Hart Island

It’s a small island. Not to be confused with ‘Heart’ Island, the one built by the ‘man with the broken heart’. Nope, totally diferent. Hart Island is the one with over 850,000 buried in it. Most in giant mass graves. Some since the Civil War days. It housed Confederate prisoners for a while. They moved those guys’ graves, though. But don’t worry. They more than made up for ’em. Still put over 2,000 new ones in the ground there every year. Some graves have ten coffins stacked in one hole. I’ve never been there, but, a former New York Detective known as ‘Joe Bus’ (aka Joe Carbone) told me many a story about that island. None of them good…

Now, why would I hang with an ex-cop? To make my friend, Alice, happy. She owned an after-hours cop hang out in West Hollywood that Joe spent most of his waking hours in. He was a stalker of Alice, but, a nice one. He never went over the line, and, he spent a lot of dough at Alice’s house. It was tucked up at the end of Shoreham, not far from where I had a head-on in my AT&T truck. Another story.

Lots of cops drank and made book at Alice’s. On and off duty. Joe still had connections to Brooklyn cops, so, he was the guy L.A. cops went to for guys they were looking for that skipped town. Now, Joe Bus always sat with me, since I would play Backgammon with Alice. In close proximity, the guy literally panted like a Yorkie in a hot car. Joe never stepped over the line, though. His old lady owned a sports bar called ‘Strike Four’ in Silverlake. Alice hated her, so, she kept Joe on a big hook. Some chick deal I tried to stay out of.┬áSince Joe bought me rounds, I was always nice to him. Plus, its better to have cops like you in my world.

So, my pal, Ira F., deals high end jewelry in Las Vegas. He changed his name legally to something so ridiculous, I burst out laughing just thinking about it. Anyhow, back when he was just plain Ira, a Detective from New York shows up at his mini-mansion, wanting to ask him some questions. Ira tells him to go fuck himself. No warrant. No talkie. I found out about this little exchange six weeks later when Ira calls me from the Burbank airport, needing a lift. It seems this cop came back three nights later with a cute little warrant. An arrest warrant for stolen diamonds…

Ira is cuffed, taken back to New York, ensconced in a Queens jail. From there, he gets lost in the ‘system’ for six weeks. Never did see a judge. Just a lot of jails. He lost 45lbs. Also, 20 grand. His wife put money into the accounts of all the guys that he buddied up too, to stay in one piece. Gee, he sure told that cop off.

Now, Joe Bus was this sort of cop. On occasion, other ex-New Yorkers would sit with us and tell stories about the East coast. One night the conversation came around to Hart Island…

Since the 50’s, only law enforcement was allowed on the island. Whenever they went over with a load of deceased, there was always a priest on board the barge-like vessel. Joe said there was only one rule. Never be on the island at night. Everything was to be completed well before dusk. One of Joe’s buddies expounded on this. Looking like an extra from ‘On the Water Front’, Bobby was about seventy, but looked like he still had one more fight in him. He had a brother-in-law that worked the ferry doing fill-ins for other harbor guys every once in a while. He said he always felt sad going out to the island. “All douse unwanted. Just piled all’s in a heap. It’s heart breakin!”

Now, a complete opposite island is ‘HEART’ Island. These guys also knew it well. I did research on both places after they got me interested. Heart Island was a creation of George Charles Boldt. Now, Boldt wasn’t a from a rich family. His father would work their garden at night so the neighbors wouldn’t know how broke they were. George made his way in the world as a Hotel man. One night, in a modest Hotel he owned and operated, a family with a sick child requested a room. With no rooms available, George gave them his own apartment and slept on a sofa in the lobby. This family was related to William Waldorf Astor. The owner of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. When they told him of the deed George had done, George finds himself the new Waldorf manager. From there on it was all up hill.

From here, the story is usually of George finding his true love after a long series of disasters with women. He takes possesion of his island, has thousands of tons of dirt brought in to shape the island like a Heart, then tears down the modest vacation house and begins construction of the gigantic manshion in honor of his new bride. On her death, all work is halted. Boxed furniture stayed boxed for 80 years. It was abandoned. Check out pictures of it. Boy, it is really something. It’s now being restored and has tours. My New York friends gave me another side of the story. They say that George’s wife Louise spent all the dough on his house, ruining him. Then, she left town with her chauffeur and was never seen again. I like both versions…

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