Tenderloin San Francisco

Hard-boiled stories from San Francisco's 1960s and 1970s Tenderloin

Tenderloin San Francisco

Hard-boiled stories from San Francisco's 1960s and 1970s Tenderloin

Don’t Know How True it is . . .

   From a conversation about 1969

     The Safeway on Market Street was in a good location.  A large grocery store with a lot of foot and vehicle traffic - walking distance to the Mission, Hayes Valley, and especially close to the Fillmore.  Inside it had everything you needed, even a banker’s cage for money orders, cashing checks, and things like that.  That’s where the cash was stored - it was very secure

     The three of them managed to get a lot of the cash from behind the banker’s cage before anyone caught on the Safeway was being robbed.  The bags full of cash felt like a good haul.  Not bad for three guys who a few hours ago woke up hungry in a flea-bag room.  Getting out was a problem because of the shoppers running around screaming and two police cruisers pulling in - cops with guns drawn were hopping out.  Only one of the three made it out alive.  

     I wasn’t told much more about the robbery, except I know that one, the tall one, made it out with a small bag of cash.  He melted into the Fillmore.  Because his two accomplices died in the gun battle with police, no one knew who the third one was.  At least that's what he told me.  

     $2,500 of the money in the bag went for a nearly new Cadillac - the rest for some clothes, shoes, a fresh conk, and a pocket full of cash.  He said from there the rest was easy.  That same night he had one girl working for him.  Within a short time he had 20 girls working for him in the Fillmore - although lately he’d been eyeing the Tenderloin as a possible new market.  That’s how we got to know him - he’d come into Kenny’s Upstair’s once in a while to check out the Tenderloin scene.

     He had so much money he’d buy a new Buick Riviera just to give it away.  He had a small fleet of his own personal Cadillacs.  His diamonds were real, his clothes were impeccable.  Girls wanted to work for him, they’d beg him on the street.  There were some brushes with the law, but he always seemed to come out okay.  He’d become an incredible success in a short time.  

     He knew music, all kinds, and spoke almost in song with a deep resonant voice.  Listening to him was a treat.  Said he lived the blues, claimed to be a musician – although none of us knew him as a musician.  He went on how the girls brought in the easy money so his music would have to wait.  But he said someday he was going to be recording his own music, his story, his blues, and doing it the way he wanted to.  He said we’d see.

     I don't know how true it is, but that’s the way I overheard Fillmore Slim telling it long ago . . .