more interviews & short story:Gar, The Iron Man
Player Interviews with, Ronnie Allen, Donny Anderson, Freddy the Beard Bentivegna, Artie Bodendorfer, Al New York Blackie Bonife, Danny DiLiberto, Willie Jopling, Grady Mathews, George Rood, Bugs Rucker, Sonny Springer, Bill Weenie Beanie Staton, Eddie Taylor, Norm Webber,
Clik on the link below and scroll to the left side of the page.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
My Amazon.com short story, Gar, The Iron Man, was available for viewing and reading on Amazon. It had the good fortune of being the #1 bestselling/most read, short story in the Sports category for 2 weeks.
Once upon a time in Chicago, there lived a fabulous character named Milborn Gar Frazier, AKA “Gar, The Iron Man.” He was born poor, a sharecropper’s son from South Carolina. Despite being uneducated, with few natural talents, he was gifted with an indomitable heart and the endurance of a Kenyan marathon runner. Mind-boggling endurance was probably his long suit. No one could outlast him and no human has ever stayed awake for longer periods of time. Week long gambling sessions were the norm; and in the 70’s, Gar probably set the world’s record when he stayed awake for twenty-one days and nights playing pool and cards. The record did come with a proviso because he downed handfuls of speed pills to set it. Even so, a three week stay-up-stretch is still pretty crispy. He later nearly broke his own record in the 80’s at my place, a twenty-four hour action spot called The North Shore Billiard Club of Chicago. He began playing pool on Jan. 1st ( the place was closed for New Year’s Eve), and continued playing nonstop until Jan.14th. Gar finally gave out and went home. Once he got home, he only slept about eight hours. Somehow he popped back up and returned to North Shore. He played more pool and pinochle until Jan 21st, and then went home again for the day. To add to an already unbelievable story, he came back once more and finished out the month. In the course of his run, Gar pulled out two of his own teeth with hand pliers, and vomited twice into a garbage can. None of those interruptions gave him any real cause for pause. He just spit the blood into a paper cup, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, then stuck a very suspect bag rag in his mouth to sop up the remains, and went back to racking the balls or dealing the cards. Near the end of his marathon, his feet had swollen up so much that we had to cut off the toe part of his shoes with an exacto knife and turn his shoes into sandals. He also never washed, save for an infrequent face splash, or changed clothes for the full thirty-one days.
Before the North Shore Billiard Club, I had another gambling spot called the 4 B’s Club. It was named after the four partners who all had an B in their name. The time was the early 70’s. Many famous pool players came through the club. The great One Pocket player, Grady “The Professor” Mathews, spent much time there and loved the joint. Gar would stay in there 7,8,9,10 days at a time playing poker, pool, or staking someone else to do the same. I was a top pool player at that time and he liked to put me in action. He was the only stake horse I ever had who would not let me quit when I had a bad game. He would beg me to keep playing, “Just one more set, one more set. We’ll get him this time,” he’d say as I was getting my brains knocked out.
The action in pool, poker, and pinochle went on nonstop. The majority of our clientele was country boys like Gar, southern folk who looked at gambling as a lifestyle. Naturally, a lot of rough and rowdy guys hung out there; but anyone could win all they wanted to and never have a problem. However, money leaving the place at gunpoint was another thing entirely, because we did manage to get stuck up twice — a very scary experience. In the first robbery, they tied all of us up with baling wire, forced us face down into the floor, and put our coats over our heads. They had to be pretty good heist men too, because everybody in the joint was usually packing themselves. However, the heist-men had shotguns and that trumped our pistols.
The main attraction for these robberies was probably Gar, because he was known to always carry a bankroll. I sort of semi-missed the second heist because I was sleeping on a cot in the back room at the time. The robbers rushed in through the back door and ran right by me. The lights were off in the room and they apparently didn’t see me. I was terrified they would spot me on the way out, so I crawled under the cot and waited them out. I failed to mention that it was a metal fold-up cot, and there was a bar in the middle that I had to squeeze under. The problem was, and thank God they never noticed it, in order to get under the cot, I had to lift it a few inches off the ground. When I finally got under it, the cot was no longer touching the floor, I was supporting it on my back! One of the main targets in the heist, besides Gar, was another hillbilly high-roller named James Justice. James had just bought a five carat diamond ring and he had been showing it off all week. That story somehow must have gotten back to the robbers because during the heist, they began grilling the victims, asking who was it that had the big diamond ring. They had everybody lined up , facing the wall and leaning against their palms. They interrogated Gar to find out if the guy with the big rock was in the joint. You must first understand that Gar and James had been bitter rivals for years. James was propped up, ring hidden, right next to Gar. Gar cursed courageously at the heisters, and bellowed, “Screw you! If I did know, I wouldn’t tell you bastards a goddamned thing!” But as he said that, he moved his hand ever so slightly along the wall and surreptitiously pointed his finger directly at James. James was carefully searched, and the precious gem was discovered and added to the haul. During the robbery they also made everyone drop their pants. Gar asked if he could be excused from that drill because he didn’t want everybody to see his shorts, considering he hadn’t changed them in about a month. The heist-men sadistically refused his request.
Gar was a unique, unforgettable personality, a tough-old WW II vet. He served the entire length of the war in combat, from Africa to Italy, from 1942 to 1945. He owned a house in the old Uptown area in Chicago. It was definitely not a high-rent district, filled with whores, dopers, and white-trash hillbillies. One night, while walking home from the grocery store in his neighborhood, he was accosted by a huge, ominous-looking mugger with a long knife. The mugger demanded Gar’s bankroll, but Gar managed to push him away and then took off running, with the now-angry mugger hot on his heels. Gar had a plan, though. Thinking quickly, he headed toward his car which was parked in front of his house. While on the way, he fumbled his trunk key out of his pocket. Luckily, he reached the car and hurriedly popped open the trunk, dove in, and removed a large hammer. Now, with hammer in determined hand, he defiantly turned and faced his oncoming adversary. His would-be pursuer caught sight of him, skidded in his tracks, did an about-face, and took off running in the opposite direction with Gar now hot on his heels! The avenging Gar cut a formidable figure flying down Wilson Avenue, waving that hammer high above his head. He provided sound incentive for the mugger to keep on keeping on when he shouted at him ” Don’t trip now, motherfucker, ’cause I’m dead on your ass.”
However, there was another side to this man’s personality. At heart he was a softie, an easy mark for a touch, and a true friend of the unfortunate. I was in his house once when I noticed he had a barrel of peanuts and a barrel of bird seed in his hallway. “What the hell are these for, Gar,” I innocently inquired. “They’re for the squirrels and the pigeons, you dumb-ass!” Gar took care of everybody, friend or fowl. Every Christmas Gar would fill up an old supermarket cart with toys, and mosey up and down his street passing out toys to the underprivileged kids on the block. One Christmas he ran into trouble when an old hooker took an attitude with his offer. She refused to send her kids down from her second floor apartment to get the presents. “We don’t need no charity from you, you old bastard!,’ she ungratefully shouted. Gar persisted, and yelled, “C’mon down and get these toys for yer kids, you goddamn whore!” The lady was unmoved by his generosity and dumped a pan of water out the window on him.
At the age of 70, Gar became diabetic, but he never took decent care of himself, resulting in his right leg having to be cut off at the knee. Typically, he refused all rehab and amputee therapy and counseling, citing that he was on the Anzio beachhead for two months and was plenty familiar with missing limbs. He stayed in the hospital only two days after the operation before he released himself. He went directly to a card game and played poker all night. Gar stopped by the bar I owned for coffee the morning after the game, bemoaning the whole time his bad luck at cards, no mention of his missing leg.
After that, things got worse for Gar. His disdain for diet and treatment caused him to lose his left leg, also at the knee. Next, the thigh of both the right and left leg was sliced off. Finally, he had a stoke that paralyzed his whole left side. All this didn’t seem to slow him a step. Undaunted, he did the only thing he could do. He became a beggar in a wheelchair, and could be seen out working the streets every day. A friend of mine spotted him on a busy corner with a tin cup, begging. The friend playfully asked what would Gar do if he just snatched up the money that was in the beggars cup? Gar had a newspaper in his lap and his hand was under the newspaper. When he pushed the paper aside he was holding a 7″ switchblade knife. Gar told my friend, “Go for it!” Needless to say, nobody ever put their fingers in Gar’s cup. Operating with 1/4 of a body, Gar had more “cods” than a squad of US Navy SEALs.
After a successful morning of begging, Gar loved to go to the racetrack and fire his hard-earned package at the horses. He didn’t have a clue about handicapping and he would invariably blow whatever he had garnered on his beg route. Race track touts would surround and barrage him with “hot” tips. He bet on all they would give him. He might be betting on as many as five or six horses in the same race, so his chances of success were nil. In those days the track was not handicap accessible and people had to go up a long ramp to get to the admissions booth. This posed a serious problem for the wheelchair-bound Gar. He eventually solved the dilemma by hiring someone to wheel him around. Gar probably should have used a higher set of employee qualifications, because the guy that wound up pushing him was totally blind! They were a hilarious duo, with Gar cursing and shouting orders at the blind guy, urging him to go faster. Between the two of them, they didn’t have a full contingent of body parts.
Near the end of his life, Gar finally succumbed to the diabetes and passed into a coma. Even brain-dead, Gar hung on and wouldn’t die. If someone wanted him dead, they would just have to kill him. Eventually the hospital had to pull all the plugs, and the old warrior’s heart was finally stopped.
One final Gar tid-bit. I just remembered this one:
When Milborn “Gar” Frazier was a young buck back home in South Carolina, he and his first wife Diane, were in a bar and had been drinking heavily. They had become very loud and boisterous, and were eventually confronted by the bouncer.
Gar’s wife and the bouncer got into a heated argument when the bouncer insisted the two leave the premises. Finally, Diane asked the bouncer, “You ever been hit by a woman?” The bouncer taken aback slightly, said, “Yeah, sure.” Then Diane said, “I mean really hard!” Then she proceeded to bash him with a solid right hand that knocked him out colder than a Siberian popsicle!