Saturday, October 03, 2015

Montreal's legendary diamond thief

  Montrealer Max Dortman became a internationally-sought criminal legend con by swindling elderly couples out of diamonds and other jewelry by basic sleight of hand.
   Dortman, who also went by the fake name of Mike Dorffman, was first busted by the FBi in 1919 and was also apprehended in such places as Bombay, Vienna and Toronto.
   One scam would be to offer to sell diamonds at a low cost but at the last minute switch the previous jewels with other items such as buttons, sugar cubes of pebbles while the victim looked away.
  When Dortman was busted in Montreal for a $4,000 diamond switch in Kingston, Ontario in 1959, it was noted that he had also previously been busted in South America, the Caribbean, and many North American cities between 1920 and 1943.  
   "He is one of the real old timers and we have known him in Montreal for many years. He has done everything from switching diamonds to playing card tricks," said Sgt. Olivier.
    His last arrest took place in Miami in early November 1962 when cops spotted him leaving a hotel at 350 Ocean Drive hauling scales and $800 cash.  He also had $1,100 stuffed in his shoe.
    Dortman, 67, was booked into a jail cell where he suffered a fatal heart attack. They reported his Montreal home address to be 4586 Kingston, most likely meaning 4586 Kensington

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Skybridges! There's no stopping them!

   Looks like Montreal's war on δkʮbridges!® appears to have been lost, as an audacious plan to plant one over St. Antoine between the Bell Centre and a new proposed building could very well get approval because of hockey worship.
  This puts Montreal in an awkward position as we are The City Without Skybridges.
   Montreal has blocked more proposed skybridges than Sly Stallone's chin has blocked uppercuts.
  Montreal blocked a proposed skybridge over Notre Dame near Peel for the ETS student complex many moons back - even though there had already been such a structure long ago in the same spot.
   We blocked another one around McGill College for the narrowly-averted concert hall disaster.
   Our logic for opposing the overhead pedestrian routes is that we already have an underground city where you can shop till you drop and then get up and shop and then drop again. Oh and the skybridges block out the sky to those below, say the haterz.
   But suddenly skybridges are popping up above us all over...  one in the Griff, one at the superhospital, so now we're a city that looks like we like skybridges but we just don't have many of them.
   How sad is that?
   A new plan is needed.
   Here is that plan: a massive make-work project connecting buildings all around town regardless of whether they need to be connected or not.
  We'll allow pedestrians, then longboards, then scooters, then motorcycles, then electric cars, then regular cars then trucks and trains  to travel these airborne paths and eventually turn this city into Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

 First we connect the Sun Life building to Place Ville Marie because yes.
  Then we build a skybridge! from the old Eaton's (now called Garlic of Fashion) building to the Super Sexe strip club for reasons of convenience.

And then it's on to Drummond and De Maisonneuve where we could install skybridge! where the Drummond Court once stood. 

Great photos from Montreal in the 1970s

Montreal photographer Rejean Meloche has several hundred great photos of Montreal on display on his site. The pictures capture some amazing images on Montreal, mostly in the 1970s.
   (Useful tip: there's a subtle arrow to the right of the picture that allows you to advance to the next one).
   Meloche sells the photos as a way of supporting himself in his golden years, so contact him through his site if you wish to purchase a print. The photos are all subtly watermarked with his initials, which won't be there when you buy one.
   He said I could republish two or three of them on this site, so I took that to mean five or six.
Level crossing at Atwater and St. Jacques.

Rally to save something called Place des Poetes, whatever that was.
Firefighters strike in 1974 coincided with loads of blazes around town. This pic was shot in Point St. Charles to demonstrate the conditions people living around the blazes were forced to cope with.
During the 1976 referendum supporters of the Yes side plastered a Canadian army truck with Parti Quebecois decals and stickers. This photo was featured in Meloche's book Montreal l'Agitation Tranquille (2012) as well as Dix journees qui ont fait le Quebec. (2013)

40 troll people living under Mount Royal park

   A young woman was recently discussing how she lives in a cave beneath Mount Royal park with about 40 other people.
    The young woman, who stands about 5'9," sports dark-brown, shoulder-length hair and speaks only French said that her anti-establishment ideas prevented her from living in an actual apartment or legit home of any sort.
   She seemed confused and unprepared for winter and "definitely in need of some sort of mental care," according to one observer.
   The mountain is a massive park and any number of geographical or man-made structures such as the train could feasibly offer some level of shelter in spite of lack of amenities such as bathrooms, bedrooms, plumbing, kitchens, electricity, lighting, Netflix, wifi or vaping supplies.
   But the rent must surely be cheap.
   Coolopolis vows to further investigate the possible existence of a netherworld of anti-establishmentarians living underground in our biggest park.   

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Beautiful losers: poet Charles Swiney

Remember Charles Swiney, the poet? Well it seems he was a master of thrift as demonstrated in this great profile on the guy.
   In 1973 he was about 60, and living in a two-room apartment in the east end, paying $20 a month.
   He'd wake, drink herbal tea, paint a primitive-looking mural called Butterflies, then rode his bike downtown to talk to poets and then on Sunday would meet artists on Mount Royal and then hit the Saidye Bronfman Centre to read his poetry to dancers accompaniment. Then back home to work on a screenplay. Then read poetry and other literature.
  Then to sleep on a mattress on the floor.
   Prior to living this glorious life he had gone through a military training - his dad was General W.F. Swiney of Toronto. By 1963 he was into his third divorce. He lost $16,000 on a loan to make a movie.
   And then learned that he had inherited $58,000. But he spent that quickly too, lending $22,000 to strangers on an impulse. Too much trust.
   He spent years in Europe and returned to Ste. Adele to open a glassmaking place. It worked.
   But he decided to teach in New Guinea. He was fired and returned to Montreal in 1972.
   "I'm basically lazy. I'm no go-getter. Even when I'm poor, I can't get the money incentive. What I love is loving and living and doing the kind of work that makes me happy."

Bicycle Bob's crazy 1960 interview about his bookstore on Stanley

   Robert "Bicycle Bob" Silverman talks to interviewer Henry Lowy about his then-new bookstore the Seven Steps on Stanley in 1960.
Q: What did you do before this?
Bob: Can you put I was a bum? No, eh? How do you define a bum? And what is the difference between a bum and a sportsman? A bum is somebody who is unemployed and poor and a sportsman is somebody who is unemployed but too rich to be a bum. I had a job which I hated. I had nothing but interference. My father thought I was insane. He said if I wanted to open a bookstore to first get experience by working in one.
Q: You had no experience at all in this type of enterprise?
Bob: No only imagination. At times I feel that experience can be a hindrance to new trends and ideas. I feel that a bookshop should be something beautiful where people don't feel rushed, a place that sets a mood of well-being. My friends thought I was nuts to put chairs here. I don't care if someone reads here for four hours. I don't ever want to become too commercialized.
Q: Why do you wear a beard?
Bob: Well it's less of a shave and it goes good with the store.
Q: How do your parents feel about it now bob?
Bob: Immensely pleased, yes, you can say they're immensely pleased. Of course, my father would never praise me to my face.
The Seven Steps at 1430 Stanley later became the Rainbow Bar and Grill, part-owned by sociologist Taylor Buckner. Supposedly there was a police shooting there somewhere around 1970, before the switch but I still haven't tracked down the details of that. Bob is reportedly still alive and living in Val David north of Montreal after several decades in a co-op on Hutchison. He'd be about 81. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shooting outside the LaSalle Aquadome

    A non-fatal shooting outside a popular LaSalle indoor pool - used by countless families with small children -  has caused some worry.
   The victim - according to a La Presse report - is Andrew Griffin, 36. He was hit by projectile (a first shooter him in the leg, while a second gunman hit him with shotgun pellets) while mounting his motorcycle in the parking lot outside the pool on Wednesday September 16 at 1 p.m.    
   He is expected to survive and the shooter has not been apprehended and likely never will.
   As in all such cases, the question arises whether more shootings are on the horizon.
   We have no idea, frankly.
   The victim Griffin is believed to be a distant cousin of the NDG Griffins, one one of whom was killed and another was jailed for murder.
   Andrew Griffin is a tall, strapping fellow, well over 200 pounds. He frequently swims at the Aquadome and hits a gym in the Point.
   He managed or possibly owned the Dilallo's Restaurant at 6107 Sherbrooke West which ran from about 2002-2004. He might have worked as a nightclub bouncer.
   It is not to be assumed that Andrew Griffin is in any way a criminal or that he has had anything to do with the misbehaviour of Richard Griffin, who was shot dead in 2006 or John Griffin, convicted of homicide in 2003.
    The Griffin brothers are often described as being in the Irish West End Gang but their hearts were with the Italian mob, with whom they did their business. The Matticks clan, which sat atop the West End Gang, reportedly did not do biz with the Griffins.
   A media report suggesting that the victim might have been in a circle with the now-deceased Ritchie Matticks (old age) and his rising lieutenants the Larammee brothers (shot dead in a bar) does not shed piercing light on the situation.
   The most solid bet is that a turf disagreement might be at the root of the incident and violence or further shootings will - hopefully - not recur.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Montreal people still losing their tempers

  It's normal to get angry. We all do. Hit your thumb with a hammer? Lose information on your computer? Go ahead and yell and curse.
   But when your anger takes aim at other people, you're entering a dangerous grey zone of legality that can only lead to bad results.
  I witnessed two middle-aged men fly into blind rages on the same afternoon earlier this summer in separate incidents.
   Firstly a portly middle-aged guy behind the wheel of a Toyota Rav 4 angled his vehicle in front of mine while I attempted to clear intersection at Drummond and Dorch. He saw that I had a camera, as I was taking photos of new buildings while jammed in traffic. He grew infuriated and left his vehicle. He stuck his stubby hands in my car in an ill-conceived, halfhearted attempt to grab my beat-up old Sony mirrorless. I uttered not a single word during the entire incident and actually smiled throughout. That's him in the pic. Probably not otherwise a terrible guy, likely fun at parties.
   About an hour later at Costco a shopper behind me in line started heckling me. Apparently the customer was irritated that I had removed an item from my cart and placed it in a pile of other items that people didn't want to purchase.
   I don't know why this bothered him, as it in no way inconvenienced him but he started flinging items and yapping and placed expensive items onto the conveyor belt as the cashier processed my purchase. I furtively snapped his photo, as he was becoming possibly dangerous with his increasingly irrational behaviour.
   After I left he came running to confront me, as the cashier told him that I had taken his picture. He held onto my cart and ordered me to delete my photo of him. A security guard eventually got him to finally leave me alone.
   I later complained to Costco about their cashier inflaming the already-agitated man against me. They apologized and agreed that their cashier was wrong to further provoke the angry man. (I considered bringing Costco to small claims court for compensation).
  Maybe I'm naive but ....why are people still getting so angry?
   When I rode my bike a lot in my twenties I sometimes became angry at motorists who I felt endangered my safety, so I joined the dark side and got a car. Since then I've been pretty calm in public.
  But once I was walking into Central Station and was once almost hit by a speeding bicycle courier (remember those?) at Metcalfe and Dorch. When I pointed out his recklessness he swung his wheel to hit me, so I tossed a grapefruit at him and hit him square on. He just rode away and I regretted the loss of my grapefruit.
   Quebec has a good reputation for being non-violent. Peacefulness is part of what makes Montreal a good place. Our rate of assault is considerably lower than other places. We should keep it that way.
   So while you might be a fine individual, it's important to be that way all the time. Simmer down, control your temper.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dwight Janes, epic anti-slavery activist, needs to be honoured in Montreal

  It's time to honour Montrealer Dwight "The African Consul" Janes with a street, statue or square, or something.
    Flour merchant Dwight Plimpton Janes was born in Vermont but lived in Montreal where he married in 1828 and then moved to his wife's hometown in Connecticut around 1835.
    Janes joined the anti-slavery movement and butted heads with powerful people during the Amistad affair before returning home to Montreal in 1840.
   Janes was a key player in the underground railroad, helping blacks escape slavery and find freedom in Montreal. He surely helped out Shadrach Minkins, a waiter and refugee from slavery who was busted out of a Boston court after being ordered back into slavery under the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850.
   Minkins set up a couple of restaurants in Montreal - one called Uncle Tom's Cabin according to his biographer - before settling into his barber shop on Mountain below St. Antoine where he snipped hair from the mid-1850s. Minkins married an Irish immigrant and had a couple of children with her and died in 1875.
   Janes was good friends with John Dougall, a proselytizing Protestant born here in 1841 and whose Montreal Daily Witness (1846-1938) took constant aim at booze and slavery.
  "His sympathy with suffering humanity was exceedingly strong," Dougall wrote in his obit for Janes. "He was so well known as a friend of the slave that he was sometimes called the African Consul."  Dougall hired Antonio, a teenage slave from the Amistad who moved to Montreal.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Good old Count de Beaujeu, local lunatic royalty

   Funny story: Count Georges de Beaujeu was, as his name suggests, from one of Montreal's finest clans.
   But he did his best to undermine that reputation by being an absolute dick.
   Beaujeu was dumped by his girlfrend Mrs. Herbert Feehan, a widow. She then got with another guy who planned to marry her.
   The jealous Beaujeu found the guy and told him all sorts of nasty things about his ex.
  The couple split in 1929 and were not on speaking terms in 1930. So the crafty Beaujeu was at the Royal Victoria Hospital and got Feehan's sister to persuade his ex to come drop by. She did and shared all sorts of information about her new relationship, love letters, names, wedding dates.
   Beaujeu then used that information to contact Feehan's new beau then told the guy unflattering stuff about Feehan.
   Feehan's fiance dumped her and so Feehan sued Beaujeu for being a big mouth tattletale.
   She asked for $5,000 but settled out of court for $1,450.
   A year earlier - 1929 that is - the Count de Beaujeu was charged with manslaughter after killing Berthe Giasson , 22, in a drunk driving affair in Outrement. He was found after the accident in a downtown nightclub.
   Then a dozen years after that - Count de Beaujeu made the news again in 1941 when he was living at a hotel on Sherbrooke Street.
   The Count de Beaujeu, then 42, was in a restaurant on St. Catherine, dressed in riding clothes but he did not have a riding crop in his hand, he was swinging a blackjack - a sort of old-fashioned tool of assault - and went around hitting other diners at the establishment.
   He was booked on drunkenness, disturbing peace and assaulting an officer.
  The Count de Beaujeu was arrested and taken for mental evaluation.