Love and Death on the Upper East Side

From the September 11, 1978 issue of New York Magazine.

There was a tropical feel to the air that hot July afternoon, and the sunlight was rich as melon. It was half past four. Jack Tupper was standing outside the building in which he lived, talking desultory business with an acquaintance I shall call Shaw.

A piece of blond wood caught their eye. A bar. It was among the oddments being disposed of by a shoe store which was selling out. Tupper was planning to buy a bar. They walked inside. There was a girl there. Melanie Cain.

This was unsurprising. The moribund shoe shop was, after all, cheek by jowl with My Fair Lady, the model agency of which Melanie Cain was part owner and—as one of the city’s leading models—the principal ornament. Indeed, the entire building, at 155 East 84th, which lies between Lexington and Third, belonged to Buddy Jacobson. Melanie’s partner and longtime lover.

Tupper knew them slightly. He had, a few weeks before, moved from the fifth floor to apartment 7C. Just across the hall from Buddy and Melanie in 7D, where I happened to have talked to them a few months previously while writing a feature for this magazine entitled “Model Wars.”

The three chatted. Melanie asked if Tupper wanted to go jogging. He said sure. They’d meet in half an hour.

Jack Tupper jogged with Melanie Cain around the reservoir.

That was how it began. Jogging. Truly an American Romance.

On Sunday, August 6, less than three weeks later, Jack Tupper was murdered.

Jack Tupper’s face was sliced up with a knife. His head was beaten in. His body bludgeoned. Also, he had been shot seven times. (According to police, two bullets in his body matched a spent bullet found in Jacobson’s apartment, and there were bullets embedded in the wall.)

A while later, three men were observed trying to set fire to a box on a piece of wasteland in the Bronx. The wasteland is within eye line of an upper window of the local firehouse and is in full view of much of Co-op City. Three witnesses allegedly identified Buddy Jacobson. One gave the license-plate number of the yellow Cadillac in which the men departed. The perfect crime it wasn’t.

The first wave of stories splashed happily over the “love triangle.” Older-guy-loses-girl-to-younger-guy. Buddy Jacobson’s reported offer to Jack Tupper, covertly tape-recorded, of $100,000.

Later stories, unencumbered by details, alluded to call-girl rings and cocaine dealerships. The FBI was said to be involved. Likewise, the Mafia. Oh, yes: There was a death threat.

This is (some of) what actually happened.

Buddy Jacobson, like Jack Tupper, comes from Queens. The man who always lies about his age was born in Flatbush on December 30, 1930. His father was in the hat business and lived on Queens Boulevard.

Hatting did not allure. But Buddy’s mother was born Florence Jacobs. Her brothers—Sidney, Eugene, and, especially, Hirsch Jacobs—were potent names on the racetrack. Trainers to reckon with. Hirsch’s daughter, Patrice, was later to marry Louis Wolfson, owner of the Triple Crown winner Affirmed. At nineteen, Buddy was a groom with Eugene Jacobs in Florida. After a stint in the Merchant Marine, Jacobson set up as a trainer.

He was brilliant at his work. In 1963 he was America’s most successful trainer, a feat he repeated in 1964 and 1965. He was not, however, winning prizes for popularity.

Established owners and trainers still grow choleric on the subject of Buddy Jacobson. He thought of horses as machines, I was told again and again, at Saratoga and at Belmont. They say he drugged and ran “sore horses.” There are occasional hints that he hung around with “bad” people.

Well, there is no shortage of bad people on the turf but no evidence that Jacobson did much hanging around them. “Buddy was a good, solid horseman,” says Pete Axthelm, the sports-writer, who knew him at this period. “Revisionist history makes him the biggest outlaw on the turf. But they would have gotten him if he had been.”

Another trainer agrees: “Buddy had a clean bill of health. He never had a ruling against him for entering a horse of the wrong weight, the wrong age, or whatever. Which is remarkable for somebody who was running about 50 horses.” But this trainer takes a cooler view of Jacobson’s horsemanship.

“He wasn’t such a good judge of horses’ legs. It’s a fallacy,” he told me. “It was a matter of wheeling and dealing. He was quick in picking up on things. Buddy would use X-rays before anybody. He was pumping cortisones into a horse’s joints before anybody else. It gave him an edge.”

His increasing success made Jacobson increasingly autocratic, obsessive. “As a personality he was a loner, and he didn’t like anybody telling him what to do,” says Sam Lefrak, the builder, for whom he trained with considerable success. “You would never ever see him pat a horse,” an owner recalls, still affronted. “He was always saying that they were the dumbest things alive.”

Certainly much of this was a deliberate needling of the Establishment. Jacobson once purchased a foal from Ogden Phipps’s trainer. Phipps was, he heard, irate. Buddy said he was going to call the horse Ogden Flips.

In 1967 the strife escalated. Buddy Jacobson was elected president of the New York division of the HBPA, which is to say the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. It is the HBPA that looks after the interests of the employees on the backstretch. Stable hands and the like. Soon Jacobson was agitating for a pension fund.

By 1969 he was in conflict with both the New York Racing Association and the state. At a meeting in April, he demanded a boycott. Even his uncle, Hirsch Jacobs, perhaps the most brilliant American trainer ever, supported him. (Family feeling was not Buddy’s forte; in later years he failed to go to Hirsch’s funeral.) On April 26, Jacobson’s boycott struck Aqueduct.

Matters of motive are interesting here. Few seem to have found Buddy Jacobson convincing as a champion of the little man. “He would never talk to his help,” recalls a trainer. “He would never say hello, good-bye.”

“I don’t think he cared about Puerto Rican stable hands,” Axthelm says. “I think he wanted to prove that he, Buddy Jacobson, could overturn the whole power structure. Power would pass from the hands of George D. Widener into the hands of Buddy Jacobson.”

Not just racetrack power, of course. Also, control of a potentially substantial pension fund. And Buddy Jacobson blew it. He made miscalculations. He should perhaps have kept the strike going for three days. A show of strength. Instead, he kept it going nine days. Support trickled away. It was finally crushed.

“Buddy always thinks he’s the cleverest person in the world,” says another horseman. “He had contempt. He wanted to have complete control. And, in the end, everything was a bust-out.”

In October 1969, the racing establishment paid Jacobson back in full. They began an audit. “They came to us,” Sam Lefrak says, “and under investigation they found irregularities.”

The NYRA charged Jacobson with seven offenses and found him guilty of five. Misrepresenting sale or purchase prices and pocketing the difference. That sort of thing. Most racetrack people say that the charges, which centered on loose practices common enough on the turf, were a means to an end. Jacobson was suspended for 45 days, but the timing of the suspension was such that the tracks were able to deny him stabling. He sued for $6-million, but remained out of racing for five years.

There seems to have been no reason for him to have stayed away that long. He could have raced elsewhere until New York readmitted him, but Jacobson was tired of horses. He took his earnings and looked elsewhere.

Already, he had been indulging a consuming passion for girls. One of them remembers his bachelor apartment in Kew Gardens. “The building was full of stewardesses,” she tells me. “Buddy had a Cadillac. He would leave it out in front for the girls to use. He was cooking roast beef every night. The place was full of girls. He said he was thinking of taking the door off its hinges.

“He could never go with the same girl more than once or twice. He lost interest. He would chase some girl, sending her flowers all the time, but if he heard that she was going with somebody else, he lost interest. He said it’s like digging up somebody’s grave.”

An early venture was a ski lodge, called the Norway, near Mount Snow, Vermont. Buddy’s partners still marvel at his private life. “He would fix to have one broad driven to New York. The next one is on her way. They would pass at the toll booth.”

They found his business practices less amusing. “He wanted to show that he could run a ski lodge better than people who had been running them all their lives.”

Jacobson’s first building in Manhattan was 155 East 84th, originally a couple of nondescript tenements. Jacobson took charge of the rebuilding himself, laying floors and, if the floors were laid wrong, re-laying them. Buddy Jacobson, as always, wanted to do things his own way. And the building got built. Buddy Jacobson appointed himself his own janitor and began renting out the apartments. One early tenant was Melanie Cain.

Melanie Cain arrived in New York in 1973. She had been born in Norfolk, Virginia, seventeen years before. Her Irish Catholic background seems fashioned for family-hour television. Three sisters, two brothers. Mother, a Republican activist. Father, a salesman. Melanie spent childhood spells in Washington, D.C.; New Jersey; Texas; Connecticut; and Pennsylvania; she went to high school in Naperville, Illinois, where she did some theater. “Modeling was never an ambition,” she told me. It was a way to make ends meet.

Melanie joined the Eileen Ford agency in July 1973. “She was a very pleasant kid but naïve,” says Jerry Ford, Eileen’s imperturbable husband. “She had a bit of a weight problem. Good mouth, good teeth.”

Already, by March 1974, she was doing well enough for Seventeen to run a cover story, “Meet Melanie Cain,” which concluded to the effect that “everything about Melanie is refreshing—she’s the image of everything wholesome, like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.”

Melanie’s first apartment in Buddy Jacobson’s building was on the ground floor. She shared it with a couple of other models, Colette Blonigan and Pita Green. Later, she moved up to the seventh floor. 7C. (Sometime later it was to be rented by Jack Tupper.)

Melanie had never met anybody like Buddy Jacobson. He was slight, with shaggy hair by now—not the short back and sides of his early years on the track—a nondescript dresser, not remotely like the male model she had been seeing for her first months in New York. But his rap was awesome, his presence hypnotic.

Jacobson’s reverses had not diminished his appetite for control—had, if anything, increased it. He is remembered for cultivating eccentricities back in the ski-lodge days. “He would never wear socks,” says an associate. “He would ski without socks. If you argued that something was red he would try and convince you it was green.”

Not too long after the Seventeen cover, he talked the slightly reluctant Melanie Cain into partnership in a model agency, named for a favorite show, My Fair Lady.

The competition in New York was already heavy, but Buddy had a strategy. “They wanted young, fresh faces. They told me they just threw a dart at the map and went where it landed,” one model said. One of the darts, presumably, landed on Minneapolis. And, for all that Minneapolis knew, My Fair Lady was the Ford, Wilhelmina, and Zoli agencies combined. “They came out in the fall of ‘75 and advertised in the papers,” she added. She said she knows of seven girls to whom Buddy Jacobson handed airplane tickets. For a while she stayed at the back of the agency, sharing a small room with another girl, and she still likes Jacobson—”I don’t think he did it”—but she stayed only a month and a half before moving eventually to Eileen Ford. “Buddy wasn’t really doing anything for us,” she said, simply.

Buddy was doing things for Buddy. Mainly in property. He acquired the Park East, a former hospital on 83rd, and planned to turn it into a $3-million co-op. His workmen were Italian, mostly from the South, mostly unacquainted with English, occasionally lacking papers, and always fanatically loyal to their capo.

Neglected, My Fair Lady languished but survived. “They tried to be professional,” says Zoli. “There is always some work around. They did hands, legs, lingerie.”

“They had pretty girls,” observes Andrea Quinn of Seventeen, “but offbeat types. Like girls who were too short.” Most agreed the agency’s only substantial asset was Melanie Cain.

Cain’s relationship with Jacobson lasted, in sheer propinquity, some five years. But the second half was not like the first. Six times she packed and left. But Buddy’s control was hypnotic. She always returned.

But the control went beyond the autocratic to the obsessive “I have no friends,” Jacobson told me with no regret. One visitor to My Fair Lady recalls Buddy shouting into the telephone, “What do you mean, he’s your friend? There are no such friends. There are people who want to use you.” Models staying in the building were discouraged from allowing boyfriends to use the swimming pool. It was Buddy Jacobson’s domain.

Also, there were the lies. About his age, for instance—Buddy passed for mid-thirties. More oddly, he introduced David and Douglas, his sons, as his younger brothers. And about his women. Buddy Jacobson subscribed fully to the Hefneresque myth that the superior man is denoted (or created) by a continuous sequence of swiftly executed copulations, but he carried things to an especially loveless limit.

“It’s tremendous, the power he felt. He’s sitting in Nicola’s with four girls, nine girls, thirteen girls,” recalls an acquaintance, Nicola’s being the pleasant restaurant opposite Jacobson’s building. “But he wasn’t interested in the girls.

“I don’t think he was really into screwing. Nothing kinky. I once saw him with this fabulous young broad, and I asked if she was a good f - - k.

“He looks at me strange. ‘What do you mean?’ he said. ‘A f - - k is a f - - k.’”

Jacobson handled his compulsive infidelities well enough for a while. One time, Melanie caught him in flagrante and fled. He walked in later and said, “I’ve decided to forgive you.” But the pressure was slowly becoming too much. Modeling, moreover, was no longer satisfying. For a couple of years, she had been taking dancing classes. Jacobson told her to stick to the modeling. How could she compete with girls who have been training since the age of six? “I told her she would end up as a hoofer in Vegas,” he said. But Melanie was discontented. Then somebody else with plans moved in. Jack Tupper.

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.

Next time she saw him, she recognized him only by the Sagittarius chain around his blackened neck.

Later, Buddy Jacobson admitted that these had not been his happiest weeks. He was upset about Melanie but denied there was any “love triangle.”

I said that I had heard that he had had no sexual involvement with Melanie for the preceding six months.

“I’m glad you said that,” Buddy Jacobson said, twice.

And was there any connection with the death of Cheryl Corey? Cheryl Corey was the model, also with My Fair Lady, and a sometime tenant of 84th Street, who had fallen to her death off a boyfriend’s balcony that same Sunday morning.

“No,” Jacobson said, adding, “The only connection that there may be is that I learned about it that morning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dead body in my life.

“And I think that hearing that, coupled with the events of the prior few days, and the events that were to take place that day, that, at anytime during that day, I was not in the best frame of mind.”

He halted and clarified.

“In other words, I was not ready to make some important decisions.” The decision, he explained, concerned his defense.

The events that were to take place that day: Melanie Cain returned to 155 East 84th at just before one o’clock. Jack Tupper was not there. She went downstairs and talked with some of the models. The death of Cheryl Corey lent the chat a darkish tinge.

Melanie Cain returned to the seventh floor. Several times. In retelling, the day grows disjointed, increasingly phantasmagoric. Soon she found that although the apartment that she and Tupper shared seemed unruffled there were bothersome details. Jack’s boots were still there, and his jogging shoes.

Her eye alighted on something more unusual yet: the address book, a mockleather affair kept shut by an elastic band, without which Jack Tupper seldom went out. Also his gold Cross pen.

It was perhaps at this moment that Melanie Cain first felt a twinge of alarm. She telephoned the agency. A voice answered. A choked voice. It was a moment or so, Melanie said later, before she recognized the voice as that of Buddy Jacobson.

Further curious changes occurred from one visit upstairs to the next. The carpet in the hall, for instance, a piece of vivid maroon plaid, was as it had been on her first return. Later, it had accumulated smears of white paint.

She went to Buddy’s apartment and rang the buzzer. She says that she saw shadows beneath the door, but nobody would come out. She went out and began to ring Jack Tupper’s friends from the pay telephone on the corner. It was a sweltering Sunday afternoon. Few were home. Tupper’s red sedan was still in the street.

Melanie returned. The elevator wouldn’t come down. She climbed the seven flights of stairs. The service door was barred, the windows papered over.

She walked back downstairs and returned to the telephone on the corner, where she telephoned her service, to see if Jack had rung. He hadn’t. She walked to the All Ireland to see if he was there. He wasn’t.

Melanie Cain walked back to 155. The afternoon was turning a sulphurous yellow, and hot as dough baking, but sodden. Treading the sidewalks was like walking the bottom of a contaminated aquarium. The elevator was now working perfectly. But, up on the seventh floor, the rug was missing altogether.

She crossed to Jacobson’s apartment and opened the door. Disorder. Shattered fragments of mirror. Cushions tumbled off the sofa beds she had herself purchased. People—she assumed they were some of the Italian construction workers from the house on 83rd—milling around. The rug vanished. Jacobson screamed, “Get out! I don’t want to see you.” He slammed the door.

Cain says she did not, as has been reported, see blood on the rug. She could not yet accommodate the thought “murder.” Finally, she raised one of Tupper’s friends on the telephone. Shaw was watching golf on television, a three-way tie on the last hole, Jerry Pate fouling up a three-foot putt. Shaw said he would be along directly. Walking back into the building, Melanie found Buddy Jacobson in the lobby. He was cool, self-possessed. Jack Tupper? “No, babe. I haven’t seen him.”

Shaw arrived. They looked through Tupper’s apartment, examined the hall. Opening one of the service doors, Shaw noted what appeared to be a spot of blood on the brass runner. It was scarlet inside but already brown on the rim. “It could be covered with a dime,” Shaw told me. He also found a shred of hair.

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.


“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.

Love and Death on the Upper East Side