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Love and Death on the Upper East Side

Jack Tupper was Irish and came from Queens. In Queens he had operated a restaurant-bar, the Sherwood Inn. He had just sold his share of the All Ireland, a bar on Third. He was now 34. Buddy Jacobson's building was his first Manhattan address, but he had already become a familiar figure in a specific world, the world of Upper East Side bars. These are the bars that punctuate Third Avenue, bars like P.J. Clarke's, Harper, Churchill's, Allen's, and JG Melon.

It's a solid world, and Jack Tupper fitted in. He was a medium-large man, perhaps 190 pounds, and almost six feet tall, with a broad face and thinning sandy hair. He was quiet, but it wasn't a quietness to mistake for docility. "It was important to Jack Tupper how physically imposing he was," a friend of his tells me. "He used to say in the end it all comes down to strength."

It wasn't merely in his size that Tupper was a contrast to Jacobson. Buddy Jacobson lived in his self-constructed world, didn't own a suit, slept on a mattress on the floor.

Jack Tupper was affable, gregarious, he got about. He had plenty of men friends. Buddy Jacobson told me he himself had no men friends. Melanie, he said, was his only friend.

Certainly, without Melanie, the Melanie smile, displayed on the covers of Redbook, Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, he wouldn't have much by way of an agency as he slid toward 50. "Love triangles" have many different angles.

That first day jogging, Melanie admitted, she had a crush on Jack. They dined the following evening. That same Friday, attempting secrecy, he took Melanie for a weekend with his sister and brother-in-law, an FBI agent assigned to Puerto Rico.

Upon their return, they checked into a $90 suite at the Drake. And now, Buddy Jacobson knew.

They returned to East 84th. And normal life. Jack Tupper continued to look around for a possible bar and took on a partner with East Side connections. They cast an acquisitive eye here and there. Harper, for instance, and the Madison Pub. Melanie continued to work. She did a commercial for Clairol, and bookings began to come in for the weeks ahead.

And it is here that the river of fact necessarily flows into twin streams of interpretation.

Tupper was wont to complain to friends that Buddy Jacobson was harassing Melanie. Some of the harassment was plaintive in tone. "Dear Melon," ran a cable he sent on July 29, "Sorry for the past week and for the abuse I must have put you through for the past five years. You always hurt the one you love. Jack is a good guy and will love you and be honest with you. You're right, I would always be a bum . . ."

But there were other, less lachrymose, signals. "The guy is like harassing her and calling her on the phone," Tupper told Dick Leslie, owner of R.W. Bond's, on Third. Tupper said that Buddy would call him and demand his "wife" back. Curious choice of words. Also, he was watching them.

"Jacobson has been standing on the terrace for two weeks. He never leaves it," Tupper said.

Oddest was the reported cash offer. "Can you believe that this girl is worth $100,000?" Tupper said, indicating Melanie, not without pride. "This guy is such an asshole. He offered me $100,000 to leave town . . . buy a restaurant."

Alongside the cash, Jacobson apparently offered Tupper his pick of other girls. A rhetorical trope, no doubt. The alleged offer was tape-recorded, and is in the hands of the police. Why was it recorded? Jack recorded all his calls, it seems.

At no point did Tupper find Jacobson's behavior alarming, friends say. But Melanie began to search for an apartment with special urgency.

On Friday, August 4, Tupper and Cain dined with a friend in the Parma. There was talk of marriage.

"Where shall we have an after-dinner drink?" Tupper asked.

"Shall we go into the lion's den?"

The "lion's den" was Nicola's, slap-bang opposite Buddy Jacobson's building. They strolled the few blocks. Tupper and Cain strode straight in, but the friend glanced up at Buddy's terrace.

For the first time he could recall recently, Buddy Jacobson was not there, watching. "Guess who's not on the terrace?" he said.

"He probably knows where we are," Tupper said. It was Jack Tupper's belief that they were being followed.

On Saturday, Jack Tupper took Melanie out to Long Island. They returned to Manhattan late and dined at home. Melanie had a cold.

On the morning of Sunday, August 6, Melanie Cain got up early, leaving Jack Tupper in bed, and went to sign the lease on an apartment on 52nd.


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