TABLE OF CONTENTS FEATURES St. Petersburg Tarpon Fishing | 18 The Witch Hunt of E. J. Salcines | 22 The Mob Museum Review | 32 EXTRAS This Month in History | 10 Lost Landmarks | 10 Pour Discissions | 12 The Libation Lounge | 14 Cigar City Playground | 34 Mama Knows | 38
STAFF LISA M. FIGUEREDO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER
SUSAN CUESTA ASSISTANT EDITOR
PAUL GUZZO SENIOR WRITER
SCOTT DEITCHE WRITER
MARK DENOTE WRITER
BRENT GASKILL CONTRIBUTING WRITER
ART & PHOTOGRAPHY CONTRIBUTORS TAMPA TRIBUNE, TAMPA BAY TIMES, LA GECETA NEWSPAPER THE FLORIDA STATE ARCHIVES, HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY USF DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
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IN THE MONTHâ€™S OF APRIL & MAY June 3, 1539 Hernando de Soto claimed Florida for Spain. In 1922 Lippincott published Narratives of de Soto in Florida. The translated texts included A Narrative of de Sotoâ€™s Expedition Based on the Diary of Rodrigo Rangel by Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes. June 11, 1967 There was a race riot in Tampa, Florida and the National Guard was mobilized. Martin Chambers (19) was suspected of robbing a camera store. Chambers ran from police near Nebraska Avenue and Harrison Street, he was shot in the back and died. Several days of riots around Central Avenue followed. June 30, 1998 A federal judge halted enforcement of a new Florida law that imposed a 5-year prison term on doctors who perform a type of lateterm abortion. July 2, 1959 Wendy B. Lawrence, USN Lt. Commander, astronaut, was born in Jacksonville, Florida. July 16, 1969 Apollo XI set out from Cape Canaveral (Cape Kennedy), Florida, with Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins on the first manned mission to the surface of the moon. July 31, 2009 The space shuttle Endeavour returned to Florida after over 2 weeks aloft and a successful construction job that boosted the size and power of the international space station.
Congratulations Kenny J. Johnson Tampa, Florida who guessed last issue's Lost Landmark! The Lost Landmark in the April/May 2012 issue was a building in the "Scrub" portion of Ybor City.
Email your answer and your name to: firstname.lastname@example.org by July 1, 2012.
A Sweltering Summer Calls for a Swell Beer Summer. Right now Florida is again working to redefine the word “summer.” Out of both of Florida’s seasons, it is the one that means scorching temperatures, oppressive humidity, and yard work. For many, summer is not just a time of year, but a state of mind. Like all good states of mind, there are beers to match. Summer is not all bad. Summer ushers in a season of cookouts, bocce ball, corn hole, and various outdoor games. Summer is a time for gathering, grilling, and grabbing a beer. Beer, unlike summer, comes in many sizes and varieties. The Florida summer cannot be handled by just any beer, though. Florida summer requires a bit more than an average ale or a limp lager. There are strict guidelines for being declared “a good summer beer”; hint: it’s not just how much fruit can fit in the glass. a summer beer must be flavorful, yes, but adaptable and sensitive to its
drinker’s needs, like a balm to an ache. a true summer beer is best when it has three common factors: low alcohol content, light to medium hop character, and great food pairing. Low alcohol content for continued gaming without stumbling. Food pairing adaptability because summer means barbecue and beer is a part of that tradition (at least it should be). no one wants to put the beer down because the burgers are done. Finally, and some may disagree, but a summer beer should be low on hop character. Ok, a lower on hop character. Summer is a great time to introduce a friend to craft beer, and many people who are just trying new beers do not care for extreme hops. not everyone drinks india Pale ale for breakfast, and a summer beer should be enjoyed with family, companions, or long-lost friends. Pets work, too.
Some recommended beers of summer include: Hottenroth Berliner Weisse: Berliner Weisses may be an acquired taste for some, but tart citrus and palate-cleansing tartness hit the spot for many beer lovers, and Berliners are some of the beers with the lowest alcohol content overall. These are great as salad or cow’s milk cheese beers. also try Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche. Sierra Nevada SummerFest Lager: yes, flavorful lagers exist, and they are surging in popularity. This summer favorite from Sierra nevada boasts a nice light malt with relatively few hops. This lager is a great gateway beer for someone who is just starting to like craft beer. This one works for everything from light meats to burgers to soups. also try anchor Brewing’s Steam Beer. 12
Terrapin Rye Pale Ale: For those who have to have hops, Terrapin Brewery gives a nice hoppy pale ale at 5.3% alcohol and a nice dose of spicy rye malt. With flavors of rye bread, citrus hops, and caramel in the malts, this friendly pale ale is a staple of beer fridges in the summer time. also try Osker Blue’s Dale’s Pale ale, better yet, try it with beer can chicken. Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca: Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin artisan ales makes their own take on a Belgian-style wheat beer. This beer is aged in oak barrels with orange peel and coriander, and conditioned with a unique yeast strain. Light and refreshing at only 4.8% alcohol with a very unique flavor profile. Try it with a soup course or a goat cheese. also try Ommegang Witte. Anderson Valley Summer Solstice Cream Ale: This cream ale (so-called for color, not ingredients) bears a striking resemblance to cream soda, but with a nice malt profile. anderson Valley started canning their beers last year, and this 5.6% beer is exceptionally adaptable to beaches, cobblers, and desserts. also try Victory Brewing’s Summer Love.
Thereâ€™s a great new cookbook thatâ€™s just been released by adams Media. The never Cook Sober Cookbook by Stacy Laabs and Sherri Field is devoted to not only recipes using liquor, but also to proper cocktails to pair with the finished dishes. The recipes range from simple seafood and liquor combinations all the way to breakfast items. What goes well with a Morning after Mango Rum Breakfast Burrito? Why an Orange Margarita of course! i asked author Stacy Laabs some questions about the project:
In the last few years there has been a real cocktail revolution in the US. In parallel there's been a craft distillery boom. What are your thoughts on that? The cocktail revolution is terrific because you can go out and find flavored alcohols popping up everywhere! The flood of flavored liquor opens up so many avenues of creating new cocktails, new ways of adding flavor to food! and my guess it's going to keep growing. i mean, who would have thought years ago you'd see cucumber vodka? Just think of the great uses for that alone, salad dressings, dips, cocktails, condiment on a sandwich. What recipe do you think is the most unusual in terms of the liquor used?
How did you come up with the idea for the cookbook? you might say this one just developed completely organically. We'd been having a few drinks while grilling and were struck with a flash of inspiration for a whole laid back lifestyle like that. We had already been writing recipes with alcohol and were joking around about "never eating or cooking sober" and things just clicked from there. People always associate wine with dinner, but are there good cocktails that pair well with food (maybe an example or two)? We've found that everyone has their own tastes, and there are probably some regional differences and it may vary a bit depending on what you grew up with. Certainly there are plenty of guides out there which pair wines and food, but for cocktails, we find it's personal, and in our book we give special suggestions readers can try that we feel pair especially well with each dish. in fact, you'll find some very unusual new cocktails in there, and you may develop some brand new personal favorites! But in general, with Mexican food, plenty of people prefer Margaritas, and that's Sherri's favorite. i enjoy a gin and tonic or a rum cocktail with seafood. The biggest thing we've found is getting out of your comfort zone. With the release of nips, or travel bottles of liquor, you can go and try a variety of flavors without crashing your budget. We encourage people to fix a new cocktail with a meal and see how it tastes. Make eating and drinking an adventure, something to explore! 14
in this cookbook (combining several liquors together) i'd say Last Call Long island iced Tea Chicken. This one really goes in bold directions in mixing liquors in a recipe, which is something not seen that often. The second cookbook we are writing has absinthe in recipes. What's your favorite cocktail? Sherri's is Margarita. Stacy's is Long island ice Tea. What's the most versatile liquor in terms of a cooking ingredient, in your experience? Vodka. First it's tasteless so if you screw up adding too much to your dish you probably can get away with the mispour. Second, Vodka offers a lot of flavors so you stretch your imagination in cooking and creating new cocktails. What liquor do you suggest people don't cheap out on, for both drinking and cooking? i think it comes down to your pallet. Everyone has that 'threshold' for what is something you just don't want to skimp on. in general, you hear people say wine. i'd follow by saying scotch, bourbon, whiskeys and for me personally, sake. i love smooth sake. Sherri is serious about her tequila.
he time line is late 1940s. Harry S. Truman was president. World War ii was over. Penicillin was created as a practical antibiotic, and the first computer was invented with over 18,000 vacuum tubes. St. Petersburg, Florida was known for its green benches. Baseball was huge with yankees spring training in town, and the two lane gandy was the only bridge crossing Tampa Bay. St. Petersburg was also gaining popularity as a fishing destination due to its Tarpon Roundup sponsored the Junior Chamber of Commerce. Tarpon fishing tournaments of today revolve around Boca gande Pass and gasparilla island to the south where anglers battle for million dollar payouts and big sponsorship dollars. Back in the 40s the Tarpon Roundup lured out-of-state tourists in with overall total jackpots of 1,000 silver dollars at stake. Today, the same Jaycee Tarpon Roundup has morphed into the Suncoast Tarpon Roundup, the oldest tarpon-fishing tournament in the world. This year 2012, celebrates their 78th consecutive year of catching the silver king.
top Keith Neville's 91-pounder as the light tackle leader. The knuckle buster division is for dragless reels.” The St. Petersburg Times continued to report the following day. “After delivering a solid punch in the 12th annual Tarpon Roundup records Friday with a 78-pound knuckle buster champion tarpon, Mrs. Grace Dever followed up yesterday with a real knockout when she went back to the same fishing spot and caught an 118 ½-pounder to tie up the woman's championship. The tarpon was caught between Gadsden Point and the Port of Tampa channel, again taking The Times Best Bet as a winning tip off. Dever, who became light tackle champion Friday, declared his wife put on a magnificent exhibition of fishing skill. He also said there were some very big tarpon in the vicinity. It is the first time in the history of the Roundup that any person has won the champion spot in two divisions in two days' of fishing. This accomplishment is all the more unusual when the Roundup has only three days to go. Dever declared yesterday that he and Mrs. Dever were going after the medium and heavy tackle prizes today. They fish in a boat he built himself.”
ack in the years 1946 through 1948 a dark horse couple dominated leader boards alongside well-known local tarpon fishing families such as the Mastrys and the Kellys. The husband and wife team of Denzil and grace Dever cut their names into numerous trophies during the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th annual Jaycees Tarpon Roundup. St. Petersburg's evening newspaper, The Independent, reports the action on July 27, 1946. “Mrs. Grace Dever and her husband Denzil, local sports anglers went tarpon fishing off Gadsden Point yesterday and in a few hours of angling brought to gaff new leaders for two divisions of the 12th annual Tarpon Roundup. Mrs. Dever boated a 78-pounder to displace Thomas L. Heard's 69pounder as the knuckle buster leader, and Dever boated a 96-pound fish to 18
another reporter gave this account of the small wooden boat that Dever built. “Denzil Dever, fishing from a boat he built himself took the light tackle record in the Tarpon Roundup. To add honors to glory, Dever assembled a knuckle buster reel for his wife Grace, and she took the top spot. Dever worked long hours during the fishing of the Jaycee contest to assemble a boat and get into the contest when he could not buy one. As day after day went by and he had not yet made a try for the Roundup prizes, he nearly despaired. With only four days to go, the Devers put their home made 15-foot boat and outboard motor in the water, and captured two prize winning tarpon.” The following year St. Petersburg Times reporter Rube allyn kept the media frenzy alive with his “along the Waterfront” article printed on July 22, 1947. “Grace Dever, the little gal with big knuckles, maintained her lead in knuckle buster division by virtue of the profession of her opponent. Claude Melton, who journeyed to the Gandy Bridge from his beloved Gulf Beaches to wrest the knuckle buster championship of the Tarpon Roundup, was the old accurate accountant at the weighing of his own fish. He refused an “honest” weight of 81 pounds for an “absolutely accurate” 79 pounds, thus allowing the championship to slip away. The woman knuckle buster champ, who was trained by her husband “Big Denzil” Dever, now maintains a firm hold on the $150 top money, which is a repeat from last year.”
again in 1948, the spectacular stories of tarpon fishing continued to draw the attention of the local newspapers and the angling community. This time, Mrs. Dever scores a sensational 130-pound fish for the 14th Tarpon Roundup. The Independent ran their story first on July 1st. “Mrs. Denzil Dever, long prominent in tarpon fishing circles and prize winner in other years, took over the leadership in two divisions of the 1948 Tarpon Roundup and second place in another by bringing a 130-pound silver king to gaff in Buncess Pass early this morning. Mrs. Devers prize fish was caught on nine-thread line and from a rowboat. Fishing with her husband, Mrs. Dever battled the fish for two hours and through seven jumps. It was weighed in at O'Neill's Boat Livery at Pinellas Point.” The St. Petersburg Times followed up with this account on July 2, 1948. “Late yesterday afternoon, Jim Young, secretary of the Tarpon Roundup, announced he had a weigh slip from Mrs. Denzil Dever verifying the fact that she had caught a tarpon weighing 130 pounds on nine-thread line, from a rowboat. The catch, most sensational woman's fishing news of the year was made after a battle lasting over two hours, from a rowboat built by her husband for just such a fishing victory. Using light tackle all the time, Mrs. Dever is an expert angler. She baits her hooks, makes her casts, rigs her tackle and catches her own bait, an accomplishment which is rare among lady fishermen for tarpon.” in 1949 the Devers continued their dominance in the Roundups line order. This excerpt from the St. Petersburg Times July 3rd edition seems to wrap up the couples consistency and determination through years of tournament tarpon fishing. “Grace Dever, the gal who cleaned up five divisions last year, yesterday furnished the news of tarpon fishing when, accompanied by her husband D. 20
Dever, she landed a 99-pounder on light tackle. She was fishing in Buncess Pass out of a rowboat built by Dever especially for Tarpon fishing. Mrs. Dever got the strike shortly after 11:00 a.m. And fought the fish until nearly 1:00 p.m. Before successfully bringing it to gaff on nine-thread line. The tarpon was weighed in at O'Neill's dock, Pinellas Point. During the morning's fishing, the Devers had seven strikes. The first six tarpon got off. She landed the seventh.” and so the history of St. Petersburg's tarpon fishing goes. Many fish hooked, but not all caught. The thrill a Silver King provides when dancing on the end of a line cannot be duplicated. Every battle is epic in tarpon fishing. it's the reason so many anglers are consumed by the sport. Tarpon fishing has continued to grow and expand in St. Petersburg and the entire Tampa Bay area. The fishery has evolved and attitudes have changed over the years, particularly with tarpon. Bringing a fish to gaff followed by hanging it on the docks in order to draw out-ofstate tourists to our region is a thing of the past. Tournaments are still won and heroes are still made while all tarpon these days are released. But there are still the legendary anglers of our area who were propelled into greatness though the Roundup that deserve their spot in St. Petersburg's tarpon fishing history. grace and Denzil Dever have rightfully taken their place in the ranks. About the author: Brent gaskill is a Tampa Bay native who grew up fishing the waters of Mullet Key and Buncess Pass. His grandparents are Denzil and grace Dever. These newspaper articles, photographs, and stories have been passed down to him to share the history of St. Petersburg and keep the stories of tarpon fishing alive. Capt. Brent has operated a successful charter fishing business since 1998. He fishes both inshore and offshore in Tampa Bay and the gulf of Mexico. For questions, comments, or more charter information, he can be reached at 727-510-1009.
The Witch Hunt of
E. J. SaLCinES By Paul Guzzo
There was a Witch Hunt in Hillsborough County in 1984. It was this community’s version of the McCarthy Hearings, as federal prosecutors went to any means necessary to prove that Hillsborough County was corrupt at every level of government. The man charged with exposing the dark government shadows was U.S. Attorney Bob Merkle. His primary target–then-State Attorney and future Judge Emilio Jose Salcines, otherwise known as “E.J.”, a man Merkle swore was one of the most corrupt figures in the entire county, a man he claimed was in bed with drug dealers and Mafioso’s, a man he promised would be exposed for using his power to give lean sentences to criminals he befriended.
erkle had not one iota of direct proof to back destroy the good names of countless innocents. it is actually the same tacsuch claims, and for good reason–each claim tic used by adolf Hitler–he preyed on the german’s fear of further ecowas absolutely bogus. Merkle, however, did nomic collapse to assume sole power of the nation and turn the citizens not care about his lack of proof. While on the Jews by blaming them for the nation’s monetary problems. and, Salcines was in fact innocent, Merkle truly as unpopular as it may be to accept, george W. Bush took advantage of believed otherwise. He used all of the legal our fear of terrorism to pass laws that in the past americans would have means at his disposal and allegedly a few that thought provided the federal government with too much power. were illegal in his effort to topple Salcines. Since the beginning of time, charismatic leaders have He failed in the court of law, but he succeeded in been able to take advantage of the irrationality that lies public opinion. it is hard to imagine anyone in inside the mentally weak. and this is what happened in Hillsborough County turning on Salcines today. The Hillsborough County in 1984. The men and women of man has given so much of himself to the community. this community had lived with corruption for over a He was a founder of the USF Latino Community century and they feared that they would live with it for advisory Committee. He helped make the Tony Pizzo another century if something was not done about it. statue in ybor City a reality. He was the 1993 Hispanic They were willing to stone even their most beloved if Man of the year. He served on the South Texas College that is what it took. of Law’s Board of Trustees, had the school’s lounge Hillsborough, primarily the City of Tampa, had a named in his honor and convinced so many Tampa collong history of elected and law enforcement officials lege graduates to attend the law school that it is known being buddy-buddy with known criminals, dating throughout Tampa as “E.J.U.” He dedicates much of his back to the early 1900s when gambling kingpins time to chronicling West Tampa’s history and he speaks such as Charlie Wall were allowed by politicians to ” Merkle Robert “Mad Dog regularly to honor fallen U.S. soldiers. Salcines treats hock numbers in city hall and the police department in everyone he comes across, whether he has known them exchange for rigging the elections in their favor. Elections became so corfor decades or simply seconds, as though they were his grandchild. in rupt that in 1935 the U.S. government sent the U.S. army Reserves Hillsborough County, he is as beloved as a man can be, even having a to ensure an honest election; not even the military could do that, as West Tampa park named in his family’s honor. But, in the mid-1980s, ballot boxes were stuffed anyway and poll workers who would not this community pointed its finger at him, declared him guilty of being cooperate were beaten. in the 1950s, the Kefauver Commission, corrupt and briefly ended his political career. which was touring the nation and investigating organized crime, How could anyone turn on E.J. Salcines? Fear- the same tactic used dur- reported that Tampa was one of the most corrupt cities in the United ing the Salem Witch Trials and the McCarthy hearings. The heads of the States. and in the 1960s, one of the most powerful organized crime witch trials spoke so passionately and convincingly about witches lurking leaders in the world was a Tampa native and resident–Santo Trafficante. in the shadows, waiting to attack the children, that Salem residents were By the 1970s, a new enemy was taking over the United willing to toss commonsense aside and allow their neighbors to be States–drugs–and the federal government identified Florida as a declared guilty of witch craft. McCarthy later used the fear of World War gateway for most of the shipments into the United States. Fear that iii with the Communist USSR to convince the nation to allow him to drug abuse would destroy the youth and that drug dealers would
Honorable Judge E. J. Salcines JUnE/JULy
become as powerful as warlords in other parts of the world such as the Middle East and africa, U.S. citizens were willing to allow the federal government to do whatever it took to win this “war.” Billions of dollars of federal money was funneled into the “war” and the prisons became overcrowded with young men and women who were arrested on drug charges; many were nickel and dime dealers, petty criminals locked away for years for a small crime, their lives ruined because of fear. The federal government named the U.S. attorneys the soldiers charged with carrying out the mission of eradicating the drug problem. They were told to prosecute everyone they could who could have ties to the drug trade. in Florida, the federal government’s top soldier was Robert “Mad Dog” Merkle. He was a strong willed and charismatic leader, the type of
quoted as saying about his childhood in an april 20, 1986 Orlando Sentinel profile. at an early age, Merkle learned to defend himself and learned that he should always stay true to his conviction, the rest of the world be damned. His tough childhood made him strong. Like his father, nothing would deter him from doing what was right or what he thought was right. When his family relocated to the Tampa Bay area, he attended St. Leo Preparatory School and earned a scholarship to play football for notre Dame. Fighting irish football was THE top athletic program in the nation at the time, bigger than the yankees, Lakers and Cowboys combined. Only the top football players had what it took to wear the blue and gold. and Merkle’s position–fullback–was one that only the toughest of
“a lot of people didn’t like general Macarthur, general Eisenhower,”
Merkle told a St. Petersburg Times reporter in 1983 while explaining that he would do what was necessary to bring the corrupt to justice. “i’m not saying i’m a general. But we’re in a war here.” man who could convince the weak minded that the sky was falling, the type of man who could convince this county that even one of their most adored citizens was crooked. in order to understand why Hillsborough County would turn on E.J. Salcines, perhaps it is best to first understand the man who led the witch hunt. “There were times i felt in Merkle’s thrall, “ Mary Jo Melone admitted in an obituary she wrote on Merkle in the Tampa Tribune on May 8, 2003. “He had that effect on people. When you talked to him, your own sense of reality tended to dissolve. it was replaced by Merkle’s. Every conversation turned into a debate in which he always had the last word. Until you managed to escape his presence, the world was the way he said it was.” "He was bigger than life," J. Larry Hart was quoted as saying in Merkle’s May 7, 2003 St. Petersburg Times obituary. Hart worked with Mr. Merkle as a federal prosecutor. "He had human weaknesses. Something that made him great also weakened him. and that was his dogged determination.” Merkle’s strengths and weaknesses were a result of his upbringing. Robert “Mad Dog” Merkle was the son of an air Force doctor who in rural South Carolina was willing to treat african american patients in the 1950s. The family was often the subject of scorn, even violence, but his father refused to allow the ignorant to force him from doing what was right. “i couldn’t tell you how many times i was beaten up,” Merkle was once 24
men could play, one that called for the player to put his head down and charge full steam into a mass of defensive players in order to clear the way for his running back or quarterback. This was before helmet to helmet contact was illegal. Fullbacks were human battering rams. That Merkle could play such a position for such a school says everything one needs to know about his toughness, tenacity and desire to win. He was sidelined by injuries in his senior year, ending his athletic career. needing a new venue to showcase the skills that made him a successful football player, he turned to the courtroom. after graduating from the University of notre Dame Law School, he was recruited to join the Justice Department during the nixon administration. He was thrown right into a volatile time in U.S. history, prosecuting political terrorists and international drug dealers. and he did it without a quiver of fear or doubt. Onlookers said that if not for his young face, they would have thought he was a legal veteran, as he never seemed to wilt under the pressure of prosecuting such evil men. He left the federal job in 1977 to take a position with the Pinellas-Pasco State attorney’s Office. it was there that he earned the nickname “Mad Dog” by prosecuting the son of a Pinellas sheriff’s lieutenant for driving while intoxicated. What made this prosecution special was that the case was originally dropped by his boss, possibly because it was an unwritten law that the office did favors for members of local law enforcement. Merkle’s attitude was that a criminal is a criminal, no matter to whom he or she was related. Such boldness caught the eye of U.S. Senator Paula
Hawkins, who interviewed him for the job of U.S. attorney. it was a position that needed honest men, as drug traffickers were known to offer bribes to those in high ranking law enforcement positions. Hawkins knew that Merkle was not a man who could be bought. He was just 39 years old when he was sworn in as a U.S. attorney. His ferocity had taken to heights most men never reach, let alone at such a young age. Promising to help clean up Florida, he set a bulls-eye target on what he knew was one of the most corrupt communities in all the state–Hillsborough County. in 1983, he won his first major battle against Hillsborough’s corrupt government, uncovering what was then considered to be the biggest political scandal in the history of the county. Three county commissioners–Jerry Bowmer, Fred anderson and Joe Kotvas–had been caught on tape taking bribes in exchange for County Commission votes. after a century of being labeled a corrupt community, the resident’s hailed Markle as a hero following the County Commission scandal. The people believed he was the man to finally clean up Hillsborough. armed with a major success and the backing of a disgusted community with an “enough is enough” attitude, he announced that he was going to eradicate corruption from the county. He said Fred Anderson that he would be leading a grand jury investigation of the Jerry Bowmer county’s government. Everyone was a suspect and most of the county backed him, willing to allow him to do whatever it took to win his war. Joe Kotvas “a lot of people didn’t like general Macarthur, general Eisenhower,” Merkle told a St. Petersburg Times reporter in 1983 while explaining that he would do what was necessary to bring the corrupt to justice. “i’m not saying i’m a general. But we’re opposition. There were no skeletons in his closet. There was no dark side to Salcines. There was no direct proof that could have linked in a war here.” Few, however, could have suspected that he thought he could end the Salcines to corruption. Merkle did not need a solid reason, however. The fact that Salcines corruption by bringing down State attorney E.J. Salcines. had a job that could have been corrupted was all he needed. Merkle “was suspicious of everybody who worked in the courtalcines was born in 1938 in West Tampa, where his Spanish-immigrant parents owned a department store on the corner of Howard house–the judges, the assistant state attorneys, the criminal defense avenue and Main Street, the location of the park that now bears attorneys,” then-Hillsborough Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett about his family name. it was at that hardware store he began his history Merkle in a 1983 St. Petersburg Times article. “He seemed to be education, listening to old cigar factory workers and Spanish-american convinced there was corruption.” “[Salcines] had done nothing wrong,” said norman Cannella, a War veterans from both sides of the conflict tell stories about their pasts. He performed in Latin theatre productions and excelled in school. He former chief assistant state attorney under Salcines. “That man then earned his B.a. from Florida Southern and his law degree from does not have a corrupt bone in his body. But Merkle really did South Texas College of Law. He only had one career path in mind–a believe that E.J. was guilty. This wasn’t some evil vendetta. He really prosecutor. He wanted to put away the bad guys, not defend them. in thought he was guilty. i don’t know why or where he got that 1964, he became the first Spanish-speaking assistant U.S. attorney for thought from, but he did think that way. and he became obsessed the U.S. Justice Department’s Middle District of Florida and within with showing everyone that he was right. But it was impossible to four years he was head of his office’s Criminal Division. That same year, do because there was nothing to show, so it just got ugly.” it is ironic that the federal government’s confidence in Salcines’ 1968, he decided to throw his hat into the political ring and run for the position of state prosecuting attorney of Florida's Thirteenth Judicial honesty is what led to Merkle’s confidence in Salcines’ dishonesty. in 1974, Salcines was named the special prosecutor for the first Circuit. He was so popular in Hillsborough County that he ran without
statewide grand jury investigating drug smuggling across Florida. among those being investigated was Tampa native angelo Bedami, Jr. who was head of one of the largest drug rings in the state, bringing in heavy cocaine weight via South america. in 1983, the Salcines-steered grand jury led to the conviction of 20 of 24 people connected to the angelo Bedami drug ring. at this time, Merkle’s grand jury probing Hillsborough government corruption was investigating whether members of the angelo Bedami-led drug ring were trying to bribe law enforcement officials throughout the county. Such an illegal enterprise does not become so successful for so long without a few law enforcement and/or elected officials on the take, it was rationalized by Merkle. He was determined to find the guilty. The star of that particular grand jury investigation was armando Tamargo and his son John, then-manager of the new york Mets’ farm club in Colombia, South Carolina. in March 1981, their friend Leon Wood, a Bedami drug trafficker, was arrested when police found two kilograms of cocaine in a gym bag in his truck. He was charged with possession and trafficking, as well as possession of a firearm, offenses that carried up to a 15-year sentence. Wood asked John Tamargo if he could help fix his case. John agreed. in the summer of 1981, armando showed up at the home of 26
Salcines, whose office was prosecuting Wood. He offered Salcines $75,000 if he went easy on Wood. “i immediately stopped the conversation, told [Tamargo] i would not participate in any such matter or conversation, and as i escorted him out of my residence, i told him, ‘Mr. Wood could get help lawfully for himself under the trafficking statute,” Salcines later said in a prepared statement. in the morning, Salcines reported the bribery attempt to Hillsborough County Sheriff Walter Heinrich. Wood was later among the 20 Salcines’ grand jury helped to convict. Salcines testified twice in front of Merkle’s grand jury about his brief meeting with John Tamargo. On both occasions he answered questions for over two hours. He also provided files, made assistants available for interviews by the federal prosecutors and turned over a number of cases at their request. He offered and gave complete cooperation because he had nothing to hide and because he believed that the Tamargos were the sole targets. He soon realized how wrong he was. During the questioning, Salcines realized that some of the questions were not being asked in hopes of implicating the Tamargos; the prosecutors were trying to paint Salcines as man who was on the take himself, believing he did not report the bribe either as a favor or because he actually took it. Merkle believed Salcines was protecting Bedami’s drug ring. it did not seem to matter that Wood was convicted. “He was so convinced that E.J. was unlawfully compensated by the drug traffickers that he was not thinking rationally,” said Cannella. There was no proof of Merkle’s belief, but he did not care. He had a gut feeling and did not care about direct proof. in February 1984, Salcines was asked to testify for a third time in front of the grand jury. That same day, norman Cannella, who by that time had left the State attorney’s Office to pursue a career in the private sector, was indicted on criminal charges of racketeering and drug smuggling. There was no direct proof to back these accusations. Cannella said Merkle took some of his statements made before the grand jury and twisted them in a way to provide him with the means to charge him. Merkle perhaps knew that he could not defeat Cannella in the court room, so turned his arrest into a public spectacle so he could win a conviction in public opinion.
Cannella was one of the area’s most respected attorneys. a former terms of PR. The general public was not aware that in a grand jury navy lieutenant, while serving under Salcines he was known as his setting with an attorney like Merkle guilt could have been created muscle, the man who made the tough decisions and kept people in from thin air. The general public’s opinion was that if Salcines had line. in the courtroom, he was just as fearless, a man who could nothing to hide he would have testified. make witnesses quiver while charming the jury with his smooth With public opinion on his side, Merkle then upped the ante, claimsouthern drawl. Like Salcines, it seemed impossible to convince any- ing he had further proof that Salcines was in bed with the drug one he could be crooked. But Merkle knew that a picture is worth a dealer–Pedro Leal. thousand words. Cannella was arrested while fishing for bass in a in 1981, Leal was freed two years into a 30-year drug smuggling phosphate pit in eastern Hillsborough and marched past the cameras sentence with the help of Salcines, who testified at the time that Leal had in his blue jeans and rubber boots. become a valuable asset as a state informant. Merkle claimed corruption “it doesn’t always matter if your innocent if the attorney can make was behind the shortened sentence. But Leal’s attorney, then-State you look guilty to the public,” said Cannella, explaining that some Representative Elvin Martinez, rebuffed, “The law provides for the reducpeople to this day think he was convicted of a crime even though he tion of sentence in cases of this sort. That’s the way the law is supposed never was. He said that the photos of him in handcuffs are the rea- to work.” Martinez went on to explain the information provided by Leal son behind the misnomer. led to the arrest of 75 other drug smugglers. When Salcines arrived to testify, he was told he was a target of an Leal refused to testify in the grand jury hearings against Salcines, investigation as well and was subpoenaed to leaving Merkle with very little on which to base appear before the grand jury for a fourth time the his accusations in the court of law. in the court of following day. The purpose of that hearing would public opinion, however, he continued to have everybe to prove that Salcines was working for the drug thing he needed–his dominant personality. traffickers. Remember, the man called “Mad Dog” truly felt “normally subpoenas are served at least two that Salcines was guilty and when he stated his case days in advance,” wrote Roland Manteiga in La to then-governor Bob graham, Merkle’s conviction Gaceta Newspaper on March 23, 1984, “allowing won him over. graham publicly stated that he was for a witness to consult with an attorney if he disappointed in Salcines for taking the fifth; saying wishes to do so.” doing so was eroding public confidence in Salcines Salcines knew what Merkle was up to. Like he and his office. Then, in april 1984, graham ordered did to Cannella, Merkle wanted to further quesa special state probe into Salcines’ involvement with tion Salcines in hope that he would also say somePedro Leal. thing that could be twisted into a guilty statement Salcines was being investigated by both the state and used to charge him with a crime. Salcines was and federal government. too smart to get caught up in that game; he was Dozens of witnesses testified in both investigations. Norman Cannella not going to be a pawn in Merkle’s game. He His appointment schedule and case files were ceased. refused to testify, invoking the Fifth amendment, and said if subpoe- His phone records were sequestered. naed he would plead the Fifth again. More than a dozen witnesses who appeared before the grand jury later “i will not participate in his irresponsible efforts to destroy me and stated they were pressured to speak out against Salcines. another witness my office,” Salcines told the press. He said if Merkle wanted him to said he was offered drugs, money and a Cadillac if he “manufactured” a testify, he would have to charge him with a crime, which he knew was case against Salcines. and yet another claimed he was asked to burglarize impossible to do because there was no evidence of wrongdoing on an office for evidence. his part. Merkle “suffers from the Holy War Syndrome,” said Miami defense Most in the legal profession at the time agreed that taking the fifth lawyer neal R. Sonnett in a March 3, 1986 Miami Herald article about was the correct decision. Salcines had not been charged and Merkle Merkle. “People imbued with the Holy War Syndrome want so badly to was such a skilled attorney that he could have turned a Salcines story go after corruption and illegal activity that they’ll do anything, trample about playing in the snow into an admission of cocaine dealing. anybody’s rights, destroy anybody’s reputation. Merkle doesn’t under“On two occasions, i’ve seen him just eat people alive on the wit- stand that a prosecutor has to be concerned for individual rights.” ness stand. i mean, they just broke down and cried,” a former pros“not even my proctologist knows me as well as i’ve been examined,” ecutor who once worked for Merkle was quoted as saying in the april Salcines joked in a March 8, 1987 St. Petersburg Times article. 20, 1986 Orlando Sentinel article. “He just ate them alive. i don’t in 1984, however, the probes were not a laughing matter. He was not think there is anyone he’s afraid of–inside or outside the courtroom. charged with a crime, but with two investigations of him ongoing, the public’s grumblings of his guilt grew louder. and i know a lot of people who are afraid of him.” “i underwent a very, very tough test,” Salcines was quoted as saying in Salcines decision to plead the fifth, however, was a wrong move in JUnE/JULy
a March 8, 1987 St. Petersburg Times article. “not too many people have grand jury was provided more time they would have proven thus. survived the type of attack that was made on me. Certainly i have been in 1988, Merkle stepped down as a federal prosecutor to run for U.S. examined more thoroughly than any individual that i have known in my Senate. The Republican Party, perhaps wary of his “Mad Dog” ways, bare23 years as a prosecutor. ly recognized him as a candidate and threw the entirety of its weight They created a smoking gun, when a gun did not exist.” behind his primary opponent, Connie Mack. When Mack refused to in June 1984, the state probe cleared Salcines of accusations that he debate him, Merkle carried a cardboard cutout of Mack around the state improperly helped reduce Leal’s sentence. But still, Merkle would not and conducted faux debates with it. Perhaps a testament to his ability as drop his grand jury investigation. a public speaker, though defeated by Mack, he won a surprising 38 perin September 1984, Merkle finally proved that Salcines’ office was cor- cent of the vote on a small budget with smaller party support. With such rupt–sort of. a former Hillsborough County assistant attorney admitted charisma, one has to wonder how far Merkle could have gone politically to Merkle in a grand jury hearing that he sold if he had toned down the “Mad Dog.” $100 worth of marijuana to another On May 5, 2003, Merkle died of cancer at Hillsborough County prosecutor on three the age of 58. all of his obituaries chronicled separate occasions. it was nothing more than the false allegations he brought up against a case of a person who could get marijuana Salcines. if the Salcines grand jury scandal had buying it for a friend. The former assistant never happened, Merkle would probably have attorney pleaded guilty. as he left the courtbeen fondly remembered. Outside of that fiasroom, he was met with a standing ovation by co, he was a successful state and federal prosea group of attorneys. Merkle and his team cutor who brought numerous drug smugglers stewed as they realized that they were a punch to justice during the War On Drugs. His office line that day. But still, Merkle would not call developed the federal drug smuggling and off the hounds. money-laundering case in Tampa against On October 1, a federal judge threw out all Panamanian President Manuel noriega and he charges against Cannella, stating the governsuccessfully prosecuted Carlos Ledher Rivas, ment had presented too little evidence to supone of the founding members of the port them. Merkle was met with yet another Columbian Medellin drug cartel. yet, little of embarrassing defeat. But still, Merkle would those grand legal victories were mentioned in not leave Salcines alone his obituaries. The Salcines witch hunt was Then, he finally earned a direct victory often the focus. Perhaps, that was his comeupagainst Salcines. pance for trying to ruin the name of one of the in november, 1984, E.J. Salcines, the man most beloved men in the history of who was once so popular that in 1968 no one Hillsborough County. Much to his credit, foldared run against him, was defeated in his lowing Merkle’s death, Salcines did not take reelection bid by Republican Bill James. any shots at the man who worked so hard to E. J. Salcines Salcines believed that the election was the rearuin him. son for the grand jury investigation. He believed the Republicans knew E.J. Salcine successfully rebuilt his image. He will forever be known the only way they could defeat him was with a public smear campaign. as Judge E.J. Salcines following 10 years on the 2nd District Court of The people had spoken–without any proof; they thought that Salcines appeals. More importantly, he reclaimed his spot as a beloved son of was guilty. Tampa. “Embittered? no,'” Salcines stated in the March 8, 1987 article. ''no, i in typical Salcines fashion, when asked if he holds any animosity wouldn't say i'm bitter. i would say i was hurt that i was defeated in the toward the public for turning on him, he said, “Of course not. i love way i was defeated because i don't think i was defeated by my opponent. everyone in this community like family.” ''i think i was a creature that the media exploited. i was an elected pubit’s hard to imagine that there was a day in which E.J. Salcines was lic official and, as a result, they created a facade that was not true. They reviled, but it actually did occur. and if you lived in Hillsborough created a smoking gun, when a gun did not exist.” County during that time, you may have been one of the sheep who The morning after his defeat, Salcines was awakened by the ringing of turned on him. his bedside telephone. it was a close friend of his. The friend did not call A personal note from the Owner & Founder of Cigar City Magazine, Lisa M. Figueredo: to console Salcines, instead he asked if he would consider running for mayor. That told Salcines everything he needed to know–be back. The I would like to thank E. J. for allowing me to run this article in my magazine. grand jury scandal was only temporary and when he was exonerated the city and county he loved would support him once again. E. J. has a special connection to my family and we could not love him more if The grand jury investigated Salcines for another two year. When it he was blood. There are a handful of people that come into your life that you disbanded in March 1986, it never uncovered any evidence that could be hold the utmost respect for, who have a presence about them that almost used to charge Salcines with a crime. makes you feel you must bow as they enter the room. They command respect Merkle, however, would not admit he was wrong. He said the grand with ease. E. J. is all of that and more. I dedicate this to three women that felt the jury didn’t find anything because key witnesses such as Leal were consame way about you as I do: my great grandmother Carmen Ramirez Esperante, vinced not to talk. He still swore Salcines was corrupt and said if the my grandmother Rosa Figueredo, and my aunt Marilyn L. Figueredo. 28
orn on april 13, Like Santo Trafficante Jr., 1919 in Orlando, Blackburn was the undisputBy Scott Deitche Blackburn was a welled kingpin of his empire. known figure to police But in one essential aspect, before he rose to the top of Blackburn differed greatly. the underworld heap, He got arrested...a lot. While before World War ii. Santo Trafficante Jr., never Blackburn served during spent a night in jail, the War, making money Blackburn spent a good from black market sales, chunk of his life in prison. and hit the ground runHe was arrested numerous ning when he returned to times in the 1940s and 50s, Orlando. He hooked up for gambling and other with Clyde Lee, a trusted crimes. Al Scaglione Dominick Furci Harlan Blackburn lieutenant, in 1948. Lee On October 19, 1963 later told police that the gambling operations were bringing in up to the FBi arrested Blackburn and two of his top lieutenants, Joe $100,000 a week at times. Wheeler of Orlando and William Strawder from Sanford. They were Blackburn’s power was not only derived from his corrupting of law charged with not having a gambling stamp and a number of minor enforcement and political connections, but his relationship with the gambling charges. The constant law enforcement pressure on Tampa Mafia. The connections between the Tampa Mafia and the Blackburn’s operations did little to dissuade the gangster. cracker mob were so numerous, it’s safe to say that the two crime in november of 1962, Blackburn was arrested as part of a gamorganizations were integral to each other’s gambling operations in bling sweep that also netted Ralph Strawder, one of Blackburn’s top many parts of the state. associates. The gambling operation was said to have brought in over There were a number of notable Tampa underworld figures that $200,000 a week. worked with Blackburn and members of his crew. Joe Pelusa Diaz a few years later, Blackburn’s organization was at its peak. Police ran a bolita operation in Tampa and Winter Haven, along with estimated that in 1971 Blackburn had about 20 bolita bankers and Jimmy Fraterrgio and Raymond Rodriguez. Diaz’s operation used 200 sellers in his organization. But by the mid 1970s, that number some of Blackburn’s sellers in Winter Haven. Dominick Furci over- was cut in half due to not only law enforcement pressure, but by the saw gambling operations in Brooksville with some of Blackburn’s changing nature of illegal gambling away from bolita, and the fact guys. He would drive up on the weekends to take bets. Sam Cagnina that Blackburn was in prison for the first part of the 1970s, due to a was arrested with members of Blackburn’s Polk County crew. and al one-two punch of a tax evasion charge, and a conviction for setting Scaglione resided in Lakeland and operated the italian Castle restau- up his right hand man Clyde Lee, for a botched assassination rant at 1801 new Tampa Highway, where FDLE reports indicate attempt off i-4. members of the cracker mob would operate. after his parole in 1975 Blackburn began dealing marijuana, but in the late 50s and early 60s the cracker mob’s tentacles reached was arrested for that in 1976. after his release on the marijuana up into georgia, where they provided lay-off services from local gam- charges, Blackburn traded up for cocaine, and a federal sentence for bling figures in the Peach State. an FBi informant told the Bureau trafficking in 1981. Four years later, Blackburn was paroled again. By that Rudy Mach, a Moultrie gambling kingpin laid off bets to this time, his organization was just a memory. Many of his former Blackburn in Orlando, who in turn laid off his bets to Trafficante. colleagues were dead or out of the business. But that didn’t stop Blackburn’s group also intersected with members of the loosely-affil- Blackburn from turning to crime. in mid 1990, Blackburn was iated Dixie Mafia in such gambling-rich locales as Phenix City. arrested at his home in rural Seminole County, when authorities Though he was a gambler by profession, Blackburn was not inca- found traces of cocaine. He was sent back to prison, but paroled pable of violence. Jack Butler was in charge of Blackburn’s gambling again in 1992. He started dealing cocaine, grossing over $10,000 a in Daytona Beach. in 1957 word began to spread that in addition to week. But his new business venture was short-lived after an associate not only consistently betting away his profits, that Butler wanted to was arrested for dealing. He was sent back to prison, with a 24-year cut off ties with Blackburn and forge an alliance with the Dixie sentence. Mafia, bringing them into the Sunshine State. On the night of Blackburn died on October 21, 1998. and with him went the December 11th, Butler and his wife were gunned down in their cracker mob, an integral part of the history, and lore, of Central Daytona Beach house. Though unsolved, the general consensus was Florida. that Blackburn took care of Butler, cementing his hold over the cracker mob. 30
By Scott Deitche
This past Valentine’s Day, on the anniversary of the infamous gangland massacre, one of the most buzzed-about museums in years opened in downtown Las Vegas. Officially titled The national Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, the facility is better known as The Mob Museum. The idea of a museum dedicated to mobster, and the law enforcement officers who took them down, generated some controversy when it was proposed. But development continued and a story of a vital link in the history of not only Vegas, but the US, has opened. Located in resurging downtown Las Vegas, the Museum was constructed in the old Federal Courthouse, a couple blocks from Fremont Street. The Museum is four floors of crime, cops, and a healthy dose of old Las Vegas memorabilia. But it’s not all wall photos and ephemera. The Museum is also highly interactive. Developed by Dennis and Kathy Barrie, whose work includes the Spy Museum in DC, there are a variety of multimedia presentations, simulators, and an excellent documentary on the Kefauver Hearings which is located in the original courtroom where the hearings took place in 1950. 32
Starting at the fourth floor and working your way down, you go through the history of Las Vegas, gambling, pre-Castro Cuba, law enforcement’s response against the mob, and lots and lots of gangsters, form artifacts to ephemera to mug shots. The Museum’s coverage of the Mafia is extensive, and extends to even the most obscure crime families, like Madison, Wisconsin (yes, there was a Mafia family in Madison, led for decades by Carlo Caputo). Law enforcement, and those who helped win the war on the mob, are featured heavily. The museum showcases the work of local cops to FBi agents who worked behind the scenes, and sometimes undercover to break the mob’s stranglehold on the Las Vegas casinos, nationwide labor unions, and political corruption. Even ex-Vegas mayor Oscar goodman has a display wall form his days as a defense lawyer from such mobsters at anthony Spilotro. There are also many pieces of Tampa-related memorabilia (donated by myself, with special thanks to Ken Sanz, and a nod to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department). There are mug shots of wise guys from Harlan Blackburn to nick Furci to Jimmy Lumia. if you look closely you’ll see some old FDLE wall charts outlining the hierarchy of the Trafficante family, and a surveillance shot of Frank Ragano at Santo Trafficante Jr.’s funeral. The museum is clean and bright. The exhibits are well-thought out and the flow through the facility is excellent. There is a nice mix between entertainment and information, which is crucial. and some of the artifacts, like the barber chair that albert anastasia was sitting in when he was killed in 1957, are in amazing condition. and before you leave, don’t forget to try out the replica Tommy gun, or get your mug shot taken. after you visit, as a nod to my Libation Lounge readers, be sure to check out The Mob Bar, The griffin Lounge, and The Downtown Cocktail Lounge, all located within a few blocks of the museum. all three are great venues for vintage and new-age cocktails. When you’re done with them, take a short cab ride a mile-and-change outside downtown to Frankie’s Tiki Room, easily the coolest tiki lounge i’ve ever visited. The Mob Museum is located at 300 Stewart Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada, 89101 • 702-229-2734 You can read about the museum online at: themobmuseum.org
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Dear Mama, I really need your advice. I met a girl and she’s really nice and I think I love her. I want to take her to my family picnic but I’m afraid her profession may come up. My girlfriend is a stripper. How should I address this with my family? -Scared To Tell My Family Dear Scared To Tell My Family, This may not be good. I would not tell anyone at the picnic your new girlfriend is a stripper. You never know, someone may holler "Hoe Down" and your girlfriend hits the floor. -Mama Dear Mama, I love to party down but my wife is such a stiff. I told her to have a few drinks to loosen up. Do you have any other advice? -Married To A Stiff Dear Married To A Stiff, First, you’re an idiot for asking such a stupid question. How the hell do I know what your wife needs? Mira hombre! If you think loading a dishwasher means getting your wife drunk, go for it! -Mama Dear Mama, My son is really struggling in school. We have him in after school classes, private tutors and still he is getting bad grades. What should we do next? -Educating My Son Dear Educating My Son, Your son is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot. -Mama
Dear Mama, My husband stays out late with his friends every night. He tells me he’s just hanging out with friends but I want him to spend more time with me. I know he’s a good husband and would never cheat on me but what can I do to make him stay home more. -Missing Husband Dear Missing Husband, I don't know what makes you so stupid, but it really works! -Mama 38
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