Saturday, January 23, 2010

The City's Chinese Art Coup

by Tom Emch

When the exhibit of the Archaeological Finds of the People's Republic of China opened yesterday morning at theAsian Museum, it proved the impossible sometimes can be accomplished with perseverance and time.

It took two years of delicate behind-the-scenes negotiations by dozens of people to find the key to this incredibly complicated Chinese puzzle, to solve it and bring perhaps the world's foremost collection of antiquity to San Francisco.

You see, the People's Republic had never intended the exhibit be shown here. The U.S. State Department had never intended to recommended inclusion of the city on the exhibit's itinerary; at one point, the State Department had even attempted to discourage San Francisco's private negotiations with the Chinese government.

But San Francisco prevailed, and therein lies the story. It is a story with a large cast of characters that includes the director-curator of the museum, its commissioners, the Mayor, an architect, some bottles of California wine, and the city's indefatigable chief of protocol, Cyril Magnin. Add to this a half dozen Chinese art curators, the Chief of the Chinese Liaison Office in Washington, D. C. and several Asian experts in the State Department, and you have a fine brew of personalities.

The priceless collection - 385 art objects and artifacts ranging from the paleolithic time to the fourteenth century - was originally scheduled to be exhibited (one city to a country) in Paris, London, Stockholm, Vienna, Toronto and perhaps Washington, D. C. and then return to Peking, never to leave China again.

April, 1973. Enter Bernice Behrens, director of the State Department's Reception Center here, and Cyril Magnin. As official representatives of the U.S. and San Francisco, respectively, they are at the airport to meet the Chinese delegation on the way to Washington to set up the Chinese Liasion Office.

Both of them mention to the Chinese chief of delegation, Han Hsu, that San Francisco would very much like tohave the exhibit and the Chinese nod non-committally. The Chinese stay overnight at he St. Francis Hotel and are escorted back to the airport he next morning. At this point even Washington, D. C. is not on the exhibit's itinerary.

August, 1973. Yvon d'Argence, director-curator of the Asian Art Museum, is on vacation in Paris where the collection is being shown. "I made contact with the U.S. Embassy for help to see the Chinese curltural attache at the Chinese Embassy in Paris," says d'Argence. "I had heard that there were twelve cities in the U.S. who were on the State Department list, all competing for the exhibit." Again the Chinese were polite but non-committal.

September, 1973. By this time it was learned that not only Washington was getting the exhibit, but Kansas City, also Mayor Alioto asks Cyril Magnin to get involved and find out why San Francisco was being excluded. Magnin travels to the capital with William Goetze, chairman of the Asian Art Museum commission and a vice president of the Bank of America.

They arrange a luncheon at the Madison Hotel for some State Department protocol people and ask the White House curator to set up a meeting with the Chinese, who are at the Mayflower Hotel.

A meeting with Han Hsu is arranged and Magnin and Goetze have tea with the Chinese. More politeness but no commitments. Before leaving Washington, the San Franciscans go to see John Richardson Jr., Assistant Secretary of the State for Cultural Affairs. They are told "there is no chance" of San Francisco getting the exhibit.

"It is not possible," says Richardson. "Anything's possible, Mr. Richardson," replies Magnin. There is no visible progress, but they learn that the Chief of the Liaison Office, Ambassador Huang Chen, will be coming to San Francisco.

Also in the fall of 1973, d'Argence writes to Peking requesting the exhibit, and Charles Yost, the president of the National Committee on U.S. China Relations, visits San Francisco, and his help is enlisted.

But in May, 1974, the roof falls in. The museum receives a letter from John Richardson indicating that he exhibit will definitely not come to San Francisco, but will return to Peking from Kansas City's William Rockhill Nelson Gallery after conclusion of the show in June of 1975.

"I must tell you that most people gave up," says d'Argence. "But Cyril didn't."

In the fall of 1974, Magnin kept up the pressure with letters to Washington. Haydn Williams, one of the museum's commissioners and the U.S. Ambassador to Micronesia, traveled to Washington to apply pressure to State. Then Magnin goes to Washington to meet with Huang Chen, the ambassador. His letter of introduction is from William Goetze.

In December, there is a turnabout. The curators of the exhibit arrive suddenly in San Francisco and are entertained by the museum commissioners, the Mayor and Magnin.

Goetze recalls: "There was a luncheon at the museum, a typical American buffet: corned beef sandwiches, beer and wine." There were several toasts exchanged by the Mayor and the head of the delegation Liu Yang-ch'iao. "They went away impressed with the competence of our museum staff," says Goetze.

But the answer was still no. And as a matter of fact, one course says that the curators sent a negative report to Peking.

Both Goetze and Mrs. Berhens of the State Department say the reason given for the choice of Kansas City was that it was felt the East and West Coasts had Asian art collections available to the public and the Midwest had relatively little exposure to Chinese culture. Thus Kansas City.

The breakthrough came in January of 1975, when Ambassador Huang Chen came to San Francisco at the invitation of Magnin. On January 22 Magnin hosted a party at the Top of the Mark in a closed off section of that room.

In attendance were seven Chinese, the Mayor, Mrs. Behrens, William Dauer, executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, Tommy Hsieh, the architect, Magnin's daughter and son-in-law and the host.

The Mayor was dazzling, recalls Mrs. Behrens: "He presented the key to the city to the ambassador and offered a toast." She says she remembers the toast as follows. "We suggest to the ambassador that inanimate objects might get tired on their long journey back to China and we would suggest that a place be found were they could rest."

She says that everyone in the room began to applaud and say, "San Francisco, San Francisco." In reply the ambassador said that enjoyed the warm hospitality of San Francisco, and called it the Golden City.

At the end of the party, Magnin announced that the ambassador had told him "there was a good chance" San Francisco would, after all, get the exhibit. But there was still no commitment.

The following day, a tour of the wine country was arranged by Tommy Hsieh. The seven Chinese, Hsieh, Mrs. Behrens and Magnin boarded a charter bus, complete with stocked bar, and went to the Franciscan Winery for a barbeque. They ended up at the Inglenook Winery sampling California vintages, which the ambassador took a liking to.

During the day, Magnin kept hammering away at the ambassador about how both San Francisco and China needed each other. And sometime that day Ambassador Huang Chen told Magnin that he would see to it that San Francisco would get the exhibit.

Less than a week later the chairman of the Chinese Archaeological Exhibition delegation wrote to Goetze:

"...I conveyed to the proper authorities your desire to show the Chinese exhibit in San Francisco and to strengthen the ties of friendship between the people of San Francisco and the people of China.

"Everybody agrees that you should be given full consideration. Consequently, I would suggest you take the matter up with your government. Your government would then approach, formally, our minister of foreign affairs through our representative in Washington. It is my belief that if you follow this approach, there is a good chance that he hope of the people of San Francisco will materialize..."

The letter was signed: "Liu Yang-ch'iao."

The letter amounted to a commitment, although not yet official.

Goetz recalls: "That was some exciting moment in my life. I was in the desert recovering from an illness and one of our commissioners, William P. Scott Jr., read it to me over the phone. I"ll never forget it."

Goetz says that at the State Department in Washington they "couldn't believe that these things were going on." He says they were flabbergasted, and cautioned about bruised feelings in Los Angeles, which was also maneuvering to get the exhibit.

"At that point," says Goetze, "Cyril whips out a letter from Mayor Bradley supporting San Francisco."

Magnin had earlier taken the precaution of having Alioto get supporting letters from the mayors of ten Western cities to assure Huang that the exhibit would get the widest possible exposure if it was shown here.

Magnin says that he believes the final decision to bring the exhibit to San Francisco was made in Peking on the recommendation of Ambassador Huang.

Eager to give the Mayor credit for his role in the coup, Magnin says: "The Mayor was in on it from the start. He was the first one to ask me to work on it. When things looked feasible he was on the phone every day. He was really the spark plug."

But Goetze puts it another way: "When you boil it down, it was Cyril."

And d'Argence says: "It was a fantastic coup. This man (Magnin) has been so instrumental ... dealing with the Chinese ambassador and the State Department..."

In the following month, February, the State Department, somewhat astonished at what had happened, notified the Asian Art Museum that final negotiations were underway, in Peking with the Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office there, Ambassador George Bush.

There was some delay before the sining of the formal protocol documents, during which time Goetze was frantically trying to get a phone connection to Bush in Peking to hurry it along.

Before the call got through, it was announced in Washington that the papers had been signed and the exhibit would come to San Francisco - officially.

Among the many people Magnin worked with to bring the exhibit here was Mrs. Howard Ahmanson of Los Angeles. She heads a committee of the National Endowment of the Humanities through which the NEH agreed to sponsor the exhibition with a $275,000 grant to the Asian Art Museum.

The funds were matched by local contributions from among others, the Bank of America Foundation, the Chinese-American Committee, IBM Corporation, the San Francisco Foundation, Standard Oil Company of Califonria, the Bank of California, the Banque Nationale de Paris, Crocker National Bank, Fireman's Fund American Insurance Companies, Foremost-McKesson, Inc., Levi Strauss Foundation, Security Pacific National Bank, United Airlines, United Bank of Califonria and the Wilbur Ellis-Connell Bros. Co., Ltd.

The show is free to the public and will remain at the Asian Art Museum through August 28. It is for the people, and that's the way the Chinese wanted it. That's the way San Francisco wanted it. And that's the way a handful of dedicated people made it happen when everyone said it couldn't be done.

San Francisco Chronicle/Examiner June 1975

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Chinatown Murders

by Tom Emch

Is San Francisco's Chinatown the spawning ground for criminal gang activities springing up in large cities elsewhere in the United States? Is it organized, possibly from Hong Kong?

Police are not specific. But there are these facts:

- Various San Francisco homicide inspectors have been traveling to New York City where police are setting up a special unit to deal with Chinatown crime there.

- Royal Hong Kong police have been in close contact with the San Francisco police intelligence unit and homicide detectives. Hong Kong police have helped identify certain suspects here by supplying mug shots, fingerprints and names translated from the "Three-way Chinese Commercial Code."

- Hong Kong police have been corresponding with San Francisco police offering their knowledge of the workings of the active Triad Societies, and their elaborate code numbers.

- It is known that Los Angeles, Vancouver, B.C. and New York police have been cooperating in the search for Paul Seet Chin, wanted for the murder of Richard Leung in October of 1971.

- Since 1969, there have been seventeen murders associated with Chinatown youth gangs. Here is the chronology of violence:

Armado Legardo, 29, stabbed April 19, 1969.
Glen Fong, 19, shot March 1, 1970.
Teddy Tam, 21, stabbed June 13, 1970.
Larry Miyata, 16, shot September 12, 1970.
Richard Leung (also known as Raymond Leong), 18, shot October 2, 1970.
George Yun, 21, strangled November 5, 1971.
Kenneth Chan, 15, shot November 7, 1971.
Allan ("The Monster") Hom, 22, strangled November 19, 1971.
James Lee, 20, strangled November 20, 1971.
Harry Quan (or Kwan), 14, shot March 9, 1972.
Harry (The Professor") Ng, 60, shot March 13, 1972.
Poole Leong, 22, shot June 14, 1972.
Barry Fong-Torres, 29, shot June 26, 1972.
William Hackney, 41, shot March 23, 1973.
Anton Wong, 24, shot May 24, 1973.
Yip Yee Tak, 32, shot June 3, 1973.
Wayne Fung, 19, shot August 12, 1973.

Besides the murders, there have been numerous armed robberies and plenty of acid throwing and window smashing, the tactics reserved for shopkeepers and restaurant owners who dislike paying for protection. However, police believe the actual criminal element in Chinatown is small.

They say no more than 150 persons, mostly teenagers, are responsible for all the crime, and these are the gang members.

What is behind the crime wave, Chinatown residents ask.

Ghetto crime has not changed much over the years and the patterns are similar wherever you crowd people into tenements and lock them with poverty.

San Francisco's Chinatown is probably the worst ghetto in the country. More than 60,000 people are packed into forty-two square blocks. One-third of the families earn less than the federal poverty level.

Chinatown's unemployment rate is nearly thirteen percent, while it is six percent for San Francisco as a whole and under five percent for the country.

Crowded? The density rate in Chinatown is 885 persons per acre, ten times The City's average.

Few Chinatown tourists are aware that Chinese children attend classes in hallways and in storage areas and hold recess on rooftops. Many of the working people live in dormitory-like buildings and keep their possessions in suitcases because there is no closet space.

They work in sewing-factory sweatshops along Pacific Avenue, Powell, Jackson and Kearny Streets where, it is said, some 3,000 seamstresses produce garments on a piece-work basis for American firms.

Add to this the fact that many residents can't speak English. And they refuse to complain about conditions because they or some of their relatives are here illegally - a perfect framework for exploitation.

The present turmoil in Chinatown is, some observers believe, an open revolt against intolerable social conditions. And the youth gangs are the knife point of the revolt.

Police are concerned with keeping the lid on Chinatown. They don't see an armed youth who robs a "Mom and Pop" grocery store as a social crusader.

Homicide inspectors don't regard a teenage strangler as a social problem and the product of his environment. He is a violent and dangerous killer and should be brought to justice before he kills again.

An international underworld hierarchy, directed from Hong Kong, may be responsible for some of the seventeen execution-type gang warfare murders in Chinatown.

Directly involved are two Chinatown youth gangs linked with the protection racket: the Wah Ching (Chinese Youth) and the Chung Ching Yee (Loyalty and Righteousness), also known as the Joe Fong Gang, after its former leader Joe Fong, now serving ten to life for attempted murder. Fong was born in Macao, a Portuguese enclave near Hong Kong.

The leadership of the Wah Ching, specifically, is known to have strong Hong Kong ties, now under investigation by the Royal Hong Kong Police, as well as ties to the underworld gangs in Los Angeles and to an organization in New York's Chinatown known as the White Eagles.

Former leader of the Wah Chings, Anton Wong, murdered in broad daylight May 23 at Powell and Jackson Streets, was born in Hong Kong and traveled extensively to both Hong Kong and New York, where, police believe, he was consulted on the formation of the White Eagles.

Harry Ng, murdered in his Kung Fu studio March 13, 1972, is believed to have been a courier between the Wah Chings and a mysterious person in Hong Kong known only by a code name. Ng gunned down on a Monday, had airline reservations for Hong Kong the following Saturday.

The 60 year old Ng ("The Professor"), police say, was mentor of the Wah Ching thugs, teaching them extortion tactics.

The criminal activities of the Chinatown gangs - the extortion racket, assault and armed robbery for the most part - are well known to police, particularly to the homicide and intelligence details.

What is less well known is the extent of the profits from crime - estimated at a minimum of $250,000 a year but possibly five times that amount - and how much is funneled back to Hong Kong.

Control of the rackets and the profits, police believe, is the motive for the chain of seventeen gangland murders that began in April of 1969.

Another unknown factor is the extent to which any or possibly all of Chinatown's five tongs are involved with the gangs.

A tong today is a respectable benevolent or fraternal association, some Chinese claim. They admit, however, that tong gambling games are more sophisticated than, say, church bingo. And all the tongs operate gambling games.

The Hop Sing Tong, one of the largest nationally, has ten chapters in the United States with headquarters in San Francisco and has assets of more than $7 million.

The Hop Sing, police say formally initiated into the tong some young Wah Ching hoodlums in the late 1960s. They were brought in as look-see boys for tong gambling games, but were later expelled when they got out of control and demanded more than $100 a night as guards and lookouts. It seems they wanted part of the action.

Chinatown's largest tong, the Bing Kong, has a reputation for civic and business leadership as well as a history of using muscle to enforce its rules.

The Hip Sing, third most important in San Francisco, is big in Los Angeles and perhaps the strongest tong in New York's Chinatown.

The Ying Ong (or Ying On) is the smallest numerically in San Francisco. But it, too, has chapters in major cities. Politically, it is said to be tied to the Chinese Nationalist (Kuomintgang) government on Taiwan. In New York, the Ying Ong and the Kuomintang have offices in the same building.

The fifth tong in Chinatown is the Suey Sing. One source says that Suey Sing members harbored some Red Guard youths from Mainland China who came to San Francisco during the 1969 Cultural Revolution and were responsible for the Chinese New Year's Jackson Street confrontation with police.

The Suey Sing, one of the more impenetrable of the Tongs, includes in its membership one youth gang leader known as Tom Tom, sources say. Tom Tom, one of the original members of the Wah Chings, broke away from the organization in late 1969 and formed his own gang. The new gang, identified by police as the "young Suey Sings" or the "Tom Tom Gang," is made up of foreign born teenagers known as "F.O.B.s," or "fresh off the boats."

The Tom Tom Gang was hired by the Suey Sing as look-see guards at gambling games, just as the Wah Chings were hired by the Hop Sing. Rivalries between the gangs developed, leading to the first violence.

On March 19, 1969, a 29 year old Filipino, Armado Legardo, was stabbed to death at Washington and Grant Streets. His murder is unsolved, but police believe he was executed by one of the gangs.

Then, on March 1, 1970, Wah Ching president Glen Fong was executed - riddled with ten shots from a .30 caliber carbine as he entered his home at 927 Jackson Street.

The assailant is still unknown, but police say that shortly after Fong's death, Tom Tom was mobbed and beaten nearly to death in a Chinatown alley.

After a hospital recovery, Tom Tom moved his gang to Oakland, where he established headquarters and staked out his sphere of influence. Police say he may be "waiting in the wings" for the day he can return to Chinatown and take over the rackets.

Fong's killing kicked off the gang war in earnest. There were two more killings in 1970; five murders in 1971, four of them in November; four more murders in 1972, and there have been four so far in 1973.

Police have two convictions for the seventeen murders; there are "wanted" bulletins out on two separate suspects for two more of the murders; a suspect is in custody for one recent killing; nine are officially listed by police as "unsolved," and the most recent is being investigated.

Homicide investigators believe they know who committed all but five of the murders. But evidence is a hard thing to come by in Chinatown, where a wall of silence has been traditionally maintained by Orientals when talking to police officers, particularly Caucasians.

And in the entire San Francisco Police Department there are only a few men who are fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese, the prevalent language of Chinatown. The tongs are experienced at using the language barrier to their advantage.

Tongs got their start more than one hundred years ago when Chinese "coolie" labor was imported into California to work on the railheads and in the gold fields. Originally, they were associations to protect members from the oppressions and injustices of the racist white bosses.

Only much later did they allegedly get into the rackets, gambling, prostitution and narcotics. But from the beginning they used muscle and strong-arm tactics to settle grievances.

The tongs are descendants of the ancient and secret Triad Societies of China which were organized on a military basis with well-defined ranks and duties. Even today, Triads control Hong Kong crime.

For mutual recognition and to avoid detection, Triad officers were (and are) known by numbers. The number "481" is the chief officer, and "438" is the deputy chief. "415" is the officer in charge of administration and finance. "426" is the liaison or messenger. This individual, known as the Straw Sandal, is also responsible for delivering demand notes and collection of protection fees. When force is necessary, "432" arranges for it, supplies the "enforcer."

Ordinary rank and file members of a Triad are designated by the number "49" - standing for four times nine or thirty-six, which is the number of oaths a recruit has to take during the initiation ceremony. In Hong Kong, the ceremony is known as "Hanging the Blue Lantern."

Similar initiation ceremonies into associations still take place in Chinatown, reportedly in the attics or on the rooftops of some buildings where no Caucasian has ever been allowed. Initiations into both tongs and, on another level into gangs are secret; so are sessions at which "justice" is dispensed. Punishment for infractions of rules is known as "roof discipline."

In the case of a youth gang, membership offers prestige and status to aspiring recruits, as well as protection from bullies and strong-arm men. For a teenager, a recent immigrant from Hong Kong for instance, non-affiliation can be unhealthy. Resisting initiation can even be fatal, according to police.

Police say the real link between San Francisco and Hong Kong crime is not between the tongs and the Triads, but between the Triads and the Chinese youth gangs in major U.S. cities which use fragments of Triad rituals, although unaware of their origin.

The average teenage Chinese initiated into a criminal gang here or in Hong Kong usually knows little or nothing about the orthodox Triad Society structure, but he is aware that he is joining a secret group and must take orders from its leader to whom he must swear allegiance.

Royal Hong Kong Police say the young Triad gangs - they have identified more than fifty of them - engage in extortion from shopkeepers, restaurants, dance halls, mahjong schools, gambling games in addition to purse snatching, armed robbery and assault. In 1971, Hong Kong police arrested 874 Triad members, of which 72 percent were under 21 years of age.

Hong Kong police have noted a sharp increase in juvenile crime since 1968, and in San Francisco there has been a corresponding rise in robberies, extortion and violence in Chinatown.

This is not viewed as coincidence by San Francisco police homicide inspectors who see similar patterns of crime here and in Hong Kong. This has led to increased cooperation between San Francisco and Hong Kong police, including an exchange of files, rap sheets and fingerprints on persons believed to be operating on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

San Francisco police won't divulge information they feel will be important in future prosecutions, but they are full of speculation and they are willing to theorize on certain events and motives. So are some attorneys acquainted with the Chinatown gang warfare through either prosecution or defense efforts.

Here is the way the police reconstruct the chain of violence and retaliation for violence that has plagued Chinatown for four years and has been a shock for the normally law-abiding Chinese citizen of San Francisco.

Lt. Charles Ellis, head of the Homicide Detail and a former uniformed patrolman in Chinatown, says the beat was once considered "quiet". There either wasn't much crime or the residents didn't report crimes to the police.

Ellis says: "There's been a change in Chinatown. The immigration laws (The McCarran Act) were liberalized in 1964 to allow more Chinese into the country, and we started seeing the Hong Kong kids in about 1968.

He refers to the kids from Hong Kong's Wanchai District, a high crime area similar to the Tenderloin in San Francisco.

These "street urchins" got into the United States by means of a "paper father" - a person in San Francisco who would, for a fee, claim to be the father of a youth in Hong Kong, and sign papers to that effect.

The papers signed in San Francisco were sent back to Hong Kong where they were processed by Chinese clerks working in the U.S. Consulate in the Crown Colony.

On the surface it was a legal relative of a U.S. citizen of Chinese descent entering the United States under the sponsorship of his father.

But in fact, the immigrants were unknown to their "fathers" and never saw them once they arrived "fresh off the boat" in San Francisco.

Immigration officials are reluctant to talk about it, but some Chinatown sources say hundreds of young Hong Kong Chinese entered the U.S. in this fashion. Additional thousands entered with perfectly legal papers under the sponsorship of legal parents.

Police now believe that some of the "illegal entrants," the Wanchai street urchins, were recruited and brought to San Francisco by members of Chinatown gangs in cooperation with Triad Society members in Hong Kong to engage in crime and return part of the profits to Hong Kong.

Lt. Ellis says these teenage criminals, some of whom have police records in Hong Kong, began appearing on police blotters here in 1968.

But even before that, possibly in 1965, a Chinatown source says, some of the Hong Kong kids were in San Francisco and working for the Hop Sing Tong as guards at gambling operations.

As more of them arrived fresh off the boat, they formed the Wah Ching, which is a designation indicating "foreign-born."

In the period between early 1968 and the murder of Wah Ching leader Glen Fong in March of 1970, it was "The Professor," Harry Ng, police believe, who organized the Hong Kong kids into extortion gangs, acting as a teacher, much like the character Fagin in the London of Charles Dickens.

Glen Fong led one group, Tom Tom led another group and by the time the gang warfare erupted in earnest, there was another extortion group, called the Yau Lai (Friendship for Profit), led by Steven Chan and Joe Fong, who has been described by police as an 18 year old with all the intelligence and cunning of a 40 year old Chinese warlord.

The Yau Lai, by late 1971, had become the dominant Chinatown extortion gang, infringing on the territory and "customers" of the other gangs and, indeed, incurring the wrath of certain of the tongs.

Police speculate that the end of the Yau Lai occurred in October and November of 1971 with the murders of four of its members, including Steven Chan's chief lieutenant, Richard Leung (also known as Raymong Leong) on October 2. Leung was killed by a .38 caliber revolver in the 600 block of Jackson Street in broad daylight in front of hundreds of horrified spectators.

Three Chinese youths had an argument with Leung in which two of them pulled guns and shot Leung, who ran to Grant avenue and collapsed. There, one of his pursuers fired two more shots at point blank range into the back of Leung's head.

Within the next six weeks, three more known Yau Lai members were executed:

George Yun was found November 5, strangled and dumped in the Presidio shrubbery near West Pacific road. He had been hogtied and beaten.

Allan Hom's body, dumped in the Bay, surfaced near Hayward November 19. He had been strangled and hogtied with a length from the same piece of rope used on Yun.

The next day, November 20, the body of James Lee, appeared in the Bay at Redwood City. He, too, had been strangled and hogtied.

Only the first of the four murders produced a suspect. Police believe a Paul Seet Chin of New York, a member of the White Eagles, was imported as the "hit" man in the Richard Leung slaying. The suspect is still at large and the subject of a "wanted" bulletin.

There are several police theories on the bodies that were found hogtied and dumped:
(1) They were executed by members of the Tom Tom gang in Oakland; (2) Tom Tom's gang was hired by one of the tongs to perform the executions; (3) It was strictly an execution by tong members fed up with the rising cost of protection.

At any rate, Joe Fong, by December of 1971, found life in Chinatown unhealthy and went into hiding in the Ingleside District. But before he left he was cornered in Ross Alley, beaten and left for dead by unknown assailants - unknown to the police, that is.

Joe knew who had beaten him and, underworld sources say, he went to the leader of the Yau Lai, Steven Chan, to get permission to kill a character known as Henry ("Big Head") Louie. Permission was refused and Joe Fong left Chinatown to form his own gang.

It must be understood that there were shifting alliances and many Yau Lai members were also members of the Wah Ching. It was the latter organization, led by the mysterious Anton Wong, which became the arch enemy of the new Joe Fong gang, named the Chung Ching Yee. Their clubhouse was at 161 Farallones Street.

The polarization of these two gangs set off the current chain of Chinatown murders which began March 9, 1972 when Harry Quan (or Kwan) was shot from a car with a .32 caliber automatic as he stood with a group of youths in front of 815 Stockton Street, location of the Police Athletic League.

Quan, only 14, was a Wah Ching member. After his murder, police immediately issued a warrant for the arrest of Joe Fong and one of his lieutenants, David Wong. There were six witnesses for the prosecution and one for the defense when the case came up in Juvenile Court. On the strength of the one defense witness, a girl who established Joe Fong's alibi, he was acquitted, as was David Wong. The car used in the Quan murder was registered to Richard Leung, the friend of Joe Fong who had been murdered five months earlier.

By June 1972, with the help of a list of members obtained in a raid on the Joe Fong headquarters in the Ingleside District, police were aware of the names of the leaders of both the Chung Ching Yee and the Wah Ching - names that had popped up in homicide investigations and as the last half dozen victims of the gang warfare.

Also by this time, the tongs had become alarmed at the wave of violence. One of them broke the traditional rule of silence and printed an announcement in the Chinese Times, the leading Chinese-language newspaper of Chinatown:

"Bulletin of the Bing Kong Tong."

"Due to the current lawlessness in the Chinese Community, we issue this bulletin to all of our brothers and sisters to obey the law, to observe the customs and desist from all unruly behavior harmful to the commercial and social life of our community."

"If you persist in this anti-social conduct, our Tong will never interfere on your behalf. If you dare to damage any of the business enterprises owned by members of our Tong, we will go after you all the way."

The Bing Kong is influential in Chinatown and their warning was not to be taken lightly. It was interpreted by some Chinatown observers as putting the Wah Ching and Chung Ching Yee on notice that protection fees were getting too high and that the tong was prepared to do something unusual in Chinatown - go to the police, name names, sign complaints and press for prosecution.

And indeed, the Chinese wall of silence began to crumble shortly after the next act of violence. On the night of June 13, 1972, Poole Leong, a Wah Ching member, was shot to death on the balcony of his apartment in the Ping Yuen housing project in the 800 block of Pacific Avenue, just off Grant Avenue.

While talking on the telephone, Leong was approached by two Chinese youths. One produced a .25 caliber automatic and fired. Leong slumped to thefirst floor balcony deck, bleeding profusely. Police were called and the Dispatcher at the Hall of Justice sent an ambulance to the housing project. The gang warfare victim - the twelfth in three years - was dead on arrival at San Francisco General Hospital.

Twelve murders. All unsolved. But this one was different. There were witnesses who were willing to talk to the police. The Chinese wall of non-cooperation was broken.

Homicide inspectors Frank McCoy and Edward Erdelatz Jr. knew that their witnesses might bow to pressures in Chinatown and refuse to talk by the time the case came to trial; so they immediately transfered the sketchy description of the assailants to a tape recorder.

At Central Police Station, on the morning of June 14, 9172, the witnesses identified a picture of Weyman Tso from the files. He was one of the two intruders, they said. Later the same day, after studying more photo files, they came across a picture of Richard Lee, five feet seven, 120 pounds and 21 years old. This was the man who produced the gun and fired the fatal shots, the witnesses told police.

The next day, the District Attorney's office decided there was enough evidence to justify warrants on a charge of murder. Superior judge Eugene F. Lynch agreed and promptly issued warrants of Weyman Tso and Richard Lee.

In another break with tradition, the Chinese Times appeared on the streets with a story on the murder in the Ping Yuen housing complex. The story even speculated on Poole Leong's gangland connections. Community reaction was definitely on the side of the police.

Anonymous tips began coming in to Inspectors McCoy and Erdelatz. These tips linked Richard Lee with the Joe Fong gang, naming him as Fong's number one deputy.

Fourteen days went by after issuance of the all points bulletin for the arrest of the suspects, but without result. Lee and Tso were still at large when another murder occurred.
This time it was not in Chinatown and the victim was not a known gang member but a respected youth worker, Barry Fong-Torres, 29, director of the Youth Services Coordinating Center on Columbus Avenue.

Fong-Torres had been in his Sunset District home at 1434 16th Avenue when someone rang his bell, police said.

It was about 11:30 p.m. Fong-Torres opened the door and five shots were fired, striking the youth worker in the head, eye, mouth and chest.

A scrawled note was found under the victim's body in an envelope. The misspelled message read: "Pig Informer Die Yong."

(Police later discovered that Fong-Torres had complained to a friend shortly before being killed that he was "getting too close to the Chinatown gangs whose members thought he knew too much.")

Four hours after the Fong-Torres murder, police stopped a speeding car on 16th Avenue and arrested two Chinese youths.

One of the youths was Richard Lee, wanted for the murder of Poole Leong. The other was gang leader Joe Fong. Both were taken to the homicide bureau and questioned. Lee was held over for indictment in the Leong murder, and Joe Fong was released for lack of evidence.

There have been no warrants issued in the Barry Fong-Torres killing, but Richard Lee was brought to trial and found guilty of the murder of Poole Leong. He was sentenced November 22, 1972, in front of Superior Court Judge Walter Calcagno. The term: life in prison. It was the first conviction in the chain of Chinatown gangland killings.

And it marked the first time in the history of the San Francisco Police Department that a conviction had been brought about through the cooperation of Chinatown residents.

The apparently motiveless murder of youth worker Barry Fong-Torres brought a wave of reaction from the entire city and demands were made that police crack down on Chinatown violence.

By September of 1972, the crackdown was a fact.

On the night of September 12, police raided the Chung Ching Yee headquarters at 161 Farallones Street and took ten Chinese youths into custody, including Joe Fong.

Less than a month later, Joe Fong - out on bail on the kidnap charge - was picked up again. This time for attempted murder.

He was accused, along with David Wong and Paul Lew, of firing at a car containing five Chinese youths parked at the corder of Hyde and Sacramento Streets. The shots wounded Jerry Leng and Gordon Wong, both Wah Ching members. The wounds were minor and both were treated in Mission Emergency Hospital and released.

The crackdown continued and on the night of October 18, police arrested twenty-two Chinese youths at a disturbance in the 600 block of Jackson street. All were questioned and released. No charges were filed. But police said all twenty-two were members of either the Wah Ching or the Joe Fong Gang.

Police interrogations of gang members usually are fruitless. But the aftermath of an event in September of 1972 was different.

At the annual outing of a Chinese flower growers' association held in Mountain View there was a gambling game in progress. Police say members of the Wah Ching knew in advance of the game, and showed up in two cars. Seven youths - all armed - scooped up the gambling pot, shook down several of the flower growers and fled with an estimated $10,000.

San Francisco police were tipped off that the raid had taken place and questioned several Wah Ching suspects separately. Several of them described the raid in detail, police say.

The statements were turned over to detectives of the Mountain View police, but the flower growers refused to sign complaints and the case never produced an indictment.

The year 1973 began with a serious blow to the Chinese gangs. Joe Fong, leader of the Chung Ching Yee, was convicted January 12 of the ambush shooting of Jerry Leng. Convicted iwth Fong were David Wong and Paul Lew. A fourth suspect, Clifton ("Bongy") Wong, later surrendered to police.

In February, Joe Fong, 18, considered by police to be the most dangerous man in Chinatown, was sentenced to ten to life for an attempted murder that only slightly wounded his intended victim. However, police believe that Joe Fong's conviction and sentencing removed from society the person who either ordered or participated in four other murder cases: Harry Quan, Harry Ng, Poole Leong and Barry Fong-Torres.

The imprisonment of Joe Fong left his gang in confusion and without an apparent leader, but it didn't stop the killings.

There was a senseless murder March 23,1973, which had nothing to do with the gang warfare, but it sheds light on the mentality of some Chinese youth gang members and their low regard for human life.

After a racial confrontation March 23 in a parking lot near Roosevelt Junior High School between four Chinese and a group of Blacks, the Chinese apparently decided to avenge some sort of insult.

In a case of mistaken identity the four Chinese later hassled William Hackney, 41, in the parking lot of the Doggie Diner at the intersection of Arguello and Geary Boulevards.

Hackney was mobbed and given several Karate chops, police said. Then witnesses said, shots rang out and Hackney crumpled to the pavement. He was dead on arrival at Park Emergency Hospital. Police later arrested and released three Chinese juveniles, including Robert Louie, 19, who was held as a possible parole violator and later released.

Louie is the suspected leader of a robbery gang known as the "ski mask" bandits, linked with eight armed robberies between mid-March and mid-May of 1973. Louie, later convicted in connection with the robberies, is believed to have been deep in the extortion racket in Chinatown, but not directly affiliated with either the Wah Ching or Joe Fong's Chung Ching Yee. The Hackney murder is still unsolved, but there is a wanted bulletin out for Ernest Wong, 16.

After the January conviction of Joe Fong, police intelligence officers knew it was jut a matter of time until his imprisonment would be avenged.

One officer said:
"As the killings went on, some of the gangs that had been ill-defined became clearer to us. They were staking out the rackets and their territories and we could almost tell who was going to get it next. "

The leader of the Wah Ching got it next - Anton Wong. He was killed for the apparent motive that he had been a prosecution witness at the trial of Joe Fong.

In am amazingly bold high noon attack at Powell and Jackson Streets Wong, who had ben told by his parole officer to stay out of Chinatown, was gunned down execution-style.

The victim was the number one police suspect in the slaying of a Japanese seaman, Larry Miyata, in September of 1970. Wong was the liaison to the White Eagles in New York, the pallbearer for Harry Ng, and a frequent visitor to Hong Kong. Police believe he may have been the "bag man" who carried the money back and forth.

Police say Anton Wong was born in Hong Kong in 1948, and came to San Francisco in 1963. His rap sheet has twelve entries beginning in July of 1967 - mostly burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. One charge was pending at the time of his murder, which left the Wah Ching leaderless.

According to police, a youth approached Anton Wong at 12:15 p.m. at the corner of Powell and Jackson Streets, where the cable cars make their abrupt turn.

The killer approached to within a few feet and began firing. The first bullet apparently wounded Wong and he fell to the pavement. His assailant then stood over his victim and pumped five or six bullets from a .25 caliber automatic into Wong's head.

Witnesses said the young killer then ran south on Powell and escaped into the crowd.

Police immediately named Joe Fong's younger brother Chung Wai Fong, 15, as aprime suspect. Eight days later, Chung Wai Fong surrendered topolice to face a murder charge. He was later convicted in Juvenile Court. A brother, Kit Fong, a youth worker and the older brother of the imprisoned Joe Fong,aided police in the surrender of Chung Wai Fong.

Police immediately made arrangements for the safety of Kit Fong, who they believed to be marked for assassination. He has left his job at the Youth for Service Organization at 14th and Harrison Streets and has dropped out of sight.

Then, on June 3, came the sixteenth Chinatown gangland murder since April 1969.

Yip Yee Tak, 32, also known as Dr. Ysung Yang, a counsellor to Chinatown youth, was gunned down at the busy intersection of Pacific and Grant Avenues. Three shots from a .38 caliber revolver hit him in the head and shoulder.

Witnesses said the killer ran down Pacific to Columbus Avenue, turned right and disappeared, walking casually. On the way he tossed the revolver into Beckett Alley, where it was recovered by police. A suspect, Chol Soo Lee, is in custody.

Officers so far have been unable to fit this slaying into the pattern of violence and retaliation. They will say only that Yip Yee Tak, like Barry Fong-Torres, knew too much.

Fong-Torres knew too much; Tak knew too much and that fatal knowledge is the prime motive for the seventeenth murder.

On the night of August 12, at a service station at 19th Avenue and Irving Street where he was employed, Wayne Fung was killed by seven bullets from a .38 caliber automatic.

The gunman, an Oriental youth, fired the shots and ran to a waiting car parked on 18th Avenue, witnesses said. Fung, 19, was a member of the Wah Ching.

Homicide inspectors are investigating this gangland slaying and are waiting for the next.

They wait helplessly. Because they are almost certain they know who the next victim will be.

San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle 1973

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Life on the Bomb Squad

by Tom Emch

There are nine San Francisco policemen, five sergeants and four patrolmen, who are uninsurable - because there are no available statistics on their life expectancy.

The nine are volunteers, highly trained in the extremely gentle art of disarming explosive devices. Like the kind that blew up Park Station and the Iranian Consulate.

Each knows the techniques developed by British bomb disposal officers during the London Blitz. And each knows that these World War II bomb disposal pioneers had a life expectancy of six months.

One day you may read about one of the men on the San Francisco bomb squad. Remember their names: Sergeant Burton J. Bishop, the leader, Sergeant Don Goad, Sergeant Tom O'Donnell, Sergeant William Pacheco, Sergeant Dave Winn, Patrolman Dale Boyd, Patrolman Robert Hulsey, Patrolman Fred Neville, Patrolman Ray Portue. All have other regular duties except Bishop who is bomb squad full-time.

Tonight, while you're safe in bed, or tomorrow while you're in your place of work, one of these men might lose an arm, an eye, or his life.

The phone rings , Judy Boyd answers it, and the ring is like a shriek in her ears. Her husband, Dale, is already out of bed and on his feet.

She says "It's for you, Dale, Operations".

Police operations gives Boyd the location of the "package," and a few details. He mumbles acknowledgement, hangs up.

Usually, a patrolman on the park and beach detail, this time he has a different sort of assignment: a suspected bomb. Boyd dresses quickly, grabs his "tool kit" and kisses his wife goodbye.

"I'll call you," he says.

Later, he does call, tells his wife the "package" was a false alarm, a shoe box on the door step at one of the consulates. It contained rocks.

Boyd is used to the false alarms, the lunch bucket at Candlestick Park that turns out to be just a mislaid lunch bucket, the paper bag at the Federal Building that contains garbage, the attache case at the Bank of America that contains harmless business papers.

But Judy Boyd has never gotten used to the phone ringing in the middle of the night "When he told me he had volunteered for the bomb squad, we discussed it."

"He told me about the training and all the precautions, and finally I told him it was his decision."

"But the phone is still bad, I find myself waiting for it to ring. And then it does. I wait up for him until he gets back. Couldn't sleep anyway."

Judy recalls one night in October 1971 when the phone rang for her husband and it wasn't a dud. The Iranian Consulate had just ben bombed rocking the Pacific Heights mansion off its foundation and damaging fifty homes in the area. Miraculously, the wife of the Consul General and her three children escaped injury.

Another night, shortly after that blast, she recalls the phone ringing again: "I guess we were jittery and when it rang we both reached for it and collided, bumped our heads. That broke the jitters and we started to laugh."

Patrolman Boyd doesn't laugh easily when he talks about his work.

"We were trained at the Presidio by the 87th EOD (Explosive Ordnance Detachment). Seven weeks, and we worked mostly on homemade stuff and pip bombs, dynamite, C-4 plastic, blasting caps, grenades..."

"We were taught disarming procedures, techniques I can't tell you about, except to say that the British developed most of them."

He says that before you get around to disarming a device, there are a few things that have to be done. You "isolate" the device: get the civilians out of the area, and perform some routine crime laboratory work, like searching for evidence, dusting for fingerprints, taking pictures."

"You do this even if the device looks like a brown paper lunch bag says Boyd. "Everything, every package is treated as if it is real, a live explosive. That's the only way to stay alive."

It's the way experts operate, although Boyd and his fellow bomb squad officers are fond of saying "There are no experts in this business."

They say this and recall, perhaps, the Army captain who trained them, Captain Gary Guest, deceased.

Captain Guest was alone in the 87th EOD workshop April 17, 1971 when an explosion occurred. He apparently had been working on a disarming technique when the explosive material detonated. Guest was dead on arrival at Letterman General Hospital.

"There are no live experts," says Sergeant Burton (Jim Bishop), head of the San Francisco bomb squad, "Only dead ones."

Bishop, in his office on the first floor of the Hall of Justice, lights up a cigarette and waves at a steel cabinet full of defused dynamite sticks, blasting caps, grenades, Viet Cong mortor shells and pipe bombs.

"That's just a few of them."

Bishop, owner of nine meritorious citations for heroism, explains the bomb squad has been in operation since July 1970 (a few months after the bombing of Park Station at which Sergeant Brian McDonnell was killed and several other officers were seriously injured.

His records show more than 1,350 bomb threats since formation of the squad and 24.5 "actuals". 'Actuals' are explosive devices either duds or disarmed by his squad.

"Business has picked up" he says. Now we're getting eight to one-hundred-twenty threats a month.

A chart of bomb squad activity on the wall of his office graphically describes the frequency of the threats. Thursday and Friday are prime days. Two o'clock in the afternoon is a prime time.

Bishop says the explosive device at Park Station was a pipe bomb containing black powder, hooked up to an alarm clock and a six volt battery. The bomb, containing small caliber bullets, was placed in a cardboard box filled with staples. It exploded at 10:45 pm February 16, 1970.

There is still a $38,000 uncollected reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects involved in the crime.

The blast at Park Station shook the Police Department into action which resulted in the formation of the bomb squad and the bomb-proofing of district stations and new security procedures at the Hall of Justice.

The blast also made Jim Bishop the top bomb disposal officer in The City, a job that no one envies.

Bishop has had one brush with death and expects more. Several months after he was trained at the Presidio, on January 19, 1971, he responded to a call at the Old Federal Building, 50 Fulton Street. A package had been found containing two and a half pounds of live dynamite, a battery and a plain wrist watch.

"The device was set to explode at fifty-five minutes after the hour," Bishop recalls.

"I know I had a minimum of fifty-five minutes to disarm it, and possibly an hour and fifty-five minutes."

"I took it to the basement in a bucket and dismantled it. The battery connections were good, the watch was working. I found it had fifteen minutes to go."

There's another way to express the situation: Sergeant Bishop had fifteen minutes to live.

The sergeant is aware of the odds, and says of his job: "Someone has to do it."

He says this is in his apartment where he is waiting for the return of his wife of five months, a pretty blonde named Sheila.

The apartment has a kind of careless look, comfortable, but contemporary. Like the occupants may not be there forever. And Bishop himself strides through it restlessly, as if he is anxious for something to happen.

The phone rings, and it is his wife who says she'll be home shortly.
Sheila Bishop arrives and says quietly that she doesn't like to talk about her husband's job.

"During the day, he never calls me, so I don't know if he's out on a job or not. It does make me nervous at night when he goes out on a call. I wonder if he's going to come home. Stay awake. Wait for a phone call."

"No, I don't object," says Sheila "I don't think I should interfere with his job."

She seems to have a reservoir of quiet strength that enables her to accept a precarious married life... ("I wonder if he's going to come home")... to a demolitions man, a man she sometimes flares up to defend at cocktail parties.

Judy Boyd has the same problem. "When we're out socially," she says, "people will find out Dale works on the bomb squad, and they'll say 'You mean he volunteered'?

"Or they ask 'What possesses a man to want to disarm bombs.'"

She says that her two children, Laura, eleven and Kenny, Ten, both have been hassled in school. Poked fun at because their father is a cop.

"In some circles", she says, "people become uncomfortable when they learn Dale is a policeman, so we end up socializing mostly with other police families."

Boyd shrugs his shoulders and says, 'It's just easier talking to someone who knows something about your work."

When you work on a bomb squad, you have to keep up with your subject. In Sergeant Bishop's office there are bombing reports from other jurisdictions, reports from the National Bomb Data Center in Washington, D.C. There are FBI reports, training films to study.

Both Bishop and Boyd teach classes at the Police Academy, two hours a week. They give lectures to businessmen, bankers and tell them "Don't touch. Call the bomb squad."

Many large companies now have, as a result of these lectures, a floor warden, someone responsible for checking the premises at the beginning and end of the work day. The wardens are taught to look for characteristic packages, things out of place, like an attache case that normally isn't there.

This has increased the number of "false alarms," the suspicious packages reported to police, but in some cases it has saved lives.

When the bomb squad was detailed to the Soledad Trial, Bishop was called four times to inspect the women's lavatory. Each time there was a brown paper bag taped to the underside of a commode, and each time it was found to contain cottage cheese.

Boyd has gingerly opened packages that contained nothing but cracked crab shells. And once he dismantled an entire desk at the British Consulate to satisfy an official who had panicked because it was locked and it wasn't supposed to be.

Bishop once deftly cut into an attache case at a Bank of America and the owner came up to him and yelled: "Hey, what are you doing to my case?"

Says Bishop, "Here I was working on this thing for ten minutes and all the time thinking I was going to blow sky high. And all I could say to this guy was 'Sorry about that.'"

There's a certain amount of comedy in taking elaborate precautions to open a sack full of garbage, but the bomb squad men will tell you over and over: "That's the only way to stay alive."

Because some lunch buckets actually do contain explosives: some shoe boxes do contain pipe bombs, some brown paper bags do contain C-4 plastic. And that was seven sticks of dynamite on the roof of Mission Police Station last March.

The sticks were twenty-four inches long, three inches around and might have killed fifty to one-hundred men if they had gone off as set.

You can't joke away a package of live dynamite, or a pipe bomb filled with one inch staples, or some Underground newspaper that prints details on how to make homemade explosives.

"Treat every device as if it's alive," Bishop tells his men. Because someday they'll unwrap something they've never seen before.

That's way the sergeant wants the squad to have an annual refresher training at the Army's demolition school at Indianhead, Maryland, or at the bomb school at Redstone, Alabama.

"I feel I'm well trained," says Dale Boyd, "but, I'd like to go to Redstone."

There's a nagging worry in the mind of each of the bomb sqadders. And to each other they make a joke of it.

"We all talk about getting zapped," say Bishop. "We talk like we could get it tomorrow."

"I talk to Dale (Boyd) like that ... like it might be the last time I'll ever talk to him."

San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle 1972

Friday, October 16, 2009

Andre the Friendly Giant

by Ambrose Blake (Tom Emch)

Beloved by small people, particularly children; feared by his enemies, an object of interest to les girls, Andre is a twenty-nine year old Frenchman with a Gallic sense of humor and a handshake you won't forget.

You don't really shake Andre's hand; he shakes yours. You put your hand in his and it gets lost somewhere in a fold of flesh that is positively Brobdignagian.

He's difficult to believe unless you see him, but Andre, who reached seven feet when he was sixteen, is now seven feet five inches and still growing. His Paris doctor says he will grow two more years, until he is thirty-one, and probably top out at seven feet seven inches. He weighs 465 pounds and says he could easily lose eighty or ninety pounds if he quit drinking three cases of beer a day.

"I like biere," says Andre. "I like Eenglish biere; I learned to dreenk it when I would in Loundoun. And I like Oustralian biere, but I never dreenk biere in France; I dreenk the wine."

They call him Andre the Giant and he had just finished winning a tag team wrestling match at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium: Andre and U.S. champ Pat Patterson vs. Mr. Saito, the Masked Invader and Bobby Jaggers. It was no contest.

Andre merely kicked Mr. Saito in the derriere with his size 22 EEEE leather boot and picked up the Masked Invader and threw him out of the ring. The match went on for a little over twenty-five minutes while Pat Patterson took a drubbing, but the moment he tagged his teammate, Andre, the outcome was not in doubt. The highlight - and a real crowd-pleaser - was when in mock rage Andre picked up the referee and threw him out of the ring, but gently because the referee has a wife and kids and had to work again the following night.

The wrestling match was predictable, except for the ringside spectators, who didn't know from one moment to the next who was going to land in their laps, and for that reason it was somewhat boring. But talking to Andre later, after he had showered and dressed and was drinking beer, was interesting.

Andre said he was born in Grenoble, an industrial city in southeastern France, and his parents were pretty much normal size. But his grandfather was seven feet eight inches, and he knew he was going to be a giant by the time he was twelve.

At fourteen, Andre dropped out of school and wen to Paris to seek his fortune. First job? A mover; pianos, and two tone safes were his specialty. One day a sports promoter saw him lift a safe and asked Andre to come to the gymnasium and work out. He was sixteen and in a few months he was wrestling professionally.

"I used to do road work and lift weights," Andre says. "When I started wrestling, I weighed under three hundred pounds. That was before I went to Eengland and started dreenking biere."

In addition to England and Australia, Andre has appeared in the ring in almost every non-Communist country in the world. He is also a movie actor; he appeared as Bigfoot in a two-part segment of television's Six Million Dollar Man.

When he travels, it is by air and first class. "I don't fit in the seats in tourist class," he explains. He's somewhat of a feeding problem, too. The giant usually eats about six meals a day and says he prefers six small meals to three big ones.

A small meal is a dozen scrambled eggs for breakfast plus fruit and French bread and jam. Lunch (or brunch) is often fillet of sole, which is his favorite fish. "I eat everything; I like everything," he says, grinning.

When Andre smiles, everybody smiles. One wouldn't want to offend him. People also laugh at his jokes, even through they are in a combination of English, French and Quebecois and you only understand about half the lines.

Andre is asked about wine and he says he likes champagne. "One time on a plane from Montreal to Paris, I dreenk eighteen bottles of champagne; I like champagne," he added redundantly.

Drinking and eating are very big with Andre and he says he'd like to open a restaurant when his wrestling career is over. "I enjoy meeting people and people like me."

It's true, Andre is likable. Pat Patterson calls him the "gentle giant" and says Andre wouldn't harm a flea.

Patterson recalls: "I only saw him mad once. It was in Montreal and we were in a bar together. There were some big Canadians who wanted to take him on; they provoked him."

What happened?

"It took Andre about sixty seconds to flatten four men," said Patterson, with a gesture that indicated the smashing of heads and bone structure." But he avoids trouble; just smiles and offers to buy a drink."

Andre can afford it. His promoters in the Bay Area, Davy Rosenberg and Pete Marino, estimate that Andre makes close to $250,000 a year wrestling four or five nights a week. He picked up about $8000 for his work at the Richmond Auditorium, and it would have been more but the crowd was small. Out of his annual take come travel expenses and lodging and food, a big item.

"Some brewery ought to buy a piece of him to promote their beer," says Rosenberg. "He drinks enough of it."

While in San Francisco, on sort of a promotional tour of the city, Andre visited some North Beach night spots and the financial district, where he ws impressed by the huge polished boulder on the Bank of America plaza.

"Theeze ees my pet rock," he announced to the press.

The day after his encounter with Mr. Saito (who wrestled in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964), the Masked Invader and Bobby Jaggers in the Richmond Auditorium, Andre flew east. To Detroit, to Montreal, where he has a home, and to Europe.

And as you read this he is probably wrestling somewhere in the world, or drinking beer, and the audience is cheering him on.

He said, when I left him, that he doesn't consider himself unusual. He said he is normal and all the rest of the people in the world are freaks.

This is very funny if you hear it in French. Andre has a Gallic sense of humor. Everybody laughed.

San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle 1976

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Hardcore Unemployed

by Tom Emch

Hardcore unemployable Leroy Smith, 20, born in the Mission and still living there near 18th Street and South Van Ness, would be startled to learn that there are hundreds of bureaucrats making a living out of trying to get him a job.

He would be astounded to know that there are some forty-four agencies with annual public monies exceeding $5 million eager to train him to "fill the manpower needs of this community," as the Mayor puts it.

Leroy would be further shocked to discover that of all these people in all these agencies, no one knows where he lives or that he's out of work. And that he officially doesn't exist.

Leroy Smith has lived in San Francisco twenty years; he's worked at a regular job only three weeks of that time, and he's not even an "unemployment statistic."

When the Manpower Planning Council reports that there is a ten percent unemployment rate in the Mission, they're not including Leroy, who is probably out somewhere shooting pool for quarters.

"There are a lot of people not counted as being in the labor force," says Steve Sussman, who runs the U.S. Manpower Administration's Concentrated Employment Program for The City with $3.3 million a year. "Like the guy who hasn't worked in five years and hasn't applied to DHRD (Department of Human Resources Development). There's no record of him."

There's no record of Leroy, who worked three weeks as a stockman at the Emporium, has done some carpentry and painting odd jobs when he really needs some bread, and picks up most of the change he needs at the pool table.

A job?

There's no way anyone is going to get Leroy a job. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade; he functionally illiterate; has no driver's license; has an arrest record (assault); he's not bondable and he doesn't like to work with his hands. Some people suspect he doesn't like to work, period.

Says Leroy of the only skill he has - carpentry: "I don't know why I got into it. I don't like to work with wood.

"I went to Mission night school to get trained for a job and they put me in a poultry class. I told them I didn't want poultry and they said I had to take poultry, so I quit."

They should have known better than to offer an accomplished pool player like Leroy a career in poultry.

Among Leroy's colleagues who are not counted as being in the labor force are estimated 5,000 San Franciscans: bookies, pimps, prostitutes, pushers, burglars, fences, winos, street people, petty thieves and other assorted types who live the "fast" life as opposed to the "straight" life.

A man who knows both lives, Kenny Marcelous, assistant director of the Mission Rebels, says: "Some of these cats bounce from one odd job to another, boosting (shoplifting) on the side, but it doesn't last. You can't do both. You gotta be straight or you gotta be on the street."

"You gotta take your pick because you can't mix the two", says Marcelous. Of the people on the street, he says; "Either a cat can (get a job) and won't, or he just can't."

Applying a little street philosophy to the case of Leroy, the Mission Rebels administrator says:

"Maybe he's afraid of succeeding; afraid that if he got a good job and started to like the work he'd fail or get fired. If you don't want to succeed, don't take a job."

In speculating on Leroy's attitudes toward gainful employment, Marcelous is describing what many professional manpower analysts call the "failure syndrome."

Eunice Elton, the Mayor's Director of Manpower Planning and Research (at $22,140 a year), says a person with a failure syndrome is "one who has had a succession of secondary jobs -seasonal or part-time - and has found little reward from working. He decides: " 'They won't keep me on anyway,' and then he quits and drops out of the labor market. he decides he's not needed."

Refining her definition of unemployables, she says persons with disabilities such as epilepsy are traditionally unemployable, but there are other groups employers don't want to take a chance on: reformed alcoholics, persons who have been on drugs and persons with multiple felony records. "These are the hardest of the hardcore."

Her fellow manpower expert, Steve Susssman, agrees, with some minor variations.

Here is his profile of an unemployable: "A person who is not a citizen, is past age 60 and has a Spanish surname. He's functionally illiterate in Spanish and speaks little English. He has two felony arrests: he's not bondable and can't get a driver's license, and he's presently on a methadone maintenance program. Oh yes, he doesn't like to work with his hands."

Few such people exist, of course, and the description is fictional, but Sussman says he has had people with similar records come to him looking for work.

"What can I do for this person?" he asks rhetorically. "Nothing."

He says the hardcore, the person who really needs a service, can't get any service. "There are other people laid on top of him ... the returning Vietnam veteran who has a priority; the resident alien who may have worked as an attorney in South America and who is well equipped to work here."

Sussman explains that the Department of Labor money received by his program is via a performance contract based on the number of people served and the number of persons placed in jobs. So there's pressure to move people through quickly and cheaply.

"You take on a person you can find a job for and pass over the person who really needs help. So when you're talking about the hardcore unemployable, you're talking about the person who doesn't get touched by any of the services."

He gives this example, "The people from the methadone program call up and say 'We have a person we have been working with who is ready to go to work. What can you do?"

"Well, we can't do anything, because we can't preselect a person to train. We have to get our people from DHRD (people who have signed up with State unemployment), people who are on file there.

"So we are actually excluding certain hardcore unemployables," he says.

Many other publicly funded manpower agencies do the same thing because they are sub-contractors of Sussman's CEP, and subject to the same performance standards. Some of these include Youth for Service, Health Professions Council, Arriba Juntos, Chinatown-Northbeach English Language Center, Fil-Am Language Center, Mission Language and Vocational School and the San Francisco Civil Service Commission.

These publicly funded action groups, plus perhaps two dozens others that are either publicly or privately funded, all peddle their own trainees to employers.

Ray Holland who heads the data reporting and information systems unit of CEP, says that in the recent past sub-contractors would meet each other coming and going from the executive offices of large corporations.

He says that action groups from the Misison, Chinatown and Filipinos have been banging on the doors of company executives demanding jobs for their particular people.

"After about a year of this, the employers caught on. They discovered there's a lot of competition between manpower contractors for the available jobs. Now, all the employer has to do is sit back and wait. He'll say: 'Sure, I'll consider your person.' Then he'll hire the best qualified applicant who will work the cheapest."

Sussman adds that all of the manpower contractors are under the same gun: Too little time, too little money to train the person who really needs help - like the hardcore unemployable. So the contractors end up placing the person who already has some skills.

"They work with people who are easily employable to make their records look good," says Sussman.

There is another deterrent to training someone who needs help. Take the case of a bank that has a job for a clerk, says Sussman. 'The bank says: "What do I want to train someone for? I've got eight qualified applicants."

This is the catch. "We're locked into this system," he says. And it works against the person without any marketable skills.

Without marketable skills describes Leroy Smith, our Mission District pool hustler. (This isn't his real name, but many like him exist, manpower experts agree.)

Leroy's problem is one of attitude. He doesn't like to work and he doesn't like to be told what to do, so you ask him about his experience and attitude.

What did you get paid as a stockman at the Emporium?

Leroy: "I don't know what I got paid... they docked us by minutes... two minutes, three minutes: the check was always different."

Would you like to get a driver's license and be a truck driver?

Leroy: "Not interested in driving."

Would you like to be a carpenter? You have some experience.

Leroy: "No. Don't like that job."

Would you like to go back to school and learn a trade?

Leroy: "The Mission Rebels got me back in school and the second day I had a hassle with the teacher... I was standing by the window and she told me to sit down. So I quit."

What would you like to do?

Leroy: "I'd like counseling. Counseling kids here for the Rebels. I do some counseling, but I don't get paid for it."

It's not certain what Leroy would counsel Mission kids about, except maybe how to hustle pool - he would probably be good at that. But it is certain he couldn't counsel them how to get a job and keep it.

Leroy, when we left him, was at the pool table in Rebel headquarters on South Van Ness smoothly dropping balls in rotation. so you couldn't accurately describe him as being totally without skills.

As Eunice Elton says: "I insist that someone who can dismantle two 10-speed bicycles in five minutes and put them back together so they can't be identified has a skill." She adds that it isn't a socially acceptable skill, however.

There are apparently two things all hardcore unemployables have in common: They lack marketable skills and they have an attitude toward the "work ethic" that would shock Benjamin Franklin. They don't see work as a shiny ideal that will surely get them ahead in the world.

Sussman says: "You can't talk about these people in terms of statistics because you're talking about attitudinal problems. The classic case is the black male youth who drops out of high school and learns the reality. He can only make about $1.50 an hour. He tries a series of marginal jobs for awhile and finally says: 'screw it'. He goes on welfare and that's where he stays. He's almost a statistical non-entity."

Ray Holland adds: "For this person the work ethic is a lie. His income is about $10 a week less on welfare than it is if he's working." He says that the controversial guaranteed wage might be the answer.

Others in the manpower field agree. Eunice Elton says: "Maybe it would be cheaper to pay for a guaranteed annual wage than to pay for the welfare system. The country is not ready for the concept. It would be unpopular as a drain on individual income, and it is viewed as redistribution of wealth.

The problem must be studied, she insists, "because the work ethic is in trouble."

Shiny ideals and volumes of statistical reports - these things mean little to the estimated 21,000 persons who live in San Francisco and are out of work.

"More than six percent of The City's labor force is unemployed," according to Eunice Elton. And her office estimates the rate in certain census tracts South of Market is fifteen percent, thirteen percent in Hunter's Point, ten percent in certain tracts of the Mission and Western Addition.

And you can add to these figures one Leroy Smith, hard core unemployable,who is not even a statistic.

San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle 1973

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Six Days that Shrank the World

by Tom Emch

Forty years ago yesterday, the first flight of the China Clipper from San Francisco Bay to Manila held the attention of the world. It was front page news - a fledgling world radio hookup carried live programs on the departure and arrival in the Philippines, more than 8,000 miles away.

Here is the story of the day of departure, Nov. 22, 1935, as it might have appeared in a newspaper dispatch, and the story of the flight as one of the Pan American crew members might have told it.

ALAMEDA - Nov. 22, 1935 - The China Clipper, beginning a new chapter in American aviation history, lifted off the waters of San Francisco Bay today on the world's first scheduled flight across the Pacific. Her destination: Manila, 8,000 miles away.

More than 10,000 people here cheered as the Clipper rose to the top of the waves and flew under the Bay Bridge, still under construction, over the Marina, where another 20,000 people had gathered, and set a course for Hawaii on the first leg of a world-shrinking journey into history.

At the controls was Captain Edwin Musick, who, moments before had received his sailing orders from Pan American president Juan Trippe.

"Cast off and depart for Manila," Trippe told the veteran pilot, setting in motion a six-day flight that will take the Clipper to Pearl Harbor, Midway, Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines.

During ceremonies preceding the take-off, California Gov. Frank Merriam hailed the event as an aviation milestone. He was followed to the podium by Postmaster General James Farley and the governor of the Territory of Hawaii, Joseph Poindexter.

Then, through special trans-Pacific radio facilities, the voice of Manuel Quezon, president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines was heard. He forecast the "dawn of a new era for the Orient" with the coming of the Clipper ships.

Aboard the China Clipper, now flying directly into the retreating sun at a steady 130 miles per hour, the crew is busy monitoring the rows of flight instruments that describe the performance of the four Pratt & Whitney 850-horsepower engines.

Capt. Musick has told the crew they can change from uniforms worn for the departure ceremonies and get comfortable for the 21-hour flight to Hawaii.

Engineering officer Victor Wright breaks out a pair of red pajamas and slippers. Navigators Fred Noonan and George King shed their jackets and ties and roll up their sleeves.

There are no passengers aboard; seats have been removed to make room for cargo and mail - some 110,000 letters specially canceled as the first transoceanic airmail.

Now the Clipper is swallowed by darkness. A cloud layer has closed out the sea, 8,000 feet below. Radio operator Wilson Jarboe Jr. has just informed Capt. Musick he has raised the Coast Guard cutter Ithaca and confirmed the Clipper's compass bearing.

The wind drift is checked by crewmen dropping flares from the aft hatch. Navigator Noonan takes a sighting on the flares as they fall away into the sea, and notes the speed of the drift.

After midnight he is able to get a celestial navigation fix through a hole in the clouds. In a few hours, the Clipper will pick up the Hawaii direction-finding radio beam and "ride" it home.

At 10,000 feet the big Martin flying boat is drilling through the darkness. Suddenly dawn catches us by the tail. A flood of color spreads across the quiet sea.

Noonan makes another navigation fix and then joins the off-watch crew in the lounge for breakfast. First officer R.O.D. Sullivan has set up a table and arranged hot coffee, sandwiches and fruit.

The Clipper is 20 hours out of Alameda when Capt. Musick announces it is time to shave and get back into uniform.

After the watch change, it is Sullivan who is the first to sight the landfall. Beyond the clouds is the summit of Mt. Molaki, still more than 100 miles away.

Capt. Musick begins the long descent, sliding down the Hawaii direction-finding beacon toward Honolulu. Then, Jarboe raises the radio operator at Pearl Harbor.

Diamond Head looms up in front of us and all hands man their posts for the landing in the patrolled channel. We touch the water at 10:19 a.m. The China Clipper has traversed 2,400 miles in 21 hours, 33 minutes.

The welcoming committee at Pearl is small but enthusiastic. Clipper crewmen are presented with leis, and the naval officers - thanks to Capt. Muscik - are duly impressed with our fresh uniforms and clean-shaven faces.

That evening, under glaring lights, the ground crew inspects every nut and bolt on the Clipper and loads supplies for Pan American's ocean bases on Midway, Wake and Guam.

There are 21 crates of fresh vegetables, 9 crates of oranges and lemons, and 12 crates of turkeys for the first real Thanksgiving in the history of the colonists on Wake and Guam. There are also the spare sewing-machine parts, refrigeration machinery, baseballs, tennis rackets and light bulbs - all the items requested by radio from the ocean bases.

Before the dawn takeoff, 14 passengers come aboard - replacement for the ground staffs on the islands. We are able to take on the extra weight because the hop to Midway is only 1,380 miles, requiring less gas.

The last cargo hatch is closed and, at 6:30 a.m., the second leg of the flight to the Orient begins. The Clipper rises over Honolulu as daylight spills across the mountain peaks.

The Clipper will follow its flight plan over a string of tiny islands and coral reefs - Necker Island, French Frigate Shoals, Gardner Pinnacles and Marco Reef. The volcanic islands rise sharply out of the sea like a road map across the Pacific.

But beyond Marco Reef a weather front moves down on us, and we come in on direction bearings from the Midway radio compass. Then the clouds clear and we sight the atoll, white waves foaming on the beaches.

We circle the base at 500 feet and settle in for a landing. It is 2 p.m., local time, just 8 1/2 hours from Pearl Harbor.

Our reception is noisy - all Pan American base employees crowding around the little seaplane float. Airport manager Karl Lueder posts a guard over the stacks of mail and supervises the refueling of the Clipper. Departure for Wake Island is scheduled for daybreak.

The jump to Wake is the shortest leg - 1,252 miles - but the most difficult to navigate. There are no island signposts, and finding Wake will be like finding a pinhead on a vast map of the Pacific.

Noonan has to rely on dead reckoning. But about 350 miles out of Midway, Sullivan sights a Matson liner. It's the President Lincoln, 11 days out of San Francisco and bound for Yokohama. Jarboe confirms his position and the liner salutes us with three blasts from her whistle. A few hours later he hears the radio operator on Wake and we can ride the beam into the tiny ocean base.

Eight hours, 28 minutes out of Midway, the Clipper glides into a landing on the lagoon inside the atoll. We have put more than 5,000 miles behind us since leaving San Francisco Bay.

Ahead is Guam, then Manila.

Wake's governor and airport manager, George Bicknell, is on hand to greet us. He has planned a dinner party, but we are all so exhausted that the party has to be cut short so we can get some sleep before still another dawn departure, this time at 6.

There is a final predawn weather briefing and then we are airborne again, this time into dense clouds. Ceiling is 2,000 feet.

After we are aloft an hour Jarboe makes contact with the USS Chester, eastbound out of Manila. Position is confirmed.

Noonan comes up with a little trick to get additional radio bearings as we approach Guam. There is a Japanese radio station on Rota, an island just north of Guam. He sends out a "CQ" signal, meaning "do you hear me?" on the Japanese frequency.

As they answer, he gets a bearing on Apra Harbor, and then combines the two bearings for a positive fix. The Japanese, of course, aren't too interested in anyone establishing an airline across the Pacific.

We drop into Apra Harbor and touch down at 3:05 p.m., local time. The entire Pan American contingent is there to welcome us, and the news is that we won't be taking off again at dawn.

Someone in Manila has become confused by the day gained in crossing the International Dateline. The official reception ceremony is not until the day after tomorrow. They will not be ready until then.

The error provides us with a needed day of rest before the final 1,600-mile leg to the Philippines.

Departure from Guam on November 29, is at 6:12 a.m. Below us is the roughest sea we have encountered, giant whitecaps and a wind-tossed spray leaping high into the air.

Captain Musick takes the Clipper quickly to 6,000 feet, where we find a tailwind that enables us to make almost 200 miles an hour.

The Guam-Manila leg of the flight has a pioneering note. This is the first time anyone has flown over this deserted stretch of the Pacific.

Noonan is using the sun to get a fix on our position. The weather is beautiful and we are now at 11,000 feet, drilling along at 150 miles per hour.

Once again it is time to shave and put on fresh uniforms for the welcoming ceremonies. Sullivan is first to spot the high volcanic cone of Mt. Pandan. The rugged hills of Luzon appear off the port bow and beyond is Manila Bay, our final destination.

This is the Orient. In a few minutes, the China Clipper will have conquered the Pacific. Incredibly, the flight has been almost without incident and, except for the layover on Guam, right on schedule.

From the cockpit Capt. Musick can see the escort of military planes, dipping their wings in salute. Musick responds and gently lets the Clipper down into the channel. We are on the water at 3:31 p.m., local time. Air time from Alameda is exactly 59 hours, 48 minutes.

Taxiing up to the float, we can see thousands of well-wishers lining the Manila rooftops. There is some wild cheering as the mooring lines are secured and Capt. Musick steps down the ladder and onto the float.

President Manuel Quezon of the Philippines is there to greet him. Musick hands him a letter from President Roosevelt and it is immediately canceled by the Philippine postmaster general, marking the first airmail across the Pacific.

At the official reception and banquet at the Malacanang Palace, we are told more than 100,000 people watched the landing of the China Clipper. It's truly a big day for the Filipinos.

Everyone is happy except members of the press, most of whom can't believe the 8,210 mile flight was without serious incident.

"Didn't you get lost?" one of the reporters asks. "How about the thousands of miles of fog?"

Capt. Musick explains patiently that there were four master mariners aboard and two radio operators and that ground stations monitored most of the flight. "It would have been difficult to get lost," he tells them.

Newspapers hailed the flight as the elimination of the barriers of time and space and told the world that the vast Pacific Ocean had suddenly become smaller because of the courage of a handful of aviation pioneers.

But the real significance was that the China Clipper had cut 15 days off the best surface time from San Francisco to Manila and opened up the Orient to air cargo and scheduled passenger flights.

Within a year, Pan American inaugurated passenger service to Manila, and, in the spring of 1937, there was direct service to China.

San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle November 23, 1975