“Don’t fall in love with any of the junk. Just sell it and get more junk.” – Manny my main man mentor
This is the story of how I got into Collecting odd items, and the Oddball characters I met along the way… And I guess it is the story of how I became an oddball as well, or at least how getting into the business of collecting helped me manifest myself into a “Character.”
The book is divided into three sections, a third is about my mentor Manny who came out of a life as a mobster to go into the junk business and how he pulled me into it right after I graduated College.
The second section is about Sonny, (a Joe Pesci kind of guy) who got into buying and selling storage room auctions after doing hard time under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. He, like Manny took me under his wing and showed me ways to make money.
Both gentlemen lived different lifestyles, and had different philosophies on every topic imaginable. The third section is how I did on my own
The Manny Years
Chapter 1 – Nobody is Innocent
“You can get rich in this business, but if you want a guaranteed fortune, you’re better off getting yourself a cookie in a Chinese Restaurant.” – Manny my main Mentor
“Antiques are old things that you find in hundred year old garbage bags.” – Bald Headed Richie- “The Greatest Garbage picker in the world.”
After graduating College and landing myself a job at Time Inc. in the Production Department, I found myself going to this junk-shop filled with great items and oddball characters. I was drawn to both the items and the personalities.
Many of the guys who hung out with the owner Manny were second rate Mob guys. I spent every day with them, learning about old New York and the Junk business. Quickly, I was hooked into the whole package.
I introduce some of the players and reveal why they decided to go into the junk business, instead of risking breaking into someone’s apartment.
Old Man John would say,”Why break into an apartment and risk getting shot at, by a cop sleeping in the next room with a gun under his pillow. Just wait for the Cop to die and the family asks you to remove everything from the apartment and pay you to take the things you were once willing to steal. People are always dying in this city and someone has to remove the crap. Thank God, they can’t take it with them.”
Chapter 2 – Busting Cherries Of High Cocks
“We need someone to pretend to be a grown-up and go into rich people’s homes and act all ‘High-Cock’. We elected you to be that fugazi.” – Manny
I don’t trust people who work sitting down all day. If you spend your day sitting around, what are you going to do when you get home at night? – Manny
After some time of buying, selling and hanging out at Manny’s junk -shop, the fellas decide they can use a College kid like me to go into people’s homes and give quotes for how much money a clean out will cost them or to see if there are any antiques to be bought cheaply.
They introduce me to the idea of putting ads in newspapers and that I buy huge estates, despite the fact that I had no truck or any money.
I tell the weird story of my first call. My first call was probably the strangest experience of my life. Most people would never go on another call after what I experienced. I relate the story of a man who is an oxygen tent who wants to sell me his porno collection, and how I ended up buying his daughters vintage salt and pepper collection, and his grandson’s old comic books.
My very first job was potentially life threatening, and yet I still did it.
Chapter 3 – “But Ma, It’s Not My Blood” – My Jewish Lithuanian-Austrian Family’s Theater Of Death
“If it weren’t for mother’s who threw out everything a kid had, there would be no Collectible market.” – Me
“But Ma, It’s not my blood.” – My Dad after coming home covered in blood and his mom yelling at him because he ruined a new shirt.
After you hear about how my mother was a child survivor of the Holocaust, and my father came from a “Connected” interstate trucking business, and how the butcher in Monticello introduced my parents to each other, perhaps then you can begin to understand how great it was for me to find and appreciate the junk business.
In this chapter I give background into my childhood of growing up in The Bronx in the sixties, and my passion for collecting old comics, and baseball cards.
Chapter 4 – The Apartment Is Infected
(Buying Great Jazz Record Collections which contain needles used for shooting Heroin, and other Dangers of the business)
I make a score of great records but there is the danger of getting Aids from the apartment.
Chapter 5 – Nobody Should Have to Walk Around Naked
During World War 2 Manny sold a hundred sewing machines to Japan. He was arrested and thrown in jail for a couple of years . His charge was initially espionage, but the judge realized that Manny was just dumb.
The Judge asked Manny,”Why would you sell sewing machines to Japan?”
Manny answered,”Nobody should have to walk around naked.
Manny had no idea that those sewing machines could be used for making parachutes, and tell the truth, you didn’t think about that either till now.
I discuss what it was like to work for both Corporate America and Manny and how Manny won the battle
Chapter 6 – Your Mother Wears Army Boots
I open my first store in the East Village. I score vintage baby clothes which is a big hit with all the Punk Moms.
I discuss the East Village and my roots in the community
Chapter 9 – Digging Holes With Spanish Eddie
I meet Sonny in order to buy a great collection of records…
There were probably a half dozen ways I could have been arrested before I even get to see this record collection. You see, I ended up taking a ride with a junkie named Spanish Eddie who just stole the car I was in and needed to score dope before we went to buy the collection, and I was so anxious about getting the records, I gave him the ten bucks to go buy dope, and then I went with him to score the dope!
Chapter 10 – Funeral Parlors Are Fun!
Manny moves his operation to a Funeral Parlor. His job was to clean it out. Instead he sells me the coffins and the cool stuff in it, but starts taking garbage from other Junkmen for money. He starts packing the place instead of emptying it.
The Sonny Years
Chapter 11 – Dog Balls Are A Public Nuisance
“Dog balls should be covered up in public.” – Sonny’s hard sell strategy to dog owners at a flea market because he bought a storage room of designer dog clothing and he had to try to sell it at any cost
In this chapter we learn why Sonny feels that the only way to get rid of gun powder is to open the window of his Van and let the stuff blow throughout the streets of Queens as he drives around like a maniac
. Of course, the real story is how did I get rooked into helping him.
We learn about the Storage Room Game in this chapter and how one week, you are selling high end designer women’s clothes and then the next, designer dog clothes.
What happens when you find a room filled with guns and drugs?
Chapter 13 – Every Junkman Needs A Henchman
Over the years, I’ve had an assortment of characters who were my right hand men. Some were good guys, some were not my right hand men so much as tying my right hand up…
I talk about little Joey whose claim to fame was that the Gotti family always beat him up for committing crimes in their neighborhood without giving them a piece of the action
Chapter 14 – Shovel Face, Monkey Boy And His Girlfriend “Victim”
I risk my life and my friends lives who help me deal with buying a hundred thousand dollars worth of books and magazines for four thousand dollars from dangerous crackhead criminals.
Chapter 19 – The Gang That Could Think Straight
“If I gotta take a beating, do it, and let’s get on with our lives.” – Sonny talking to wannabe mobster kids who were hassling him
Young kids who want to be gangsters in Ridgewood, blow up Sonny’s Van after he insults them. The Feds come in because of the explosives used. This was after the first World Trade Center bombing.
Sonny and I meet the kids in the middle of the street with guns as if we were in the wild west
One of the stranger chapters in my life
Chapter 20 Gor Monstro – King Of All Italian Sausage
My landlord burns me out of my apartment. I go a little crazy and move into an apartment that I am cleaning out, instead of actually doing my job
On My Own
Chapter 21 – Greenpoint Hotel – Ground Zero For Bedbugs
I move the store to Brooklyn and meet all kinds of criminals. I discuss the beginning Gentrification of a classic Brooklyn neighborhood.
Chapter 22 – Antoine And The Snow Ball Effect
Antoine was a Henchman of mine who I loved. One of his favorite shows was I Love Lucy, and he lived his life as if he were Lucy Ball. He was someone who could get locked out in his backyard with only his underwear just when it was snowing, or he could get shot and take the bus to the hospital, with the driver making all the stops along the way.
Antoine was one of a kind. When he thought his girlfriend died of dope, first he buried a hole and then when she revived he had to explain the hole in the backyard.
I explore why I deal with guys like this and how detrimental they were to my business
Chapter 24 Buying Safes From Safe-Crackers Is Not A Great Idea
“I wanted to retire at any cost. Jail was an option.” -Harvey (after going to jail for robbing a bank.)
Chapter 25- D.J.ing and my ego.
Chapter 29 – Where’s My Bobble Head? – A Discussion of Un-Reality Shows
After the success of Pawn Stars and American Pickers, I was in seven television episodes of shows like Oddities and Clean House New York. I Discuss my dealings with HBO, and MTV, as well as assorted other Hollywood types
Chapter 30 – Trust Everyone, But Cut The Deck Of Cards
“Trust everyone, but cut the deck of cards, even if you are playing your mother.” Both Mentors Manny and Sonny would say this. I don’t know who came up with this first.
I could not pay people what the value of an item is worth. I had to try to get it for nothing, and still I was not able to make it in this business. Why? Because I did not follow what my mentors were trying to teach me about this business; you have to get it and flip it the same day. I held onto the items, always trying to make the most money possible, and I did.
The problem is that when you hold onto items, you have to pay storage on those items, and landlords start to become your silent partner.
I explain in this final chapter what it takes to make it in this business and that the secret of making a lot of money was