TABLE OF 8 – 1997


My brothers, in every way but blood, Brian Koppelman and David Levien got a movie deal for a screenplay they wrote called “Rounders”. Matt Damon was cast as the lead whose characters name in the movie was Mike McDermott. Ed Norton was cast as Worm who’s name is Lester Murphy. Being so proud of them i set up a trip to NYC to see a few days of filming. Mr. Damon and i had a weird, awkward exchange that even left Brian and David scratching their heads. However, his star was on the rise, they were pretty well into filming, so maybe he didn’t want the distraction of meeting me or was busy with other things, but that’s not why i started to write this.

After watching shooting i ended up meeting a few friends to see a band in the Village. I won’t use real names, as to protect the innocent.

Brian and David were going home, so i made plans to meet up with a comedian friend of mine and the brother of another good friend, we’ll call them Bobby and Bill. Myself, Bobby and Bill went to see this mildly entertaining band. Bobby was friends with the singer whose name was Mick. Mick was a fairly charismatic singer, leather pants, black shirt, shoulder length hair, in the vein of a, not as cool Jim Morrison. Bill had some coke and we proceeded to party at the club after their set. Bobby and Bill were going to call it a night, but like any good addict, i had not yet to begin to party. I had to catch a 10am Port Authority Bus to Newark Airport to fly home to Chicago, as i had a gig at The Abbey the next night. Mick says he knows a bit of a mob hangout in the village that we could score some blow from a guy there.

” I’m in ” i said without hesitation

We went over to this place and go into a street level bar/restaurant, in my memory it was in the East Village. The place was fairly well lit, a dozen or so tables, people talking, drinking, eating, nothing out of the ordinary. We got a table and ordered beers. Mick surveyed the room and spotted a fairly old Italian man at a table of 8.

” There he is, ” he said

” That guy?”  i questioned, ” He’s like…90?”

” That’s him, stay here ” Mick got up from out table and approached the man in question. Although it was out of earshot i could tell the table seemed suspicious of this leather pant wearing, longhaired, engaging them.

Handshakes were exchanged and i sized up the table i noticed what seemed to be some very attractive women with several young, tough looking, mob type men, with the exception of the alleged old guy coke dealer.

Mick stays for, i’m guessing 90 seconds, whispers in the old guys ear and then comes back to our table.

“We’re in”… Mick said gleefully

It’s around this time i’m thinking we should just get the fuck out of here. After a beer Mick and the old guy go to the bathroom and Mick comes back with a knowing smile.

Now i REALLY wanna get the fuck outta here. Mick has a loft in the village and we were gonna head there to take care of business. As we cross the street, we get to the other side and Mick says ” Jesus man, did you see how hot those girls were?”

“Sure did ” i said.

After a few steps, he stops me and said, ” Hey, hang on a sec…they were about to leave, let’s just give it a minute.”

” a minute for what?” i said

” Hang on ” he said and grabbed for a cigarette. I did the same

Within a few minutes the table of 8 leaves the restaurant and Mick gives a whistle to them, from our side of the street. The youngest and toughest looking guy waves Mick over…he leaves me, jogs back over and i see and conversation, more friendly then before, unfold.

Within a minute, Mick waves me back over as the group piles into two cabs, Mick, myself, the tough guy, whose name is Seb and one of the 3 pretty girls comes in our cab. Two other girls and two other guys go into the other one. The old coke dealer is gone.

Its 2am

We proceed to midtown to some kind of bar/diner and we get a room in the back…the rest of the group arrives and our table of 8 orders drinks and some of the people get some food.

Ten minutes or so into our hang a group of 4 NYPD cops come in and get a table 15-20 feet from us, but they are on a landing a few steps below us. So we are sitting above them but we can both see each other fine. Looks are exchanged with little fanfare. Within a few minutes of the cops sitting down i’m handed a baggie of blow with a straw extending out of it.

” What the fuck man?” i asked one of the goons next to me…as i directed my stare to the cops.

” Ah, fuck them, they ain’t gonna do anything, here watch….”the goon lifted the straw to his nose and snorted, loud enough that i’m guessing the dishwashers must have heard it.


He handed it to me and i did the same with a little less gusto then Goonman. I pass it down and the table proceeded to pass the bag around the entire table. Shortly thereafter Mick and one of the girls, who i now found out, they all work at Scores (world famous strip joint in Manhattan) are over by a forgotten piano i see in the corner of this room. Mick starts playing and singing and the other two girls go over. So now it’s Mick and the 3 strippers around the piano. Me, Seb and two goons at the table. I could tell Seb who is clearly the leader is getting annoyed at the antics of this guy Mick. I try and make small talk that is met with little enthusiasm. I had known some connected guys and tried to bro-down with Seb but every guy i brought up, it seemed Seb had little interest in discussing. Eggs and beers come and Mick and the gals come back to the table. One of the girls goes and sits on Seb’s lap and they start kissing. Mick then gave the line, no one should give, ever, under any circumstances, especially to a mob guy, Mick says…

” Get a room!”

Seb and the girl ceased their make out session and the table hung there in silence.

I can’t recall what broke that silence, maybe fear? shame?

In that moment, …i knew one thing was for certain….this night would end up with bloodshed. And it did…

This story isn’t easy for me to tell…you’ll know why with part two…but i need to take a break for now.



The men’s room was downstairs. It wasn’t so much that i had to go; it was a good excuse to extricate myself from this scene that was becoming weirder by the minute. I got into the men’s room and approached the urinal. Upon undoing my belt i heard the door open and i looked over my shoulder. I was a little coked up but more than that i was feeling nervous. It was one of Seb’s goons.

“Hey” I said

Before i could unzip i turned back around, so as to face him.

” So listen Mike, tell your friend to watch his fucking mouth.” Goon said

” He’s not my friend, i just met the guy tonight, in fact we’ll just blow out of here and call it a night.” I replied with a hint of pleading

” You don’t have to do that, just tell him to watch it is all ” Goon moved past me to the urinal and began to piss. I remember thinking…

i’m outta my league here, there’s no way this is happening to me. These guys are for real.

The door opened again, and because of the smallness of the men’s room it now opened into me, so i had to jockey out of the way.

It was Seb. Now it was a mini pow wow in the men’s room with two mobsters, cocaine, cops upstairs and a guy i’m with acting like a douche bag. This ain’t good….this ain’t good at all.

The Goon explained to Seb what he had told me. Seb didn’t seem particularly concerned or interested. He took a piss. Goon offered me some more coke, which i did. I asked Seb if he wanted to and he said he couldn’t because he had to go see his P.O. (Parole Officer) in the morning and there was always a threat of random drug testing. The vibe in the bathroom went from tense to friendly pretty quick.  I’ve always been fairly adept in talking my way out of a dangerous situation in the past. This however, was new terrain for me…to use a sports analogy; I was in the Majors now.

We walked upstairs and much to my chagrin I saw Mick at the piano again with the girls all around him. Singing and playing the hits of the day.

” Oh shit ” i muttered under my breath.

I was just warned to have Mick watch himself and sure as shit he’s at it again. I didn’t even have to look at Goon and Seb to know the mood was changing right back to tense. We sit down at the table; the bill had come and Seb hands it to me and said,

” Here, you and your friend can take care of this ”

I looked down at the bill and it was just north of a hundred dollars. Knowing i didn’t have that kind money cuz we had spent most of what we had buying cocaine from the older mob guy earlier, i began to panic. Mick and the girls were singing ” She Talks To Angels” at this point and i began to sweat. I went to the waitress and asked if they had an ATM. They didn’t, but she said the bodega next store had one. I went and withdrew 120 dollars, which i believe was my limit. That would just about cover it, with tip.

Seb was ready to go home. The cops had now left; party seemed to be winding down. I just wanted to get the fuck out of there, get on a bus and head to the airport. We were all standing on the sidewalk and Mick said,

“Lets all head to my place ”

Seb said, “Nah i gotta be somewhere early, i’m calling it a night.”

The girls were clearly still ready to party. Incredulously the guys left the girls with us and hopped in a cab. The night now suddenly seemed like perhaps, it could turn itself around.

We got back to Mick’s apartment in the Village and it was a loft with a long hallway and basically one room. We proceeded to put some music on, pour some drinks and there on the table, was a pretty sizable pile of cocaine. It must have been an hour and it must be getting near 4:30 am when Mick pulled me aside.

” That one girl is a drag, she’s lame, lets get her out of here”

Of the three girls, one girl, although she was as coked up as the rest of us, wasn’t having fun. She was becoming antisocial, mean, bitter, unstable. Her name was Jen. The other two strippers Sammi and Lisa were very engaging, fun and ready to party.

The plan was, that Mick was gonna tell the Sammi and Lisa that we’re gonna get rid of Jen and just sit tight. Mick and I ask for a word with Jen and we walk her slowly down the hallway telling her the party is over.

” What are you guys gonna do? Your still gonna hang? Why can’t i hang” in a plaintiff tone.

” Nah, it ain’t like that honey, i gotta wrap it up soon, i gotta take a bus to Newark and fly home for a show, this is the end of the line for me too” I assured her

” I don’t’ wanna leave, please?? please!! don’t make me leave please??” she was getting frantic.

” honey, don’t be silly….its no big deal, i’ll even walk you downstairs”

As we approached the front door, i saw that right next to the front door, on the left( as we approached) was his bathroom. As i turned the handle of the front door and began to open it and she jumped into the bathroom and locked the door. Mick and I looked at each other exasperated. I began knocking on the bathroom door and trying to coax her out. I could hear her whimpering. Mick and I looked at each other again with a, “what the fuck?” type look.

Mick gives up and leaves me at the bathroom door and walks down the long hallway where i could hear the girls laughing and music playing faintly in the distance. It must have been another 5 minutes of me trying to get Jen out of the bathroom and then i decided to join the party. I must have taken 3-4 steps down the hallway when i heard the bathroom door open. Fortunately for me, i turned around in time to see Jen lunging at me with scissors clutched in her hand held high above her head. I didn’t even have a second to even think about it but was able to grab her  right hand, with my left hand, as it came down at me. I grabbed her other arm and slammed her into one of his exposed brick walls….I pounded her right hand against the wall until she dropped the scissors. I must have made some kind of guttural, animalistic noise because Mick ran to my aid. I got her into a full nelson, wrestling hold that kept her arms away from me and i began to drag her down the hallway back to the front door. As i did that….Lisa came over and with the outside of her clenched fist……started pounding on Jen’s face. Her nose exploded with blood.

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” i screamed, and tried to kick her away cuz i was still dragging Jen down the hallway toward the front door. Neighbors were pounding on the walls at this point. I remember dawn breaking and natural light coming through his windows like some cruel revealing laughter. Oh the humanity. The horror of it all.

She continued pounding on Jen until i got her to the door. Mick opened the door and i threw Jen out. I stepped back inside to close the door and Jen’s hand came in the crack of the door to prevent me from closing it. As if in some horror movie the bloody hand reaching from outside, it was total madness.


She wouldn’t.

I put pressure on the door and then yelled, “GET YOUR FUCKING HAND OUT!!!”

she didn’t. The bloody hand contented to clutch at nothing as if it was clutching on to life itself.

This goes on for what seems an eternity. In actuality a couple minutes. The next thing i heard was a pounding from just the other side of the door.


OH SHIT. I thought…..we’re fucked. I opened the door enough for the girl to get her hand out and then i shut the door and bolted it, before the cops could push it in.


i look down the hallway only to see Mick, Lisa and Sammy, around a glass table, cutting up a lines of coke….i heard one go so far as to say,as they were sizing up the lines.

” I don’t want that big of one.”….i see one lean over to snort a line, as i run down the hallway in utter disbelief at this new development. I’m on my own. If I didn’t know it before, i knew it now.


Mick shovels the coke that was on the table into its baggie as i walk down the hallway still hearing the cops pound on the door. He follows me and hands me the baggie of blow.

At this point…i didn’t even care….i knew i had to open the door.

I put the blow in my pocket and i undid the bolt and opened the door…Jen is now sitting against the wall in the hallway. The cops gave her something to put over her face as she applied some pressure to some part of her face that was busted.

” What’s going on here?”" the cop said as he moved into the apartment.

Right then as if on cue, Lisa breaks into emotional hysterics.

Sobbing she said,  ”Oh my God she went crazy, she tried to stab him with scissors and was completely out of her mind. I don’t know if she’s on something or what but she went nuts!”

I’m looking down at the ground, imagining what prison is gonna be like, but tried to psych myself into pulling this off with conviction. I look up to see the cop looking past Lisa, Mick, Sammi and myself, to see down into the room. He looks but he doesn’t make a move. I knew if he did we were all fucked. Or at least i was. There would most certainly be traces of coke all over the table and that would give him probably cause to search us and he would find the stuff on me. Lisa is still blubbering away with her story and pulling off what i remember to be an Academy Award winning performance.

After about 10 minutes of talking, the cop said ” Well, we’re gonna take her to Bellevue and get her fixed up, sounds like some kind of coke psychosis she’s in. ”  Implying he knows we are on coke but he’s not gonna do anything about it. He steps back into the hallway and his partner and girl descend down the stairs.

We close the door, exchange a ” that was a close one ” smile and then Mick said. ” Michael, gimme the shit.”

I do, and we all walk down the now bloodstained hallway,bathed in a beautiful morning light to have a line of blow. After the line, I decide i’m gonna leave. They halfheartedly tried to get me to stay.I go to Port Authority and get my ass home. My flight wasn’t until 1:30. I was gonna be 3 hours early but i didn’t care.

Somewhere over Pennsylvania i started to weep. I had to. It just came out of me. I didn’t know what had happened. How it happened. Most certainly why it happened. What was happening to my life? What was happening to me?

Landing at O’Hare I took the train back to the city and got to my apartment. Tj my roommate knew something was up by the look on my face. When he asked what was wrong i said ” you wouldn’t believe it if i told you.”

It was nearly 4pm. I hadn’t slept. The coke had worn off but the anxiety was just beginning. I had coke at home but i didn’t wanna do it. Didn’t wanna drink. I layed down in bed but couldn’t sleep. I decided I may as well get to the Abbey Pub where i was playing that night. I pulled up and my good friend Joe Lazar and his gal Marlo saw me struggling to get my amp out of the car and they helped me. I remember that act of friendship quite well, because i was so in need of support at that moment. The band got on stage and i think i did three songs. Bourbon Blue was one, Upscale Dive was another and then did Junkie Girl. I told the story you’ve just read and the crowd went from chatty to silent. I remember saying that we were designing McDermott action figures based on my prowess of disarming a crazy coked up stripper after she tried to stab me with scissors. People kind of laughed. I’m not sure they thought was i was saying was actually true. We did Junkie Girl third i think and after that song, i couldn’t go on. I apologized to the crowd and said ” If anybody wants your money back, please have it,,,,, I uh….just can’t go on like this,,,,i just can’t, i’m sorry”

I walked off stage.

I knew i couldn’t go on like this….no way.

Word of the nights escapades traveled back to Chicago and to my family. The next day they had an Intervention. That was fun.

It was horrible, but that’s another story for another time.

The bright side of this story is,,,,well,,,,nobody asked for their money back. Not bad right?


The first time I went to New York City, I fell in love. I went by way of Rye, New York. My grandfather was from there and now i was going there to stay with a friend of the family, Father Joe Egan. He was to take me to New York City the next day. I stayed in a guest room and watched Simon and Garfunkel Live In Central Park on PBS. I got nervous hearing songs like “The Boxer.” It shook me and captured my imagination. It was a strange and beautiful mystical land and I was going to be there tomorrow!!!

We went straight to the village….I was staying with yet more priests in the West Village (insert joke here), We went to Monte’s on MacDougal (a place i would frequent many times over the years). I did an open mic that night and the love affair was complete. Years later i had moved there with the urging and help of my friends and left with their urging as well. Those stories for another time. I still live in NYC in my head. So its no real surprise that I started a band called ” The Westies.”

I have seen every nook and cranny of this city in all its ugliness and in all its beauty. I’ve seen it with her pants down and seen her looking like a movie star. I did things which i will never speak of. I got sick in gutters, I fought, I bled, sang, wept, knelt, loved, betrayed, wrote, lost, won, gave, I took, i was fearless, i was afraid, i swam and sank, was thrown in the tank….i clung to dreams that were fighting me off, i hurt, was wounded, i screamed and dreamed a life unnoticed. i was forgiven and crossed, i was drugged up and lost. I laughed like a madman, i stumbled down streets with suicide in sheets, NYPD pounding at the door, with a pile of cocaine and a girl on the floor, gangsters in wait, a Port Authority whore. I was shamed, i was blamed, but i never forgot her name.

We are The Westies. We are a family. This band, The Westies, is my salvation. The Westies believe in hope. The Westies believe in the hope that even from ruin, you can rise again. The Westies believe that even in a Godless night, you can find something holy. The Westies believe in a time, when music could change people’s lives. The Westies believe that what WE, together, is greater than what we are individually. The Westies believe in a community of compassion and understanding. Of support and empathy. The Westies believe that the dark night of the soul is not a call for desperation. The Westies believe that regardless of your name, ethnicity, religion, race, orientation that you are us and We are YOU! The Westies will confront things that will make you uncomfortable. The Westies, will confront things that will make you weep. This band, The Westies, will make you laugh at the absurdity of this thing that is our time here on this planet with all of you. You are a Westie whether you want to be or not. For we are you, and you are we.

This is an older poem from 2006 that may have been the genesis for what has come to be this band….The Westies…


I dream of new york in the 1970′s for some reason
the way the ground felt, the way the air smelled
I can see papers blowing down the street, not deserted streets
lonely ones
I see faded green doors, Washington Square Park, old subway cars
the Trade centers stood proud
I feel a sense of danger, but i’m not afraid
The cabs even sound different
I can hear the ocean, even in midtown
The garment district Sundays seem quiet
Passing barbershops closed….the city is mine
I want her, she wants me
I hide in bus stops from the cold that curses
I hear blues on Bleeker and my boots feel heavy
McSorley’s my friend, will not recognize me…..
for i have aged, but he is ageless
Crying in taxi cabs on the way to the upper west side
Kisses in Central Park, on a spring night…
blooming with sweat and sex
I want to finger fuck this entire city
I only want to please her, for she pleased me so…..
The Westies once were kings and i see their ghosts in Armstrongs drinking to the dead…..
Hell’s Kitchen is filled with angels, dirty, broken, cowardly ones
Washington Square,…in the autumn air, sounds of leaves beneath my feet
I remember snow on 14th street,…there wasn’t a car in sight that night
The snow fell like dreams that fluttered like butterflies around my head
Saint Marks, my tears, Saint Marks, the years i have been gone
I want to go back, I want it the way it was….
I want it the way I was…

THE 596

THE 596

I had only heard of the 596 Club. What it once was.

The club was owned by Jimmy Coonan, the notorious leader of the ruthlessly violent gang, The Westies.  As a new resident to Manhattan, i took in its history voraciously. I was particularly drawn to the Westies. The fact that there were rarely ever more than 12 members at a time. Their excessive drink and drug use only fueled their wild and unpredictable behaviour.

“Men after my own heart,“ i often quipped.

Levien and I had been at the Knicks game at the Garden. After the game, the night was young and we were going to head out on the town. It was in that particular time when we, as two young writers, would head out and scour the streets of Manhattan in search of inspiration of any form: philosophical spiritual, lyrical, or physical.

I mentioned the 596 club. Jimmy Coonan had been away for several years at this point but i wanted to check the place out anyway. Hearing about the murders there, the dismemberments, i just wanted to go in and get a whiff of it.

We walked up there from the garden. When we walked in it was pretty clear that some renovation had taken place. It was nothing as i had expected. It was clean, mirrored and smaller than i had imagined.

David and I went to the bar and ordered beers and shots of whiskey. The bartender was a fairly beefy guy who seemed to be from Irish descent, as far as i could tell. David and I decided to get a table and the bartender told me someone would bring the drinks over.

Looking to engage in, perhaps, a tale or two about Jimmy, or looking to get an inside story I asked the bartender

“Hey, this is Jimmy Coonan’s old place ain’t it?”

He had his back to me and turned and said
“jimmy coonan?”

“yeah, Jimmy Coonan, you never heard of him ?” i responded

“nah” he responded to while preparing our drinks

“hmm,…..alright “

David and I went to the table and watched highlights on the tv screen of the game we were just at.

The waitress approached for landing and setting the drinks on our table. she didn’t look at me when she addressed me, but she said,

“you the one asking about Jimmy?”

“yeah, Jimmy Coonan,” i eagerly replied

she then looked at me and said “ The bartender wants to talk to you.”

“oh, ok, great, be right there.”

We did our shots and i got up and headed back to the bar. Furrowing my brow i thought….

This seems kind of weird.

I placed my boot on the railing at the bottom of the bar and used the railing at the top of the bar to kind of pull myself up to get closer to the bartender.

“What’s up?” i asked

Turning very serious, he leaned in to get closer to my face.

“Why you asking questions about Jimmy Coonan? What do you want?”

“Nothin’ man, i’m a writer, just wanted to get some color, i’ve heard a lot about him.”

A smile came across his face with a look of relief.

“Aw, ok man…its just…we get people in every week looking to strong arm me, looking to run some kind of racket.”

“And you thought i was one of those guys?!?”

I  laughed.

He said “ You never know man !”

He bought another round of shots for David and I and apologized again before we left.

Not too many years later, when i went to jail and was facing 3-6 years in prison, I tried to remember that story and tried to walk with whatever swagger i had that night for self preservation while locked up.

It’s easy to walk into places, sometimes it’s not so easy to walk out.