A Conversation Between Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes – Money 2007 — New York Magazine

And so, three decades after their heyday, these former street titans are still generating commerce. This makes sense, as both insist they were businessmen, first and foremost. The trick for an ambitious black man in the seventies dope game was to minimize the sway of the Italian distributors who had controlled the Harlem scene for decades. Using sheer volume as an edge, Barnes cut increasingly favorable deals with his Mafia partners. He had the biggest clientele—hundreds of thousands of repeat and repeat buyers. It was a captive market, and he was their low-cost retailer. Lucas, more of a boutique operator, managed to bypass the Italians altogether by establishing the grisly but exceedingly lucrative “cadaver connection”—a direct line from Asia’s “Golden Triangle” poppy growers straight to 116th Street, smuggling heroin inside the coffins of American soldiers killed in the Vietnam War.When the possibility emerged that these two old-school street rivals might be willing to engage in what could only be called a historic conversation—they haven’t spoken in 30 years—it was easy to envision yelling, phone slamming, and maybe even a death threat or two. Lucas, as I knew well from writing in this magazine the original piece upon which American Gangster is based, could go off at any moment. And Barnes, who likes to quote Moby-Dick and King Lear, mocks Lucas’s “country boy” lack of education and perceived lack of finesse in Mr. Untouchable. When it came down to it, however, the two old drug-kingpins-in-winter revealed a familiarity that bordered on a kind of love. Or at least respect for a fellow tycoon.

 

via A Conversation Between Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes – Money 2007 — New York Magazine.

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