Friday, September 30, 2011


At the last GOP debate, why wasn't there some response by any of the candidates when members of the audience booed a gay soldier, on the job in Iraq, asking about the don't ask-don't tell law? The strongest after-the-fact statement was "unfortunate." This man, one of our finest, risking his life for his country,  should be greeted with "God bless you" or "We are grateful for your service", regardless of what he has to say. Is the fear of the ultra conservative right that strong? Let's get centered here. Enough gutless silence. A soldier gets a pass on boos from any audience.

Why are acts of violence (read "kill") committed exclusively by pro-lifers against pro- choicers? Might it reflect out-of-control maniacal zealots versus reasonable people who dare to have another view? Believe what you will, but a doctor providing abortion services, in a responsible medical way, will not be charged with any degree of homicide. People should be able to disagree without killing each other. Or is the right of pro-choice an exception to that rule? And why must this issue be discussed in whispered tones?

Never, ever, discuss politics while drinking.

If a close friend or relative of a criminal defense attorney is killed by a drunk driver, watch that lawyer's zeal in defending OUI cases plummet off the chart.

Why are so many self-professed intellectuals really pseudo-intellectuals?

Why do men, at the height of their good-look swag, get unnecessarily short haircuts, and have to hibernate 'till it grows back. A full head of hair is a man's strongest asset. Groom, don't cut.

I don't care who you are or what you do, always have a wintergreen BreathSaver in your mouth. What an edge you'll have, comin' owtta the gate.

Why do young people refuse to benefit from advice of elders, insisting on making the same mistakes themselves, before paying heed?

How to handle a woman? Look to Camelot: "Simply love them, love them, love them," Try to top that.

A key member of the Boston Red Sox, following their stunning loss to Baltimore, coupled with the more stunning Tampa Bay come-from-behind victory over the Yankees, said"I believe in God and it was his will that we not make the playoffs." Can you even try to picture those words being spoken by Ted Williams, Babe Ruth,Joe Dimaggio, or players of their ilk?  They'd be kicking empty cans all over the lot, as well as their own asses. Please, a breakdown is a collapse is a choke.

Falling in love with love is falling for make-believe.

Weren't former president of Egypt Hosna Mubarak, former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and former dictator of Iraq Saddam Hussein all one time allies of the United States? Receiving monies and weapons from us? Don't look now, but their being overthrown at our initiative, has worsened the security of those regions and ours as well. We should pick our poisons more carefully.

Why the hesitation in unequivocally stating that President George W. Bush lied us into the Iraq war and all that inevitably followed. He was a puppet of his Vice President and did what he was told. Funny, if it wasn't so damned dangerous. Can you ever forget his reaction, caught on tape, to being told, by Andrew Card, of the Twin Tower attacks? THERE WAS NONE FOR 8 SECONDS. Cheney was the man in charge and issued the tough orders. A most competent guy, when he's on your side.

I am not a racist. But a Mosque near the site of Ground Zero insults the memories of those slain and does irreparable damage to their families and loved ones. Like building an Auschwitz memorial on the West Bank. Any constitutional argument in support, should be trumped by common sense.

Yes, I do get very concerned when I see people in Muslim garb flying on the same flight. I remain anxiously vigilant and pray that there are FBI agents, posing as passengers, on the plane. I'll bet I'm not alone.

Two stoned guys conversing: "Is Rip Torn his real name?"
"Is Rip Torn who's real name?"

"God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
Is that not up there, just beneath the Bible, as a standard for living?

If you knew Suzy like I knew Suzy, her father would be after you, toozy.

President Obama, avoiding the speed lane while staying in the middle of traffic, will slowly but surely win the race. His car is named "REASON."

As Mrs. Cassidy said to Mr. Cassidy, "It's time to hopalong."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


He was a walk-in. No appointment but what the hell, could be moolah. He sat across from me. Not from Gentlemen's Quarterly, for sure. Dressed like a shitbum. A tilted stocking cap on his head. A schmuck with earflaps. His face was sunburned and scarred from cheek to cheek and nose to chin. Looked like a hot- crossed-bun. The following is a verbatim transcript of our dialogue, with pertinent commentary.

"The CIA is trying to kill me."

"Frequently happens."

"They're sending me signals through my TV." Hmmmm. This guy has made it to the second rung.

"The electro-waves from my radio and phone are also sending me messages."

"Have you notified the FBI?"

"Are you crazy? They're in on it too." The first three words sorta grabbed me.

"I'm being poisoned through my water pipes." That's a first. Give the guy credit.

"Do you have any proof of this?"

"I certainly do." Bluff-calling time.

"They've filled my kitchen sink tap with urine." The cuckoo's nest has come to rest.

He reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a wrinkled brown paper bag, from which he produced a small bottle filled with an auburn liquid. I recoiled in horror as he placed it on my thirty-five hundred dollar desk. I screamed,"No-no," as he lurched forward as if to open it.

"Please. The chain of custody must be preserved. Put it back!" I prayed to the God of Lysol.

"Will you help me?"

Got to be diplomatic, here. Any possibility of a complaint to the Board of Bar Overseers must be nipped in the bud.

"I'm sorry, sir. This office specializes in criminal defense work. We simply do not handle CIA-attempt-to-murder cases."

Rejected and deflated, he left with whatever the hell it was. As he closed the door behind him, my phone rang. It was a very deep voice. "Ya done good, kid." The caller ID reflected "NSA."

If it was a test, I passed.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Those were my orders, from my nationally famous partner, regarding the 1969 murder of Joseph Yablonski, an American labor leader in the United Mine Workers. Our firm was Bailey, Alch and Gillis, and that was F. Lee, if you please. He was the hottest lawyer in the country because he was the best lawyer in the country. He was gifted with the most extraordinary mind I have ever seen in play. Watching him work was an exhilarating and educational experience. He was a stunning genius on his feet. I would watch him cross-examine a witness and have no idea as to where he was going. And if I didn't, the witness had no clue. When the inevitable trap was ultimately sprung, the witness was decapitated. I watched and studied his moves, as my personal criminal trial education continued. I was learning from the Master. These were heady, fast-track times.

The day after the Yablonski murder, our office received a call from a woman who identified herself as the sister of one of the alleged shooters who was about to be arrested and charged, and who wanted Bailey as his attorney--fast! An appointment was made for him on the following day at 2p.m. Bailey, whose commitments had him flying, non-stop, all over the country, was unable to be there and thus delegated to me the most urgent and important task of getting the client signed. I looked Lee straight in the eye and solemnly declared my realization that this was a most challenging assignment and that he need not worry. I was not without talent and would roar to the occasion. Lee felt certain that this would be a big score, since the suspect's fees would be paid by the Union, not known to handle things in a niggardly way. The secretaries were duly advised as to the next day's preeminent event and all was at the ready. A notorious case, bringing in a hefty fee, created the atmosphere we lived for. And I would be the one to lock it up.

I was late getting back from court. Maximum panic mode. Please, Lord, let the guy be patient. If not, it's off the roof. Schmuck, schmuck, schmuck. I ran from the elevator, stopped briefly to gather myself, and entered our penthouse suite. There, sitting in the waiting area, was my man. Muscles bulging under his t-shirt, soiled jeans, an unmistakeable Mine Worker murderer. I introduced myself, apologizing profusely for my tardiness, and beckoned him to follow me down the hall to my office. Don't run, idiot, and be cool. I grandiosely gestured him to a chair as I noticed my secretary waiving me over.

"You may have to speak up a bit, he's a little hard of hearing."
"No problem, thanks."

I sat across my desk from him, and decided to get right on with it. You don't bullshit with guys like this. I studied him, mano a mano, and let it fly. Skip the preliminaries.
"Sir! You killed Yablonski! Mr. Bailey will take your case. I've discussed it with him. The retainer will be $50,000. He'll set the final fee down the line when the facts are clearer. Is that agreeable?"

The guy just stared at me. No expression. No reply. Thirty seconds passed. Zilch. Then I remembered what my secretary had told me. I was talking too softly. The guy couldn't hear me. I moved my chair up, so that the edge of my desk was collapsing my chest. I sat erectly (relax-I'm not going there), leaned forward into the famed giraffe position, and bellowed, "Okay! You killed Jablonski!  Bailey will take the case! Fifty grand up front, the total fee to be set later!" I was, just about, yelling.

Same freakin' thing. Nada. Maybe his eyes widened to the point of the pupils popping out, but he said not a word. Another thirty seconds of silence. Perhaps I should sit on his head and risk spritzing his eardrum with saliva. Suddenly, thank God, I perceived lip movement.

"My name is Jim Duffy. Yesterday, I got pinched for drunk driving. That's why I'm here."

Ha-Ha! The Alch could not be fooled that easily. I shot right back.
"No need for that, Sir. This is a privileged conversation. My lips are sealed. Murder is a heavy charge, but we're here to help you!" My secretary later told me that she could hear me through the walls.

He rose from the chair, white as snow, opened my door and began fast-trotting down the hall. I took chase. He was muttering, "These f--kin' guys are nuts! A lousy OUI ticket and I'm lookin' at the chair!"

"Come back. Please stop. We have to talk!" But, it was no use. The guy jumped on the elevator and was gone. I had lost him and probably Bailey's confidence as well. I had flubbed the dub.

Subsequent events proved not so. The next day, the sister called, apologizing for her brother being a no-show. He had been steered to a union-connected lawyer. The big case had simply never materialized. No fault of mine.

But, somewhere, in this world, there was a man undergoing a lobotomy, in a desperate attempt to rescue his sanity, and forever obviate his fear of serving fifteen years for a traffic ticket.

One thing, for sure. He would not be a repeat client.

True story. Dem waz da days.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


It would not have opened the flood gates to appeals based upon witness recantation. It did not deal a death blow to anti-execution activists. It portrayed the Court of Last Resort, not just as being devoid of compassion, but as lacking common sense and the strength to adhere to it. Strict constructionists they most surely are, for who can doubt that our Founding Fathers were soulless robots?

No positive thing was accomplished by putting Troy Davis to death. It was an act of meanness.  Life in prison is not a lenient sentence when post-conviction evidence raises such legitimate doubts of guilt. It cannot be disputed that the minds of the Justices were already made up against mercy, when they indulged in the charade of granting a thirty-minute stay. It smacked of sadism. They were not being asked to change the landscape of the general anti-death penalty movement. They refused to acknowledge the singular circumstances which distinguish this particular case.

Why am I pulling punches? The plain truth is that our highest court distanced itself from courage, as if it were a plague.They may, in their naivete, have intended to bolster the integrity of our criminal justice system, whereas, in fact, they besmirched its dignity. Their moral compasses are seriously misaligned.

The Supreme Court condoned the killing of a possibly/probably innocent man who had the audacity to request that he be locked up in prison for the rest of his life.

They paid no heed to the pleas of world sentiment.

Ice water was in their veins.

Shame on them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Troy Davis is scheduled to die, tomorrow night, at 7p.m.  On August 19, 1989, he was convicted of murdering an off-duty Savannah police officer. All appeals have been exhausted, the latest being a denial of clemency by a Georgia parole board.

The existing evidence supporting a conclusion of innocence has been well documented. Seven of the nine witnesses, who linked Davis to the shooting, have either recanted or materially altered the stories they told the jury. William S. Sessions, a former federal district judge in Texas and FBI Director under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, wrote a sharply-worded editorial last week, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Serious questions about Mr. Davis' guilt, highlighted by witness recantations, allegations of police coercion, and a lack of relevant physical evidence, continue to plague his conviction."
Also calling for a halt to the execution are Pope Benedict XVI, former President Jimmy Carter and the leadership of the NAACP, as well as Amnesty International. (see John Rudolph's excellent article in the Huffington Post)

Let's be clear. The issue at hand is not a request for a new trial. That meritorious claim has been wiped away. What is being sought is a commutation of sentence from death to life imprisonment.

Surely, there has been enough post-conviction evidence developed to warrant this "relief." Prosecutorial supporters cry out for justice. The blindfold on Lady Justice, however, demonstrates that we are dedicated to treating all Americans with fairness, equity and in a manner that is right. She is blinded to demographic characteristics such as race, social class or gender. The protests in this case are more than just another anti-death-sentence stance. Indelible nagging doubts have been created and won't go away.

At one point in the appellate process, the U.S. Supreme Court, for the first time in over fifty years, remanded the case for a hearing which would afford Davis an opportunity to prove his innocence!!! A federal District Judge set the burden of proof bar at "clear and compelling evidence." What ever happened to the constitutional mandate that a defendant bears no burden of proof, at any time? Not surprisingly, the Judge found that Davis had not met this contrary, ridiculously high standard.

 My comments are not painted with a broad brush. They are confined to this particular case. Life imprisonment does not fit comfortably in the definitions of "leniency."

The countdown to death continues. If, at 7.01p.m., tomorrow night, an individual confesses guilt, attended by irrefutable evidence, it will be too late.

Irreversible error.

Monday, September 19, 2011


He was a repeat client and a singular man. He wasn't "made" because he wasn't Italian. But, connected up the ying-yang. His vernacular should have been patented. Consistent exposure to his vocabulary made understanding him inevitable. Contagious, actually, for you soon began talking his language, literally and theoretically. And it endeared him to you, for, despite his lawless proclivities, he was a most likable rouge. "I've gotta talk to that guy about that thing" was a staple phrase, subject to three hundred and fifty interpretations, from which you chose at you peril. The safe reaction was to nod affirmatively and vow to figure it out, later. He was 6'4, with large hands and long fingers. All the better to choke you with, my dear. I represented him four times, in federal court, against charges of loansharking. Thus, our relationship spanned the test of time, and I got to love the guy. I'll call him "Gabe".

He once arranged for us to meet in a coffee shop at an affluent summer resort. I was early, so I sat at a table, facing the door, and waited. Suddenly, there was an eclipse of the sun. As if someone had dimmed the lights very low. There, framed in the doorway, was Gabe, his huge hulk easily blocking out all vestiges of the outside world. Customer conversation ceased. Unease filled the room. He just stood there, relishing the effects of his moment. Then, with perfect timing, he pointed at the waitress with his weapon-finger, and then at me, and half-yelled,"Get that guy a wutchamacallit and I'll have the other thing." The waitress, an obvious graduate of Gabe English High, knew exactly what to do, and did it. What an entrance!
He was being held, without bail, pending trial. I had retained local counsel (it was out-of-state) and our visits with Gabe were frequent. He had requested (read: "ordered") that I bring him two hot pastrami sandwiches on bulkie rolls, one quart potato-salad, one quart coleslaw and twelve half-sour pickles, all from a Kosher delicatessen across the street from the jail. I had just purchased a gorgeous leather briefcase for mucho loot. It pained me to put my eyeglass case in it, lest I somehow damage the pristine leather lining. This situation, however, called for a mandatory abandonment of that cleanliness standard. Never, the passage of time notwithstanding, did the odor of that food leave my briefcase. You could smell me coming a mile away. For awhile, I was called "Kosher Alch".
When we met in the attorney's room, I noticed that Gabe had a new affliction. His head was permanently twisted to the left. He claimed to have had this condition for months. Hmmmmm. You just don't ask for specifics in a case like this. You nod in sympathy and tag it for later analysis. Defense-connected for sure, but don't ask, don't tell. He would seize a sandwich with his right hand, grab his chin with his left, and force his head into a straight-ahead position. Only then would his mouth open, allowing for the introduction of food. This went on, bite, after bite, after bite. It was like watching a ballet, and, in a strange way, with an audience of two lawyers, it became a dance of fascination. He ate, pardon the expression, like a man going to the chair.
As I began going over the pertinent events, I took note of a strange noise. It was a low humming of some unidentifiable music. It was coming from my local counsel. The more my questions continued, the louder the sound became. It was now a full fledged opera. nearly shattering my eardrums. Between this and the hand-to-mouth-turning-head routine, I was on the verge of going mad. I glanced at my co-counsel with a what the f--k is goin' on here look. Still belting out Madama Butterfly, he began furiously pointing at the ceiling and walls of the room. I got it. He was shielding our conversation from the assumed "bugs" hidden everywhere. I was now convinced. I had lost my mind. I needed a drink--fast.
 Gabe had been picked up on phone taps. The Government played them for the jury. This entailed the wearing of earphones by everyone, including counsel and defendant. Cords ran from these head sets to electrical outlets set into the courtroom floor. There was very little slack, severely limiting head movement. Gabe's gaze was straight ahead, courtesy of his left hand. I was listening, very intently, to the playback when I heard a noise interfering with my hearing. It was a drumbeat, steady and, frankly, excellently performed. As if the Notre Dame marching band had stormed in. It was Gabe's elongated fingers. Brmmmm--brmmmm-brm,bm bm, banging on the defense table. I hissed, "Stop that sh-t!" He was seated to my right so he was already (and constantly) looking at me, and nonchalantly responded "While you're listening to wutsisname, I'm doin' the wutchamacallit." With my mind still bent out of shape from not being able to rid my nostrils of the smell of half-sour pickles, I furiously clamped my hand on Gabe's to stop Buddy Rich, and attempted to move my chair away from him. I was suddenly being strangled by mic wire. Gasping for breath, I saw the earphones whipped off my and Gabe's ears, and land on the bridge of our noses. The judge and jury were staring at us like two escapees from the nut house. I was struggling to breath normally again, wondering what the hell else could happen. That question was immediately resolved. Brmmmm-brmmmm-brm,bm,bm. Gene Krupa had returned.

I never lost a case for Gabe. He, in turn, became my best PR man. Many cases came my way, stamped with his referral. He was much more than just a client. When he would drive me to the airport after a victory of acquittal, he would always shake my hand and say,"That was a helluva piece of work."

So was he.


Friday, September 16, 2011


The first Watergate-related criminal trial. The defendants were charged with burglarizing the National Democratic Committee Headquarters housed at the Watergate complex. The judge had ruled, at the gitgo, that I could not use my contemplated defense.(see my post of 6/11/2011, "Reflecting On An Icon") I was fighting with my hands tied.

As part of its case-in-chief, the prosecution called a White House staffer whose job caused him to have daily contact with my client. The case was being tried by the United States Attorney and his First Assistant. No second-stringers allowed, if you please. The direct testimony in no way related to my client. Prior to the commencement of cross, the Court recessed for lunch. Everyone filed out of the courtroom and walked down the long corridor leading to the exit door.

I found myself a few paces behind the witness who was accompanied by his attorney.So, I said to myself,("what a wonderful world"--no, no, no!!) "what do I have to lose?" Approaching the lawyer, I asked, "My I pose a question to your client?"
"I may not allow him to answer, but go ahead."
"Mr. (witness), what is your opinion of my client, as head of security for the Committee To Re-Elect The President?"
"Absolutely outstanding. A top-notch professional."
"And what is his reputation in the security field/"
"Everyone who has worked with him is equally impressed.""

When court re-convened, Judge Sirica asked if I wished to cross-examine. I rose and put to the witness the same two questions. Same answers. "Nothing further, Your Honor."

The judge looked at me with arched eyebrows. The prosecutors were momentarily stunned. The trial proceeded to its dismal conclusion of guilty verdicts. Subsequently, my client's letter to Judge Sirica, which shall be the subject of a later post, began a collapse of the house of cards, ultimately causing the resignation of the President of the United States.

Fast forward several months. The Watergate cover-up has been fully exposed. A special prosecutor has been appointed and convened a Grand Jury. Everybody, in any way connected to Watergate proceedings, has been summonsed to appear.

On the day of my turn, as I was being escorted to testify, I passed the open door of the U.S. Attorney's office. My name was called out. It was the two trial prosecutors beckoning to me. I sat opposite them with a quizzical look.

"Gerry, there's something we must ask you about. In this ongoing investigation, in this paranoid atmosphere, one thing has been sticking in our throats. It concerns you."
I had no idea what the hell they were talking about. As Watergate was being played out, the pile of fallen figures was rapidly rising. The criminal cover-up conspiracy, as well as perjury before Congress, was rampant and surging. Knowing that I had done nothing wrong was, at that particular moment, quite comforting. They continued.
"At the trial, when you cross-examined (witness), how could you have dared ask those questions, unless you already knew the answers, and (softly and gently, now) were "in" on the cover-up?"

Blinded by the suspicion permeating the Capitol, they could not even theorize with simplicity. I explained exactly what had happened. Their jaws dropped. They digested this unanticipated response. And, they instantly knew that it smacked of truth.
"My God! Of course! We should have known that it was this uncomplicated. You know, throughout the trial, you were the only reasonable man with whom we dealt. We apologize for even thinking of such a remote possibility. We are truly relieved."
"I understand. Relax. Glad you gave me this chance to straighten it out."
We shook hands, I testified before the Grand Jury without even being advised of my right against self incrimination. And, that was that.

I was, briefly, part of history. Some memories are indelible. My involvement in the Watergate saga is one of them. As I advise my classes, if you tell a lie, a first year law student will nail you. If you tell the truth, Clarence Darrow can't trip you up.

That's an axiom with which you cannot argue. And its applicability is not confined to a courtroom.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


On December 8, 1941, the day after Japanese forces attacked the American military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed Congress and asked for a Declaration of War against Japan. There was no school that day, as the people huddled around their radios and listened to this father figure at a time of national crisis. World War II had begun.

The next morning, the lines at each and every draft board were non-ending. Men, young and middle-aged, were impatient to enlist. Patriotism was oxygen. The citizenry were unconditionally united. Political divisions had vanished. Strangers were now brothers. The enemy was the only foe.

In 1963, the assassination of President Kennedy stunned the nation into a week of national mourning. Everyone was glued to television, and watched, in horror, as Lee Harvey Oswald, having been arrested for the President's murder, was, himself, gunned down by Jack Ruby, on live T.V. Talk about reality shows. And again, in this period of national mourning, the country stood as one.

September 11, 2001. A series of four coordinated attacks upon the United States, in New York City and Washington, D.C., as the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger jets. The United States responded to the attacks by launching the War on Terror. On that day, and on all anniversaries, the American people, never forgetting, come together. Political party affiliations are discarded. We are all neighbors. Tea Party signs are nowhere to be seen. The country is united. He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

But, in the interim periods, we tend to loosen the grips of hands held, and return to focusing on things that differentiate and make us antagonists. It's not that we forget, but rather that we expose our human frailties by looking at life with blinders on. Mutual respect loosens its belt a notch. Political discussions become acerbic again. Hibernating problems of life's pressures awaken and take hold, as party lines reassert themselves. The sounds of patriotism morph into the sounds of silence.

Why must this be? Why can't we schedule events to not just remember tragedies of the past, but to also rekindle the spark of patriotism which they engender? And when that spirit materializes, grab it, lock it up and hold onto it. We can change attitudes, by starting with ourselves and mingling with others. It's a positive process which is contagious. Ever once in a while, let us put aside our everyday problems of life and revive the aura of brother and sisterhood.

Public unity is held together by a band which can be stretched but never broken. It materializes when people rise, at sporting events, and our national anthem is played. Players and fans sing and stand close together. It becomes tangible when we approach a serviceman and thank him for his service or greet him with a "God bless you." Patriotism brings people together. Let's keep it alive and positioned in the forefront of life's agenda.

Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and humanity. Patriotism consists not in waiving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.

How about a yearly injection of patriotism?
It would make the States more United.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


1978. It was a very good year. "Good Morning America" was enjoying a successful run as the nationally telecast morning show for ABC. Its host, since its inception in 1975, was David Hartman, well known on the Broadway stage and in the land of T.V. series. He was a tall, impressively handsome man, radiating charm and confidence. He was a star.

Through the connection of friends, I received a call, one day, inviting me on the show. The scheduled topic was "Should Negotiations Be Had With Ransom-Demanding Kidnappers." I chose the side of "yes". I was excited as hell, over the prospect of being on national t,v. LIVE!

Three days before THE date, I began prepping myself. Gotta be cool. Gotta look sure. No dry mouth. No wet palms. No stumbling for words. No upper lip sweat. No blanks on a reply. No heavy water drinking before showtime ("Alch Takes A Pee On ABC"). Stay focused. Banish nerves. Blue shirt for the lights. Make the world mine, like Tony Montana. Look like a champ. Act like a winner.

Flew to New York, the night before. Stayed at a five star hotel. All comped. Picked up by limousine at 5a.m., the morning of. Driven to ABC and escorted into the "Green Room". It wasn't green , at all. Just a guest depot offering coffee and Danish. None for me, thank you, sir. Chance of food on my teeth? Forgeddaboudit!

My name was called for make-up. Didn't want to look made-up. Sat in the chair, cloth bib under my chin. "Just take off the gleam", as if I knew what the hell I was talking about. A young man appeared, waiting at my side. "You're all set" from the cosmetician, "We're ready for you, Mr. Alch", from the young man, who escorted me onto the set.

It resembled a large warehouse. Like a huge furniture showroom displaying different room settings. Only the settings were sets, from which various segments would be televised. I was seated and miked. Three sound checks and I was primed for prime time. Waiting and fighting anxiety. Out of nowhere, David Hartman appeared and sat beside me. Should I ask for an autograph? No way! The last thing I wanted was to look like a fool. He introduced himself and we shook hands. Very warm and friendly. But I was an unsprung coil. My look of composure was a sham. Hold it together. This is the big leagues.

Then, sixty seconds from air time, the canyon-like room was immersed in bright light. Like when an outside door is opened while the movie is showing. My eyes followed the source. There, closing the door behind him , stood Howard Cosell.

He was an icon in the annals of sports broadcasting. A legend in his own time, exclusively associated with ABC. I had seen him, countless times, analyzing football, boxing, track meets--you name it. I was truly in awe. He spotted David Hartman sitting way across the room, beside me. They were social and professional close friends. He raised his right arm, as far as it would go, broke out the widest grin, and shouted,"Hi!"

Me, schmuck that I was, stood up, nearly breaking the mic cord, extended my own arm and shrieked, "Hi", in response.

If only the next moment had been captured on film. Hartman, Cosell, the techs, the grips, the people in adjoining sets waiting to be reached, everyone in the entire goddamn building looked at me with the same reaction-look on their faces. The signs all read: WHERE DID THIS FREAKIN' A--HOLE COME FROM? I slowly lowered my arm.

I'm not an overtly religious man. But, at that moment, I prayed, with all of my heart and soul, for the ground beneath my feet to open and engulf me forever. Alternatively, could I do the interview in a hood? Could I transform myself into Lamont Cranston and exercise my power to cloud men's minds so that they could not see me? (Don't fret, young folks. Ask your elders about "The Shadow".)
Most perplexed of all, was the big guy himself, Mr. Cosell. But to his credit, he was hip and remained cool, greeting Hartman with a handshake while politely, and ever so slightly, nodding to me.

What followed remains a blur. I sleepwalked my way through the interview while Hartman, the pro, generously extended himself to make me feel comfortable. I'm told I did well, in no way reflecting the pre-live catastrophe. But, it was one for the book.

Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread. Once a fool, not necessarily always a fool. Whatever. I took it with me and relate it with a laugh. So, how bad could it be? Not at all.

We live, look back and learn. And we laugh.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Some "special features", at the end of a DVD, are more interesting than the feature presentation. And so it is with a trial. Unanticipated emotional and stressful vignettes, never embraced by transcript, remain in the  memory bank. As I relate this specific event, one true name shall be specifically referenced, as an intentional salute.

A murder trial in a mid-western state. Local counsel (Bob) had been retained, and he successfully moved for my appearance, pro-hac-vice (required for out-of-state counsel). The defendant/client's reputation preceded him. A stone killer, with the customarily predictable short life span. One of those guys. He was being held without bail and enjoyed celebrity status in the small town jail. In fact, all the locals were  closely following this case.

My friend, and most highly regarded private investigator, John McNally, was with me. He was a veteran of the NYPD, having retired as a Detective First Grade, and had earned the status of legend. He had captured "Murph the Surf", the notorious jewel thief who had stolen the Star of India, the world's largest sapphire, weighing in at 563 carats. Once, when off duty, John entered a liquor store and into a robbery in progress. He withdrew his weapon, subdued the two perps, and then called for backup. He was a robust, gritty, no-nonsense cop, tough as nails, savvy to the hilt, and with a heart of gold. He either liked you or he didn't, and it was a permanent decision. And he was my friend.

Bob was in personal hell. He tapped his home phone daily, suspecting his wife of having an affair. Unfortunately for him, he hit the jackpot. The third party was his minister. Every morning, we would meet at his office, as a command post, before going to court. The agenda was always the same. He would play the prior day's tapes. That poor bastard. We were hearing x-rated conversations. The minister had a penchant for play-by-play details. The reactions of Bob's wife resembled a simulated orgasm, all over again. John and I would exchange discreet glances and bite our tongues for pain, so as to prevent inappropriate reaction. To believe what we heard, this man of God was heavenly endowed. When the playback ended, Bob would look at us and ask,"Whaddaya think?" I could only put my hand on his shoulder. A sermon on reasonable doubt would not have been in order. A good guy done wrong.

One evening, the motel clerk advised us that he had received a death threat to me. Should he call the police? John squelched that flat-out, assuring that we would handle the matter, in-house.
"You and me are gonna switch rooms. The clerk will know nothing. No problem."
"John, are you nuts? I can't let you do that! Your room is next to mine, anyway. I'll be o.k."
"No discussion. You know I always carry. Let's move our shit, right now."
And, so it was. John probably half-slept with his piece by his side, but he provided no details and never spoke of it again. Nothing happened. You've heard the phrase,"He would take a bullet for me." That shoe fit, literally. That's John. That's my friend.

I was cross-examining the state's percipient witness, and I was on a roll. I "had" the guy. When this happens, the last thing I want is to be interrupted. I've got to stay focused. This is a conversational chess game played on a mine field. Suddenly, I felt a vise on my left arm. Mucho pain. I should tell you that my client was a giant. My eyeballs met his belt buckle. He had grabbed me, wanting to say something, just as I was throwing bombs at the witness. I reacted, instinctively. "Don't bother me, you gorilla!" The question, as to why I chose those words, shall forever remain one of the world's greatest mysteries. The client released me but said nothing. Not even "goodbye" at the end of the day's proceedings.The next morning, the Sheriff had something to tell me.
"We've found something in your client's cell. Some sort of a list. Best we can tell, it's a hit list and your name is on it. Can't figure why, but thought you should know."
Thanks for nuthin'. I knew "why". My boy was pissed at my rebuke. Maybe I should tank the trial, argue for a "guilty" and request the chair. He wouldn't look at me straight, and was pouting. Pout this, Rambo. I need to erase my name and you, at the same time. Frustratingly, no immediate solution came to mind. No turning back now. Plus, John was still with me.

The trial lasted three weeks. When the jury filed in with a verdict, you could cut the tension with a knife. We all stood as the foreman read it off. Not guilty on all counts! The client put his hands on my hips and lifted me one foot off the ground. I stared down into his eyes. "Will you take me off that freakin' list?" He looked up at his lawyer whom he held suspended in air, and laughed. "You're off. You're off. You're o.k. You're the best." As a sign of sincerity, he gently put me down. I looked at John who gave me a not-to-worry look. I was insurable again. And the victory juice was adrenaline in m veins. I hugged my client and then John, much tighter.

These tangential things attend every trial, as part of the big picture. They enhance the indelible and exciting experience of trying a criminal case. What a way to earn a living---if you're made that way.

It's nice to whistle on your way to work.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Michele Bachmann was what she is. She believes in what she says. Disagree with her but she's not a sham. She answered the questions straight away, as best she could. Her weakness, however, was exposed. She is not of presidential timbre. Her days as a serious contender are limited.

Rick Perry imploded. His labeling social security as a "Ponzi scheme" and a "lie" will haunt him forever. He referenced a  contest between "reason and results", and favored the latter over the former. What the hell is that all about? He eschewed any form of Federal intervention, yet proclaimed its necessity in dealing with illegal immigration.  And, will someone formally introduce him to the letter "g" as mandatorily following "i" and "n" as a word ending? Outside of Texas ain't heaven after all.

The MSNBC pundits hailed Mitt Romney as having performed (used advisedly) the best. Maybe, by process of elimination. But when he leaves the scripted page, his ad libs lead him to no man's land, with fingers crossed in hope of an accurate return to base. Mr. Slick. Is there a soul donator out there?

Jon Huntsman was tentative in assuming the role of the party moderate with the distinguishing asset of electability. This was his chance to make his mark, but he dodged the brand of "independent". Too afraid to leave the pack. Too resistant to harsh words for his rivals. There's still time, but the meter is running. Be bold, Governor/Ambassador. Revamp and energize.

Curiously, Rick Santorum made inconsistant sense. Looked at ease and confident, but where's he going?

Why did the moderators and cameras give so much time to Ron Paul? Another Libertarian true believer, but hardly deserving the status of a standard for comparison.

In general, the candidates pitched the formula of non-fedreal intervention into anything. They refuse to recognize that some societal situations require just that, because the vaulted public sector disavows responsibility. This is a centuries-old concept and it should be a given. Ridiculing the world of science on matters of global warming and evolution is merely a pitch to Tea Party votes. It defies common sense, which are two bad words.

Ironically, the debaters referred, constantly and glowingly, to Ronald Reagan. Deliberately ignored was the fact that this iconic President served his country by relying on bipartisanship. This is an anathema to to the right-wing-controlled Republican party. Its challenge will come in the general election.

Monday, September 5, 2011


I'm a subscriber. I'm a believer. And I practice what I preach. Yet, there are many long lasting marriages in which partners have strayed, as a victim of circumstance or by design. For that to be a basis for criticism is an invasion of privacy. To each his own. I hold no patents. None of my business.

I have had the honor of officiating at four (and counting) wedding ceremonies. I don't use scripted vows. I compose my own, with the goal being to keep it simple, in a language which everyone understands, and infuse the atmosphere with maximum happiness. At the same time, I deem it appropriate to denote the responsibilities to be assumed and fulfilled by both parties. I still come in on the light side, for this is not a lecture. It is a celebration of love, now and in the future.

I often fantasize as to what I would say in a private, off-the-record conversation with the celebrants. This is not something I've studied at school, nor would I ever qualify as an expert, if there is such a thing on something which is learned through experience. Not always the retroactive kind. The words would express my reflection on what the world is, and what it should be, NEVER undermining free choice of others.

"Do you love each other?" should be supplanted by "Are you in love with each other." Being "friends", all by itself, is not a foundation for maximum longevity. Love is romance and sex, together, at the same time. To be sure, each can exist independently, but it's not the same. This commitment must be nurtured and attention must be paid. Never go to bed mad. This task is mutual. Permeating everything is the mandatory ingredient of trust.

In going through life, each partner will invariably come into contact with attractive people. Fantasies of infatuation may arise. The insurance policy lies in not being receptive. It's a tangible insulation that works. And it is based upon a sworn allegiance to fidelity, which, itself and in turn, is based upon the survival of romance and sex, which is always being worked at. Each element supports the other.

This is not a theory of strict liability. "Slips" may occur, requiring both parties to come together, talk it out in full honesty, while the strength of their love is put to the test. It's far from a perfect world. Everyone is different. Yet, a common denominator shall always exist: Fidelity is the bedrock of a marriage.

So, go for it. And one day, you'll see an elderly couple, holding hands as they walk, in complete sync with each other. They have weathered the storms of life and their ark has been a never-ending commitment to faithful love. Bumps and all. This payoff is quite worth the effort.


In Stephen King's THE DEAD ZONE, Christopher Walken plays Johnny Smith who, on one fateful night, smashes head-on into an enormous truck. For five long years, Johnny is plunged into a deep coma. When he awakens he discovers that his youth, his career and his fiancee have all been lost. But Johnny has gained something--extraordinary psychic powers, allowing him to see visions of the past, present and future. Should he shake someone's hand, he is able to see what the man has done to bring him to where he is, and what he will do from this point on.

Martin Sheen stars as a senator who is running for the presidency. His campaign has been predicated upon his belief that he has been chosen by God to hold the highest office. It has been permeated by divisive racial preferences, which leads to those who disagree with him being labeled as outcasts, whom he does not suffer gladly. He is a political sociopath and a reckless zealot who, as his power grows, becomes more and more uncontrollable. Even more frightening is his apparently successful ability to mask these proclivities with a smile meant to charm and lure. His shot-from-hip statements and his fox-like smile, complimented by severely arched eyebrows, prompt a comparison to a Devil's Disciple. His stump speech is a mix of revivalism, ultra Tea Party conservatism and strong condemnation of the Federal Government. All of it. He has been supported by the powers of the wealthy, who will surely extract full obedience as their quid-pro-quo. He, as Commander-In-Chief of the military, fancies them as his personal toy.

While campaigning, door to door, he comes upon Smith and requests his vote with an introductory handshake. Smith absorbs his past and is then confronted with a scenario of Sheen as President.

Russia and the United States are eyeball to eyeball on the issue of a preemptive strike on a rogue nation with nuclear capability and ties to the Soviets. If we move, Russia will attack us. Diplomatic negotiations are ongoing at a frantic pace.

Sheen is alone with his National Security Adviser and Sheen's hand is on the BOX.

"This shall be my moment in history," he shouts, "and this will be a lesson for the entire world. Our country shall never again be challenged." His face has a crazed look and his advisor dares not overrule him. "I am following God's will!" He pushes the red button.

At that instant, his diplomats come bursting through the door. Their faces are blushed with excitement.
"We've reached an agreement, Mr. President, there need be no hostilities!"
The President's eyes are ablaze as he bellows, "We've won my way."

Smith realizes that only he knows how this will play out and that it is useless to try to make others believe. On the night of a Presidential speech at the Town Hall, Smith, armed with a rifle, secretes himself in the balcony. As Sheen is speaking, Smith stands and takes aim. One of Sheen's aides spots him, yells "gun" and races to shield the candidate. Sheen reacts by picking up a young toddler and holding him as a shield. Smith is shot dead. The country's morning papers as well as special editions of Time and Newsweek, feature a loud and clear picture of Sheen using a baby for self-defense.
His campaign aborts. His political future dies with mortification and shame.

Does this make you think of any present-day Presidential candidate? It does me.

The initials are Rick Bachmann and Michele Perry.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Once upon a time, I had a client from Detroit. He is no longer with us and his death certificate does not reflect "natural causes". He was of Greek ancestry and therefore not a "made" man, but he was connected up the ying-yang. In one of our many conversations, in which he would boast, non-stop, of his recognized status, he not-so-casually mentioned that he was a friend of Sinatra. A good friend. Naturally, I was impressed for I was and am one of the trillions of die hard Sinatra fans. As previously posted, the sound of his voice gets me high. I am a hero worshipper. My client went on to say, more specifically, that he had done The Voice a big favor. This statement was stored in my memory bank, not because I viewed this guy as George Washington, but rather because he had taken the liberty of uttering the Chairman's name.

Flash ahead two years. A business/pleasure trip landed me in Las Vegas with my illustrious partner. As the plane hit the tarp at McCarran Airport, I noticed a sign alongside the runway, promoting Caesar's Palace, which succinctly announced "HE'S HERE." No help needed in deciphering that code. Frank was opening, that night. Once in my hotel room, I scooted to my partner's suite and screamed,"Sinatra opens at Caesar's tonight! We gutta go!" I was met with a red face and the words,"I know. Can't get tickets. Anywhere. We'll see Tom Jones." I explained where Mr. Jones could go and set forth my incredulity at this prominent figure's professed inability to obtain tickets for the Strip's Main Event. He simply spread out his hands, face up, and shrugged. I had a panic attack. Ol Blue Eyes, so near and yet so far. And, suddenly, what was left of my brain cells kicked in with a memory report. My Detroit client's bluff was about to be called.
"Do you mind if I try/"
"Go ahead. Knock yourself out."

I raced to my room and made the call. I got him, first shot, and detailed the situation. He could surely hear the urgency in my tone. The client's deep voice: "Give me your room number and stay by the phone." Never, I thought, will this guy come through. Ten minutes later, I pick up my ringing phone to the sound of a woman's voice.
"May I speak to attorney Gerald Alch?"
"This is he."
"This is Mr. Sinatra's personal secretary. How many in your party?" I did a quick mental count.
"Your tickets will be with the maitre d'. Enjoy the evening."
 BINGO! My clint's "in" was solid. My partner's face was redder, still.

I shaved, showered and dressed to the nines. This was Vegas BACK THEN. No corporations at the helm. THE BOYS ran the show. No jeans or khakis. A dinner show at a Strip casino, especially on Sinatra's opening night, was serious stuff. I figured, since I had a little time, I'd enjoy the casino for a bit. I told my wife to meet me at the elevators in thirty minutes. I approached the craps table.

Growing up, I had learned the fringe details of the game. I knew the odds on each number, that 7 or 11 was a winner on the first toss and that shooting "craps" made you a loser. I edged into the crowd around the table and waited for the dice to come my way. Heavy roller that I was, my hand was holding 5 ten dollar chips. I put one down and threw the cubes. SEVEN! A second toss. SEVEN, again. My stake had quadrupled. Cutting to the chase, I rolled 12 straight passes. A crowd of people had gathered and was betting on my every throw. I was making real money for them and their vocal encouragement created a flock. During the streak, I heard my name being paged. It was my wife, wondering where the hell I was. I neither blinked, wiped my brow nor wiggled a toe, lest I lose the luck. I finally "crapped out", tipped the stick man, cashed in my chips and met up with her. I related my success story and returned to the table so that my karma could be hers. Everybody welcomed me back. I handed her the dice and said, "Throw them on the table and yell "seven-eleven". She suddenly became a major league outfielder. She threw those damned dice with an overhand throw that would have made Willy Mays proud. Everyone's head followed the arch as if at a tennis match. To this day, they are still looking for those dice.

The show was wadduyouthink! The audience was filled with A-List celebrities. Sinatra was aware and he was sparked all the more. To see him in person is an experience unique unto itself. An unforgettable moment that always stays with you.

Halfway through the show, he went to monologue. He was given a list of the luminaries in the audience, and he read them off, one by one. The Chairman spoke my name. Perhaps now, you'll understand why endorphins flow when I listen to him sing.

That must have been one hell of a favor.