Saturday, July 11, 2009

A.J. Weberman's Homothug (2008) review


“My books are worth more unsigned.”
--A.J. Weberman to the author, 2009.

In the hot summer of 1991, and in the midst of an unprecedented crime wave, there was a pogrom in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn that has been called “one of the most serious incidents of anti-Semitism in American history.”[i] The pogrom was over an accidental hit-and-run of a black child named Gavin Cato by members of the Lubavitch Community. Within this racially-charged environment, a Hasidic Jew named Yankel Rosenbaum was murdered by a mob of African-American vigilantes spouting anti-Semitic epithets at the victim. This crime--and countless other events in the city at the time--ignited widespread calls for a law and order agenda from City Hall. 
The rioting took place under the administration of African-American mayor David Dinkins who ran on the race card in NYC’s 1989 mayoral elections, and appearances are everything in American politics. 
According to New York State’s Girgenti Report, Mayor Dinkins allowed the riots in Crown Heights to rage for three long days before doing much of anything about it, and his poor record in curbing crime created a backlash that grew over time. Things hadn’t gotten much better by the next election cycle when Dinkins ran against the Republican Rudolph Giuliani, and the perception was that Dinkins was “soft on crime.” At that time the Republican candidate was known for his record as an aggressive prosecuting U.S. Attorney in the Southern District (NYC region)—if he was known for anything at all. But did New Yorkers really know who—or perhaps what--they were voting for in 1993?
Did Rudy play to the outrage? You bet.
Political biographies are a minefield for any author, and especially when the subject is alive-and-kicking, and kicking his perceived enemies is exactly what Rudy Giuliani does best. As a matter of fact, sometimes it appears that it’s all that he does once in office--besides filling key governmental positions with his criminal cronies. First released in May 2008 on Amazon.com, Weberman’s profile of the former mayor of New York City was abruptly pulled by the online seller (who also printed the book through BookSurge) without much explanation, though it can be assumed there were threats regarding defamation of character. That’s rich considering the subject and the people he’s surrounding himself with over the years. According to Weberman, Giuliani’s own attorneys directed legal threats at Amazon.com, causing the removal of the book (still available @ http://yippiemuseum.org/homothug/ ) .
Was it Giuliani? Weberman appears to believe so.
There don’t appear to be any indications otherwise, but there are a few other characters in the narrative besides Giuliani who might have wanted the book pulled like the “defrocked” Monsignor, Alan J. Placa, an individual with a most peculiar attitude towards pedophilia and its relation to society and the law, and there are others who might have wanted the same. Placa handled charges of pedophilia against the Church on Long Island for several years, and doesn’t have a stellar reputation. Nevertheless, it’s safe to assume that Placa and Giuliani are still close friends and associates, if not two men who are stuck with each other thanks to mutual blackmail of some kind. According to Weberman and others, this is probably because Giuliani and Placa have had sexual relations with one another at some point during their youth, and therefore, they share secrets that are a threat to their power. Placa’s powerful? It helps to have powerful friends…
The author quotes Placa himself about his attitudes towards pedophile priests, and they’re not mainstream ones (the emphasis in the quote is Weberman’s):

In my own experience, attempts to reintegrate people into the ministry have been quite successful. I have never been involved in attempting to reintegrate a clinically diagnosed fixated pedophile [MJ: he’s being very careful in his wording here] into the ministry, however, similarly, I have never been involved in attempting to reintegrate a person into the ministry after that person has been convicted of a criminal offense and has served time in prison. Such a move would be inappropriate, at the very least, for ‘public-relations’ reasons [MJ: the only real time the Church is concerned], if not also for clinical, legal, and moral reasons. With these provisos in mind, I report that my own experience (in many cases over the last six years) leads me to believe that most people who have engaged in the sort of inappropriate behavior we are describing here can successfully be reintegrated into some useful and fulfilling Church ministry…” [ii]
Yet, as Weberman points-out, and as anyone with any sense knows, you cannot reform a pedophile, making Placa’s written statements not only disingenuous, but bald lies that one would expect to come from a pedophile. For this reason and many others laid-out in the text, Placa has a very important place in Giuliani’s life and in the development of his character and his behavior. The author treats the other players in similar fashion since this is a study of a man’s character and how he came to have it. Assuming that Giuliani has character might be taking a wild leap of logic. 
Logically, Weberman also delves a little into the effects of heredity on sexual tendencies as well as the general effects of environment on Giuliani. Rudy’s father Harold was a convicted exhibitionist, a violent malcontent who consorted with other street criminals, and was a low-level organized crime soldier. What went on in the Giuliani home in front of little Rudy? We’re not entirely sure, but if you grow-up in a milieu of sexual depravity, violence, and organized crime, there’s a good chance you’re going to act in similar fashion later on. It appears that this has been the case throughout Rudolph Giuliani’s sordid adult life.
Certainly, some members of the gay community are going to be offended by the title of this chronicle, but it has a very real urban basis to it, and Weberman didn’t coin the term, nor is he claiming to have. If even a fraction of what he and the Yippie Museum research team have uncovered is true, the term fits, especially looking at the smoke coming from Giuliani’s father, his own official behaviors as a prosecutor and Mayor of NYC, and his other questionable associations. 
In short, he seems to fit most of the definitions of an urban “homothug”:
5. homo thug
A male thug who has [a] sexual interest in both males and females. Lives an ag[g]ressive lifestyle ( a well known result of hood life), mentally unstable (most of the time) and can claim to be of heter[o]sexual orientation (or not); mainta[n]ing a reputation that can be associated with the life of urban minority men (aka thugs) in and around predominantly black neighborhoods (unless they are a celebrity). All the while attempting to remain the alpha male in people's perception of him, therefore having to sustain the life of a straight male, with only or mainly heter[o]sexual intents to be accepted into society without consid[e]ration.
"Tyshawn" is your typical average thug. He's flippin' weight in the hood, got a clique with niggas that don't give Shit about much. On the block all night, having sexual leasions with chicks and even has a 4 year old son. Nigga dresses fly, got a fly ride and is known by people who otherwise would more likely than not, be associated with a homo Thug. Tyshawn has a relationship with a pre-op tran[s]sexual("Tania") who passes quite well and looks and maintains herself better than a lot of females. She herself is also "notorious" in the hood (for her own reasons). "Tyshawn" and "Tania" have a sexual relationship period[i]cally but consistent. And all the while these sexual rendezvous occur[r]ing on the DL [MJ—“on the down low.”] with no knowledge of his actions amongst his family or his crew. [iii]
Giuliani’s social interactions have been described by former NYC Mayor Ed Koch in his contemporary columns as being like “Frankenstein’s” monster. Koch was hardly alone in his use of this word in describing Giuliani’s governing practices, this one coming from Former Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller:
"Frankenstein's monster was a misunderstood character [that] reached out to people and frightened them and they ran away. I don't think the mayor has made that much of an effort. He just kind of frightens them away without reaching them at all."
Miller, a former television newsman, said, "When a police department becomes politicized because it's being run by a shadow police commissioner who is the mayor, you have to question as to whether the department is acting based on what is right and what is lawful or whether the department has become a political arm."[iv]
Did they even know the half of it? Maybe…and maybe not.
Interestingly, the author spends the first one hundred pages of his profile of Giuliani by focusing on his lifelong relationship with Alan Placa and the former Monsignor’s very curious background and tendency to protect pedophile priests. According to Weberman and several sources, were it not for the statute of limitations (and very conscious legal motions by him in several other cases so that it would expire), Alan Placa would be a convicted pedophile. Looking at his sources, he makes more than a good case for it. Worse still, Placa might have been involved in negligence with a victim of a pedophile priest, perhaps leading them into a situation where their suicide was all-but-inevitable. The overall picture of Placa is not only bad, and if even a smidgen of it is true, he’s a dangerous criminal degenerate and a threat to the community no matter where he lives. 
So why hasn’t he run for public office yet?
As a matter of fact, it appears that Alan Placa’s pedophilia is very real and the author cites Suffolk County grand jury proceedings as well as his own interviews with one of the alleged victims of Placa, one Richard Tollner, to support the contention. Tollner’s accounts of molestation jibe with other parts of the public record in so many areas that one has to assume the only reason the former Monsignor is still walking around a free man is because he has friends in high places, such as Giuliani and the Church itself. The main problem for Tollner—and other victims of Placa and his network of pedophiles—has been the statute of limitations, which Placa used as a lawyer (a role he hid from the victims and their families, not to mention the authorities on many occasions).

Yet, Giuliani has been zealous and consistent in defending his lifelong friend, often referring to him as an asset to the community. Is Placa blackmailing him? It’s a good question, and we should remember that there’s no honor among thieves and criminals, generally. It’s even money that Placa got a lot of practice in this area of dodging the law through his little game of protecting himself and other pedophile priests and clerics from accountability. Yet, Giuliani calls him a “friend.” Sometimes, “friends-for-life” takes on a different meaning, a dark one.
Consorting with know criminals and the corrupt, ruling with brutality and an iron fist, and ignoring the law while claiming to uphold it was all part and parcel of “Giuliani time.” To truly know someone, you must judge them by their actions, not merely by what they say. Weberman’s approach to Giuliani is that it’s all about character, a perspective that he shares about the troubled mayor with former NYC mayor Ed Koch, and he’s right in doing it. The man’s background and the people he surrounds himself with suggest that Rudolph Giuliani is a criminal, if not an unimaginably compromised individual, and that he is a fool who’s simply useful to the establishment and the criminal underworld. It’s hard to say what’s worse.
When held against the authoritarian mayoral record of the Giuliani years, the author’s text comes off like a very professional police dossier and will likely become a part of the permanent historical record regardless of the tactics unleashed to suppress it. It is thoroughly researched, indexed, and footnoted, and the author draws on the public record while adding primary sources of his own from interviews with various players in the narrative, like the inimitable FBI informant and City Hall “fixer”, Larry Ray. In other words, Homothug isn’t just some second hand retelling, but a part of the primary record. It’s a chronicling, if you will, of what genuine corruption looks like, how it behaves, and it wisely delves into where it comes from. The sad truth is that it comes from social injustice, that gift that keeps on giving. 
There’s a genuine yearning on Weberman’s part to try to understand why Giuliani and the people he’s surrounded himself with over the years are such irredeemable scumbags, and that’s being charitable referring to them as such here or anywhere. True, there are pointed and personal jibes in the text, but they are well-earned ones considering the targets involved. 
Many of Giuliani’s lieutenants were and are—in fact—career criminals with mafia connections and a skill for gaming the system, even on Wall Street. As Weberman notes, Giuliani himself grew up in an organized crime milieu, and his own father was a low–level mafia soldier as well as a general sociopath. But to Rudolph Giuliani, acute moral degeneracy appears to be that credential for being one of his “wiseguys,” making it a reminder to all that our political system is based on mutual blackmailing, more often than not. That’s not just an epitaph for New York City and Giuliani; it’s one for a very troubled American polity trying to find its way back to the light, and a flimsy sentimentalism isn’t going to fix things.
Perhaps former Mayor Dinkins was “soft on crime,” and there are good arguments for it (according to Weberman and others, Giuliani is “soft” in other areas these days after prostate surgery). But: was Giuliani a better alternative? It depends on who you are. If you’re part of the economic establishment, sadistic lower-level police officers, corrupt cronies, and organized crime, “Giuliani time” was a trip back to Eden and the joys of crony machine politics. Rudy had all their backs, but he didn’t have the backs of the people of New York City. 
Having run one of the most worst presidential campaigns in American history in 2008 wasn’t the only thing that sank his monomaniacal ambitions: It was the intuition of the American public that not only was Giuliani an uninspiring demagogue who used the events of September 11, 2001 to his political advantage, but that he was also corrupt, thanks-in-part to the scandals surrounding people who were close to him. The most familiar name would be Bernard Kerik, when the corruption-ridden Bush II administration chose him to head the Department of Homeland Security. As Weberman makes clear, Kerik was just the tip of the iceberg in the life of a very pathetic, deluded, and crazed individual who should have never held public office.
Homothug will be part of the epitaph of a very sick and deluded individual who should have never held public office. Therefore, it’s also an epitaph for the times he came up in.



[i] Shapiro, Edward S. (2006). Crown Heights: Blacks, Jews, and the 1991 Brooklyn Riot. Waltham, Massachusetts: Brandeis University Press, University Press of New England. xi.
[ii] Weberman, A.J. (2008). Homothug: The Secret Life of Rudy Giuliani. New York City: The Yippie Museum Press/BookSurge Press. 83.
[iv] http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/1995/07/27/1995-07-27_mayor__frankenstein___ex-cop.html. Marzulli, John and Sheridan, Dick. “MAYOR ‘FRANKENSTEIN’ EX-COP BIG CALLS RUDY CONTROL FREAK,” New York Daily News, July 27, 1995.