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 New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.


Category — Cops and Robbers


Cleveland cop Tommy Alusheff moonlighted as a comedian under the name Morey Cohen, which was a conflation of “Morey Amsterdam” and “Myron Cohen.”

Tommy Alusheff / Morey the Cop died in 2010. I knew him only by reputation. Morey wasn’t in the Sixth District — my old police beat. The funniest cop in the Sixth was Paul Falzone, who once told me, “I have eight minutes of material to Morey’s twelve. How can you tell Ronald McDonald at a nudist colony? He’s the one with sesame seed buns.”

Falzone ran for county sheriff and president of the patrolmen’s union, and didn’t win either. He eventually became police chief of Bratenahl, a suburb. In 2008 Cuyahoga County tried to put Falzone in jail for theft. Something about drugs and guns missing from the Bratenahl property room. Falzone was acquitted and sued Bratenahl for “humiliation.” That wasn’t funny.

stand up cops

I had an op-ed about immigrants in the Wall Street Journal on Monday.

indian store 08 W-1

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November 7, 2018   3 Comments


Cleveland cop Tommy Alusheff moonlighted as a comedian under the name Morey Cohen — a conflation of Morey Amsterdam and Myron Cohen.

Morey Cohen died in 2010. I knew him only by reputation. Morey wasn’t in the Sixth District — my old police beat. The funniest cop in the Sixth was Paul Falzone, who once told me, “I have eight minutes of material to Morey’s twelve. How can you tell Ronald McDonald at a nudist colony? He’s the one with sesame seed buns.”

stand up cops

Falzone ran for county sheriff and president of the patrolmen’s union, and didn’t win either. He eventually became police chief of Bratenahl, a suburb. In 2008 Cuyahoga County tried to put Falzone in jail for theft. Something about drugs and guns missing from the Bratenahl property room. Falzone was acquitted and sued Bratenahl for “humiliation.” No joke there.

Falzone: “So I’m on patrol and walk into the Viking Bar. I see a 16-year-old punk with a Miller’s. I say, ‘When’s your birthday, kid?’ He says, ‘October 10.’ ‘What year?’ ‘Every year.’”

I also know a Myron Cohen imitator. He’s Dave Rothenberg, a resident of Myers apartments in Beachwood. Different story. Non-cop.


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September 20, 2017   3 Comments


The downtown jail has narrow windows.  The jail, from the outside, doesn’t  even look like a jail. It looks like an office building with narrow windows.

Across the street, on West 3rd Street, is a law office with a sign in the window: “Inmates, call collect.”

I was at the county board of revision nearby, trying to get my property taxes lowered.

I liked the downtown government scene. When I was young, I drifted in and out of trials at the Justice Center for fun.  I liked the crying and screaming, and the lawyers picking on each other. (This was before cable and reality TV.).

I would like to be a county prosecutor someday and put away bad guys, but I don’t want to go to law school.

I once sneaked into the jury assembly room to get a list of jurors’ names for a trial.  (I was a reporter.)  I got in some trouble with the authorities and my editor.

Now I spend my time far away from the Justice Center. I miss the action down there.

Inmates, call me collect. Not a good use of your one call, but I’d like to hear from you.

Yiddishe Cup is at Klezmerpalooza  7:30 Sat. (Nov. 16) at The Temple, Beachwood, Ohio. 

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November 13, 2013   3 Comments


Sam and Frank — Cleveland cops — grew up on E. 79th Street and St. Clair Avenue.

Sam said, “I’m going to have a silver wedding anniversary and invite my three ex-wives.”

Frank said, “If you and the commander — plus your exes — get together, you’ll need the FOP Hall.”

Frank said, “I remember when you were an old man.” (Frank was 37; Sam, 47.)

Sam said, “I’ve got 1139 days left.”

Frank said, “We’ve got to make you a short-timer’s calendar.  I had one in the service with the finger on it.”

Sam and Frank, on a drug sweep, rolled down St. Clair Avenue, Collinwood, in a junker at 1 a.m.

Sam said, “Where did we get this piece-of-shit car?”

Frank said, “Mentor.”

“Where in Mentor?

“At the flea market.”


At Pepper Avenue and 140th Street, Sam said, “He’s moving. That car is moving.  Let’s catch him dirty while he’s rolling.”

Sam threw the guy up against the car hood.  He was dirty; he had a joint on him.

Frank said, “Let him go. Let’s go to Mandalay [playground] and get some white guys.”


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


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

First off, thanks to the major comment writers.

In no particular order, thanks to Marc, Jessica, Gerald Ross, Seth, Gerry Kanter, Ted, Adrianne Greenbaum, Bill Jones, Mark Schilling . . .

David, Irwin Weinberger, Jack, Don Friedman, Alice, Ken Goldberg, Steven Greenman . . .

Charlie B, Ben Cohen, David Korn, Jack Valancy, Ari Davidow and B Katz . . .

Special thanks to Ralph Solonitz. I encourage him to draw as many pics as possible.  Works out well.  I met Ralph about 22 years ago when he designed Yiddishe Cup’s logo.  That’s still your best logo, Ralph.

I have an essay, “Renting the American Dream,” in the latest City Journal, which will be online soon. Also, runs Klezmer Guy blurts regularly.  Here’s a blurt (Carma) from today’s CoolCle.  My older son left his car at the Rapid Transit parking lot for two months.  Check the story out.  It’s funny.

Please see the “categories” listing on the right side of this blog.  I recently added a new category, 13 BEST POSTS, as judged by me.

“Categories” is also a good place to read 78 posts in a row about real estate.  Spend a couple weeks reading archived posts!

No doubt I could increase my comments tally by writing “thanks” or “hi” after every comment.   But I have standards.

And they are low. When I stumble upon a new blog, I immediately read the posts with the most comments and feel guilty about that.

The bell rings, round five.

I wrote  Carma for today’s CoolClevelandcom e-blast.

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May 15, 2013   No Comments


Klezmer music was popular for a second in the mid-1990s.  I protected talent — the klez stars.  The klezmer scene had stars back then.   Andy Statman, for instance.  Small stars.

For security, I hired Cleveland toughs.   I didn’t import Israelis from New York.  I had Albanians and Ukrainians from Cleveland’s West Side.  One of my guys — a goy from Lvov — had Yiddish tattoos and played tuba in a klezmer band back home.

I’m still at it — security work.  My office is on Mercantile Road in Beachwood.  No sign.  We’re in back of Pella Windows.

I tore down a Royal Castle hamburger stand and had the tiny orange crown tiles (like on the Ontario license plate) inlaid in my company’s lunchroom floor.  I’m putting in an indoor sliding board.  My place is one of the “Top 10 best places to work in Ohio.”   I chose it.

I do collections — rent collections.  Tenants scream at my Ukie boys: “You can’t put my shit out on the street!”  And my boys scream back: “You break law.  You no pay rent.  Now we break law!”

I’ve got ’tude, but I’m also a nice guy.  I’m involved in the community.  I hire summer interns from the Beachwood High wrestling team, like Sam Gross 112, Alec Jacober 130, Ryan Harris 125.  These guys can squeeze through small openings.

“You Want to be a Jewish Cop?” — that’s the title of my annual lecture at Beachwood High career day.  I say: “Be a cop, kids, but don’t be a wussy cop.  Don’t be like that cop at Heinen’s parking lot with the Harpo Marx Jewfro.”

I still listen to klezmer.   I like the music.  I’m friends with Bratton — Steve Bratton — the leader of Klezmer Cup.

I know every yidl by name in Cleveland.

Call me.  I’m in back of Pella Windows.



This one, on the other hand, is real.


Scott Raab, a writer and former Clevelander, carries a ticket from the 1964 Browns-Colts championship game in his wallet.

I have a ticket to that game too.

Retrieved from my attic . . .

Raab’s ticket was part of an story about how Cleveland sports teams haven’t won a championship lately. This story — or a version of it — is recycled regularly. Raab put his ticket on the cover of his new book, The Whore of Akron, about LeBron James ditching Cleveland.  (Read the book.)

The Cleveland Browns beat the Colts 27-0 in 1964. My Uncle Al, my dad, and I went to the championship game. Maybe my dad knew Cleveland would never win another championship. He was just a lukewarm Browns fan.


I have this ticket too, Scott Raab:

The 1964 Davis Cup finals in Cleveland.

Chuck McKinley was short. Roy Emerson was short. I was short. I was at the Davis Cup tournament. My mother bought me the ticket (which was expensive — in today’s dollars $72), and I went by myself.

In Cleveland Heights, a temporary 7,500-seat tennis stadium appeared next to a junior high in 1964. Fred Stolle and Emerson from Australia played America’s Dennis Ralston and McKinley. (Stolle and Ralston weren’t short.)

The Australians won 3-2. The score was beside the point. The 1964 Davis Cup was the best sporting event ever.


I have  an essay, “And What’s That on Your Head?”, in the current issue of CJ: Voices of Conservative /Masorti Judiasm,  the house mag  of Conservative Judaism.  (A version of the story appeared on this blog 1/5/11, titled “Yid Lids.”)

Yiddishe Cup plays Parade the Circle this Sat. (June 9), noon, University Circle.  Best arts event in Cleveland ever.  Ride your bike down there, locals.

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June 6, 2012   6 Comments


(A version of this appeared in The Forward online on 3/7/12,  minus “Side B”  — a one-minute play about The Schvitz.  There is a lot of swearing in the play.  You’ll like it.)

If you’re a Cleveland Jewish man and have never been to The Schvitz, you are a disgrace.

Real Cleveland Jewish men will regularly malign you, impugning your Jewish bona fides.

The Schvitz is at East 116th Street and Luke Avenue, off Kinsman Road.  (In a lousy neighborhood.)

The Schvitz has no sign.

The Schvitz’s official name is the Mt. Pleasant Russian-Turkish Baths, which nobody uses.  Some people call it the Bathhouse.  Some people call it the Temple of the Holy Steam.  (Attorney Harvey Kugelman does.  Does anybody else?)

Most people call it The Schvitz.  It has photos of Mussolini, Dayan and Patton on the walls.  That’s it for decorations. (Plus a photo of  Clint “Dirty Harry” Eastwood by the kitchen, reports Mike Madorsky.)

There are three acceptable responses to “Have you ever been to The Schvitz?”

a)  I held my stag there.

b)  I was there with my father.

c)  My grandfather took me there.

The Big Five in Russian-Turkish–style schvitzes are in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland.  I got this list from Billy Buckholtz, the pleytse guy at the Cleveland schvitz.  Billy’s grandfather was the original pleytse guy.  (Pleytse is the rubdown, traditionally done with a broom of soaked oak leaves.  Billy uses a seaweed broom and horsehair brush.)

Cleveland’s schvitz isn’t coed.  Most of the other schvitzes are.  The Detroit schvitz even used to have an orgy night.  The Cleveland schvitz never went coed (aside from a short experiment in the 1970s) because the neighborhood is so bad.  Why encourage women to come to Kinsman?

In The Schvitz’s heyday, it catered to immigrant factory workers who dropped by after work “to get the creosote off their skin, knock down a few shots and get a pleytse,” Billy said. “The immigrants didn’t want to wait in line with their eight kids for the only bathtub at their house.”  Billy told me all this at a Yiddishe Cup gig at an art gallery.  Not at The Schvitz.

I’m not crazy about steam.

I get periodic Schvitz invitations from the Brothers in Perspiration, an ad-hoc group of Cleveland Heights Jews.  The email subject-line reads: “Have a serious jones for the stench of sweat, mildew, steak, cigar, garlic?”

That sounds good, except for the cigar, sweat, mildew and steam.

I’m due back at The Schvitz.

My bona fides.  My bona fides . . .


The Schvitz is a movie and a CD.  Now it’s a  one-minute play . . .

JIMMY, STAN AND KMETT are Cleveland cops at The Schvitz.  They are in the boom-boom room (gas-passing room), lying on cots.

JIMMY, wearing only an Italian good-luck horn pendant:  I used to work patrol with your son Pete in the Fifth.

STAN: That so?  Where you now, Jimmy?

JIMMY: Downtown with homicide.

STAN: Pete is a meter maid in the Fourth.

JIMMY, pointing to another body:  This is Walter Kmett.  He’s with the detective bureau in the Third.

STAN: Did your father go to Latin?

KMETT: Collinwood.

STAN: I knew a Kmett at Latin.

KMETT: That’s my uncle.

STAN, sitting up and looking around:  Is this cops-only night at The Schvitz?

JIMMY:  Why? There are Jews here.  A couple.  I’m Jewish.  They circumcise you right on the spot here.  You’re next.

KMETT: They should have did Hitler.

JIMMY: Hitler was bad news.

KMETT: There are others. Ahmadinejad.  Nobody says nothing.

STAN: The Israelis say “fuck you.”

BILLY THE PLEYTSE GUY walks in, waving his brush:  Step right up. Twenty dollars for goys, twenty-five for Jews.  I can do everything your wife can — everything for the last twenty years.

KMETT: Really, Billy?  My wife and I have something magical going on.


KMETT: Tonight I’m making her disappear.

BILLY THE PLEYTSE GUY:  What’s the admission charge?

KMETT:  For you, twenty-five dollars.  Where you been?

BILLY THE PLEYTSE GUY:  I just got back from LA.

KMETT: Why there?

BILLY THE PLEYTSE GUY: My kids are out there.

KMETT: Nice.

BILLY THE PLEYTSE GUY: Not nice.  California is one vast shithole.  Everybody’s so casual there, it rubs off on the kids.  What about you?

KMETT:  I was down in Florida, visiting my dad.  He  sits on the toilet all day and reads about how to make a putt.  That’s what they do down there.  He got his pension — 66 percent.  A shine tried to poke his eye out.

BILLY THE PLEYTSE GUY: Did you hear Ralph Friedman got 72 percent for a hangnail?

KMETT: Ralph is a scumbag.  A hangnail?

JIMMY: He’s a slime bag.

KMETT: He’s the shit in the toilet.

BILLY THE PLEYTSE GUY:  Ralph Friedman is my cousin.

KMETT: Your cousin?  He’s still a slime bag.

STAN: Ralph is smart, I’ll grant you that.  He was the Einstein of  S.I.U.

KMETT: He’s a scumbag!

JIMMY: Ralphy the Alkie.  He sampled more booze than Eliot Ness.  Ralphy could smell booze a mile away.

STAN: He’s a goose.

BILLY THE PLEYSTE GUY:  He’s not my cousin.

JIMMY: You schmuck, why’d you say he was your cousin?   Where are the steaks?

KMETT: It smells in here.

BILLY THE PLEYSTE GUY:  That’s garlic.

KMETT: That’s not garlic. This place is one vast shithole.

Ralph Solonitz’s  illustrations, above, were in The Forward  print edition, 3/16/12, and online, 3/7/12.


Re: Kickstarter

I’m dubious of over-40-year-olds asking for money on Kickstarter.

My friend Mike got hit up by an old guy/ friend who was trying to raise $100,000 for a sculpture project. Mike said to me, “Let him get a job. What am I — his relative?”

Under 40, you can play Kickstarter.

Synth-player Jack Stratton and banjoist Rob Stenson are trying to raise $2,400 on Kickstarter. The young duo has 10 days left to reach its goal. They are more than halfway there, with $1243 and 70 backers.

Kickstarter chose the Stenson-Stratton project as a pick-of-the-week. The project video (below) features Jack as a German.  Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler wrote, “These guys make the best/weirdest projects.”   (Helps if you’re under 40 — like Strickler and his Kickstarter crew — to fully appreciate the vid and work.)

Watch the video, then click here to donate.

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May 23, 2012   8 Comments


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.)



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


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

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May 16, 2012   10 Comments



Retirees usually make good tenants.  Unfortunately, I don’t get many retiree tenants, because most old folks don’t want to live in pre-war hardwood-floor apartments with no dishwasher or A/C.   Been there, done that.

I had an application from Joe, 71, a retired factory worker.
He made $1600/month.

Welcome, Joe.

I ran a criminal search on him as a formality. Aggravated arson, forgery and sexual battery.

Pre-Internet, I would have rented to him.  Pre-Internet,  it was hard to run background checks.  I once rented to a rapist/murderer because I wasn’t schlepping to county records, and the rapist wasn’t volunteering he was a rapist/ murderer.  (The man got picked up on a parole violation and moved out of my apartment without killing or raping.)

I rented to a retired nurse whose previous landlord followed her to my place.  He told me the old lady was a forger and felon.

But she already had the keys to my place!  My building manager had given her the keys in exchange for a dime store ring.

My custodian, Buck, always subverted me.  For example, he thought junk mail should stay in perpetuity; watering outdoor plants was ridiculous; and accepting fake rings was part of the job.

I helped Buck move the retired nurse’s belongings into the basement.  I locked the basement door.

“Give me my meds!” she said.

She had a point.

I gave her meds, plus her toothbrush.

This cost me.

I was young.  I learned two things: a) Don’t ever do a “self-help” eviction.  Lawyers love self-help evictions.  b) Screen all tenants like crazy on the way in.

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February 15, 2012   4 Comments


I went easy on a tenant, rent-wise, because he called the police on a leaded-glass thief, who had stolen windows from the apartment building’s entrance.  (The windows were sidelights.)

Ex. Two sidelights flanking main entrance

The cops asked my tenant, “Would you be a witness?”  My guy — Bill Livingstone — said yes.   I appreciated his civic involvement.

Livingstone was nosy.  That was a good thing.  Livingstone, a poodle groomer, stayed at the building 23 years.



A vandal scrawled graffiti on a front door.  Livingstone wasn’t around. (Different building.)

The building manager knew the graffiti “artist.”  She even knew his phone number.  My custodian personally knows this derelict?  The graffiti “artist” was a friend of a friend of the custodian.  The “artist” hung out at a skaters coffeehouse and had a recognizable tag.  My custodian,  a lesbian brakeman with multiple piercings, knew the scene.

I phoned the graffiti kid.  What if he was nuts?  I hung up.  Let the cops handle it.

The kid called me.  “You just called my cell.”

I hate that.

The cops found him and made him clean up the doors.   His mom even helped.  The kid was in high school.  I didn’t press charges because he cleaned the door.


Re: the leaded-glass sidelights thief.  That guy was caught due to Bill Livingstone’s accurate ID of the man.  (The thief sold the windows to an antiques store.)  The man was charged with aggravated burglary and grand theft.

He didn’t do any jail time.  He made restitution to me over a couple years.

I’ve been fortunate. Thanks to Bill Livingstone, tuned-in building managers and persistent police detectives.

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October 26, 2011   3 Comments



Cleveland cop Tommy Alusheff moonlighted as a comedian, using the stage name Morey Cohen — a conflation of Morey Amsterdam and Myron Cohen (two of Alusheff’s favorite comedians).  Morey Cohen worked at Hilarities and other regional comedy clubs, plus he did some out-of-town gigs, like in Los Angeles.

Morey Cohen’s father, Chris Alusheff, owned the Baker Candy factory in Collinwood.  Chris Alusheff  once told me Jews like dark chocolate more than gentiles like it.  Why?  Kashrut?  (Kosher dietary laws?)   Probably.   The Alusheffs were Macedonians.   Their best-selling product was chocolate-covered whipped candy eggs, sold at Easter time.

Tommy Alusheff (Morey Cohen), about 2009

Morey Cohen died last year.  I didn’t go to the funeral; I only knew him by reputation.  Morey wasn’t in the Sixth District, which had been my police beat.  (I was a  reporter in the 1980s.)

The top comedy cop at the Sixth District had been Paul Falzone, a stand-up guy, but not a stand-up comedian.  Falzone was almost ready for prime time.  I hung out with Falzone in the burglary unit at the East 152nd Street station, aka The District, the cop shop.  The building had few windows.  It was a fortress, built after the 1967 Hough riots.  When the A/C went out in the building, it was a real sweat shop.  Falzone said, “I have eight minutes of material to Morey’s twelve.”

Falzone asked me, “How are the Jewish holidays treating you?”  It was September.


“You’ve got to watch for neo-Nazis,” he said.


Mob makeover

“Everyone has to watch for somebody.  Italians, they got to watch out for other Italians; you start your car and it goes ba-boom instead of vroom.  The Irish, they got to watch for Jack Daniels.  Hey, how can you tell Ronald McDonald at a nudist colony?”


“He’s the one with sesame seed buns.”

Falzone ran for county sheriff,  and president of the patrolmen’s union.  He didn’t win either.  He eventually became police chief of Bratenahl, a suburb.  Now he’s running for mayor of Bratenahl.

Paul Falzone, 1982, at the Sixth District

Two years ago Cuyahoga County tried to put Falzone in jail for theft.  Something about drugs and guns missing from the Bratenahl property room.

Falzone was acquitted.  Now he’s suing Bratenahl for “humiliation.”  Doesn’t sound funny, but Falzone can probably get some jokes out of it.  Bad jokes. He needs only four more minutes to match Morey Cohen . . .

“So I’m on patrol, and I walk into the Viking bar.  I see a 16-year-old punk with a Miller’s.  I say, “When’s your birthday, kid?”

He says, “October 10.”

“What year?”

“Every year.”

Footnote: The Sixth District became the Fifth District  in 2008, when the Cleveland Police Department reapportioned the districts.

From illustrator Ralph Solonitz’s Parade of  Nations collection:



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September 28, 2011   5 Comments


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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September 7, 2011   3 Comments


Constantin Ferrito, a neighbor, was an usher at the Stadium.  Good for him.  Not good for us — the neighborhood kids.  Mr. Ferritto didn’t allow kids to sneak into the box seats, even though Cleveland Municipal Stadium was usually three-quarters empty.

Mr. Ferritto’s wife was also  hard on us.  Specifically, she was very sensitive to noise — except her son’s.  Her son, John,  played piano a lot.  He would not shut up on piano.

I practiced an hour a day on clarinet; John Ferritto was just getting warmed up at an hour.

Another neighbor, Frankie, practiced a half hour on trumpet and a half hour on piano.  His father kept a clock on him.  Frank’s sister punched the clock for a half hour on piano and a half hour on accordion.

John Ferritto ultimately attended the Cleveland Institute of Music and Yale, and became a conductor.

Right now –- a million decades later –- a neighbor is playing drums a block from me.  I might call the cops on him.  I’m sick of hearing his drums. He plays in his garage, and the sound reverberates.  He plays all year round, even during school hours; he must be an adult.

Should I call the cops?

Nobody called the cops on John Ferritto.  Nobody called the cops on me.

Somebody did call the cops on Yiddishe Cup.  We were playing a bar mitzvah party in a backyard in Shaker Heights.  No music allowed  in Shaker after 10 p.m.

I can’t call the cops.

My best option: Go nuts.

Footnote: “Frank” is a pseudonym.

Here’s an original yideo, “Is Dave Brubeck Jewish?”

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August 3, 2011   5 Comments


The tenant — a poet — said she liked the way the sunlight glinted through her living room blinds onto the hardwood floor.

“But what really got me,” she said, “was your company’s Craigslist ad about ‘a closet big enough to park a Mini Cooper in.'”

I liked her. She liked my copy writing.  She thanked me for “two wonderful years.”


Another tenant — a waitress — interrupted the landlord-poet lovefest. The waitress, standing at the poet’s door, said another tenant — a third person — had just stolen the waitress’ skirt from the laundry room dryer and was wearing it.

“Wearing it in the building?” I said.


The skirt was a full-length, tie-dyed orange, green and red hippie shmate.  The skirt’s owner — the waitress — was  26.

The thief was a middle-aged black woman who wouldn’t answer her door. Not even when the cops showed up.

Meanwhile, I was also dealing with a drunk who had run her faucet all night, on purpose, and had called my manager a “pig.”

That woman got an eviction notice right then.

I decided to phone the black woman about the tie-dyed skirt.  I got her boyfriend.  Good.  He was on the lease; she wasn’t.  I told him the skirt thief had to be out in three days.

“Don’t put me out!  She’ll go,” he said.  He was a solid tenant, other than he left cigarette butts all over.   He was 69 and “country” — from Tennessee.    On his rent checks he wrote rant instead of rent in the memo line. (Another poet?)

“She can’t stay more than three days,” I said.

“Can I ask, sir, why is that?'”

“I rented to you, not her.  The woman is not on the lease.”

I didn’t bring up the stolen skirt matter; that would have complicated things. But I wanted to say: “The next time your lady friend steals clothes from the laundry room, tell her not to wear the skirt in the building!”  Out in three days.

My poet tenant enclosed a poem with her final rent payment.  It began:

The way the forecast told of dark clouds,
drizzle, seemed more true than the way
the sun lit hills of trees, dull golds, rusts.

[by Karen Schubert]

I read that poem about 10 times.  I concluded it was a “winter is a-comin in” poem.   The drunks and skirt thieves were a comin’ in for the winter.


Reminder: This blog is updated twice a week: Wednesday and Friday mornings.  Please see the post below too.  It’s kind of  fresh.

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November 17, 2010   No Comments


I employed a custodian whose family was “a bunch of  burglars,” according to the investigating cop.  Why the cop had waited so long to tell me, I don’t know.

All along, the custodian’s kids had pilfered tools and lawnmowers, but I couldn’t prove anything and, besides, I liked the custodian.  He was a hard-working “hillbilly”— his term by the way.

I was his “little bitty buddy” — and his kids were crooks.  They took the master key and broke into an apartment across the hall.

Then they committed a botched burglary down the street and confessed to that, plus my break-in.

My custodian and his family had to move out.  “See you in the funny papers.”  That was my custodian’s sign-off.  Six years with me, then bye because his kids were crooks.

“I’m getting better by the numbers.”  He said that too.  I never did figure that one out.

Twenty-four years later: A different custodian, Speedy: the hardest working man on earth.  Speedy climbed many a ledge and ladder for me — and upped my workers’ comp.  He fell off a lot of ladders.  And he had some crook relatives and friends.

One relative, his so-called niece, was a prostitute.  The niece took the master key and entered a neighboring apartment and stole the tenant’s checkbook, ID and ring.

At first I thought the burglar was Speedy’s “nephew” Dave, a felon.   But then my plumber  reported seeing a new woman around, Amber, sleeping on Speedy’s couch.  “A black guy is pimping her,” the plumber said.

I told the police about Amber.  The detective said, “Amber Carney.*  She’s a known druggie and thief.” [*Not her real last name but close enough.]

Amber, the “niece,” got caught at the bank, forging checks.

The victim — my tenant—was more upset about the stolen ring than the stolen money.  She said it was an Irish ring.  It was fenced.  It was gone.  She asked if I was Irish.

“No, I’m Jewish,” I said.

“Funny, I’m Palestinian,” she said.

No problem— for her.   She was, as my father used to say, one cool customer. Most females would have been out of that burglarized apartment in a day.  I changed the lock and she stayed another year, pressing charges against the whore.

Amber, the prostitute, went to jail.  Speedy moved out and took a job at an adult bookstore.  I know because I received updates about Speedy’s employment through his workers’ comp lawyer, who kept sending me claims — for years— about Speedy falling off ladders back in the day.
1 of 2 posts for 7/22/09.  Please see post below too.

Yiddishe Cup concert: noon Sun., July 26, Little Mountain Heritage Festival, Painesville, Ohio.

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July 22, 2009   4 Comments


The Lakewood, Ohio, police chief offered me 20 percent less than the going rent to put in a police mini-station.  Fine.  No, Great.  There were apartments above, and single women love living near a police station.  Some women are fixated on intruders crawling through their windows.

A Jewish museum wanted to change a date, but I couldn’t accommodate them because one of my guys was leaving town for vacation.

Then a private garbage hauler wanted me to lock in for another year.  Not great.  The city was making all landlords pay for hauling; it used to be free.

A nurse wanted to rent an apartment. Great.  Nurse is top of the line.  Once every five years I’ll even get a doctor — usually a 28-year-old doc without a ton of cash.  My apartments have no garbage disposers or dishwashers.  Barebones.  But at $500 a month, or so, that’s the deal around here.

A woman from the Boca Raton, Fla., JCC called me “darling” and said we were her favorite klezmer band, so I gave her two comp tickets to our South Florida show.

Happy Memorial Day
MY CLARINET NEEDS TILEX . . . How to keep your axe smelling fresh.

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May 25, 2009   No Comments