Young Woundup's rap about the last job he had before his current one. I'll probably go into this gig a little more someday. The store had a great history and attracted a lot of famous underground musicians. But the police were always lurking, and they did eventually catch my old boss. The operation lives on out of his apartment because Long Island businessmen need their Brian Wilson bootlegs.
2003-01-13 - 12:06 p.m.
a few weeks before sept. 11, the f.b.i. busted two shops in the village for making and selling bootleg cd's. midnight records
(where i worked*) carried many of the same titles. the feds shut down
those other stores for a time, but the shit-hammer had yet to fall on
midnight. my boss, j.d. (a paranoid frenchman), readied my friend and
co-worker b.j. and me for any questions we might get from undercover
fuzz. "eef anyone ask you about bootlegz," j.d. said. "just start
talkeen about 'ow 'ard eet ees to be a young man and leev een new york
i thought j.d. had picked up some subconscious vibes
from b.j. and me. both of us were having a hard time as young men
living in new york city. we made meager hourly wages. we worked on
saturdays. we worked for a sour, middle-aged garage rocker. we would
have a lot to say to any undercover spook poking around midnight.
the day after the bust in the village, a grizzled, 40ish guy with
stringy blonde hair showed up and started pumping j.d. for his thoughts
about bootlegs. our boss was characteristically guarded. the guy said
the feds had also zapped some record stores in cleveland. j.d. shrugged,
"zat's too bad, man."
a week later a beefy guy with a
mustache came into the store looking for bootlegs. normally, i would've
shown him where they were in our display racks, but this guy seemed
inexperienced or nervous. he was a new york everyman type: dark
complected; short haircut; quick, toothy smile -- he could've been a
super's handyman, a subway driver, or a cop. he asked for U2 bootlegs.
he was definitely a cop. no one ever asked for U2 bootlegs at midnight
records, even though we had a few. i stuttered, "no, uh... no we don't
sell any." he smiled the quick, toothy smile and left.
after that, the world trade center collapsed, and the f.b.i. had more
important people to chase after than j.d. martignon at midnight records.
that wasn't the only run-in midnight had had with cops. but, at least
in the other cases we weren't the ones being scrutinized.
my post at midnight was that of shipper. i boxed up all the hundreds of
mail orders and took them to the old chelsea station post office every
saturday. i sat to the right of the store's entrance on a small
platform. it gave me a vantage point from which i could see anyone
entering the store -- including cops -- before they saw me.
every once in a while -- maybe once every couple of months -- the police
would conduct an undercover bust of someone out on 23rd street.
midnight was on 23rd off the corner of 8th ave., down the block from the
chelsea hotel. the cops liked to duck into our dimly lit shop to
sychronize their watches or check their walkie-talkies. midnight also
has a recessed entrance, so you can stand right outside the door and not
be seen easily.
the cop would leave the store, and a few
minutes later the blue and white nypd cars would swarm the suspect --
usually in a car, himself. yes, they were always male, and often wearing
big, gold chains. i would wonder what they had done to command such an
orchestrated arrest: drug kingpin? child porn pusher? n.y. islanders
after all those busts, i got good at
identifying undercover new york cops. they all looked the same: burly,
mustachioed, usually with a mets hat or jersey, and headphones -- little
speakers that went up thru the shirt and fit right in the ears. those
were for the walkie-talkies. i could spot them at the subway platform at
bedford ave. where they would ticket young people for smoking or riding
their bikes off the train.
now that terror
hysteria has cooled a bit, i wonder if the feds will go looking again
for j.d. at midnight. in a way, he would deserve getting pinched for the
overpriced bootlegs he pushes (Mott the Hoople-Wild Side Of
Life-(Ltd.Jap.CD'70 Fillmore W.+Bonus)27.99 ). but i'm sure he would
tell you that's how he survives. it's hard to be a middle-aged, french
garage rocker and live in new york city.
* I was more than a little tickled when we got that 2001 Best Of nod in
the Village Voice and it mentioned the "supernice staff." BJ and I
always took customer service very seriously.