phil is a thief!” His wife said, “I like Phil!”

Christopher, 66, is out of jail. He has spent nearly half his life in prison. What if Broeckel — the creep, the silver fox, the rat — comes out of hiding and puts Christopher back in prison?

Just like old times.


I was a police reporter in Collinwood for Sun Newspapers in the 1980s. (Last time I’m going to mention this factoid for a while. So please remember.)

—-

SIDE B

Here is the annual “inside baseball” post.  Your name might be in here . . .

NAMING NAMES

We interrupt this blog to tell you this blog is three years old.

“I’ve read every word of your blog!” a musician told me.

Hooray for him.  I wrote every word.

A blog reader said, “You found your subject — your father, Toby.”

No, you did.  I’ve had Toby on the brain for decades.

A woman said, “I look forward to your posts every Wednesday morning . . . I don’t do comments.”

Here’s my comment: Nine-tenths of Klezmer Guy readers don’t do comments.  They want to protect their animosity.  Listen, you are not above comments; you are not paying for this; chip in the occasional enlightening, humorous or really stupid comment.

Several other readers claim to have read every word of the blog.

What was the first word?

Special thanks to our major donors (commenters).  I could have done it without you, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun.

In no particular order, thanks to Marc Adler, Jessica Schreiber, Gerald Ross, Seth Marks, Ted, Adrianne Greenbaum, Bill Jones, Mark Schilling, Harvey Kugelman, Ellen, Susan Greene . . .

David, Margie, Irwin Weinberger, Jane Lassar, Zach Kurtz, Alice Stratton, Alan Douglass, Steve, Jack, Don Friedman, Kenny G, Steven Greenman . . .

Charlie B, Don Edwards, Garry Kanter, Jack V, Ari Davidow, Emilie, B Katz and Richard Grayson.

Get your name on this list next year by contributing at least $2,500 or writing comments.

Special thanks to Ralph Solonitz, the blog’s illustrator.  He adds a lot.  I encourage him to throw in as many pics as possible.  Works out well.  Ralph had a Klezmer Guy illustration in The Forward recently.

I met Ralph about 21 years ago when he designed Yiddishe Cup’s logo.  That’s still your best logo, Ralph.

Sometimes I send my stories to the media before posting here.  This past year Klezmer Guy articles were published throughout the planet: the International Herald Tribune, New York Times, City Journal, Ann Arbor Observer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jerusalem Post.  Did I miss any continent?  I’ve started to link to some of the newspaper articles.  Please see the right side of this blog, under “Articles.”  Also, check out “Categories” there.  “Categories” is particularly useful if you want to read 68 posts in a row about real estate. 

Google Analytics — a spy op — says there are Klezmer Guy readers in every state and many foreign countries.  Ohio has the most Klezmer Guy readers, followed by New York, California, Michigan and Massachusetts.  The top foreign countries are Canada, United Kingdom, Israel, Germany and Australia.

Google Analytics, for your information, zeroes in on readers by their hometowns, not their names.  For instance, somebody in Chico, California, reads this blog.

The bell rings, round four.

—-

I wrote this op-ed, “The Impossible Dream,” for Mother’s Day for the Cleveland Plain Dealer (5/13/12).  It’s about listening to the radio with my mother.

Illustration by Ted Crow, Plain Dealer

10 comments

1 Don Friedman { 05.16.12 at 1:01 pm }

Let me be the first to say to you, Bert, if I wrote half as well as you, I’d write!

Now for the zinger…did you mean ‘anonymity’ and not ‘animosity’? I ask this with all due respect to you Bert…realizing you’re still signing my checks! This question proves that I read your blogs.

2 Bert Stratton { 05.16.12 at 1:31 pm }

To Don Friedman,

I meant “animosity.” It was a joke.

By the way, Don, I see via Facebook that you went by the name “Donny Mann” in Cleveland jazz circles, circa 1980s.

Like Shelly Manne?

I have to introduce you as “the one-and-only Donny Mann” at our next concert.

3 David { 05.16.12 at 3:28 pm }

Bert: Congratulations on three years as Klezmer Guy. Of course, you were Klezmer Guy long before that, but you had not yet come out of the closet.

I’m pretty sure I’ve read every word, but I can’t tell you what the first one was. Can you – without looking?

4 Garry Kanter { 05.16.12 at 4:25 pm }

A shout out? I’m not worthy.

And thanks!

Ralph’s picture of your kitchen table is beyond words.

5 Bert Stratton { 05.16.12 at 4:29 pm }

To David:

I can’t tell you the first word of this blog either. My guess is “call,” as in “Call me Klezmer Guy.”

6 Donnie Mann { 05.16.12 at 5:59 pm }

O K>>>some people don’t get my jokes either. My old friend, Jan Paderewski, gave me that name, Donnie Mann, when we played 5 nites a week for all of 1974 at the Blue Fox in Lakewood. That was a real ‘wiseguy’ hang. Then I started my teaching practice and kept the name.

7 Bert Stratton { 05.16.12 at 6:51 pm }

To Donnie Mann ( aka Don Friedman):

You telling me you played with a guy named Jan Paderewski? Or is that another one of your “jokes”?

8 D Mann { 05.16.12 at 8:44 pm }

Ya man…for real…Jan was an excellent piano man….his parents were well-known in the 70′s in Little Italy…they performed a lot at one of the nite spots….

9 Ted { 05.17.12 at 1:57 am }

I saw a movie called “Welcome to Collinwood” about safe blower-uppers and bank thieves. It was set in Collinwood, Cleveland, but not filmed there. Obscure George Clooney movie.

10 Garry Kanter { 05.17.12 at 6:15 am }

It’s on Netflix streaming. Here’s the summary from http://www.imdb.com:

When petty thief Cosimo is given the plan for the perfect heist from a lifer in prison – the kind of job you dream about – he has to get out of jail, fast. But with Cosimo stuck in the joint, it’s up to his girl Rosalind to track down a patsy. But while no one wants to do the time for Cosimo’s crime, everybody seems to know a guy who will – and for a share, they’re willing to track him down. Before long, Rosalind has five guys trailing behind her, looking to get their bungling hands on a piece of the action.

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