RIP The Mack

Max Julien died on New Years’ Day. He was a theater actor for most of his life, but most of us know him for his sublime portrayal of “Goldie” in The Mack. As with Ron O’Neal’s “Priest” in Superfly, Julien made a real person out of someone who in the hands of a lesser actor would have been a pastiche or parody. It’s also worth noting that Julien’s input was critical to a rewritten script that moved The Mack from raw “blaxploitation” to an authentically moral film.

In Goldie’s honor, I’m republishing my December 10, 2011 TTAC story in which he plays a central part. A note to the reader: it’s been over a decade since the events recounted here occurred, and I hope we have all grown as human beings since then. I’ve removed a broken link and cleaned up a sentence or two for clarity. I’ve also added a paragraph at the end to catch the reader up on what’s happened to everyone in the story since then.

Trackday Diaries: In which the author tries his hand at Florida pimping, with unexpected results.

Some time ago, I convinced Vodka McBigbra to watch one of my favorite movies — “The Mack”, starring Max Julien and Richard Pryor. As I watched “Goldie” drive his “hog” (another way to say “pimped-out Eldorado” down the streets, resplendent in fur coat, matching hat, and with his sword cane by his side, I said to V. McB, “I could totally be an awesome pimp.” Vodka, veteran of the Las Vegas stage and a woman who was fully aware of how modern pimps operate, responded with a combination of anger and disdain.

“Pimps aren’t funny, dressed-up guys in Cadillacs,” she snarled. “They are terrible, terrible people. You could never be a pimp. You… well, you…”

“I get the point,” I responded, “I’m no pimp. But Pretty Tony is about to pull out his sword cane so I need to focus on the movie.” Little did I know that one day I would have a chance to test the truth of her assertion.

Florida’s Gold Coast. Hell of a place, or so I’d been told. My mother had been a Lake Worth deb at some point, but I’d never been there in my whole life. Fate (in the form of our dearly departed editor-in-chief) tossed me a chance to go there for a press introduction. What can I say? Sometimes I get lucky.

Sometimes, also, I make my own luck. An hour after I arrived at the host hotel, which was a fabulous glass-cased sapphire set into the Atlantic sand, my entourage walked in. “One bed? Really?” Drama McHourglass was nonplussed.

“Luckily both of you are slim,” I quipped. Drama’s requirement for agreeing to attend me in Palm Beach had been that she be permitted to bring her roommate, Lola. Imagine Uma Thurman at the age of twenty-one. Lola was made to be photographed: five foot ten, impossibly slim, hard-faced in the way cameras love. The South grows these tall girls out of the fields and sends them to Los Angeles to break against the rocks of predatory model agencies and cocaine addiction.

“Before you ask,” D. McH said, swishing past me in a cloud of diaphanous dress and curly midnight-black hair, “if you touch her, I will kill you.” I didn’t dismiss the threat. She may have killed before. Has that look. She’s certainly murdered a heart or two; years after her divorce, her ex-husband still dutifully peregrinates four hundred miles each way to her home in order to accomplish such locally-unavailable tasks as faucet repair and floor-tile placement, in the hopes that Drama’s turbulent eyes will turn his way once more. When those eyes find mine, I am rooted to the ground, a deer in her headlights, fascinated by the beauty of the mortal blow as it approaches.

Lola, on the other hand, had the grace of a deer in flight over a Tennessee fence. As the evening fell she gamboled with me in the ocean, finding seashells while Drama took pictures of the moon and drew hearts in the sand. Laughing together, the three of us tumbled through the hotel lobby and up to my room where we dressed for a West Palm Beach dinner.

A few hours later, we spilled back into the lobby, loaded for bear, and visited the media lounge. As fate would have it, the same nice people running the media lounge this week had been running the media lounge last week in Vegas when I’d appeared under similar circumstances but with two different women — V. McB and Melisa Mae, in a story I will cover after certain statues of limitations expire in Nevada. Oh well. Let ’em talk. The girls finagled a bottle of wine out of Ian, the bartender, and disappeared down to the oceanfront patio.

When I joined them, they were in deep conversation with a tanned, well-dressed fellow whom I estimated (correctly) to be in his early sixties. This dude had moved quick: I’d maybe been away from Drama and Lola for ten minutes. “Is this the pilot?” the man asked. “I’m Bill.”

“He’s not a pilot,” Drama responded. “He works for the car company. He was on our flight.” I do? I was? All became clear, even through the fog of nine shots of Ketel One: the girls were pretending to be stewardesses. Fair enough. I spoke at length about the pesky journalists attending this very nice event, giving my usual venomous dissertation but changing “us” to “them” at critical junctions.

“You’d be amazed how cheaply these fools can be bought,” I declaimed. “I gave one guy a supercharged station wagon and now he is my… slaaaaaaave. Bwahahaha.” This was only funny to me. Bill called the waiter over. Well, he didn’t call the waiter over so much as give a certain look towards the building which caused a waiter to appear. The waiter seemed to know him pretty well.

“Send a bottle of Veuve Cliquot to the hot tub,” he said. “Ladies, why don’t you join me.”

“Jack has to come,” Lola said.

“I’d rather he didn’t, but what the heck.” As we departed the patio, he called the hotel manager over, introduced us, and then commanded him to open the hot tube and pool for the evening. Amazing. We’d been told that the pool was off-limits. This dude had more pull than the OEM which had the hotel reserved. I was briefly furious until I remembered that I didn’t really work for the OEM.

Up in our room, Lola, Drama, and I dressed for the hot tub but somehow got into a drunken pillow fight which claimed a few champagne glasses and my Canon telephoto lens as victims. “My God,” I thought as two nearly nude women toppled me to the bed, “I’ve become Robert Plant. Or maybe Rod Stewart. But didn’t he have some kind of weird incident with a dog? Or was it Plant, with a fish? What if Jimmy Page had gotten his way and hired Stewart to front Zeppelin? Obviously, the ‘Truth’ album just doesn’t stand up to Zep I, but that’s Beck’s fault, isn’t it?” It’s a measure of my obsessive-compulsive nature that I can think about stuff like that at a time like that, I suppose. The mess took a half hour to make and a half hour to clean up, but when we finally arrived at the hot tub, Bill was patiently waiting with the unopened Cliquot. Half an hour later, when that was gone, he just looked at the hotel again and a dude appeared with a bottle of Moet.

It was three in the morning when the girls stepped out of the hot tub and went to swim in the pool. Bill and I discussed money (he’d made a ton of it), women (he loved them) and our goals in life (his was to increase his net worth; mine was to win a Daytona Prototype race and live long enough to see my son turn twenty-one). I was impressed with the man. He’d succeeded where most had failed. He was driven. He was focused. And he knew what he wanted.

“Tell me,” he said, “what’s it going to take to get me and Lola in that cabana?” I affected consideration of the matter. Then a swirling vision of Goldie, The Mack, appeared in front of me, and I knew what to say.

“Five thousand dollars, cash. To me, not her.” I thought this was a very suave thing to do, primarily because I had consumed the equivalent of a Big Gulp’s worth of distilled alcohol. Bill didn’t flinch.

“I don’t have the money.” A pause. “It will take me thirty minutes. But I need to hear it from the lady.” Oh, fuck.

“Um, er,” I said, any Goldie-esque suavity I had having utterly disappeared, “let me go talk to her.” I went to the pool, dove in, and dog-paddled to the girls, who were kissing idly in the deep center. “Bill will pay you five grand if you go to the cabana with him, so, um, get your money, boo.” Lola swam off and stepped out. I had to admire her body as she did so; it was flawless and in that moment I saw what Bill saw. Not a timid girl from Franklin, Tennessee, but something to rent, to buy, to own, to despoil, to ruin. Then I took Drama in my arms and, standing on tiptoe in the water, I spun her around again and again, long slow lazy circles. Her dark eyes were half-lidded and she smiled as the water streamed her hair out behind her.

“I asked myself if I would tell you no, or yes,” she said. “But I look at that moon, that cloudy moon, that rainbow moon, and it’s yes, oh God, it’s yes, it’s yes.” Then, some time later, she said, “What happened to Lola?” We returned to the hot tub just in time to hear the negotiations conclude. As I’d suspected, Lola wasn’t even close to being down with the idea. Although Bill was a closer par excellence, he couldn’t close the gap between Lola’s innocence and his desires.

With near-infinite dignity, Bill stepped out of the tub and looked towards the hotel, causing the massive security guard to come out of the shadows. “The lady has made her decision. You’ll see that these three have anything they need.” In the space of seconds, he’d become the Bill that surely everybody meets across the boardroom table. He’d made his pitch, and it hadn’t worked out. Nothing personal, but we were now officially wasting his time. He disappeared while the three of us laughed like children whose teacher has left the classroom after saying something unintentionally risque.

Some time later, we took Lola upstairs and laid her sleeping figure in the bed. Drama and I squeezed into the other half. Her skin was hot to the touch. There was blood and wine across the sheets, remnants of the broken glass. She pushed me away, then drew me close, and bit my shoulder. We drifted away together.

I was breathing Drama’s name into her ear when the phone rang. It was a friend of mine from the Heritage Guitar Owners Club who’d agreed to meet me in the lobby and sell me a Keeley-modified Ibanez TS808 “Tube Screamer” effects box. He was early, because we were supposed to meet at eight-forty-five OH MY GOD IT IS EIGHT FORTY FIVE IN THE MORNING. I dressed on the trot and ran to the elevator. Amazingly enough, Bill was standing there. “Do you have a card?” I did. He shook my hand, secure in the dignity of his wealthy majesty. By all means, I thought, let’s play dice with other people’s lives again some time. He walked away and I caught myself in a mirror. Wild-haired, wild-eyed, deeply in love, wearing a torn-up Turnbull & Asser over a “trackdaze.com” shirt. Bill looked like a winner. I looked like a fucking loser. Too old to be doing this. Too old to stay up all night, too old to chase, too old to run.

All of a sudden, I knew what Vodka had been too polite to tell me. “You’re no pimp,” she’d said. “You, well, you’re a…” I looked at the mirror and completed the sentence.

Trick.”

* * *

And now, as with “Tiger King” and other documentaries, let’s find out what happened to everyone:

The hotel in the story was the Omphoy Resort, which went bankrupt and was re-opened as the Kimpton Tideline Palm Beach in 2014. It is now a Marriott Bonvoy property.

The automaker in the story was Toyota, the car in the story was the Scion iQ, and it was my last-ever press trip with Toyota. I was reprimanded in writing by Toyota PR for letting my “female companions” snag a bottle of champagne from the bar; while that was the ostensible reason for my banning, I was told later that it had actually been at the request of some “heavy hitter” magazine writers who didn’t like seeing me rolling around on the beach with two girls while they were enduring the official press dinner.

I lost the business card belonging to “Bill” many years ago and therefore have no idea how he’s doing. I assume, looking back, that he was an associate or co-investor of Jeff Greene, who bought the hotel in April of 2011.

“Lola” spent seven years on the wait staff at Nashville’s well-regarded “Monell’s” before settling down, marrying a fellow who had a long-standing crush on her, and having a baby of her own. I believe she is about to celebrate her thirtieth birthday. Oddly enough, the nickname I gave her that weekend, which was not Lola, ended up being how everyone in her life refers to her, including her husband and her mother.

Drama McHourglass and I rarely speak nowadays. She turned forty three months ago, which to me is even more improbable than my turning fifty. The last time I saw her she was still utterly gorgeous.

The Heritage Guitar Owners Club and I parted ways a few years ago after I got into a disagreement with a forum moderator over a few ethical issues. I sold most of my Heritages and have just five left: two hollowbodies that were rebuilt by the late Aaron Cowles, an employee-build H-170 with some outrageous wood in it, a ’95 H-150 in green, and the oft-discussed, but almost never seen, H-207DD “Diving Duck” superstrat/Lester hybrid.

Robert Keeley discontinued his Tube Screamer TS808 modification service seven years ago. He licensed the modifications to Mammoth Electronics, who then went out of business. Today, you can buy an identically-constructed pedal as the Keeley Red Dirt.

Vodka McBigbra and I have not spoken in years.

The End.

35 Replies to “RIP The Mack”

  1. NoID

    Still a great story the second time around, and far more interesting than any press coverage of the Scion iQ ever could have been.

    Reply
  2. Michael-Scott Earle

    Your writing has gotten better in 10 years. Less artistic fat and nuanced metaphors that would escape those who aren’t far right on the bell curve. The problem with most authors is that they are too smart for the readers, but those with skill in the profession can tell when an intelligent writer is making a conscious decision to ensure his readers are enjoying the prose with the least amount of work.

    Reply
    • jc

      I’ll take writing that’s too smart over writing that’s too stupid any day. Half the reason I read his stuff is that I’ve gotta google some reference he makes. Plus I’m a sucker for a tall girl. My current gf’s legs are as long as mine are and I’m 6’2

      Reply
    • JustPassinThru

      Yes.

      Frankly, his writing was what I attempted to do, twenty years ago…after, thirty years ago, being a stringer for a mid-sized-town daily paper. A now-defunct website gave me free access as a pundit and lifestyle writer, and some of what I tried, is some of what Jack was doing.

      I didn’t fail but I didn’t succeed. Not unlike Jack, who fortunately for him, had other irons in the fire.

      I’m reminded of a snippet from Stephen King…he was probably drunk when he wrote it or was recorded it…but he got tired of hearing fans say, “I always wanted to be a writer…how do I do it?”

      He said, “Gee…I always wanted to be a brain surgeon….”

      His point, hazed through his booze and coke: You become a writer BY WRITING.

      You will suck. As you write more, you suck less. The critics will beat you with sticks and hammers…and if you are trainable, you will be malleable to where your pen becomes a honed instrument. You will KILL those who beat you, with your talent and brilliance.

      Or not. It’s a crapshoot – you can’t know it’s your talent, until you have the success…like Robert Pirsig…

      Reply
  3. John Van Stry

    Yeah, Vodka was right.
    And it wasn’t just because of how you looked that morning, it was how you acted around Bill. The money offer is what shot you in the foot.

    Reply
  4. CJinSD

    This reminds me of something that happened back in my mid-’90s yacht crew days. The owner of the boat was of a high net worth. He tried to avoid a spotlight being shined on his pile, but I was told he was the 13th wealthiest American at the time, and I find that credible. He had an airplane that flew his second wife’s horses wherever she went, and those horses had each lost the Kentucky Derby on his nickel. One winter I lived in a famous mansion on North County Road in Palm Beach, which he’d bought but not yet ‘remodeled'(historical landmark term for torn down and rebuilt with only one wall resembling what had stood before).

    One summer the girl who had taught the owner and his wife horseback riding graduated from her exclusive private university in the northeast. He decided to reward her by flying her and four of her friends on a Learjet to Nova Scotia, where I was sailing on Lake Bras d’Or. He joined us. After two days of sailing on the crowded Hinckley yawl, we all got rooms at what passed for a lavish luxury resort in Canada. At some point he approached the equestrian. This is a man who is something of a corporate turnaround artist, who has an eponymous investment bank, and who owned a list of assets that would have interested State Street. I’d seen him use a golden handshake and a look to shut down many a bureaucrat or other would-be petty tyrant, even when what he was demanding was just plain wrong.

    He made a fairly simple offer to the fresh college graduate. He would buy her a house in Florida and provide a stipend that would deliver a living standard that she was years away from earning herself. She in turn would make time for him when he visited. His offer was rebuked, as he made it to a girl who had grown up inside the gates in Connecticut, and who had yet to experience a single material concern. Why would she sell herself when she had no reason to comprehend why anyone ever would? He was a smart guy with degrees from Harvard and MIT back when those things meant excellence instead of brainwashing. How could he have failed to consider the girl’s perspective? When I got up the next day, he’d left the resort and gone back to the states. The fresh college grads were left in the capable hands of the yacht crew.

    The owner should have let follow her dream of teaching underprivileged children in Las Vegas for a couple of years, and then offered her a reprieve. Or he could have just come to me. I’d have told her about the many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year of his money that we spent on partying, jet charters, and boat maintenance only to see him an average of one day a month. He’d show up for a three-to-nine-day offshore passage, and then he’d deal with running his corporations, managing his properties, and staying in good graces with his wife and sons for months at a time. How often could he have escaped Park Avenue to see a mistress at what would have been at least the third home he’d then own in Florida? And something is telling me that the girl’s house would have had to have been located at Palm Beach Polo Country Club, or on the island, for his convenience. I graduated from college about three years before I decided my professional plans had been folly and flaked out by getting paid to sail instead of making money to pay for my sailing. The early ’90s were not great years to graduate from a mediocre college with a stupid degree. I’m sure the riding instructor was less than two years away from figuring it all out. That’s when he should have offered her a house.

    I have no idea what the college grad is doing now. We exchanged contact information before I drunkenly put her back on a scary old Lear 25 at a rundown rural airstrip for a flight to Vegas, but I lost her details and I don’t know that there was a way to get in touch with me at the time.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      “The early ’90s were not great years to graduate from a mediocre college with a stupid degree.”

      Miami University class of ’94 checking in!

      As with so many things, Big Tech has made things infinitely easier for a fellow like your HNW individual. First-rank college students go for $300-500 a night, full service. Seeking Arrangement has managed to monetize and normalize college call-girl work; at some universities a quarter of the co-eds are working prostitutes now. Nowadays he could just pick and choose from an online list customized by height, age, and other features.

      Reply
      • stingray65

        “First rank college students go for $300-500 a night…Nowadays he could just pick and choose from an online list customized by height, age, and other features.”

        From my observation, it is increasingly difficult to find college women who are not fat, or otherwise “tastefully” accessorized with tattoos, piercings, and pink/green hair, especially after they have been indoctrinated in “wokeism” and may not even be sure they are female and embarrassed to admit to being heterosexual. On the other hand, the fact that so many are now ugly in body, mind, and spirit likely drives up the market value of the few attractive ones that remain on campus – or perhaps HNW guys now want fat, pierced, and woke?

        Reply
      • CJinSD

        I don’t know if there’s an adverse selection process influencing my impression, but most of the fit young women I meet these days are at least sex-work adjacent. Web cam girls, aspiring sugar babies, strippers, and cuckolding trophy wives have all been over-represented at the breweries and beach clubs I’ve been to since I changed coasts. It doesn’t help that an old college buddy of mine seems to know them all, even though they’re bracketed in ages by his sons. I have no doubt that in 2022 America, where there are four aspiring college call girls for every bored middle-aged husband with an AmEx black card, my old boss would not have risked his ego propositioning a girl who knew his wife.

        Reply
        • stingray65

          For a HNW husband without an iron-clad prenup or “understanding” wife, I’m not sure ordering up a narcissist sugar baby or Instagram model who live to document every second of their day with selfies that they religiously post on social media is likely to be the most secure way to cheat on their wives.

          Reply
          • CJinSD

            Wasn’t there a website called ‘tag your sponsor’ that was inspired by such women managing to leave the rich and old men who funded their lifestyles out of their social media selfies?

    • stingray65

      Your story offers a very different perspective on the value of possessions to very high net worth individuals. Mere mortals might dream about having the means to have fleets of exotic/vintage cars, private jets, yachts, coastal mansions, ski chalets, and penthouse apartments, and beautiful women, but it seems that most people who are “living the dream” are too busy with their various financial/business interests, family interests, charities/hobbies, etc. to actually use their various toys and instead hire people to maintain them, cart them around/keep them stocked up/exercised. Thus most of those fancy cars spend more time getting dusted and put on a battery tender than driven, and most of those fancy properties are used a few days per year (at most), the yachts spend more of their time tied to an expensive dock, and the fancy women end up being more pain than they are worth. I guess the only saving grace is that well selected cars and real estate can be profitable investments, which is more than can be said about virtually all fancy women or yachts (which are also usually referred to as “she”).

      Reply
  5. dejal

    The automaker in the story was Toyota, the car in the story was the Scion iQ, and it was my last-ever press trip with Toyota. I was reprimanded in writing by Toyota PR for letting my “female companions” snag a bottle of champagne from the bar; while that was the ostensible reason for my banning, I was told later that it had actually been at the request of some “heavy hitter” magazine writers who didn’t like seeing me rolling around on the beach with two girls while they were enduring the official press dinner.

    I’m surprised that the king took orders from the court jesters. Reading the words “magazine writers” got me thinking. You ever come across Ted West? Maybe deceased at this point. I found the guy to be the biggest dink on the face of the earth. He must have been between job and was doing truck reviews in Field + Stream or Outdoor Life (this was a long time ago). He lands at some buff magazine, Excellence maybe?, and the first thing he did was ridicule the hicks and how he suffered having to make believe he cared about trucks.

    Reply
    • John C.

      On a brighter note in the heavy hitter magazine writer front, I got my January C/D in the mail yesterday. The editor in chief Sharon Silke Carty announced it was her last issue and she was moving on to direct content strategy for all of Hearst’s automotive brands, whatever that means. The magazine is down to 10 issues a year and the one that came yesterday was down to 80 total pages. I wonder if someone else will be given a chance to turn it around or this is just the end. She didn’t say who was replacing her.

      Reply
      • dejal

        Stick with magazines for old cars or modifications, like the Hemmings mags, Hot Rod, or Haggerty.
        Old cars will always be old cars and an article on old cars even if the article is old is still valid.

        You could have a 10 year old magazine with a story about a car 40 years older. The article will always hold up and you can enjoy a re-read years later.

        New cars info entertainment can easily be found on the internet. And is just advertising anyways. Not much interest for me, 5 years from now, to re-read a story about a 2022 Chevy.

        Reply
      • Jack Baruth Post author

        She is being replaced by her boss, Eddie Alterman, until further notice. This was very much an emergency termination to stop the considerable bleeding.

        Eddie is a creature of tremendous political acumen and he is probably the highest paid car mag person since David E but he has never had the qualities one arguably needs to lead a publication almost exclusively aimed at men. Nobody likes to talk about it but you really need a fellow who can turn a phrase, win a race, charm a lady, and do it all without the appearance of unseemly effort.

        That’s why Eddie has had a series of handsome men at the helm of Road&Track; he knows people don’t want to look at his face. I sympathize with him, because I’m also plug ugly, but unlike poor Eddie I’m the kind of ugly that ensures nobody ever gets in my way on a city street.

        Reply
        • CJinSD

          It’s been my impression for years that Car and Driver is a gay lifestyle magazine. The signs were there over four decades ago.

          Reply
        • John C.

          Alterman ran C/D gradually downhill for 10 years, but I suppose you could say the same about Csaba Csere before him. I agree more of a character is needed, I hope you have put your hat in that race. It may indeed be too late to turn it around, but after the initial neccesary bloodbath, it would be great to put out a magazine that lives up to the heritage and go down with something you can be proud of.

          Reply
        • Bmh

          I met the staff of C&D a few years back, when Eddie was EIC. Nice guys, all of them. They were happy to show me around and let me check out the press cars. However, the group came across as dorky former AV Club members with access to borrowed Ferraris. Not exactly the types who can, as you say, charm the ladies or tell a compelling story. I say this as a bona fide dork, but a dork who can nonetheless charm a certain type of female (think Grimes but zaftig) into engaging into a panoply of smutty pursuits.

          Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Never met him. I think he died a while back. Great example of an era where you couldn’t fail working at a car magazine but some people tried pretty hard to do it anyway.

      Reply
      • dejal

        Thanks. Pretty sure he didn’t stick around long after he surfaced.

        Insulting the clientele even if it’s the clientele for somebody is just stupid.
        If I was managing editor, that would have neve made it to print.
        And if I was the boss of the managing editor, the managing editor would have been straighened out or released.

        Maybe that’s why he didn’t stick around long.

        Reply
        • CJinSD

          Ted West wrote about cars and racing for over forty years and was the only three-time Ken Purdy award winner, according to his bio. See also Dan Neil.

          Reply
          • dejal

            I know his record. I also know what I read. And what he did was slimey. He knocked the readers of the magazine that formerly paid his salary. Not the magazine, the readers.

            This was probably in the late 90s.

          • CJinSD

            I’m not disputing your observations, just your conclusion that he wouldn’t have had sticking power. The industry is full of people who have utter contempt for the customers.

  6. Will

    Man I definitely suck with women. My stories all involve absolute nutjobs and crap sex at the end. I need to learn how to play the guitar.

    Reply
  7. Bill

    Damn you, Jack. I’ve still got blue balls from my missed chance with Lola. And now the whole world knows about it!

    Reply

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