Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Love and Death on the Upper East Side

Both were invisible when the door was shut. Mostly, the hall was clean. "You could see somebody had taken a cloth and wiped the tiles," Shaw says.

Still they were loath to call the police, waiting outside under the awning of Nicola's while warm rain leaked from the stifling sky. Finally, they called. At eight, the cops came.

That afternoon at four o'clock there had been a visitor to the Asch Loop fire station in the North Bronx. A "civilian," which is what policemen and firemen call people who are neither policemen nor firemen. "He said there's a fire a couple of blocks away," one of the duty firemen, Dennis Smith, told me. "He'd seen the guys who started it. They drove off in a yellow Cadillac. He gave us the license-plate number, which was difficult to forget: 777 GHI."

Ten firemen from Ladder 61, including Smith, who is a best-selling novelist, took off in two trucks. The fire proved not difficult to find. Oily, blackish smoke was pouring up a few hundred yards from the firehouse on a patch of wasteland immediately beside the New England Thruway.

"The fire was what we call a nothing fire," Smith said. "There was a trunk on a heap of garbage, surrounded by a mound of garbage. The guy's legs were coming out of the bottom of this burnt box. One of the guys said, 'Ah! Gee! It looks like a Mafia hit.'

"But somebody else said, 'No, what's the point of burning it? That's dumb.'"

They forced the two hasps on the box and examined the dismal sight. "The head was all matted. But you could see the bullet holes," Smith says. "But you couldn't tell what color he was. Black or white or Puerto Rican."

Another fireman told me that "if they had just taken the body down to Baychester, two blocks away, nobody would have found it for weeks."

Relevant details were passed to the police, who sent out a description. "The very moment they put it on the air, the car was stuck in a jam on the Triboro Toll Plaza," says Smith. "And there was a patrol car sitting right behind it."

Buddy Jacobson was arrested. And imprisoned. And fact began to metamorphose into rumor.

Two days after the murder, there was an unusual event. Fairly unusual, anyway. A small group of FBI agents cleared out Jack Tupper's apartment. The bureau was not overjoyed when I inquired after their involvement in the case.

"There is no involvement," they said. "It was a private matter and nothing to do with the case."

A murder? Private?

Reluctantly, they said that Tupper had a brother-in-law with the FBI in San Juan. I said that I knew and that I knew he was one of the agents who cleared out the apartment. Grudgingly, they told me that the whole thing had been okayed by the police.

No doubt. But since his death a singular sense of mystery has been engendered by Jack Tupper. Axthelm alludes to two ominous "Sicilians . . . from Montreal," with whom Tupper, willingly or no, had dealings. A curiously specific tale, deriving originally from Drug Enforcement Agency sources, links Tupper to a kilogram of cocaine.

On examination, the stories have as much credibility as those, equally widely bruited, identifying My Fair Lady as the front for a call-girl ring.

Which is a story that journalists and the police find deliciously credible. Modeling, a business which involves large sums of money and numbers of beautiful women, is a realm of nuances, even at the upper echelons, and opening paragraphs are no place for nuances. But people thoroughly tuned in to the sleaziest end of the business give My Fair Lady a clean bill of health.

A final word. The penultimate entry in the Manhattan telephone directory has caused comment. The name is "Budd Zzzyp," but both address and number are shared with My Fair Lady.

A weird name, and a telephone number which answers "My Fair Lady"? Some great camouflage. I prefer to believe that it was a handy way of telling people your number, a gimmick which soured when too many people called, singing "Zip-a-dee-do-dah."

The survivor, it seems, will be Melanie Cain. Her Clairol commercial has been canceled, apparently. (I can't be sure. The Clairol account person at Foote, Cone & Belding will neither confirm nor deny, nor, indeed, answer telephone calls.) But the negative impact will be slight. "If Melanie comes out as the maligned member, I don't think this need have a long-lasting effect," says Jerry Ford.

And nobody is maligning Melanie. Least of all, Buddy Jacobson. The sequence of hearings trudges on. Extraordinarily, but regularly, Jacobson overrides his lawyers and the advice of his judges, making lengthy, detailed statements. Doing things his way. Always asking for Melanie Cain. Jacobson's mother is to testify before the grand jury, one hears. Law-enforcement officials say they are investigating his son Douglas. None of it seemed to faze Buddy Jacobson. What Melanie knows would clear him, he insists. "If she was to answer ten questions, I would walk out of here a free man."

We spoke several times. It was in the counsel room of the Bronx House of Detention, a trim place, with pale-pink tiling and canary-yellow bars. Jacobson's skin was sallow, with olive undertones. His formerly luxuriant hair and mustache were severely trimmed.

He was smiling easily, but at moments the light flickered out. It was as if the eyes went dead. A similar remoteness can be seen in photographs of Buddy. The light returned. He was promising "earthshaking developments."

Upon the occasion of my first visit, a wad of lined paper was sticking up from the pocket of his nondescript Western shirt. Drafts of letters to Melanie.

His lawyer arrived. Genial, silver-haired. Irwin Klein.

They talk awhile of the "contract" that somebody has taken out on Jacobson. Jacobson says that he is in as much danger inside as out.

He returned to the subject of the letters. "You're writing to who?" asked Klein alertly.

"Melanie."

"I don't know if it's right, Buddy," said Irwin Klein.

"Well, I'm doing it anyway," Buddy Jacobson said. He is, once again, doing things the Buddy Jacobson Way.


Related:

Advertising
Current Issue
Subscribe to New York
Subscribe

Give a Gift

Advertising